What Are SDGs and Why Should We Care?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been around for over a half century. Generally, CSR has come to include six types of corporate social initiatives:

  • Corporate philanthropy – company donations to charity
  • Community volunteering – company-organized volunteer activities
  • Cause promotions – company-funded advocacy campaigns
  • Cause-related marketing – donations to charity based on product sales
  • Corporate social marketing – company-funded behavior-change campaigns
  • Socially-responsible business practices – ethically produced products and services

With the exception of the few companies truly engaging in the last initiative (socially-responsible business practices), until recently most companies have administered their CSR program from the staff side of things in human resources or public relations departments. It simply hasn’t been central to line operations in most organizations.

Oh my, how the world has changed.

Today, constituencies including customers, employees, shareowners, and the community at large take great interest in CSR. And for the last several years a fast-growing number of companies have stepped up to an even higher bar—Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDG > CSR 

The Sustainable Development Goals, set by the United Nations in 2015, are 17 bold, broad-based goals that cover social and economic development issues.

[bctt tweet="Sustainable Development Goals are taking corporate responsibility to the frontlines." username="beingchief"]

Here are the SDGs:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption, and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
  • Peace, justice, and strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

There are 169 specific targets that, if reached, accomplish all 17 goals. While somewhat overlapping, the SDGs are gaining momentum and attention.

Employees, customers, shareowners, and the community at large increasingly care about these issues. As a result, companies are increasingly caring too.

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Powering Through Friendly Fire

Challenges from inside your own company can require you to be powerful.

When Mike Armstrong joined AT&T as CEO years ago, change accelerated at the company. He had inherited an organization that was ill equipped to deal with the competitive threats. Mike began an acquisition phase to add the people and other assets he needed to compete on all fronts. As part of the change, Mike also shifted several executives into new jobs.

When it was my time to meet with Mike, he opened the meeting with news that made me want to shout out loud. “Rick, you’ve done a great job and I think you can do more to help the company. I’d like you to become Global Services President.” I was tasked to lead a 10,000-person organization that generated close to $12 billion in worldwide revenue. I was happy and stunned at the same time.

I knew that leading a Global unit was going to be a challenge, but I had a secret weapon. I had a compass. I knew the key to success was to build a team of Chiefs, but there were many things I could not know.

From outside the company, I couldn’t know that our primary competitor, MCI/Worldcom, was engaged in illegal activities, giving them unfair advantages in the market that would result in their CEO going to jail. From inside the company, I couldn’t know that my biggest challenge would come from my own boss. This is when I learned that my compass would help me deal with “friendly fire.”

Mike needed lots of cash to pay for the acquisitions he wanted to make in the consumer segment of the market. He turned to the business segment for that cash—and our new benchmark for success was Worldcom.

To my boss’s credit, he pushed back on Mike and asked for more reasonable targets and accurately carried the message that Worldcom’s aggressive pricing seemed inconsistent with their quarterly reports of improving revenues and margins. Unfortunately, nobody was listening, and my job in Global was about to get a lot harder.

My first blow came when the business segment was burdened with irrational growth targets and expense cuts that needed to be distributed among the business sub-segments. For reasons known only to my boss, he chose to place a disproportionately high level of the expense cut load—a 50 percent headcount reduction—on Global Services just one month into my new assignment.

Blow number two came shortly after when I learned the company had decided to move some of Global’s largest accounts into a new international joint venture with partner British Telecom. We now needed to convince a number of my Global Service customers, and the employees who served them, that joining this new entity would be preferable to remaining with AT&T.

Blow number three came with a decision to transition account control from Global Services to the separate AT&T Solutions unit for all outsourcing contracts, and I felt like my head was spinning. This new direction would have a major negative impact on my team’s earnings.

Finally, when my boss chose to move smaller Global Service accounts to yet another unit, I felt like a knockout had been delivered. In this case, customers would need to adjust to a reduced level of service and build new relationships with a new group of AT&T leaders, creating a great opportunity for a competitor to step in.

Any one of these adjustments would have been challenging for a unit to absorb. Together, they signaled to the entire organization that Global Services was being taken apart. It did not take long for rumors to start circulating that my boss was behind the effort to dismantle the organization. Everyone was nervous.

How could we succeed and build a team of Chiefs when everyone thought the organization was being taken apart? In Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title I describe what we did to drive record levels of employee engagement in spite of this dire situation, but it was every bit as important for me personally to “keep my head.” And my compass was the key.

Looking back now, the influence and impact I needed to have with my team could only be generated from inside me. Help wasn’t coming from anywhere else. It was the support I provided for my team that kept my influence strong, just as it was the internal and external creativity I demonstrated daily that preserved my ability to have an impact on my team.

To keep me strong, I focused in three areas. To keep my energy high I focused on staying present, increased my daily meditation routine, and worked to accept the situation as it was. To keep my clarity I focused on the vision I had for Global and on the strategy and tactical plans that I could control to realize that strategy. And to keep my confidence, I reminded myself regularly about the values I stood for and took great comfort that I was living them.

At the end of the year, Global Services was indeed split apart, and we did miss the growth targets that had been established for us based on the misinformation of our primary competitor. We did have a large number of our team members select the voluntary force reduction plan and many more follow their clients to units outside of Global.

But employees who remained with Global sent a clear message to senior management by responding to the employee engagement survey that year with the highest engagement and confidence in unit management scores in AT&T history.

And with energy, influence, clarity, confidence, and impact I remained true to myself. I’m grateful for the experience.

How powerful are you?

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Be All-In! Here’s How

Ever since my first blog on the topic of All-In Leadership in 2011, the concept has led readers to ask for more. I obliged with blogs on All-In Women Leaders, 10 Reasons to Be All-In at Work, 12 Ways All-In Leadership Increases the Value of Any Team Meeting, and All-In Leadership—NOW!

The All-In concept advocates that we all have leadership potential, but too many of us are looking to others to lead. We need to stop looking “up” when we all should be looking in. All-In Leadership is a term I use to remind all of us about our individual choice to lead and how we can best approach this opportunity to be more powerful today.

But your feedback has been consistent: Rick, can you make it easier for me to see my All-In choices? Well at long last I can say YES!

I’ve just added a simple tool to my website that can provide you with a super-quick way to assess how All-In (powerful) you are today, and to decide what you might change to be more All-In tomorrow.

All-In Power

I believe that All-In power comes when we connect what we do to who we are. All-In power is comprised of five elements that can be found in every one of us:

  • Clarity – the quality of being certain or definite in a process or course of direction.
  • Influence – the capacity to have an effect on the development or behavior of someone or something.
  • Energy – the drive and vitality to live and engage fully.
  • Confidence – the feeling of self-assurance that comes from an understanding of one’s own priorities, abilities, and qualities.
  • Impact – the strong and/or immediate sway on someone or something.

I believe strongly in equality and that these opportunities can be available to everyone. I also believe we are all connected and that when we go All-In it affects those around us.

All-In Power Spreads

Research supports my view that once anyone in a group goes All-In, the chance that others will too increases.

Specifically, research has 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 Yale researcher Sigal Barsade, PhD, found that a spread of positive emotion is associated with improved cooperation, decreased conflict, and better task performance at work.

I’ll close this blog with the same paragraph that closed my first All-In blog 7 years ago: “All-In Leadership also requires courage. The serious challenges we face individually and collectively can feel daunting if they fall to only a few to solve. We need leadership from senior executives, group managers, and individual contributors. Together, our combined leadership capabilities and skills can make the difference. Why not start today?

Take the survey to get started!

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Do You Know When to Quit?

“Never give up.” “Persistence alone is omnipotent.” “When the going gets tough . . . ” and on and on. Our culture is awash in historical reminders to keep our “nose to the grindstone” until the job gets done. We’ve gotten good at the hustle. But the truth is that our culture doesn’t know when to quit, literally.

What if the best decision is to give up? In his book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit, Seth Godin reminds us of the strategies that can help us stop working in a dead-end job or project. There are times when it’s best to cut your losses.

The business world understands how the law of diminishing returns works; at some point additional investments of time, money, and resources are not justified by the return. The best strategy in many cases is simply to stop.

But how will you know when to quit?  The answer is to focus on two costs, and ignore a third.

Opportunity Costs

In The Dip, Godin suggests it is time for “strategic quitting” when the opportunity costs are greater than the benefits of continuing on your current path. An opportunity cost is a big deal. But what is it?

An opportunity cost is the value of what you’d lose by not pursuing a better alternative. As I shared in my recent TED talk, I decided to quit my job as President of Global Services at AT&T when it became clear that the benefit of staying wasn’t as high as the benefit of doing something else. The result of leaving in fact became the opportunity to run an internet startup that gave me a very different set of skills and experience that are critical to my current role today.

Figuring out what you could do at any point isn’t easy, but it’s crucial.

Personal Costs

Sometimes, we wrap too much of our own ego into a project to be able to step back and say with conviction, “It’s time to quit.” But, according to research from Northwestern University cited in a recent New York Times article, “. . . when we discard unrealistic goals and switch to alternate goals we’re happier, physically healthier, and less stressed.”

That means separating failure from your sense of self-worth and viewing it as a needed stepping stone to success. Such a perspective can help you calculate personal costs you’ve already invested into a project.

Sunk Costs

While opportunity and personal costs are often difficult to quantify, it’s a third set of costs—sunk costs—that are the easiest to quantify and, as a result, often become the biggest problems.

As people get overly invested in the decisions they’ve made in the past, sunk costs from the past loom larger than they should as we look forward. The best advice I can offer regarding sunk costs is, ignore them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Translation: Know when to cut your losses and go build something better.

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Meditate at Work

“Don’t Meditate at Work.” When I read that headline in the print version of last Sunday’s New York Times I was stunned. The online version of the article’s title went even farther by asserting, “Hey Boss, You Don’t Want Your Employees to Meditate.”

“Mindfulness meditation, a Buddhism-inspired practice in which you focus your mind entirely on the current moment, has been widely embraced for its instrumental benefits—especially in the business world,” write authors Kathleen Vohs and Andrew Hafenbrack.

“A central technique of mindfulness meditation . . . is to accept things as they are [emphasis mine]. And the very notion of motivation—striving to obtain a more desirable future—implies some degree of discontent with the present, which seems at odds with a psychological exercise that instills equanimity and a sense of calm.”

To support their view, the authors share that they conducted five studies to see whether there was “a tension between mindfulness and motivation.” They report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes that they found strong evidence that “meditation is demotivating.”

But as a mindfulness meditation advocate and business turnaround specialist, I simply could not disagree more with that generalization. Here’s why:

Apple, Google, Nike, and other leading companies encourage brief meditations during the day to increase mindfulness. The authors do acknowledge that fact. They also acknowledge “the practical payoff of mindfulness is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience.” These factors all increase the important factor of employee engagement. They have also been proven to reduce health care costs.

Additionally, along with all of these proven benefits, the author’s studies conclude that meditation had no impact on performance.

The study participants were less motivated simply because they weren’t concerned with the future or the past. They were engaged in the moment. In fact, the study “showed that mindfulness enabled people to detach from stressors, which improved task focus.”

Essentially, the study participants still got their work done, and under a state of calm and serenity.

The crux of the issue seems to come from differing views on the word acceptance.

In the view of many mindfulness experts, acceptance of “what is” allows individuals to channel their energy toward the change that they are committed to creating, as opposed to wasting energy on the needless frustration of whatever led to the current reality or what might result from it.

In my experience, with mindfulness people can both accept the reality of any situation and at the same time be totally motivated toward action to change the future.

My counsel: Don’t be misled by a headline. Mindfulness and meditation are both great tools that can lead to better health and greater productivity. While the scientists figure out exactly how and why mindfulness works (and the media continue to misconstrue those results), just know that it does work and is worth the effort.

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What Power Really Means to an Entrepreneur

How does an entrepreneur increase their power? If you believe, as some do, that power is all about title, position, authority, control, and supremacy, you’ll find it a challenge.

Entrepreneurs 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.

Ask any successful entrepreneur how much time they spend thinking about this type of power and they will laugh. Because the answer is zero.

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

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

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

Successful entrepreneurs are optimizers. They don’t have time to waste.

Entrepreneurs starting out don’t have the benefit of cadres of help. They need to be as powerful as possible.

How about you?

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Do We Need Another Executive Row Chief? No!

Should the C-suite make room for another Chief? According to Luis Gallardo, a global brand and marketing leader and author of the just-published book Brands and Rousers, companies should add a Chief Reason Officer (CRO) to executive row. I thought I had seen every Chief title possible, but I was wrong.

Luis makes his case in a recent Forbes article, where writer Bruce Rogers asks why companies need a CRO. Gallardo asserts, “[Companies] need to develop new executive positions like this in order to stay focused on their purpose and culture as progress occurs.”

While I’m one of the biggest advocates for added focus on purpose and culture, this is the craziest idea I’ve heard in a while. In my humble opinion, another executive position in the already crowded C-suite is the last thing companies need.

What we do need is more focus on the practices, skills, and tools required to enable all workers to be more agile in already top-heavy companies. And we need more investment in training, communication, and enabling technology that allows for broad decentralization, self-directed teams, and sustainable growth.

I’ve worked with teams that have consistently TRIPLED the growth rate of million- and billion-dollar organizations with just this approach.

More Chiefs do drive better results, and we need many more of them. Just not in executive row.

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Is Work-Life Balance the Wrong Goal?

My clients used to struggle with an issue that many people face. Both those with Chief titles and those without share the challenge of demanding jobs and a commitment not to let their jobs define them. At the same time, they constantly encounter the ever-present objective of “work-life balance.” We all do.

I’ve long relied on the wisdom of the book Sequencing by Arlene Rossen Cardoza, PhD, who wrote primarily for women. Her central premise was, “You can have it all, just not all at once.” In my work today, Dr. Cardoza’s words resonate with truth for both the men and women that I work with.

The Sequencing view is a longer-term view, one I believe makes the work-life balance issue finally attainable. Over decades, it’s logical to see life as a series of chapters in which different experiences fold together to create a book of a life well lived. With a longer view, there is time for marriage, family, care of children, career, care of parents, friends, travel, and personal growth.

Conversely, when the time horizon is “today” or “this week,” the work-life balance goal loses its utility, and many believe they are failing. But it doesn’t need to be that way. In my experience, a goal shift to “work-life integration” has offered my clients huge relief from what might be considered an otherwise impossible goal.

Many people view work-life balance as unattainable, offering up an image of the scales of justice with plates on either side that seek perfect symmetry; equilibrium only attained when things are still. But things are never still. More than that, many report a feeling of being judged by others or judging themselves with an unstated standard for what work-life balance should be. There are no shoulds.

Using the term work-life integration has proven to be helpful to my clients primarily for two reasons. First, it enables people to feel better about the constant change and seemingly accelerating pace of both work and life. Second, while the term balance brings up thoughts about a law of nature, the term integration brings with it a feeling of flexibility and permission.

Could a simple word choice help you? I hope so.

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Two Ways to Catch a Bus—Use Both

Military and business best practices have a lot in common:

  • Discipline
  • Commitment to teamwork
  • Focus on adapting to change
  • Seeming obsession of the top to meet the needs of those on the front lines
  • Focus on values and service

But many business leaders are missing out on one particular best practice in the military that would offer huge benefits—the after-action report process, a retrospective project evaluation used to determine effectiveness and efficiency, and propose adjustments and recommendations. It answers one question: What can we learn from the past that will help us be better in the future? In my work with Chiefs with and without titles, I encourage the adoption of this practice in business. In my view, it’s more important now than ever.

With the current “fail fast”/agile focus of many businesses today, managers are encouraged to move quickly forward. And while I am a fan of speed, experience has shown me that too much speed also has a downside—you don’t learn all you can from your mistakes.

I work with business leaders to integrate this valuable practice.

In fact, my counsel to business leaders at all levels often includes many lessons that may seem obvious, but part of my job is to help them retain and apply lessons that will help them succeed. Founder Tom Watson famously used a single word to guide managers at IBM to “Think.”

I often use the statement, “There are two ways to catch a bus: either leave early or run like hell,” toward the same goal. The understated message is, start early whenever you can. (At several client offices, managers distribute small buses as a reminder to employees to start early whenever possible.)

My clients also hold “bus reviews” to retrospectively discuss lessons learned after a project is completed. When did we run like hell, and could we have started out earlier to catch the bus? Growth and wisdom come from learning. And learning takes time.

When could you or your team benefit from a bus review?

There’s no doubt that there are times when running like hell is the only way to catch the bus. Companies should be comfortable failing fast and using speed as an asset. But there are also times when leaving early—and reviewing when leaving early could have made sense—is the best option.

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The Power of This Year’s Graduating Class

If you are a graduate celebrating this month or next, you have a lot to be proud of. You put in a lot of work to make it to the end. Congratulations! You should feel great. In fact, you should feel powerful. The power of this year’s graduating class is unconventional.

Power is traditionally associated with superiority, authority, title, position, and control. But in my view, this association is perhaps one of the biggest problems—and opportunities—we have today. Too many people are looking for the easy way out by asking others for answers to important questions when they should instead own the responsibility to take their own position.

I believe power is a choice available to everyone. My definition of power differs from conventional thought and aligns with what power really is today. To me power is clarity, influence, energy, confidence, and impact.

I created the Power Compass to show you how to increase real power in five main ways:

  1. Increasing discipline leads to increased clarity.
  2. Increasing support for others leads to more influence.
  3. Increasing insight and self-understanding leads to improved energy.
  4. Increasing alignment with your values leads to higher confidence.
  5. Increasing alignment of your creativity choices makes a bigger impact.

Members of the class of 2018 understand what real power is. And more importantly, whether you are a high school or college grad, increasingly you are using your power to effect change.

College campuses in the United States have long been places where individuals have challenged conventional power centers. More recently, high school students have joined the fight to challenge the status quo. My hope is that you keep it up. We need your clarity and energy to make us all better.

As you celebrate your accomplishments, remember to thank those who taught you what real power is. And wherever you go from here, please pay it forward.

The rest of us need you to be powerful.

Congrats to the graduating class of 2018!

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The Avengers Are Powerful—You Can Be Too

Many are enjoying the latest, record-setting Avenger blockbuster movie because it’s great fun to escape into a world where fantasy figures can wield a shield or a hammer, or wear a suit to fly, turn invisible, or display super-human strength. Who will reign supreme? We are fascinated by power.

In the real world the power that fascinates is also a perceived supremacy, but in the form of title, position, authority, or control. People are captivated by the power of others: who has it, how they got it, and how they use it.

In my work, I’ve been fortunate to learn from some of the most powerful people on the planet. These amazing individuals have taught me not only a different definition of power, but also a means to increase mine. One was a six-year-old girl with special needs.

These wise individuals taught me that real power is available to everyone by the choices they make in five areas:

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 grows. 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.

I hope you enjoy the Avengers if that type of movie is fun for you. Either way, I also hope you’ll think about the (super) powers of people in your life. Reflect on their energy, clarity, influence, confidence, and their impact.

You may want to ask yourself two questions: How powerful do you want to be? And who would you like to share your (super) power with?

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What Would Jason Bourne Do?

We had been in the meeting for about three hours. It was scheduled to be a day-long session and had been set up by the CEO who attended with his eight direct reports. The CEO’s goal was specifically to introduce his senior team to the idea of building a more powerful organization.

We had started the session with what I considered three easier topics of the five I wanted to introduce: discipline, creativity, and support. As expected, the group of nine had no problem linking increased focus in these three areas to being more effective. But it was time to pivot.

My experience has shown that companies are more powerful if their people are more powerful, and that people are more powerful if they can connect what they do to who they are. We had spent the morning focused on employees at the company and it was easy for attendees to talk about “others.” My early afternoon objective was to switch the conversation away from making others more powerful to making each of the nine individuals in the room more powerful. It was about to get uncomfortable.

The next topic was insight, and I shared that each leader would be more powerful if they could connect what they do to who they are. Insight is another way of saying self-understanding. This was more touchy-feely than some in the room were comfortable with. I saw people squirming. But when I introduced the importance of being “present” and one of the attendees asked a question I’d never heard before: “Is being present some of that Oprah crap?”—I had my opening.

I asked if anyone in the room was familiar with actor Matt Damon and the Jason Bourne character he played in a number of successful movies. Everyone’s hand shot up. I told them I had a favorite scene from the first Bourne movie I wanted to share.

At one point in The Bourne Identity, Jason is sitting at a diner table with his female accomplice who questions whether all his recollections of violence are real. Jason’s response is epic Bourne: “I can tell you the license numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy up at the bar weighs 215 pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is in the cab of the grey truck outside. And at this altitude I can run straight-out for a half-mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that?”

I asked the audience why would he know that?

The individual who asked the question had an answer. He said, “Because Jason Bourne is a badass!” and everyone laughed.

I said “Jason Bourne knew those things because he had trained to be present. When he walked into any situation, he wasn’t focused on the past or the future. He was all-in to learn all he could in the present moment.” Our group went on to discuss how this skill set could benefit those around the table and those they support.

For example, we discussed all that goes on in the team meetings that each leader held with their direct reports. They all agreed they would benefit if they were more focused on and attuned to the dynamics between their team members. Also, they all admitted to “meeting hangover,” when they often brought negative energy from one meeting into the next. I asked how many wanted to be more like Jason Bourne. For the second time, every hand shot up.

We went on to discuss other ways to build insight and wrapped up with an important discussion on values.

And when the CEO asked the members of his team at the end of the day what each took away as immediately actionable from our session, the Oprah guy said, “I’m going to be like Jason Bourne.”

 

The topic of being present is among other tips about how to be more powerful and build a powerful organization offered in Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title.

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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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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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