CO’s, COO’s, and You!

The term Commanding Officer (CO) has long been associated with military hierarchy. At the top of the military ladder is the position of Commander in Chief. Commanders at each level are often referred to as the “superior” of levels below. In my experience dealing with the best and the brightest who serve our country, very few commanders see themselves as superior.

In fact, effective COs celebrate the equality of those in their charge. They know success comes when everyone feels empowered to lead and take their share of responsibility. Further, they believe in humility, respect, empathy, and integrity every bit as much as discipline. The same is true in business.

A Chief Operating Officer (COO) could be viewed as the business equivalent of the military CO. In some companies, the COO is the individual in charge. But the best COOs (and CEOs) also know they need to create a culture where everyone shares the attributes of a strong COO.

If you don’t have a Chief or a commander title, you can choose to act like a COO or a CO no matter where you are on the ladder. Here is what great COOs and COs do, according to four Chiefs, Alexander Tuff, Ryan Caldbeck, Jeremy Bromberg, and Mark Hamade.

  1. Ask good questions
  2. Be transparent and open
  3. Strive for alignment with effective communication
  4. Be a life-long learner
  5. Surround yourself with life-long learners
  6. Plan the work and work the plan
  7. Improve everything you touch
  8. Focus on details
  9. Control your ego
  10. Be data driven
  11. Lead by supporting
  12. Keep your cool
  13. Prioritize
  14. Be resourceful
  15. Be practical
  16. Be unassuming
  17. Be a great listener
  18. Be a free thinker
  19. Be a clear communicator
  20. Be strong with numbers (analysis, metrics) and letters (writing)
  21. Have an appropriate sense of urgency
  22. Develop a great eye for detail
  23. Be passionate about company success, and know that personal success is an outcome of company success, not the other way around
  24. Advocate for employees at all levels
  25. Advocate for good ideas, regardless of where they come from
  26. Be energetic, even if quietly
  27. Be a master integrator
  28. Champion continuous improvement in everything
  29. Don’t let allow perfect to get in the way of progress
  30. Be a team player
  31. Build trust

Their advice is spot on, and in line with everything I know and teach about being Chief. Who needs the title anyway?

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Building Powerful Organizations

Powerful organizations drive sustainable growth—healthy growth that lasts. But how does an organization become powerful, and what does power really mean?

We love to list and rank the powerful. My friend Stefan Swanepoel just released a list of the 200 most powerful people in U.S. real estate. Other lists include the world’s most powerful people, the world’s most powerful brands, and the world’s most powerful countries.

But you won’t find many lists or ranking criteria for powerful companies or organizations. Instead, companies measure other attributes, like the world’s largest companies and the world’s most admired companies.

There are three reasons why rankers have stayed away from attempting to list and rank truly powerful organizations.

First, there is confusion around the definition of power. Too often the word power is used as a synonym for authority or the ability to control a market. In fact, powerful entities are more accurately defined by the exceptional and ever-increasing levels of ability, influence, and energy that enable that authority or (perceived) control.

Second, power is often confused with the prerequisites for power created when management builds effective, integrated strategies in six areas—customer, competition, financial capital, cost, community, and climate. Each strategy must include specific plans and measurable objectives. While critical to establish a powerful organization, successful strategies in each of these areas simply create the conditions for true power.

Finally and most critically, the core of an organization’s power is solely found in its people, and their ability, influence, and energy. As Jim Collins offered in his book Good To Great, “First who, then what.”

The ability to assess or measure the human capital in any organization continues to be the limiting factor in ranking powerful organizations in the world.

So, how do organizations become powerful?

Leaders build strategies and deploy plans in the six areas above AND the following areas below:

Measure and improve employee engagement; ensure diversity and gender-balanced leadership; consistently assess, improve, and expand employee “hard and soft” skillsets; add new skillsets when necessary; align team members around a values-based vision for the future; and build a change-adaptive culture to meet accelerating changes in market needs tied to management’s strategic decisions.

Those organizations that come closest to these targets are the most powerful organizations.

There is no limit on organizational power because there is no limit on the power of human capital.

Building powerful organizations is what I do.

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How Business Can Restore America’s Greatness – Part 4 of 4

Part 4 – A Business Plan for America*

Bill Knudsen was president of General Motors and knew that only business could prepare America for victory in World War II. He understood the role of business in facing global challenges and restoring America’s greatness. That kind of business-led effort is needed again, but to unlock it, CEOs need the story that enables such bold action while delivering real growth.

That story is looking us in the face. Today, the challenges are different but the threat to our country and to the world is arguable every bit as dire:

  • Three billion people are pounding on the gates of the global economy.
  • Climate change and ecosystem depletion are degrading Earth’s carrying capacity and disrupting human communities, with the high potential for much greater disruption to come.
  • Income inequality is accelerating, resulting in social unrest.
  • And global infrastructure, systems, and supply chains are fragile and prone to shock and disruption.

As we ricochet from crisis to crisis, the country is not fixing the fundamentals while international order is unwinding, and Americans are getting increasingly concerned, impatient, and angry.

It’s time for action.

In The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century, authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower tell the story of this strategic moment in which business must lead.

Bottom line, the authors lay out a clear “prosperity formula” rooted in historical precedent: Demand + CapitalStranded Assets = New Growth Scenario. Looking at the fundamentals of today’s economy, they detail massive demand for new products and services, huge amounts of private sector capital available, and substantial assets where innovative thinking can avoid value destruction and unlock sustainable wealth potential.

It’s already started.

In the book, the authors point to specific examples of success stories in which alignment of business, social, and environmental priorities is generating triple bottom-line returns (for people, profit, planet) today, including companies ranging from Walmart and Steelcase to Panera Bread, Target, and US Steel. They also cite the statistic that 84% of CEO’s in a recent survey believe that business has to execute a “step change in ambition and action” through “innovating new systems, markets and structures.”

But more needs to be done, and now.

Quarterly analysts and uncertainly are often cited as reasons for avoiding large-scale, decisive change. But in February 2016, Laurence D. Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with $5.5 trillion under management, wrote to the CEOs of the Fortune 500 whose revenue of $12.5 trillion equate to 66% of U.S. GDP. Mr. Fink’s message: “The effects of the short-termist phenomenon are troubling . . . for our broader economy,” and he asked each company for their strategy for long-term, sustainable growth.

Fink’s dire reality—no real growth on the horizon—is the real driver that CEOs need to focus on. And by saying he’ll protect CEOs who develop sound strategies for long-term growth, Fink takes away the excuse for inaction. But CEOs need a framework in which all their individual strategies are reinforcing.

They need a Business Plan for America. That’s what The New Grand Strategy delivers.

Their proposal identifies 10 sectors of our economy that are developing new business models, each a part of this new story. Together, they form the new economic ecosystem we need, drawing not on government subsidies but on historic pools of pent up demand.

Oil & Gas

  • New business model: Natural Gas Bridge & Advanced Materials
  • Story: From Burning to Building

Transportation

  • New business model: Multimodal Mobility Systems
  • Story: From Vehicles to Mobility

Real Estate & Infrastructure

  • New business model: Walkable Communities
  • Story: From Sprawl to Smart Growth

Farming

  • New business model: Regenerative Agriculture
  • Story: From Depletive to Regenerative

Natural Resources

  • New business model: Ecosystem Service Markets
  • Story: From Extraction to Stewardship

Electricity

  • New business model: Distributed Renewables
  • Story: From Centralized Combustion to Distributed Renewables

Telecom/Mobile

  • New business model: Gigabit Networks & Internet of Things
  • Story: From Megabits and Phones to Gigabits and Sensors

Retail

  • New Business Model: Small Footprint & e-Commerce
  • Story: From Big Box to Bricks & Clicks

Manufacturing

  • New business model: Distributed Production
  • Story: From Outsourcing to Advanced Manufacturing

Health Care

  • New Business Model: Team-Based Wellness
  • Story: From Hospitalization to Primary Care

Importantly, in each sector the authors show us how companies can align their immediate economic self-interests with our mutual long-term interest of generational and environmental well-being. They show us how companies can do well by doing good. Add it all up, and it puts capital back to work and America back to work, all solving the greatest challenges facing our nation and our planet.

Perhaps most importantly, by being rooted in real demand, the story of this success need not be delayed by government bureaucracy. The economy won’t change because of elegantly-designed policy but by a practical web of contracts large and small that create lasting value.

And as Bill Knudsen knew first, contracts are more powerful than regulations in solving the global challenges of today.

 

 

*This blog series is intended to prompt readers to fully explore The New Grand Strategy, a book I believe is one of the most important books available to any CEO. All content in this blog series is adapted from The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century with permission from authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower. Mr. Mykleby and Mr. Doherty currently serve as co-directors at the Strategic Innovation Lab (SIL) at Case Western Reserve University, as part of The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Full disclosure: I proudly serve as a strategic advisor to the SIL.

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All-In Leadership—NOW!

A lack of engagement is cited as costing U.S. business over $500B annually according to Gallup. Arguably, the cost to our country of a lack of engagement could be a lot higher.

In our last presidential election, an estimated 97 million eligible voters chose not to vote. Reports indicated that some didn’t think their vote would matter while many attributed their decision not to vote to a belief that “others” were better able to decide their future.

I believe many of those who chose not to vote are now rethinking their choice. Further, I believe it’s time for those who are not satisfied with their local, state, or federal government—and are sitting on the sidelines—to rethink their choice as well.

Consider this quote from American critical thinker and author Werner Hans Erhard:

“The problems we have now in communities and societies are going to be resolved only when we are brought together by a common sense that each of us is a visionary. Each of us must come to the realization that we can function and live at the level of vision rather than following some great leader’s vision. Instead of looking for a great leader, we are in an era where each of us needs to find the great leader in ourselves.”

Erhard is sounding the same theme offered by Ralph Waldo Emerson over 175 years ago in his book Self-Reliance.

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of . . . sages. . . . There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better.”

I believe both Erhard and Emerson are arguing for their respective contemporaries to step up to the responsibility of individual accountability.

“All in” is a term often used to describe an individual giving 100% effort. With the challenges we face in our towns, states, countries, and in the world at large, I concur with Erhard and Emerson, and I suggest that all-in leadership must start now.

As I offered in October of 2011, all-in leadership starts with accountability. Each of us must act with discipline, creativity, and support for others consistent with the insight of who we are and with our values. We each have a responsibility to continue our education and to ensure our voice is heard, and our vote is counted.

We are all Chiefs when we are all in.

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How Business Can Restore America’s Greatness – Part 3 of 4

Part 3 – Finding the Money and Optimizing Assets*

Bill Knudsen saw the opportunity in 1940 for new orders—and new profits: If he and his fellow industrialists could transform existing supply chains and product lines to meet the demand for arms, munitions, ships, planes, and trucks generated during the second global conflict in the century, he knew it would be good for American companies. He also knew it was the way we could win World War II.

But Knudsen also saw two things others had missed. First, he saw the need for a massive infusion of money to fund company retooling efforts, and he saw a way to access that necessary capital with the passage of the universal income tax. And importantly, Knudsen identified a number of stranded assets that were available to be utilized and optimized that together would provide the building blocks of his audacious strategy. Specifically, remnants of the Great Depression included excess factory equipment and capacity as well as a huge labor pool on which to draw. All the pieces were in place.

In The New Grand Strategy, authors Mykleby, Doherty, and Makower crystalize Knudsen’s “prosperity formula,” as Demand + CapitalStranded Assets = New Growth Scenario. Part 2 of this blog series overviewed the book’s description of huge near-term demand that exists today. Equally compelling is the availability of more than adequate capital as well as a new set of assets to be optimized.

Unlike Knudsen’s need to rely on public-sector capital, idle private-sector capital sits today at an all-time high. Specifically, recent estimates by The Federal Reserve place the amount of cash on the balance sheets of non-financial U.S. companies as exceeding $3.5 trillion. In addition, $10 trillion in private equity and hedge fund is available and seeking growth opportunities. The authors also point to the accessibility of funds associated with the largest transfer of wealth in history of the world as $17 trillion is passed from the WWII generation to baby boomers and $30 trillion is transferred from boomers to millennials. Importantly, investors are also increasing their focus on sustainability. The so-called sustainable and responsible investment segment now has $13.5 trillion under management globally, according to the World Economic Forum. In short, necessary capital is not only available, it’s plentiful.

Less abundant are ideas around how to deal with the challenging issue of “stranded assets.” For many innovative and bold business leaders, the challenge is often to help others think differently. Opportunities do indeed exist, however, and many are presented in the book. Today, perhaps the biggest opportunity for transformational thinking is in the area of hydrocarbons, a.k.a. oil and gas.

The International Energy Agency estimates that to stay within two degrees Celsius of atmospheric warming, the global economy will have to avoid emitting the carbon from 80 percent of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves. Many environmentalists believe the only option is to write off this estimated $20 trillion stranded asset. The authors of The New Grand Strategy see things differently. They posit that instead of burning hydrocarbons, we can build with them. This shift will reduce the amount of lumber, cement, aluminum, and steel used, substituting them with advanced, petro-based materials with superior characteristics. The good news is several oil and chemical companies are already preparing for a future in which advanced materials are a larger part of their business.

As was the case for Bill Knudsen, unskilled labor is another stranded asset yearning to be optimized. And like hydrocarbons, solutions require bold and innovative thinking. As we restore our manufacturing base, we can serve a significant percentage of the workers currently un- or underemployed, without waiting on Washington to act. Companies could concentrate initial investments in places where the opportunities for construction, manufacturing, and food processing jobs are greatest and where real estate processes are affordable. This profile matches the many interior cities in America, with their legacy manufacturing capacity and expansive agricultural belts.

Taken together, the availability of capital and the ability to optimize assets thoughtfully will enable business realize a new market demand estimated at $1.3 trillion, consistent with full-spectrum sustainability.

The book outlines current success stories in which alignment of business, social, and environmental priorities is generating triple bottom-line returns (for people, profit, planet) today. Companies ranging from Apple and Blackrock to Google, Target, and Tesla are demonstrating the path forward. Many more examples are offered.

The final blog will both make the case that the world needs the next set of Bill Knudsens to step up, and offer a specific recommendation as to how.

In summary, this blog series is intended to prompt readers to fully explore The New Grand Strategy, a book I believe to be one of the most important books of our time.

 

 

*All content in this blog series is adapted from The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century with permission from authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower. Mr. Mykleby and Mr. Doherty currently serve as co-directors at the Strategic Innovation Lab (SIL) at Case Western Reserve University, as part of The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Full disclosure: I proudly serve as a strategic advisor to the SIL.

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How Business Can Restore America’s Greatness – Part 2 of 4

Part 2 – The Prosperity Formula and Three Pools of Demand*

When Bill Knudsen jumped into the leadership position that led to our victory in World War II, he knew that business leaders could both serve our country and do what was right for the shareholders at businesses like General Motors.

Knudsen saw great opportunity when three forces were aligned: demand, capital, and assets. Specifically, he knew that if he and his fellow industrialists transformed supply chains and product lines to meet the new demand for arms, munitions, ships, planes, and trucks that there were actual orders to be filled, and profits to be made filling them.

With the mind of an opportunistic business leader, Knudsen also saw a path to adequate funding resources as well as a set of assets others missed that together would provide the building blocks of his audacious strategy.

In The New Grand Strategy, authors Mykleby, Doherty, and Makower crystalize Knudsen’s “prosperity formula,” as Demand + CapitalStranded Assets = New Growth Scenario. They assert that today, as in 1940, the equation starts with demand.

Further, they see a similarly massive market opportunity currently being missed by American businesses, specifically in three pools of demand—walkable communities, regenerative agriculture, and resource productivity.

Walkable communities are the hottest properties in real estate. American tastes have changed, from the splendid isolation of the suburbs to what authors call the “half-mile lifestyle”—work, school, transit, doctors, restaurants, playgrounds, and entertainment all with a short walk from the front door. Between now and 2030, baby boomers and millennials will unite in their demand for a broader range of housing types (single-family, townhouse, live-work, condo, apartment) in “new urban” communities. The financial impact of this shift is estimated at approximately $225 billion annually in residential sales alone, before including another $23 billion in annual savings for avoided public-service expenditures like roads, sanitation, water, and other infrastructure. More broadly, walkable communities simultaneously address several other big issues including decarbonization, social fabric, and health and wellness. Meeting this demand is a winner on every level.

Regenerative agriculture describes our opportunity to meet the growing global demand for food. To meet rising population and income levels, according the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the world needs to increase global food production by 60 percent by 2050, and 100 percent of that will need to use farming techniques that restore soils and cleanse waterways. For American farmers, the increase in demand for food is already translating to record prices, but meeting this demand could translate to approximately $190 billion annually in additional revenue to farm operators, and end hunger worldwide.

Finally, resource productivity describes the incredible market opportunity to meet the energy and material needs of bringing three billion new middle-class aspirants into the global economy. The required revolution in resource allocation will power innovation in material sciences, engineering, advanced manufacturing, and energy production, distribution, and consumption. Embracing and hosting the resource productivity revolution would deliver a boost of more than $850 billion annually, or five percent of US GDP. America would be capturing the savings from reducing and eliminating waste, and producing a new era of innovative materials, goods, and services for domestic and global markets. America will also get back to making things again, as it dramatically reduces the potential for worldwide conflict based on scarcity.

Taken together, these three pools of demand alone generate an annual revenue opportunity of $1.3 trillion and create opportunities for true full-spectrum sustainability.

The book outlines current success stories in which alignment of business, social, and environmental priorities is generating triple bottom-line returns (for people, profit, planet) today. Companies ranging from Dupont and GM to PepsiCo, GE, and Whole Foods are demonstrating the path forward. Many more examples are offered.

Bill Knudsen knew that businesses with real orders for real things with real specifications offered a real start to long-lasting economic growth—a start more effective than any law Washington could pass or policy they could adopt. Yet, two more critical components of the prosperity formula needed to be addressed.

The next blog will review those elements while the final piece will make the case that the world needs the next set of Bill Knudsens to step up, and will offer a specific recommendation as to how.

In summary, this blog series is intended to prompt readers to fully explore The New Grand Strategy as what I believe is one of the most important books of our time.

 

 

*All content in this blog series is adapted from The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century with permission from authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower. Mr. Mykleby and Mr. Doherty currently serve as co-directors at the Strategic Innovation Lab (SIL) at Case Western Reserve University, as part of The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Full disclosure: I proudly serve as a strategic advisor to the SIL.

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How Business Can Restore America’s Greatness – Part 1 of 4

Part 1 – Introduction*

Bill Knudsen was president of General Motors when he decided that only business could prepare for America’s victory in World War II. He understood the role of business in restoring America’s greatness. With our country facing forces on several fronts that could have forever changed our democratic republic, thankfully Bill Knudsen stepped up.

As Arthur Herman noted in his 2012 book, Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II: “If the country was going to make itself seriously ready for war, neither the politicians nor the generals nor the admirals were willing to take the lead. American business and industry would have to figure it out on their own.”

Today, forces on multiple fronts again threaten our way of life domestically and around the world. This time the four antagonists are the rapid economic inclusion of three billion people, climate change and the depletion of our natural capital, the contained depression supporting income inequality, and the crumbling infrastructure at the foundation of our worldwide economy.

Taken together, these four fused and interlocking dilemmas comprise the global challenge of our time. It will require focused and determined leadership. Today, only America possesses the capacity, weight, and cultural wherewithal to lead change of this magnitude.

And once again, American business and industry need to figure it out. But how?

In The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century, authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower answer that question.

Specifically, the book offers lucidity about a viable path forward based on proven and important historical precedent. They outline a clear “prosperity formula” for business leaders to follow, including where the money will come from to fund the strategy.

Importantly, the authors also provide a new framing of full spectrum sustainability and what’s required to achieve sustainable growth. They offer a view that the old concept of sustainability as green (only) is problematic. Too many Americans associate sustainability with the notion of sacrifice in the name of Mother Earth, rather than how we might align our immediate self-interests of personal well-being with our long-term interest of generational and environmental well-being. The New Grand Strategy shows us how companies can do well by doing good.

The book outlines current success stories in which alignment of business, social, and environmental priorities is generating triple bottom-line returns (for people, profit, planet). Companies ranging from Bank of America and BASF to Cisco, Dow, and Ford are demonstrating the path forward. Many more examples are offered.

In the three blogs that follow this introduction, we will review the case offered in The New Grand Strategy:

In summary, this blog series is intended to prompt readers to fully explore The New Grand Strategy as what I believe to be one of the most important books of our time.

The world needs the next set of Bill Knudsens to step up, and we need them to do it now.

 

 

*All content in this blog series is adapted from The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century with permission from authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower. Mr. Mykleby and Mr. Doherty currently serve as co-directors at the Strategic Innovation Lab (SIL) at Case Western Reserve University, as part of The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Full disclosure: I proudly serve as a strategic advisor to the SIL.

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Player-Coaches and Sustainable Success

Success in business has always had a lot in common with success in sports. Both have relied on vision, effort, skill, persistence, and values of teams of people. Historically, both have also generally relied on strong hierarchical leaders who coached their teams with well-designed systems. You think of Vince Lombardi or John Wooden in the same way you think of Sam Walton or Walt Disney. To sustain success in business today, you can continue to look to sports teams for clues. The new model for sustained success includes many more players who also serve as coaches on the field. These “player-coaches” are doing the work that it takes to become great. Some teams just figured it out first.

Having grown up outside Boston, MA, I followed the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Bruins, and the Celtics. By my 11th birthday in 1969, I knew what it meant to be a New England sports fan. Along the way I also learned something about success and what it takes to sustain it.

Spring in Boston meant stories of pitchers and catchers arriving in Scottsdale, Arizona and then Winter Haven, Florida ahead of the trip to legendary Fenway Park for the start of the baseball season. Recent fans might not remember that the long-standing drought of championships (starting in 1918 and ending in 2004) defined the frustration of sports in Boston for generations. There was one trip to the World Series during that period, but the “Impossible Dream” (how’s that for optimism?) season ended in 1967 with a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Starting in the fall of 1960, the Boston Patriots began playing football as part of the original group of American Football League (AFL) teams. As with the Sox, the Patriots made it to the Championship game just once in my early years. They were trounced by the San Diego Chargers by a score of 51–10.

Early winter brought the Bruins onto the ice at the venerable Boston Garden arena. During my first 11 years, the Bruins didn’t make the playoffs eight years in a row and were eliminated before reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in each of the other three years.

Salvation came shortly thereafter when the Celtics began playing basketball at the end of the sports seasons, and all was finally right with the world.

By my 11th birthday, the Boston Celtics had participated in 10 NBA Championship series. They won them all. (Actually, the Celtics won the year before I was born as well, with Bill Russell as MVP.) During the period, Bill was MVP four more times. During his last three seasons with the Celtics, he held the title of player-coach. Those who watched the Celtics closely will tell you that Bill was a player-coach long before they gave him the title.

Lesson learned: Sustained excellence requires player-coaches to be on the field, not on the sidelines.

Recently, I came upon a great article by Steve Wulf of ESPN. Steve offered amazing insight on this topic over 3 years ago:

“You watch LeBron James simultaneously cajole and carry the Heat. You marvel at the way Peyton Manning conducts the Broncos’ offense like a maestro. You see Yadier Molina shepherd the Cardinals’ pitching staff while hitting .367. You can’t imagine where the Bruins would be without Patrice Bergeron setting the pace of play and the tone of teamwork.”

LeBron and Peyton both led their teams to championships just last year!

Bottom line: Groups that achieve sustained excellence don’t look to the sidelines for leadership, they look for Chiefs on the field.

Do you ever step up to play the role of player-coach on your “team”? If you have a Chief title, do your team members to step up to be Chief when the opportunity presents itself? What results could your team drive if everyone viewed themselves as player-coaches? Can you see how much more likely it would be to deliver sustained success?

Incidentally, the player who holds the record for most games played in the NBA also won three championships with the Boston Celtics. He was named one of the 50 greatest players of all time. His name is Robert Parrish. His nickname is “the Chief.”

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Power—The Choice is Ours

In his Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo offers daily lessons intended to help readers interested in “having the life you want by being present to the life you have.”

Said differently, the book’s purpose is to enable anyone to unlock their true power.

Nepo’s March 2nd entry addresses our choice when it comes to power. He offers, “Originally, the word power meant able to be. In time, it was contracted to mean to be able. We suffer the difference.”

Nepo goes on to reference the common expression “more power to you.” He posits in general that power is a goal and specifically, more often than not, the goal is worldly power defined as power over things, people, and situations—a controlling power.

Nepo contrasts worldly power to inner power described as the power that comes from being a part of something larger—a connective power.

When we share this well-wish, our intent is either to offer controlling or connective power. When we receive it, similarly we have the choice.

Later in his June 23rd entry, Nepo once again offers us a clear choice. This time the choice is how to attain the power we seek.

“It leaves us with another choice: fame or peace, be a celebrity or celebrate being, work all our days to be seen or devote ourselves to seeing, build our identity on the attention we can get or find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give.”

Again, the choice is ours.

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How to Identify Real Power

Power is a noun with four primary definitions:

1.) Ability
2.) Influence
3.) Energy
4.) Positional authority

The biggest problem in business today is that too often we ignore the first three definitions due to our preoccupation with the fourth, positional authority. We look to the top of an organization chart to learn where the power lies in any team or group. The first time this mistake became clear to me was over 30 years ago. It has stuck with me ever since.

Shortly after I was named Director of Marketing for Unisys’ State Government unit, I traveled to meet District Manager Richard Gaddy and his very successful team in Florida. Richard’s team had done a masterful job over many years working with varied departments in Florida’s State Government to earn a reputation of trusted advisor.

On the first day of my visit, Richard set up review sessions for me with each of his sales managers to talk about their sales teams, followed by individual meetings with each sales representative. With one exception, I met every sales leader in the group that first day. Richard told me, with a smile, that I would meet the last member of his team the next day when I was scheduled to visit one of the largest customers in the district.

I asked Richard if he would be attending the meeting with us. He said, “No, Mike can handle it with you.” When I asked if I could get a briefing ahead of time Richard said, “Mike is at the customer site today but left this account plan for you to review,” as he handed me a thick packet of information.

That night I read the detailed account plan and was very impressed. It provided a thorough update on everything I needed to know including people, history, applications, opportunities, threats, and current priorities. It clearly laid out who we would meet with the next day, likely issues that would be raised, and our responses. The document blew me away. I went to bed looking forward to our morning meeting.

The next day at 8:00 a.m. sharp, a car pulled up to the circular driveway outside the front door of my hotel and out jumped Mike Willenborg. A big smile on his face, Mike extended his hand and said, “Good morning Rick!” with such gusto that I am sure every bellman within 30 yards jumped. I was beaming as I headed for the passenger’s seat.

Mike immediately went on the offensive. “How did yesterday go?” he asked as we settled in for our ride to the customer site. He was questioning me to assess my priorities and reactions to a cast of characters he knew well. Though we had met only minutes before, our conversation was lively and rather meaningful thanks to the way Mike was using open-ended questions to learn more about the latest executive who would soon be introduced to his means of livelihood. He asked if I had any questions about the briefing package he had prepared. His line of questioning was meant to ensure I was ready. But it was clear he had done his homework on me too.

During the next 30 minutes, he made reference to everything from my education and prior assignments to my volunteer work. And as we went back and forth during the drive, Mike’s enthusiasm for his customer and his role in helping his customer succeed came through like a bright light.

“Did you know that we have been identified as one of the top departments in the State for consistently delivering on our plans and staying under our budget projections? And we have been asked to present again this year at the national conference to highlight our best practices for using technology? We’re on a roll!” Mike’s enthusiasm was palpable.

He loved what he was doing, that was clear. And I could feel my normally high morning energy level surge even higher to match his.

The customer meetings were successful. Perhaps from Mike’s perspective, another suit from headquarters had been successfully introduced to his client and had not made a mess of things. From my perspective I knew I had been given a gift. I had felt the power of someone who was all-in.

The day after I arrived back at the home office I called Richard to talk about the visit. He picked up the phone and we talked about how the customer visit went but the subject quickly shifted to Mike.

Richard laughed when I described the impact my encounter with Mike had on me. He said, “Welcome to the club.” He told me many others had the same reaction to Mike. “He lifts everyone in the office,” Richard said.

“About a month ago I asked each sales manager to nominate a member of their team for a District Sales Council,” Richard told me. “I wanted us to do a better job sharing best practices across teams. Mike’s manager sent Mike and we are still talking about what happened. It was like Mike lit a fuse under his peers. Not only did they share best practices between each other, but they decided to reach out to other districts as well. And I credit Mike. He started a chain reaction. It was great.”

The truth was it didn’t matter that the organization chart showed that Mike sat three levels down from where I sat. In this case, Mike had the power. His ability, energy, and influence showed it.

Since that memorable event, I’ve seen many other extroverts like Mike—and just as many introverts—demonstrate enthusiasm and confidence from connecting what they do to who they are, each in their own unique way. I refer to these powerful leaders as Chiefs.

What could happen if your organization recognized where true power comes from?

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10 Reasons to Be All-In at Work

Surveys indicate that more than 70% of workers are not fully engaged at work. You may be one of them. This pervasive problem costs business billions and often costs employees their health. The culprit most often cited? The boss. Survey after survey places the blame for poor engagement on supervisors who don’t know how to effectively lead employees.

But how can this be? Particularly when there is a nearly endless supply of readily available leadership podcasts, blogs, courses, and other training material? One source cites the 1.5 trillion books and articles written on the subject in just the last 10 years. The problem stems from a lack of effective material that does more than supply information. Leaders at ALL levels need information that helps them apply concepts to drive engagement.

If you are one of the millions of workers who don’t have a boss who gets it, what do you do? Consider following the All-In Roadmap to increase not only your engagement but also the engagement of everyone around you.

Here’s why. The All-In Roadmap is:

  • Simple – five key focus areas make it easy to apply the Roadmap.
  • Flexible – the Roadmap changes as you and your needs change.
  • Practical – case studies help you apply the five key focus areas to your own situations.
  • Applicable to companies of all sizes – from startups to multinationals, the Roadmap works.
  • Trans-industrial – the Roadmap works for product or service businesses, non-profits, or government.
  • Research-based – road tested and backed by research, the Roadmap is well supported.
  • A professional and personal tool – the Roadmap works in every area of your life.
  • Resilient during tough times – the Roadmap is proven even in market crashes and war zones.
  • Result-driven – the Roadmap has been used to triple the growth rate of million and billion dollar organizations.
  • FREE – you can sign up for the All-In Roadmap here.

Using the All-In Roadmap will help you and those around you engage, and drive sustainable growth.

What do you have to lose, other than the excuse that your boss is keeping you from being your very best?

It’s time to be All-In!

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The Future of Business

The future of business, simply put, is making the future its business. And where better to look toward the future than to the business schools currently training our future leaders? Those of us looking for confidence in the future can take comfort in the great work being done by the worldwide network of PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) colleges and universities established in 2007 by the United Nations.

The idea to create PRME was officially introduced by the UN’s Global Compact Office at the Global Forum “Business as an Agent of World Benefit” at Case Western Reserve University, where I serve as a Strategic Advisor, in October 2006.

PRME’s mission is to “inspire and champion responsible management education, research, and thought leadership globally.” The Six Principles of PRME, inspired by internationally accepted values, are:

  • Purpose – working toward an inclusive and sustainable global economy
  • Values – global social responsibility
  • Method – creation of educational frameworks, materials, processes, and environments
  • Research – researching the role, dynamics, and impact of corporations in the creation of sustainable social, environmental, and economic value.
  • Partnership – exploring jointly effective approaches to challenges faced by corporations in meeting social and environmental responsibilities
  • Dialogue – facilitating dialogue between all interested parties and stakeholders

Sustainable growth is the only way forward for business today. Being Chief means making choices that move business in this direction. PRME is on the cutting edge of integrating sustainable business standards from the ground up—beginning with tomorrow’s leaders. More than 600 leading business schools and management-related academic institutions from over 80 countries comprise the PRME, many of which are also a part of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the “longest serving global association dedicated to advancing management education worldwide.”

In addition to Case Western, U.S. PRME members include leading business schools ranging from Bentley, Cornell, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M to University of California Berkeley as well as strong international representation ranging from Auckland University in New Zealand, Bangalore University in India, Cheung Kong University in China, and INSEAD in France.

Organizations such as PRME and AACSB are directing the future of business toward sustainable growth, and not a moment too soon.

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For Business Success, Use the Force, Luke!

What does Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful people have in common with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’? Much more than you’d think. Both rely on our fascination with power and with those who wield it. And while Forbes and Star Wars offer very different views of power, your own business success could hinge on your ability to realize the Force—more specifically, your workForce.

Here’s why.

How do we define power? Forbes poses that four criteria determine the powerful:

How many people do they have power over?
How much money do they control?
Does their influence extend across multiple regions, industries, or aspects of life?
Do they actively wield their power?

This view of power is based on external, objectively identifiable elements. This year, Forbes editors determined that 73 individuals, representing one per 100 million people on Earth, were the most powerful. A significant 41 of the 73 (56%) are from the business community.

2015 represented the seventh year this list was published. Over that period, Forbes has identified 147 individuals, with only 22 appearing each and every year. Is it a surprise that 15 of these 22 (68%) are business leaders? Probably not.

Business success has always been all about influence and external power. Until now.

The Star Wars franchise offers a very different view of true power. Back in 1977, Obi Wan Kenobi offered the first description of an incredible power called the Force. “It’s an energy force created by all living things. It surrounds us; penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Obi Wan offered no objectively identifiable criteria.

The Force is internal. In Star Wars, true power comes from inside an individual and exists only because of one’s relationships with others and life around them. Master Yoda explains, “A powerful ally the Force is. Life creates it, makes it grow. You must feel the force around you. Between you and me. The tree. The rock. Everywhere. Yes.”

Those who learn to be with the Force are the most powerful. They become Jedi warriors. At one point in the Star Wars series we learn over 10,000 individuals have become Jedis through the study of discipline and meditation.

Star Wars asserts that success comes from the internal power realized through harmony and by training to be one with the Force. Jedi warriors fully engage in their surroundings and serve others around them. And when needed, they wield the Force expertly.

But how can the Force help us in business?

Today, CEO surveys show their #1 concern is around people, culture, and engagement. Current estimates indicate that only a third of U.S. workers are fully engaged, costing business a whopping $370 billion annually.

The good news is that research shows engagement can be positively influenced by anyone in an organization. If you commit to increasing the Force in your workforce, growth will follow. Future Forbes lists will be increasingly populated by business leaders who understand the need to support this different type of power, growth, sharing, and harmony. In many ways, it’s the key to the sustainable growth movement that is on the rise.

There are many ways to increase the power of your employee group. The first step is to recognize that as an objective. Then you can incorporate discipline, creativity, support, insight, and values.

Naysayers in business would be wise to remember Darth Vader’s warning, “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror [the dreaded Death Star] you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”

Cynics might also be reminded of Yoda’s wise counsel. Luke said, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda responded “That is why you fail.”

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Business Education on the Right Track

In a recent New York Times op-ed, David Brooks reminds us that many of the original American universities were founded as religious institutions explicitly designed to cultivate students’ spiritual and moral values. Over the course of the 20th century, many institutions moved away from that mission.

But today the pendulum is shifting back in schools that lost this focus.

Brooks points out: “On almost every campus faculty members and administrators are trying to stem the careerist tide and to widen the system’s narrow definition of achievement. Institutes are popping up—with interdisciplinary humanities programs and even meditation centers—designed to cultivate the whole student: the emotional, spiritual, and moral sides and not just the intellectual.”

Educating the whole student offers high-impact benefits to society in many areas, perhaps none more than in business education. Here’s why:

  1. When businesses are poorly led, we all suffer.

Enron, Worldcom, and the Wall Street institutions responsible for the economic collapse of 2008 offer recent examples. Much of the country has yet to fully recover. And, unfortunately, too many people in power still believe unethical behavior is “just business.” We need more ethical leaders.

  1. Business is becoming the place where social problems are solved.

Fortunately, more businesses are stepping up to a new definition of sustainable success. Companies like Aetna are setting a new pace. Minimum wage increases are occurring at retailers like Walmart. Netflix is setting a new standard for paid family leave as Starbucks is investing in employee education. But the pace is too slow and we need more enlightened leaders.

  1. Business collaboration will accelerate much needed progress.

We need new business leaders capable of collaborative capitalism. These Chiefs can ensure that by working together more people are included as the economy grows. Working together, companies led by whole leaders can create a business alliance for the future.

As a graduate of both Bentley University and Columbia University, I have benefitted from curriculum that always included a focus on the whole student. More recently, I’ve had the privilege to work with other leading business schools where such a focus is clear, including U Penn/Wharton, Emory/Goizetta, Penn State/ Smeal, Weatherhead/Case Western, USC/Moore, and FDU/Silberman.

As more of the 517 US members of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) step up to the challenge of educating the whole student in a secularized yet morally and emotionally integrated manner, they will accelerate progress already made to create a better future for us all.

Just in time.

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