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?

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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!

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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?

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.)

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.)

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.)

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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?

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →

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.

[expand] |
Leave a comment →