Charity Partner Announced—Sammy’s House, a Special Place for Children

In my TED talk I shared a story about how a six-year-old girl in a wheelchair reminded me what a truly powerful Chief can look like. To this day, “Melissa” remains one of my most memorable teachers. In Melissa’s honor, I proudly share that Sammy’s House, a Special Place or Children, has been selected as the exclusive charity partner for the Be Chief book project. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book will go to Sammy’s House. Learn more at BeChief.com.

Sammy’s House operates as a nonprofit and provides services for children with and without special needs. The organization operates a child development center, a respite care program, a summer camp, as well as family support services to fill the gaps in services for children and their families. Sammy’s House believes that all children have the ability to learn and to contribute to the community. The organization is particularly focused on supporting children who are medically fragile and/or developmentally delayed, as well as their families.

Programs serve children 0 to 16 years old. The “house” is located in Austin, Texas.

Children at Sammy’s House learn the values of acceptance, compassion, and the art of caring for one another. These wonderful individuals each have a lot to teach all of us.

 

Pre-orders for Be Chief are NOW available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The book will be published on September 4, 2018.

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CEOs to employees: Take a vacation, already

Rick Miller quoted in FierceCEO.com article:

CEOs are increasingly touting the importance of employees taking time off, but the message may not yet have reached the rank and file among U.S. workers, who are taking only half of their eligible vacation time per year. The reasons point to a need to change the work culture within companies, according to one human resources expert.

“Employees should take advantage of available vacation time for a variety of reasons. In today’s very fast paced environment, the idea or concept of work life balance has slowly been shrinking away and employers have recognized that,” said HR Florida State Council Vice President Jennifer Gunter. “And with so many competing priorities workers face, it’s time to evaluate internal time-off policies and create a culture in which employees are encouraged to take their vacation time as opposed to leaving multiple days, weeks or hours on the table. By successfully promoting and encouraging employees to utilize vacation time, employers can combat low productivity, employee burnout and improve employee morale.

Vacations have devolved from getaways to brief respites where the office is just a phone call or a text away, a survey said. According to a 2017 Glassdoor survey the average U.S. employee only took about half (54%) of his or her eligible vacation time/paid time off in the 12 months prior to the survey.

And more Americans (66%) today report working when they do take vacation compared to three years ago (61%).

Of employees who receive vacation/paid time off, 9 out of 10 (91%) report taking at least some time off in the last 12 months, up from 85% in 2014. Over the same time period, 23% reported taking 100% of their eligible time off, while another 23% of employees reported taking 25% of their eligible time off (both down two percentage points from 25% in 2014). Nine percent reported taking no vacation or paid time off at all.

Despite slightly more employees taking vacation time overall, it doesn’t necessarily mean more are getting away from work. Fewer employees who take vacation/paid time off report being able to completely “check out” while they are on vacation, while more than one quarter (27%) are expected to stay aware of work issues and jump in if things need their attention while they are away, up from 20% in 2014. More than 1 in 10 (12%) employees who take vacation/paid time off are expected to be reachable, deliver work and/or participate in conference calls etc. while on vacation (compared to 9% in 2014).

It’s a situation that routinely raises eyebrows across the pond, where vacations are practically enshrined in the work culture. “It’s not that Americans do not want a vacation—it’s that they are afraid to take it,” an article in The Guardian noted back in September.

The article cited a U.S. Travel Association survey that said that 28% of workers passed on taking a vacation because they didn’t want to be seen as slackers, but as dedicated employees instead. And another 40% didn’t want to deal with the pile of work that would be waiting for them when they returned from taking several days off. 

With the surveys beginning to pile up, some CEOs are taking the situation in hand to make sure their employees get the rest they need and recharge.

Employees should feel comfortable requesting time off, said Mike Flaskey, CEO of Diamond Resorts. “Leadership can promote this type of culture by encouraging team members to plan their vacations early and let their teams know if they’re thinking about taking time off, so everyone can prepare,” Flaskey said. “It’s easy to be consumed with work emails or phone calls even when on vacation, but if teams are well-equipped and updated beforehand, it’s also easier to unplug knowing everything is under control. Taking time for oneself to recharge is crucial not only for the individual, but the company’s productivity overall.”

“The importance of restoration is rooted in our human physiology,” said Susan Kuczmarski, co-founder of Kuczmarski Innovation. “Employees are not able to expend energy continuously. Rather, it is best to pulse between spending and recovering energy. Vacations allow us to restore, re-energize and re-generate—so we can begin fresh again, ready to positively impact our work agenda.”

And, while taking time off may be counterintutive for many workers, and is at odds with the prevailing work ethic in many companies, “it renews our energy level—and this makes us able to do our work more efficiently and effectively,” Kuczmarski said. “Energy is finite, but renewable. Vacations are not wasted time, but prescriptions for maximizing our productivity. They are entirely necessary.”“I want all of my employees to take vacations and when they do, I want them to turn off I don’t bother them,” said John Crossman, CEO of Crossman & Company. “I want them to have fun and relax. Vacations are crucial to overall health and creativity.”

Vacations are not only essential, but also more important than ever to corporate productivity, given the influx of millennials in the workforce and their priority on work-life balance, said Rick Miller, principal of Being Chief. “On an even broader scale, numerous studies by the American Psychology Association and others clearly show the myriad benefits of taking time off. For employees, vacations are proven to alleviate stress, cut risk of cardiovascular disease, and boost sleep. For companies, this means lower health costs and turnover from employee burnout, as well as greater engagement and productivity.”

 

source

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How Spencer Johnson Helped Me Move My Cheese

In 2015, seven years after I began the first iteration of my book, I thought I was close to having a finished manuscript. I had just completed a major rewrite with editor Nils Parker and submitted the work to my agent at the time, Margaret McBride. In our first call after she had read the manuscript she said, “I have some good news and some bad news.” I asked for the bad news first and she confirmed that we weren’t “there” yet. My heart sank. But her good news changed my attitude immediately. Her client, Spencer Johnson, had read the book and wanted to speak with me.

Yes, it was the same Spencer Johnson who co-wrote The One-Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard and who wrote Who Moved My Cheese? A bestselling author for more than 30 years, Spencer was well known to be incredibly private, assiduously avoiding attention and publicity. He refused to have his photograph on his book jackets and rarely did interviews. But his focus on concentrated value in short, impactful stories was legendary. And this literary giant was inviting me to spend a day with him at his Wolfeboro, NH estate. I was elated.

After spending the day together, we sat on Adirondack chairs overlooking a lake while he summarized his feedback. First, he thought there were strong parts of the book that could be stronger. One example I worked in was expanding the story of Mike Willenborg, a clear example of a powerful Chief at the bottom of the organizational chart.

Next, he thought there were weak parts of the book that should be eliminated. I later removed several personal anecdotes that didn’t help the reader in proportion to the “real estate” they took up in the book. THIS was the brilliance of Spencer Johnson. He is a master of concentrating value in every paragraph, as evidenced in his books mentioned above. It’s much tougher to write a great short book than a great longer book.

Spencer mentioned that a few stories I had shared that day should be in the book. So I added the story about my Go Test and one about the quiet Chiefs I worked with at Bell Labs.

Finally, Spencer suggested that the title would be better as Be Chief instead of Being Chief. Overall, I was grateful for the amazing and invaluable feedback from this master craftsman. My next step—another re-write.

Spencer Johnson helped me move my cheese. That is, he helped me change just when I needed to. He taught me to keep working until the book was ready, even if it takes longer than I originally planned. Back then, I thought the book would be published in 2016, and here we are about to publish two years later! It wouldn’t be the book it is today if I hadn’t taken the long road to get there. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed bringing it to life, with a lot of help from others.

 

Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title is available for pre-order today on Amazon.

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10 Years to Published Author: Be Chief Available for Pre-order

Today is a really big day. My first book sold through a publisher, Be Chief, is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released in September, 10 years after this whole process began.

This project actually started in September 2008 when I read O, The Oprah Magazine’s What I Know for Sure, a column at the back of the magazine where Oprah gives us a glimpse of her own thoughts. I was struck. “Leadership is the key to everything,” she reflected on the statement often shared by her longtime partner, Stedman Graham. I’ve kept the article close ever since.

Shortly after, I was inspired to write a book on a topic I had come to believe to my core—one that I had successfully applied in my business career over 25 years. Specifically, I wanted to write about how, yes, leadership is the key to everything, but with an important highlight—that leadership choices are available to everyone.

Fast forward 10 years and almost as many iterations and potential publishers later, and I have many people to thank. To Ann McIndoo, who helped me rewrite the first version. To Michael Black for creating the Being Chief brand and applying his creative gifts to all aspects of the project. To Jamey Jones for helping me hone my message and keep it consistent.

To Jack Canfield, who I shared the stage with as a speaker, for introducing me to his agent, Margaret McBride, one of the top literary agents in the country. To Nils Parker, one of Margaret’s preferred ghostwriters, who rewrote the book stem-to-stern. To Spencer Johnson, bestselling author for more than 30 years, who read the book and invited me to spend the day with him at his estate where I received invaluable feedback (more on that story soon) and the new title, Be Chief.

To Ann Maynard, who took over for Nils to bring the book where it needed to be based on Johnson’s advice. To Margaret McBride, for helping me get my book to where it is today, for bringing my book to Penguin, St. Martin’s Press, and Hachette, all three publishers that later declined, but not before showing enthusiasm that Margaret interpreted as leading to a possible “bidding war.”

To the many readers who provided additional feedback on the book to help me understand what they wanted from the book and how I could give it to them. And finally, to Justin Sachs at Motivational Press, who is publishing my book this September.

What a ride! I am grateful.

Be Chief is a manual for unleashing power—a power available to anyone—in your organization to drive sustainable growth. Pre-order it today.

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How the “Go Test” Can Help You Drive Transformation in a Turnaround

Experience has taught me that when starting a turnaround, you typically confront three distinct groups of employees: “Go-Go’s,” those who need little, if any, convincing to fully engage in the effort; ”Go-Buts,” those willing to enlist but who first need to understand why drastic steps are needed; and “No-Go’s,” those who will resist any and all attempts to shift the status quo.

This axiom tends to hold regardless of industry or company size, which I learned firsthand in two separate leadership stints—the first with AT&T, one of the oldest and largest companies in the world, and a second with OPUS360, an Internet start-up that wanted to “change the way the world works” via project-based labor. In each instance, I was recruited to drive transformation amid tough market conditions and sagging business performance.

Though the two situations warranted starkly different approaches to gain and retain customers, compete more effectively, raise capital, control costs, and build stronger stakeholder relationships, the centerpiece of my strategy at both was a simple singular tool that has yet to fail me. I call it the “Go Test.”

Empowering Chiefs with the “Go Test”    

To optimize organizational performance, you need empowered people at all levels. I call them Chiefs. In my case, I needed people I could trust and who could attract and engage others with the same attributes. When I arrived at AT&T, there was no shortage of HR data. In fact, the volume of personnel information was overwhelming; unfortunately, most of it was useless to me.

That lack of information utility became clear when I asked one HR manager, “How many of our employees are on performance-improvement programs?” He was startled by the question. “Why?” he asked. According to the files, everyone was doing a terrific job and had been for years.

With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize this was my first true glimpse of a culture that placed more value on internal relationships than those with external constituencies. “Okay,” I thought. “It’s time for the ‘Go Test’.”

In deploying the “Go-Test,” the first critical step is to identify your “Go-Go’s,” who usually make up about 25% of employees. They tend to be the most enthusiastic about taking a new direction and will not need a lot of encouragement to get going. They are your natural leaders. As a result, once you find them and learn what they need to be successful, you help remove internal obstacles and get out of their way.

A second group, the “Go-Buts,” usually represents plus or minus 60% of your team. They’ll require most of your attention. These individuals want to believe in a new future, but they first need some support—in the form of reassurance, additional data, or some time to accept, endorse, and engage in the effort.  Each individual will have unique needs, so it’s up to you to decipher what’s stopping each of them from going all-in, and then helping them fix such issues. Time with this group is well spent.

Finally, about 15% of your employees can be made up of the “No-Go’s.” They’ll have little, if any, intention of accepting change and will resist any appeals to join the effort to contribute what is required to drive a successful turnaround. The key with this group is to identify them as quickly as you can and eventually weed them out. Sometimes, that’s easy. At AT&T, anytime I heard the expression, “Whatever you say, Mr. Miller,” my internal radar indicators went off. If possible, offer these individuals the opportunity to do something they truly do believe in, either elsewhere in the organization or at another company.

At AT&T using the “Go Test,” we set records for employee engagement and customer loyalty. In turn, annual growth tripled from five to 15 percent. We delivered such growth for three years running, eventually transforming a $3 billion business unit into a $5 billion powerhouse. Following the same approach at OPUS360, annual sales jumped from $1 million to $10 million. Despite the NASDAQ crash and a bursting Internet bubble, we also completed a successful IPO, raising $85 million, while most other dot-coms were becoming “dot-bombs.”

Many people contributed to those successes at AT&T and OPUS360. The “Go Test” was key to identifying the Chiefs and removing obstacles to help them realize their skills and uncover their power to build sustainable growth. I trust it can also help you successfully navigate similar leadership challenges.

(This story was excerpted from Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, slated for September 2018 publication. Pre-publication book orders can be made on Amazon, starting April 1.)

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Sharing Your Vulnerability—The Key to Power Is Not What You Think

I’m assuming most readers of my blog would believe, as I did, that the president of a $12 billion unit at AT&T—overseeing 10,000 employees and a huge budget—would hold the necessary levels of power and influence to successively drive a transformation and, more importantly, dictate the pace of that change.  If you believed that, you’d be wrong. At least, I was.

Upon my promotion, I followed a playbook that had served me well in other turnarounds. Initially, we focused on customers, competitors, costs, and internal communications. But just 30 days into my new job, word came of an unexpected reorganization that would split our unit into three parts. In other words, with one turnaround effort in its infancy, we needed to shed that effort, shift gears, and undertake a new, even more complex initiative.

One of my early challenges was to find a way to personally connect with my employees who increasingly viewed AT&T corporate officers as part of the problem, if not the problem. At the outset, a number of workers stepped up to lead. I call these people Chiefs—those who need little coaxing to embrace change and become fully engaged in such transformational efforts.

Uncertainties of the newly ordered reorganization, however, led many to hold back from stepping up to such critical roles. This was understandable. Some were just plain frustrated by the abrupt shift. To a certain extent, I was too.

To alleviate some of the internal anxieties, AT&T scheduled a number of town hall meetings as forums for frank and open discussion. Not surprisingly, the conversations often became heated. That certainly was the case at a meeting I led in New York City, where I was to unveil details of a new voluntary retirement program.

Things got a bit tense in the Q&A session when an employee asked if I truly understood the impact of losing health care benefits while a family member was battling cancer. From the question, I inferred that most of those in my audience assumed officers—like me—were somehow insulated from the layoffs and voluntary-retirement program. The question provided an opportunity to share a personal vulnerability to illustrate that all AT&T employees—including leaders like me—shared many of their concerns and anxieties.

Although I never hid the fact that I was diabetic, I had never publicly shared that I was a cancer survivor. Years ago, while working at Sperry Corp., my doctor discovered a malignant tumor and recommended immediate surgery. At Sperry and later career stops, I had kept my cancer battle under wraps because I feared it would hold back my career advancement. Other than my boss and assistant, no one in my professional circles knew . . . until that fateful AT&T town hall meeting.

After I addressed the specific question (transition health care insurance would continue to cover his family), I took a risk. You could have heard a pin drop when I revealed, “I am a cancer survivor and know how important health insurance is.”

I deliberately put myself into a vulnerable position as a way to connect with my team. Brené Brown, a sociological research professor and author of the New York Times bestsellers, The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, started a movement that’s changing the way we think about vulnerability. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, by exposing my vulnerability, I was actually being more courageous than muscling though my professional life without opening up about my bout with cancer.

The benefit of openly acknowledging the link between our personal and professional lives is huge. After my “aha moment,” more and more employees began to engage me in conversation. It was clear that the initial animosity I faced as an AT&T officer had eroded. As a result, more of my team members stepped up as leaders in the transformation.

From this experience, I was again reminded that title, position, and authority don’t automatically translate into power and influence. Rather, my vulnerability had made me more powerful and able to effect change. In turn, it boosted the impact and power of my team.

What choices can you make to become more powerful?

 

(This story was excerpted from Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, slated for September 2018 publication. Pre-publication book orders can be made on Amazon, starting April 1.)

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Want Power? Build Your Own Compass

There are lots of ideas about leadership and where leadership should come from. I believe leadership in general, and being Chief in particular, is a choice available to everyone. But with today’s pace of change and increasing uncertainty, we could all use a tool to help guide us to be our best. That’s why I created the Power Compass.

Growing up, we didn’t travel much. My dad worked hard and so when it was time for vacation, the last thing he wanted to do was pile the family in the car for a long drive to a new sight or city. He just wanted to take it easy and relax. Rather than taking extravagant vacations, which we couldn’t afford, we took small day trips or simply drove to a familiar place using a different route. My favorite was a farm 20 miles from home that served the best ice cream on the planet. Maybe ice cream led to my love of roadmaps and my understanding of the importance of a compass.

Consider roadmaps. Your driving preferences may change during different times and under different circumstances, but a roadmap will always offer alternatives. At times the most direct way from point A to point B may not be the best way for you. Sometimes you want to go fast. Other times you may want to slow down and enjoy the ride. Or, you might want to take a detour and travel through certain communities to reach your destination. And sometimes you just want to take a new road. When things don’t go as planned, a roadmap gives you alternatives to fall back on. And tomorrow, when both your starting point and destination change, a roadmap will continue to serve you well.

Early in my career I relied on what I had learned about roadmaps as an analogy for life. I believed that no matter where I wanted to go there would always be a road to get me there. But the analogy let me down when I found myself wanting to go places where others hadn’t gone before—where there was no paved road. It was then that I came to appreciate a smaller component normally found in the corners of most roadmaps. I came to truly appreciate the compass.

I learned that a compass is really the best tool to use when you know what general direction you’d like to go, but you are faced with the task of blazing a new trail. You might get advice and counsel from others, but getting to this new place will have a lot more to do with your ability to do things your way. You find that you make better choices and are more successful as you get better connecting what you do to who you are. This is where your true power comes from.

I have found great utility in the link between choices and a compass. In fact, I developed the extensively road-tested Power Compass to Be Chief to help lead you, your team, and your organization to success—yes, even in tough times. Enabling a team of Chiefs starts with you.

 

(This story was excerpted from Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, slated for September 2018 publication. Pre-publication book orders can be made on Amazon starting April 1.)

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Top Line, Bottom Line, and Power Line

Traditionally, startup companies have a different focus than more established companies. Because startups need to develop their ability to understand and meet customer needs, new companies are primarily concerned with top line (revenue) growth. Conversely, larger organizations generally acknowledge that after a period of time they need to demonstrate an ability to shift their attention to bottom line (profit) growth.

Today, however, startups and larger companies have more in common than not. The smartest of the bunch realize that only when they focus on the power that lies within their human capital, or what I call their “power line,” will they be able to achieve sustainable top AND bottom line growth. This is true for ALL companies of ALL sizes across ALL industries.

Here’s how leading organizations of all sizes support their employees and build a strong power line:

Model. We learn far more from a person’s actions than from their words. If your actions don’t align with your words, your team will notice. When you model the same work ethic, standards, and communication style that you expect from your team, you’ll be extremely effective. In other words, walk your talk.

Inspire. To take modeling a step further, when you align your actions with your values, your team will feel it. Your work becomes about more than just what you do, but also about who you are. People will connect to that feeling—and to you—and many will be inspired to do the same themselves.

Enable. Within every individual is immense potential. Look for opportunities to bring out that potential whenever possible. That might mean giving someone the freedom to take the reins when he’s passionate about a certain project, or letting someone take on a new role that she expresses interest in.

Encourage. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell someone that you appreciate their contribution. We thrive on encouragement. It can increase the confidence and improve the attitude of the recipient, and increase your own happiness as well.

Question. To better understand your team, ask questions with the intention of being genuinely curious. The manner in which you frame your questions will either put the recipient on the defensive or encourage an open dialogue. The choice is yours.

Individuals who work in this type of powerful organization feel a sense of clarity, energy, confidence, and influence that increases the impact of every member of the staff. Organizations that drive consistent and sustainable top and bottom line results understand the importance of the power line.

Does that sound like your company?

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3 Ways Neuroscience Can Help You to Build a Powerful Team

The NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) is a leading global research organization and a pioneer of bringing neuroscience to leadership. NLI advocates “using hard science to transform leadership effectiveness.” In my words, they make organizations more powerful. Neuroscience can help you build a powerful team, too.

Listening to Joe Wittinghill, GM Talent, Learning, and Insights at Microsoft will give you a glimpse of the organization-wide impact that other companies including Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Disney, Marriott, Prudential, United Technologies, KPMG, and Travelers are seeing as members. These organizations rely on NLI not only to supply great research, but also to apply key findings to create powerful organizations.

NLI applies research in three key areas to help companies answer important questions:

Performance Management

  • What truly motivates people?
  • What drives better conversations?
  • How does ‘no ratings’ really work?
  • How do we fix feedback?

NLI advocates the importance of focusing on a growth mindset, which emphasizes progress over time as opposed to a fixed mindset, which is primarily/totally focused on a final result. Their research also indicates that intelligence (and power) can be expanded over time and refutes the view that intelligence is static.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • Why are diverse and inclusive organizations smarter?
  • How can we reduce bias?
  • What truly lifts inclusion?
  • How do we hire “the right fit”?

NLI advocates that bias is natural, normal, and part of the non-conscious. To mitigate bias in decision making, research shows it is important to not only create awareness, but also to label biases when they surface and develop behavioral habits to offset them, particularly given their non-conscious nature. Teams become more powerful with varied behavior.

Leadership and Change

  • What is the science of behavior change?
  • How do we foster a growth mindset in everyone?
  • How do we drive effective learning at scale?
  • How do we fix leadership development?

NLI advocates that fostering a toward/reward state of mind versus an away/threat state is essential to motivating others and creating psychological safety. In other words, the strategy of managing by “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) is demotivating and not effective in helping an organization grow.

Truly powerful organizations manage human capital with the same rigor and intensity that they manage financial capital. These organizations understand that the “softer side” of people management is really the “hard stuff” that matters most. Companies that rely on hard science to optimize their human capital will continue to lead the rest.

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12 Ways All-In Leadership Increases the Value of Any Team Meeting

The biggest opportunity for growth in any organization is to harness the power in its people.

Here are 12 tips that any leader (I call leaders ‘Chiefs’) can use to increase the value of any team meeting. All team members are Chiefs, and when they are treated as such, the potential within the team is amplified. Here’s how to concentrate that power:

Diversify – Chiefs with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives working together deliver the most value. Could your teams be more diverse?

Balance – Gender-balance increases the chances that a group will produce optimal decisions. Where is the balance in your organization?

Decentralize – Empowering teams that are closer to the issues to actually make decisions, as opposed to recommendations, will increase the energy in a meeting. Who makes decisions in your organization?

Organize – Establishing clear objectives with adequate time for thoughtful input from all participants will produce expansive and productive discussions. How organized are your strategies? Do all participants have time to give input?

Educate – Make sure new employees and extended team members (customers, vendors, strategic partners, and other guests) understand expectations about how your organization conducts meetings when they are asked to participate. Do you make it easy for newcomers to fit in?

Communicate – Acknowledge that a transfer of knowledge requires active participation from both the speaker and the listeners. Does everyone both listen and speak in your organization?

Accommodate – Group chats alone may inhibit great input from introverts. Do you get one-on-one input from introverted team members?

Integrate – Assimilating different perspectives to find common ground can move a group forward in their work together.

Mediate – Recognize when tensions arise and deal with them directly. Do tensions ever get ignored among your team members?

Document – Capture and distribute the action items and agreements from a session to ensure accuracy. How well do you document your plans and intentions?

Recognize – Bring attention to, and show appreciation for, individuals who go above and beyond in their support for and contribution to the team. Who do you recognize, why do you recognize them, and how?

Evaluate – Regularly assess not only the quality of the output of a meeting but also whether or not improvements can be made in the governance of the meeting. How can your meetings get better for all involved?

In my experience working in different industries with groups of different sizes, these simple habits contribute greatly to unlocking the potential for All-In teams and creating a powerful organization.

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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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