Confidence, Power, and Values

Rick Miller published on Leader Values blog:

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”—Roy E. Disney

In working with leaders at all levels for many years, I have found that one simple exercise stands out as the single most impactful tool for Chiefs looking to increase their confidence. It comes down to values. And as we plan for 2019, who couldn’t use more confidence?

What is the exercise?

  1. Ask 10 people who know you well to each give you four words that describe what they think you “stand for.”
  2. Count how many different attributes show up among the resulting 40 responses.
  3. Ask yourself the question, “Can I stand strongly for 10, 20, or 30 values at the same time?”
  4. (This is the toughest part.) Review the sample list below and select the “core four” values you believe you most strongly stand for:

leader-values

  1. Write them down!
  2. Immediately begin a 60-day program to think more about, speak clearly about, write regularly about, and act consistently in alignment with these core four values.
  3. After 60 days, go back to the original list of 10 people and ask them the same question.
  4. Evaluate your feedback. You will see a sharpening of responses into fewer categories. Getting everyone to say the exact same four words isn’t the goal (“empathy” and “kindness” are kissing cousins and can count as a single response, for example).
  5. Once you know what you stand for, take more stands.

Why does it work?

Success occurs when you receive feedback that your intention and your attention can combine to deliver different results. In particular, when you align what you do (your thinking, speaking, writing, and acting) with who you truly are (your core four values), you are at your most powerful.

One of the most potent forms of power comes from the concentration of focused energy found in a laser. The same thing happens when you choose to focus and concentrate on a specific set of values.

As you set your New Year’s resolutions, you’ll be well served if you add this little exercise to the list that includes going to the gym and eating fewer cookies.

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Student-Teachers Create Success

After delivering a keynote speech to a room full of Chiefs in 2014, I went back to my seat and continued a conversation that had started that evening with a Fortune 50 Chief. She wanted to spend more time swapping stories about building powerful teams.

She was clearly a strong leader in a company with a strong set of core values, but she had several things on her mind. While she had built her own strong team, she felt there was still room for growth. She also felt her team wasn’t being viewed broadly inside her company as the strategic asset it could be. Finally, she knew the right personal coach could help bring out more of her best.

I knew when I left the event that we could be great student-teachers for each other.

Two weeks later we agreed I’d do a keynote for her worldwide team at their annual meeting. Shortly thereafter, I began a three-year assignment with three objectives: help six individuals to become more powerful individually, and as a group, and help her organization to build broad companywide support.

Here is that leader’s assessment of the results we delivered:

“I knew my team was more than capable to take on the challenges that we were facing, however, I also knew we did not have a lot of time. I was confident that with coaching from someone outside of our organization who had experience with turnaround situations and a commitment to values-based leadership, we could create a synergy that would empower the entire team to accelerate our progress. I am pleased to report my expectations were surpassed. Here are some highlights:

  • We built strong companywide support. In fact, all business units that we support volunteered to transfer their people to us in areas where we demonstrated better leadership and leverage. (How many times have you ever seen that?!)
  • Our organization doubled in size.
  • All six individuals took on broader responsibilities and were ready for them.
  • My team was consistently invited to all strategic meetings for input. (Be careful what you ask for.)
  • Inside my organization, we demonstrated we could be agile-at-scale as 30% of our team changed roles as needs shifted.

Overall, we translated all our activities into value for the organization and focused our energy on better internal and external communications. Our people and our internal customers knew what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it supported the organization’s overall mission. All six of us got better, and it cascaded throughout the organization.

When we invest in our people—who ultimately manage the change and the challenges we face each and every day—the payback is limitless, especially when that investment is in one-to-one coaching where the response is customized to not just address a bigger need, but also to address how that individual contributes to the bigger picture. And while each of us got better, we got better together too. I chose this particular coach because we share an understanding of the African proverb, ‘If you want to run fast, run alone; if you want to run far, run together.’

Believing in your team, investing in your team, and being willing to gain insights from someone who is not in the day-in-day-out environment will generate opportunities that you cannot imagine. The results are both bottom-line driven as well as individual people-development driven. Not everyone will embrace the opportunity but those who do will definitely be provided honest and transparent coaching and feedback to become who they aspire to be.”

—Fortune 50 Chief

From my perspective, it was great to work with such a hard-working, kind, values-based set of leaders who were committed to growth for themselves, their team, and their company. I was consistently reminded that i3k (intelligence, intensity, integrity, and kindness) mixed with humility and laughter is a powerful combination that delivers amazing results.

Yes, we began with the Power Compass and used other tools. But the real key to our success was the openness created by the understanding that we were all student-teachers capable of sharing counsel and learning something new. My client set the tone. She always sought input from all team members, worked as hard as anyone on her team, constantly created time to learn new things, and modeled healthy work-life integration. There were many gentle reminders as well as a-ha moments.

What’s the lesson?

Powerful leaders are always looking to improve themselves and their teams. They bring their A-game everywhere they go. And they surround themselves with other student-teachers to constantly raise their game and drive sustainable growth.

I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such powerful student-teachers.

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Set Your Own Direction, with ENERGY

Why are so many of us following someone else’s direction? Why do we run out of steam walking someone else’s path? Perhaps it’s because too many of us haven’t set our own direction.

Working with business leaders at all levels for decades, I’ve developed a simple five-step process that can help anyone set their own direction and bring energy to each new experience. Today, when so many of us are choosing to carve new paths where no one has gone before us, old “roadmaps” don’t work.

There are so many voices in the world always willing to tell us what they think we need to be, or to do, to be successful. Many of these voices are well-intentioned—they’re often family members or friends.

Others aren’t so well-intentioned. Many have a stake in the game, and aren’t looking out for your best interests. Specific companies advertise incessantly, while the media—traditional and social—are never-ending sources of direction.

No matter where this counsel comes from, it can distract us from the real mission.

In my experience there are five great ways to increase your insight and deepen your self-understanding, which is one of the best ways to energize any area of your life. The good news is each one is something you do. My advocacy is for you to simply do a little more of it!

Be Present – When you become totally aware and conscious, you can use all of your senses to learn everything possible in the current moment.

Be Accepting – When you choose to accept people and circumstances for who and what they are, you can escape the frustration of trying to change them.

Be Generous – When you choose to be charitable with your possessions, your money, and your time, you will experience inner satisfaction despite “having less.”

Be Grateful – It is easy to be grateful when things are going well. It takes inner strength and composure to remain grateful when facing life’s inevitable difficult periods. The grace required to face tough times and remain thankful is a blessing.

Be Still – Counter to many Western cultural norms, perhaps our most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that come with being still.

We each need to develop our own unique compass to help set a direction that “fits” us. Once we build our own distinctive compass, we find that outside voices lose their strength over us as they are replaced with the most important voice we’ll ever listen to—our own.

Listening to our own voice will enable you to tap into an endless source of energy that comes from within.

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Why Are You Following Someone Else’s Direction?

Are you tired of reading articles with yet another list of advice to follow?

Is it me, or does every publication we pick up during this New Year’s season include an article from a well-intentioned author who tells you what “to-do’s” you need to make you skinnier, smarter, kinder, or wealthier—or all four?! There are seemingly endless articles supporting what everyone should or should not be doing.

My question is, does one size (list) really fit all?

My answer is NO.

The most successful people I’ve met set their own direction rather than following someone else’s, and they have a personalized compass to guide them. This compass integrates simple, individualized choices in five areas and can enable anyone to set a course that fits their unique makeup.

And the best news is that not only can this amazing tool help you be more successful, but it’s also totally FREE. Grab it here. It will take you four to five minutes to create your very own compass.

With your own compass, you’ll be able to make choices that suite you and easily build the energy, confidence, clarity, influence, and impact you need to reach your goals.

Now to be fair, all these lists are simply trying to be helpful. And some articles set themselves apart. One of my favorites this season came from New York Times writer Susan Shain who offers research-based tips to reach whatever goals fit—again, for you.

Among other tips, Susan advocates for each of us to:

  • Think big: pick a personally compelling overarching intention rather than a particular habit.
  • Be patient: give yourself time to really figure out the cues and rewards that drive your behaviors.
  • Embrace the right rewards – if you can’t feel an immediate, intrinsic reward (energy, pride) you may need to rethink the habit.
  • Prime your environment – find a group where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
  • Plan to fail – have a personalized recovery plan.
  • Celebrate often – celebrate your way, every day.

Key lessons: one size never fits all, but you can always set your own direction with a simple compass. Use it!

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“Self-Made” is Bulls#!t

The widely-held belief that success is available to everyone, simply with focus and hard work, is one among many positive messages regularly reinforced in our Western culture.

But in my view, our “cowboy culture” also over-celebrates individual accomplishment, particularly in business. Too many romanticize the importance of a single individual’s ability to enable a big impact. This idea that denies the reality that teams of people, along with some good luck, always play big roles in enabling any company, or an individual for that matter, to register true success.

But we love heroic stories.

And the media is well-served to regularly feed us the stories that we all enjoy reading and watching. Business icons are created in part to sell products. And while many of us can learn from and be inspired by stories about Steve Jobs, Meg Whitman, Larry Ellison, Mary Barra, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Cuban, at times the media goes too far. They sometimes build up super-human personas that more resemble Marvel Comic book characters than real Chiefs.

For me, one particular exaggeration goes too far. The hair on the back of my neck stands up whenever I read the characterization of a business leader as “self-made,” because that’s simply bulls#!t.

The good news is that few, if any, of these successful individuals would ever describe themselves as self-made. They know the truth. Anyone who actually refer to themselves as a self-made success might as well be waving a red flag. Proceed with caution.

The bad news is that people looking for role models might actually believe it. They want to believe that they, too, can create success from nothing—all by themselves. But that’s not how it works in real life when you pull back the curtains. No one works truly alone.

While we all love rags-to-riches stories, let’s be honest about a more realistic recipe for success.

Here is mine:

  1. Be focused and hard-working, and
  2. Be thankful for circumstances you did not create
  3. Be grateful for the (many) people who have supported you and those who continue to
  4. Be generous in supporting others
  5. Be understanding of those who may not have had the support they needed
  6. Be empathetic for those in circumstances they did not choose
  7. Be humble

We can still enjoy fantasy, but it’s important to stay grounded in certain truths. This reminder can be particularly helpful as many of us set new goals this time of year. Remember to identify who can help you with whatever goals you set!

We ALL need help.

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2019—A Year of Possibilities

In the book The Art of Possibility, authors Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander offer a message of optimism, hope, and choices available to everyone to create a great New Year.

“This is a how-to book of an unusual kind. Find the right framework and extraordinary accomplishment becomes an everyday experience,” say the authors. Specifically, the book offers 12 practices that together create that very framework to bring new possibilities to life.

Here is a summary of topics and actions to consider:

  1. It’s all invented – believe it and you will see it.

“Einstein himself said it was nonsense to found a theory on observable facts alone [when] in reality the very opposite happens. It is theory which decides what we observe.” How is your mindset as you close out 2018 and look forward to 2019?

  1. A universe of possibility – embrace a view beyond the world of measurement.

The world of measurement is a filled with “assessments, scales, standards, grades, and comparisons. On our path to success we experience scarcities of time, money, power, love, resources, and inner strength. . . . [Conversely] the universe of possibility may be characterized as generative, or giving, in all senses of that word—producing new life, creating new ideas . . . contributing, yielding to the power of contexts.” For example, notice the areas in your life when measuring generosity becomes difficult yet feels immensely valuable.

  1. Giving an A – work to understand what each person has to teach.

“When we give an A [to another] we can be open to a perspective different from our own. For it is only to a person to whom you have granted an A that you will really listen, and it is in that rare instance when you have ears for another person that you can truly appreciate a fresh point of view.” Have you been listening to everyone as intently as you could?

  1. Being a contribution – contribute without worrying about success and failure.

“When I began playing the game of contribution, I found there was no better orchestra than the one I was conducting, no better person to be with than the one I was with; in fact, there was no “better.”” When you contribute without expectations, status roles fade and you begin to see others—and life itself—in a new light.

  1. Leading from any chair – step up no matter where you sit.

“A monumental question for managers in any organization to consider is: how much greatness are we willing to grant people?” In my view, everyone can choose to be Chief. Are you doing all you can to create environments where those Chiefs find it easy to emerge?

  1. Rule number 6 – lighten up.

Humor and laughter are perhaps the best tool we have to get over ourselves. No one should take themselves too seriously.

  1. The way things are – accept what is and clear away judgements.

“Mistakes can be like ice. If we resist them, we may keep on slipping into a posture of defeat. If we include mistakes in the definition of performance, we are likely to glide through them and appreciate the beauty of the longer run.” There is no growth without failure. Encourage others to push past their current discomfort whenever possible.

  1. Giving way to passion – let go, let flow, and channel energy.

“Notice where you are holding back and instead seek to shape the streams of passion all around you into a new expression for the world.” Pay attention to your emotions. They will show you opportunities that are everywhere.

  1. Lighting a spark – enroll others.

“Enrollment is the art and practice of generating a spark of possibility for others to share.” Everyone can practice viral engagement. It starts with you.

  1. Being the board – take responsibility.

“When the way things are seems to offer no possibility; you can use our graduate course. In this practice, you rename yourself as the board on which the whole game is being played. The practice of being the board is about making a difference rather than gaining control.” Power is not obtained the way you think it is. It’s more about creating your life game than reacting to someone else’s game.

  1. Creating frameworks for possibility – establish a context for an “upward spiral.”

“First, make a new distinction in the realm of possibility that creates a powerful substitute for the current framework that is generating a downward spiral. Next, live it. Finally, continue to track what is on track and off track from your new framework.” Continually ask the crucial question: What is this for?

  1. Telling the WE story – sharing the things that connect us all.

This practice points the way to a kind of leadership based not on qualifications earned in the field of battle, but on the courage to speak on behalf of all people and for the long line of human possibility.  Usually what we mean by the pronoun “we” is “you-plus-I.” So the question, “What shall we do?” generally leads to a compromise between what you want and what I want. It follows that each will both win and lose. It encourages us to exaggerate our positions and often to hold back some of the truth, while pushing us into offensive and defensive postures. Instead, the practice of WE assumes everything each of us thinks and feels has a place in the dialogue.

The bottom line of the book is, we dramatically increase our chances to bring new possibilities to our lives when we have the right framework. In my view, we also have a powerful compass to guide us.

Wishing you a 2019 full of possibilities.

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Leadership During Microsoft’s Turnaround

Rick Miller published on Forbes.com:

CEO Satya Nadella and his team have achieved what many believed to be impossible. In less than five years since he took the helm, he and his employees at Microsoft have completely reversed the company’s trajectory and built a company that today is more valuable than Apple. Microsoft’s turnaround was beautifully executed.

How did they do it and what could you learn from their approach?

In my view, by focusing on two critical constituencies—customers and employees—Microsoft also took care of a third critical constituency—their shareowners.

Customers

When Nadella took over, customers were unhappy primarily with Microsoft’s products. Windows 8 was a disaster, the iPhone and Android were beating Windows phones badly in the market, and Bing was not viewed as a viable alternative to Google for searches.

Nadella and his team made several strategic product shifts to right the ship and regain lost market share.

First, they improved the quality of their current product offers (Windows).

Second, Microsoft committed to a partnering strategy to expand the market for their current products, including offering Microsoft Outlook on Apple (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices.

Next, they built new products to compete in their markets, introducing their first laptop ever (Microsoft Surface Book).

Finally, they entered entirely new strategic markets quickly via acquisitions, including the $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn.

Employees

When Nadella took the reins, he inherited a dis-spirited employee base that needed his attention.

Nadella and his team made several strategic shifts with the company’s human capital that others should look at as a play-book for unlocking innovation.

Values

His specific leadership style set the tone from the top. It emphasizes continuous learning and risk-taking. But he also doubled down on reinforcing the company’s values:

  • Innovation – encourage new ideas from everyone
  • Diversity and inclusion – maximize every person’s contribution with diversity in all areas
  • Corporate social responsibility – be transparent, and respectful of human rights
  • Philanthropies – empower people by investing technology, money, employee talent, and the company’s voice in programs that promote digital inclusion
  • Environment – lead the way in sustainability and use our technologies to minimize the impact of our operations and products
  • Trustworthy computing – deliver secure, private, and reliable computing experiences based on sound business practices.

Leadership

Nadella also clearly communicated his expectation that every employee played a leadership role at Microsoft. But there was a problem. His early investigation showed the company had over 100 different attributes tied to the word “leadership” depending on where you sat in the company. So he enlisted a diverse team of leaders to simplify the definition. Here it is:

Create clarity:

  • Synthesize the complex
  • Define a course of action
  • Ensure shared understanding

Generate energy:

  • Inspire optimism, creativity, and growth
  • Create an environment where everyone does their best work
  • Build organizations that are stronger tomorrow than today

Deliver success:

  • Drive innovation that people love
  • Be boundary-less in seeking solutions
  • Tenaciously pursue the right outcomes

Engagement

Nadella is credited for having “made Microsoft cool again.” How did he do this? Not by focusing employees on “being cool,” but rather on “making others cool.” By shifting the focus outward, he was able to create what I call viral engagement. It worked.

In addition, Nadella built a new culture at Microsoft by encouraging a growth mindset, or the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed. In other words, he encouraged a learn-it-all mindset rather than a know-it-all mindset. This made it much easier for Chiefs at every level to emerge.

With intense focus on both customers and employees, another beneficiary of the team’s work are its shareowners. Today, in 2018, Microsoft’s stock price has almost tripled from when Nadella first took over.

What could your company learn from the lessons at Microsoft?

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Asking the Right Questions

In some ways, a recent board meeting at eXp World Holdings, Inc. was like many other board meetings I have “attended” with different companies over the years … first small talk among those early arrivers, including informal conversations between board members and management before the formal agenda follows with discussions of operations and strategy. But this meeting was being held in the cloud.

I sat at my laptop and lent my voice to the avatar I’d created to approximate my appearance … or a close facsimile thereof. My avatar sat in the executive boardroom on our virtual campus environment along with fellow board members ranging from Calgary to Boston to Austin. We actively worked with the avatars of our CEO in Seattle, our CFO in Reno, Nevada, our COO in Scottsdale, Arizona, and our CTO in Albany, New York. Our objective was sustainable growth for our publicly traded company.

Founded in 2009 by visionary CEO, Chairman and Founder Glenn Sanford, eXp Realty is a real estate company like no other. With virtually no brick and mortar, the company has attracted an amazing number of professionals who help people looking for the brick and mortar of their dreams. The growth of this industry upstart has been mind-blowing. Since its first year in operations as a public company in 2013 with $10.7M in revenue, eXp Realty actually has seen its growth rate accelerate—to $13.4M in 2014 (up 25% year-over-year), to $22.9M in 2015 (up 71% year-over-year), to $54.2M in 2016 (up 137% year-over-year), and to $156.1M in 2017 (up 188% year-over-year). Results to date in 2018 continue to be strong.

And, yes, this is a company that operates in the cloud with state-of-the-art avatar technology where individuals meet in virtual offices and hundreds gather together in the company’s auditorium to conduct company business.

I’ve always been drawn to companies pushing the envelope on how people can be more productive. In the 1990s, I was recruited by AT&T and served as President, Global Services. Harvard Business Review wrote about our innovative use of the virtual office design. In the 2000s, Ari Horowitz recruited me to serve as president at startup OPUS360, a company that enabled the project-based labor market with FreeAgent.

But neither of these companies can hold a candle to the new vision of work at eXp Realty.

“eXp Realty is transforming the real estate experience. Our virtual office environment compared to the traditional real estate office allows agents to collaborate and learn together—no matter where they might be located,” said Glenn Sanford, CEO, chairman and founder of eXp World Holdings. “Our agents can interact, share best practices and learn from industry experts and other top professionals at any time or any place—in real time.”

Specifically, at eXp Realty, I have seen the following commitments to excellence that raise the bar as we push ourselves by asking important questions:

  • Diversify: We need people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives working together to deliver the most value. Can we be more diverse?
  • Balance: Gender balance increases the chances that we will produce optimal decisions. How can we improve the balance in our organization?
  • Recruit: How do we improve our process AND know when to hire and when to use project-based labor?
  • Decentralize: Empowering teams that are closer to the issues to actually make decisions will increase our success. How can we be clearer about who can make what decisions in our organization?
  • Engage: How do we build a better plan for our employees to buy into holacratic practices and accountabilities?
  • Organize: Establishing clear objectives with adequate time for thoughtful input from all participants will produce the best results. Do all participants have time to give input?
  • Educate: Making sure new employees and extended team members (customers, vendors, strategic partners) understand our expectations makes us more effective. Do we make it as easy as possible for newcomers to fit in?
  • Communicate: Acknowledging that a transfer of knowledge requires active participation from both the speaker and the listeners. Does everyone both listen and speak in our organization?
  • Accommodate: Group chats alone may inhibit great input from introverts. Do we 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. Are we skilled at integrating?
  • Mediate: Recognizing when tensions arise and deal with them directly. Do tensions ever get ignored among our team members?
  • Document: Capturing and distributing action items and agreements from meetings to ensure accuracy. How well do we capture and document our 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 is critical. Who do we recognize, why do we recognize them, and how?
  • Evaluate: Regularly assessing what we each do and how we do it is critical. How will we evaluate our employees?

I am proud to be part of this organization in my role as an independent board member working with Glenn and the rest of the team. I am excited about the future and believe we will continue to push the envelope in support of our people and sustainable growth by asking the right questions.

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These 5 Elements Measure Your Real Power as a Business Leader

Rick Miller featured on The CEO Magazine website:

How does a small business owner increase his or her power? If you believe as some do that power is all about title, position, authority, control, and supremacy, you’ll be hard-pressed for an answer.

Leaders in small businesses can give themselves any title or position they want. They have complete authority to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and they have ultimate control. They are the supreme ruler and answer to no one.

Ask any successful small business leader how much time they spend thinking about this type of power, and they will laugh. It’s a non-issue.

But ask these successful business people about the importance of energy, clarity, confidence, impact, and influence in growing a small business, and you’ll get a very different response. These leaders know their success is almost totally dependent on this definition of power.

In my work with many great small business leaders, we focus on how they can be powerful by increasing their:

  • Clarity with simple choices around discipline.
  • Influence with simple choices around supporting.
  • Impact with simple choices around creativity.
  • Energy with simple choices around self-understanding and insight.
  • Confidence with simple choices around values.

Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases both clarity as well as the likelihood of a desired outcome. Small business owners must certainly master discipline for their business to be successful, but the clarity it brings is where the real value is found.

Support is the act or process of promoting the interests or causes of another that increase influence. A small business owner who supports his staff, customers, vendors, and community will have influence that persists. He takes the request, “How can I help you?” seriously.

Insight is the power or act of seeing intuitively that comes with self-understanding, and it increases energy in a positive way. This form of energy is deliberate, concentrated, and effective.

Values are the foundation of relationships and of confidence. With a set of values unique to your business you’ll develop the trust needed to create confidence in every work-related relationship (and personal, for that matter) you encounter.

Creativity is the ability to bring into existence. Alignment of creative choices amplifies power and increases impact. In what ways are you bringing your vision to life?

Successful small business owners are optimizers. They don’t have time to waste.

Think about how you define the term power. Look at the choices you make that build real power, and those that don’t. In what areas can you be more disciplined? How can you support others on a regular basis? Are you tapping your own self-understanding to get the insight needed to navigate the fluctuations of your day-to-day decisions? What about the insights of your team? Does your business follow a set of values, no matter what? And last, how are you creating the future of your business every day?

If you need help, take my free Power Compass Survey. There you’ll be able to actually measure your real power and make choices about how powerful you want to be. You’ll start to answer the questions above when you understand what power really means, and how it can transform you and your business.

Small business leaders don’t have the benefit of cadres of help—yet. They need to be as powerful as possible.

Sound like you? I challenge you to be more powerful, in the best way possible.

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The CEOs Challenge with Change

Rick Miller featured on The CEO Magazine website:

Those who occupy the corner office know that expectations and opinions about WHAT should be done and HOW it should be done come from all directions. And while there is a wide variance in the “what’s” of CEO decision making, the “how’s” are delivered with surprising uniformity by CEOs across almost every industry. In particular, everyone expects those at the top to be confident, clear, concise, compelling, and consistent (the 5 C’s).

The challenge is to deliver on those expectations as well as creating a culture that excels while embracing the ever-present sixth C—which can disrupt all other C’s if you let it—change.

In my work supporting Chiefs, here are some best practices that will bring about the change you seek to make.

Be confident about people.

Over time as products/services and markets shift, it will be your employees who’ll navigate your ship. Jim Collins was right with his first rule of success in Good to Great: It’s Who First. Expressing confidence in people will fuel their motivation and productivity more than you know. The best CEOs I’ve worked with understand that optimizing the return on their human capital is every bit as important as their focus on financial capital.

Be clear about intentions.

Clarity is an undervalued attribute. CEOs are well served when they explain the motivation and rationale behind their decisions. When Satya Nadella took over as CEO at Microsoft, one of his goals was to simplify what leadership meant at his company. After months of study, Microsoft announced that leadership consists of three attributes: clarity, excellence, and results.

Be concise about priorities.

Companies struggle with retention. When I served as AT&T’s President of Global Services, we introduced a simple symbol to remind our workforce what was important. We printed “R3” on pens and hats and used it to set agendas for our meetings. Our simple priority was to drive results for three important groups of people (customers, employees, shareowners) with a focus on three attributes (teamwork, innovation, and speed). This simple reminder helped reinforce our mission. 

Be compelling about the mission.

Simon Sinek’s breakthrough TED talk in 2009 on the importance of “why” has been seen by over 37 million people. Not every CEO can deliver on stage like Simon, but we can all learn from him. CEOs are well served when they speak from their heart about their company’s “why.” It can serve as the North Star when things get crazy.

Be consistent about values.

CEOs are faced with the reality that over time everything will change, including people. Even above mission, a company’s values can serve as the foundation for constant evolution. An organization’s “how” is based in their values. Those values can’t be over-emphasized in an environment when everything else seems to shift. Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” My view is that consistency with values is the hallmark of those with clear vision.

Using the 5 C’s above, any CEO can navigate change in any organization. Are you up for the challenge?

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What Is Power, Really?

Rick Miller published on Forbes.com:

Many assume power comes from “outside-in.” They believe power is granted to a person by someone else. They see power as a position or title, which comes with authority and control, and a belief in the form of supremacy over others.

Others believe that real power comes from “inside-out.” They maintain that power is an opportunity for each individual to cultivate by themselves. Real power is increased within a person simply by the choices they make, the actions they take, and the thoughts they create.

I am an inside-out guy. I don’t believe it matters what the organizational chart says. Power is available to everyone, no matter their position or title. But what is power, really?

Real power is influence, and it increases as we offer more support to others. Being powerful is more about giving support than getting support. Contrary to what you may have thought about power, service is the highest form of leadership. Serving others is a key to sustainable growth. And it creates the kind of influence that truly powerful people wield—the kind that resonates and uplifts.

Real power is clarity, and it gets stronger with discipline. Having power is more about creating an environment that encourages every individual to engage in their own form of self-discipline. That’s not to say discipline never comes from above, but by empowering each member of an organization to be accountable, discipline from above will not be required as frequently. Discipline brings clarity to any situation, increasing an individual’s power.

Real power is energy, and it intensifies from inside as our insight and self-understanding grow. Insight is an integral element of being powerful. A person with real power does not influence the world around him or her without consideration of the bigger picture that begins inside. From my experience with this vantage point, true growth—both personal and professional—is far more likely. Insightful individuals are able to tap into an internal energy that is felt by others as power.

Real power is impact, and it grows as we focus on our creativity. Creating the future is not about waving a magic wand. It is a concrete practice that serves the purpose of being powerful with a purpose. Creative solutions make an impact—on people, organizations, and societies. Real power sometimes comes from the unlikeliest of places.

Real power is confidence, and it rises as we better understand and live our values. What do you stand for? When you speak about your values and act accordingly, you increase your power because you are confident in your assertions. The power is palpable—and effective.

Real power is what happens when people connect what they do to who they are. [click to tweet]

Power Is Contagious

Once anyone in a group chooses to become more powerful, everyone around that person becomes more powerful. Research supports this view. Scientists have found that positive emotions spread from person to person in a work environment. An individual’s or group’s emotion plays a strong role in the behavior of an organization.

Studies show that positive mood or emotion enhances creative problem solving, cooperation, decision quality, overall performance, the search for creative solutions, and confidence in being able to achieve positive outcomes. One study by Wharton’s Sigal Barsade, PhD, found that a spread of positive emotion is associated with improved cooperation, decreased conflict, and increased task performance in the workplace. They call it “the ripple effect.”

I’ve experienced this cascading effect again and again throughout my career. I call it viral engagement.

How To Increase Organizational Power

When an organization builds effective, integrated strategies in six areas—customer, competition, financial capital, cost, community, and climate—they establish the conditions for creating real power. When the organization deploys plans in the following areas, a truly powerful organization is created:

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.

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

 

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The Power in Vulnerability

Rick Miller published on Great Leadership site:

“Never let them see you sweat.” Like many baby-boomers, I heard this and many other similar phrases growing up. The message was clear. Don’t show weakness because it will be exploited.

Fast forward to today and you see the opposite is true.

This shift may have started in 2010 when Brené Brown, a sociological research professor, published The Gifts of Imperfection, and perhaps took off with her next book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead in 2012. Both were widely acclaimed and New York Times bestsellers.

I learned about the power of vulnerability years earlier.

When I took over as president of a $12 billion unit at AT&T—overseeing 10,000 employees and a huge budget—I thought I had all the power I needed to succeed. I was wrong.

One of my first challenges was to engage with employees to learn about the business and what they thought was holding us back. I quickly found those same employees viewed people like me (AT&T corporate officers) as part of the problem, if not the problem. I did find a number of workers who stepped up to lead, however. I call these people Chiefs. But most needed a little coaxing to embrace change and become fully engaged in charting a different future for our unit.

To break down those barriers, I held a number of town hall meetings as forums for frank and open discussion. It was at one such meeting in New York City where I learned about the power of vulnerability.

During a Q&A session an employee asked if, as a corporate officer, I truly understood the impact of losing health care benefits while a family member was battling cancer. The person was evaluating an early retirement program and was concerned about health care coverage options. From the question, I inferred that most of those in my audience assumed officers—like me—were somehow insulated from the impacts of voluntary retirement programs. 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 a type one diabetic, I had never publicly shared that I was also 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… impact until that fateful AT&T town hall meeting.

After I addressed the specific question (transition healthcare 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 in a vulnerable position as a way to connect with my team. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, by exposing my vulnerability, I was actually being more courageous than muscling through 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? What could you do to increase your impact and influence?

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5 Ways A Leader Can Learn More About Themselves

Rick Miller published on Skip Prichard’s Leadership Insights:

Being Chief requires us to develop insight. It is as much about being as it is about being Chief. Insight is a key to increasing your confidence, effectiveness, and, since your power increases as you connect what you do to who you are, deepening your self-understanding through insight will deepen your power. Insight can come from the simplest experiences and from the places you least expect it. Always be on the lookout for gems of insight that can guide your path in life.

There are five ways a leader can learn more about themselves. Specifically, Chiefs choose to be:

  • Present

  • Still

  • Accepting

  • Generous

  • Grateful

Be Present: When you become totally aware and conscious, you can use all of your senses to learn everything possible in the current moment. Specifically, when you give 100 percent of your attention to the people you spend time with, you will find that your relationships become much more fulfilling.

Be Still: Contrary to many Western cultural norms, perhaps our most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that comes with being still. To maintain inner balance, choose the tranquility and peace of stillness. In that peaceful state, you will develop the ability to trust and have confidence in your own voice.

Be Accepting: When you choose to accept people and circumstances for who and what they are, you can escape the frustration of trying to change them. Try to take a nonjudgmental approach to people to open yourself to the potential of clarity and deeper relationships.

When you accept the past and remain receptive to circumstances and people, you can open yourself to the possibilities of learning from all situations and from every individual. When you accept your current reality with a certain degree of detachment, you will find that things come to you with a fraction of the effort otherwise required.

Be Generous: When you choose to be charitable with your possessions, your money, and your time, you will experience inner satisfaction despite “having less.” When you are kind, helpful, encouraging, and gentle with others, you may even feel aligned with a higher purpose. Try to balance giving with receiving to eliminate much of the possibility of arrogance; this way you can remain genuinely and truly humble.

Be Grateful: It is easy to be grateful when things are going well. It takes inner strength and composure to remain grateful when facing life’s inevitable difficult periods. The grace required to face tough times and remain thankful is a blessing. Try to remain appreciative of the opportunity to learn lessons from the challenges you face.

Insight is an integral element of being a powerful Chief and enabling a team of Chiefs. A real Chief does not abrasively influence the world around him or her but, rather, considers a wider perspective that begins on the inside. By taking the time and effort to be present, still, accepting, generous, and grateful, the more difficult aspects of being Chief will suddenly take on new meaning. From this vantage point, true growth—both personal and professional—is far more likely.

Your Turn

Please take some time to reflect on your own experience with listening to yourself and developing insight. How can you develop insight to learn more about yourself and to build a team of Chiefs? Consider the following questions:

  • What can I do to stay present and live in the current moment?
  • How can I quiet my mind to listen to the voice inside me?
  • Do I accept people and circumstances as they are in the moment?
  • How can I be more generous with my time and possessions?
  • Am I grateful for life’s gifts?

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