Tag Archives: Leadership & Management

Do People See You a Leader or a Liability?

Russian Rainbow Gathering. Nezhitino, August 2005
Image via Wikipedia

While I’ve always been rather moderate in my politics, I am a child of the 60’s. One of the phrases that was used a lot back then by the militants and flower children was ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.

As you review your own behavior in life, do you make sure you’re part of the solution or would others see you as part of the problem?

When you’re part of the problem, you probably feel victimized by your circumstances, powerless to change them and/or resigned that nothing you do can fix what’s really wrong with your world.

This likely leaves you reluctant to take action, bitter and resentful, maybe even hopeless.

You would recognize this by the language you use privately in your own head and in conversation with others.

“Why bother?”

“If only those idiots over there would get their act together…”

“I can’t…”

“I have to…”

They all reflect a loss of power, a lack of empowerment, an absence of responsibility for causing the world to be the way you say it should be.

So, I’ll ask again, “Are you a leader or a liability?” And just as important…how to people SEE you?

Leaders get ahead, get promoted, get great clients.

Liabilities get ignored or worse yet, fired, retired, RIFed (reduced in force), laid off or go broke.

So what does it take to be seen as a leader in your company, community, business or family?

Three things distinguish leaders from whiners and naysayers.

1. Leaders DO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE to fix the problem once they’ve identified it.

The don’t sit around and blame The Establishment, their bosses, employees, kids or spouse for their problem.  They name the problem and communicate. They make requests or demands for it’s resolution…from someone who is empowered to take that action.  They might even take the matter into their own hands and fix it themselves.

2. Leaders strive to bring opposing sides together to see an outcome that will benefit the larger community. They care about the impact of their actions on others.

Collaboration is the strategy true leaders use to create common goals and passion for making them real.

3. Leaders encourage others to feel empowered and helpful, not righteous, smug and victorious, wanting to suppress the rights of others.

When people are working on altruistic causes, they WILL feel enlightened. Their Spirit will know they are on the right track.  Certainly some leaders can push non-altruistic, selfish causes, but their followers will tend to feel entitled and indignant rather than grounded in the common good.

Liabilities, on the other hand sit back and point fingers. They lay blame and accuse others of being the Bad Guys without offering any proactive suggestions to improve conditions.

They enact a quiet, and sometimes, not so quiet, mutiny. They sabotage forward movement. They throw rocks into the cogwheels of progress. They pride themselves in making life difficult for others.

They may be proactive but could tend to use domination and force rather than collaboration and power balancing.

So, how would the people around you see you? Are you bringing solutions for the betterment of all or waiting for someone else to step forward while complaining they aren’t acting swiftly enough?

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Manage Your Top Line & Your Bottom Line Will Take Care of Itself

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 27:  Apple Inc. CEO St...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

“Manage your top line and your bottom line will take care of itself.”

I heard Steve Jobs say this in a previously recorded video that was resurrected shortly after Steve announced his resignation as CEO of Apple Computer.

I worked for Apple for almost 8 years – during the time that Steve was not there.  I heard stories of his genius and his temper and experienced first-hand, the most fun and innovative culture I’ve ever worked in.

His statement “Manage your top line and your bottom line will take care of  itself”, really resonated with me.

I’ve been focusing recently on what it takes to land larger, higher-paying clients and the positive impact that can have on a company‘s profitability.

Steve cited 3 things that must be attended to in managing your top line.

The 3 things are strategy, people & products.

Here is my take on how to focus on those 3 critical elements.

1. Strategy
A strategy is an overall plan to achieve specific, generally long-term, goals. It’s an approach, a broad, general roadmap, a way to go about doing business.

A strategy defines how an organization intends to get from where it is now to where it wants to be in the future, perhaps three to five years out.  Pursuing Whales to grow revenue is a strategy.  Going global is a strategy. Penetrating a specific industry is a strategy. Increasing visibility to raise awareness about a product or service is a strategy. A strategy may include time frames but typically they are ‘end point’ dates.

Focusing on strategy charts the course for the organization. It helps yes/no, go/no-go decisions get made in the short term. Positioning and pricing are outcomes of strategic decisions about what markets to pursue and how.

2. People
The best strategy in the world will fall flat on it’s face without competent people to carry it out. Implementing strategy requires a multitude of interdependent decisions to be made. Discerning judgment (a human skill) is a combination of intellect, knowledge, values and intuition. Having the right people in the right positions doing the right things right, can make a strategy come to life and catapult a company to wild success or oblivion.

3. Products
The third leg of this stool is comprised of the products an enterprise offers. Great strategy and great people can make the most of mediocre products. But great products can overcome (at least for a while) weak strategy and ordinary people. Of course, it’s hard to produce great products with mediocre strategy and people.

Apple likely wouldn’t have designed and produced the iPod, iPhone and iPad without great people. But there was a time, pre-‘i’ era, when those great people churned out lackluster ‘also-ran’ products.

When all great components are present, revenues rise because the company is delivering what the marketplace wants. great people make wise decisions about marketing, research, manufacturing, administration and financial matters. Great products continue to be delivered positioning the company as innovative with a commitment to quality.

Profits rise.

Jobs brought a unique perspective and vision to Apple.

So the questions are, What do YOU bring to your firm?

What’s YOUR strategy? Do you have one?

Are  you staffed with the right people in the right roles doing the right things right?

Is what you’re offering a match to the market as it is today or tomorrow? Are you even in touch with market needs or are you developing offers in a vacuum and wondering why sales are lagging?

As I’m finishing up this article, I see a tweet that Apple’s stock hit an all-time high today: $411 and change.

Clearly the strategy Jobs espoused is taking the company in the right direction.

Make sure your three legs of this business stool are sitting on solid ground.

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How to Accelerate the 3 Stages of Business Growth

For the last several months, I’ve been constructing a model for building a highly successful business.  Based on what I’ve done to build mine over the years and harvesting the wisdom of brilliant mentors I’ve studied with, I’ve outlined a comprehensive, yet simple model for success.

The model extends well past theory and includes 7 practical steps business owners must take if they want to thrive and enjoy life rather than being consumed by the ‘job’ they’ve created for themselves.

Today, using the metaphor of how bamboo grows, I’ll share with you the 3 stages you must master to enjoy massive business growth.

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet, spurting at times, almost 4 feet in a single 24-hour period!  At the beginning though, it appears to be growing (on the surface) quite slowly.

There are 3 stages of bamboo (and business) growth: sleep, creep and leap.

1. Sleep
During the first year of a young bamboo plant’s life, most of its energy is devoted to

laying a strong foundation via the root structure.  Plant shoots peak out above the ground and underground rhizomes shoot out horizontally.

2. Creep
As the foundation builds, the plants continue to grow but most of the ‘work’ is still being done underground.  The roots branch and spread even further.  They provide water to the leaves and the leaves use sunlight to produce food that the roots need to expand further and stock up on energy for next year’s shoots.

3.  Leap
Once the foundation has developed (and this may take years) the above-ground plants grow rapidly.  Each year, as the stand of plants matures, the diameter of each new cane that develops, is generally larger than those that were ‘born’ last year.

So, as with your business, the huge bamboo stand of plants isn’t built in a single year.   But once the foundation is laid, growth seems almost miraculous.

Here are a few of the steps you must take to enjoy miraculous business growth.

In the Sleep phase, you dream.  You envision and clarify your ideal clients, your ideal work day and your overall ideal day.  Without this step, you’ll feel unfocused, frustrated and stressed.

You also clarify what you’ll be offering to the market place and how to best distinguish you and your business from all of the other vendors with similar offers.  You work on branding and understanding exactly how people or companies benefit from working with you.

You define your ‘product mix’, create revenue goals, set prices, deterimine sales channels and schedule your major marketing activities.

In the Creep phase, you launch your marketing efforts in a focused and aggressive manner.  You identify what you need to run a successful business from an internal perspective and from an external marketing perspective.  You implement your marketing plans and measure your success.  If you skip this step or do it poorly, you’ll feel scattered and leave money on the table because you miss opportunities that are right there in front of you.  You’ll use the wrong approaches and waste precious time and money.

In the Leap phase, you work on leveraging your success. You work ON your business not just IN it.  The focus here is on time mangement, automating and systemitizing. You document and delegate, work to continually delight your customers and build internal financial metrics and controls.

You also start to convert your ‘secret sauce’ into products that you can use to build revenue that is not dependent on you actively working with clients.  You build raving fans, referrals, affiliates and perhaps joint venture partners. You enhance and expand your online marketing efforts. NOw that you’ve got your systems in place, you aggressively drive traffic to your website to generate qualified leads.

During this phase, you’ll probably encounter more leadership challenges so you’ll also work on improving yourself while managing the issues of leading a team of employees or contractors.  You may even decide to pursue bigger, better and more well-heeled clientele.

If you don’t Leap successfully, you’ll survive but miss out on the mega-growth that you probably dreamed of when you first launched your burgeoning empire.

While I’ve laid out these 3 stages sequentially, you’re almost always working on some aspects of each of them.  At various phases of your own evolution, you make focus on different aspects of this model. You may elect to restart the process at stage 1 if you decide to revamp your business.  You may jump in at Stage 2 if you love the clients you have and the work you do, but the model isn’t generating enough cash.

And as you grow, you’ll need to work on Stage 3 to Leap into an even more prosperous future and create the lifestyle of your dreams.

7 Keys to Being a Brilliant Leader

Many people think that leaders are born, not made and that if they aren’t officially a Manager, Director, Executive Directory, Vice President, President or CEO, that they are really a leader.

I beg to differ.  Leadership is a set of specific behaviors that can be learned.

Here are seven keys I believe are critical to transforming ordinary people into extraordinary leaders.

1. Evoke the emotions of others
True leaders inspire people.  They touch their hearts on issues that are important to them.  They raise hope while acknowledging and accepting the human frailties we all possess.  Leaders make people connect the change they are striving to cause to their own needs and desires.

2. Believe in people
It’s hard for us to see skeptics or critical, negative people as leaders because they don’t do anything proactive to make us feel good about ourselves.  On the other hand, leaders see the rough diamonds buried in our hearts and bring them to light so that WE can see them too.

3. Have a compelling vision and be passionate in expressing it
Great leaders see a future that is dramatically different than the present we live in and they don’t keep it a secret.  They articulate that future and tell us WHY it’s important that we move toward it. They know they are on the right track even when the rest of the world is still asleep to or in denial about the problem.

4. Never give up but stay flexible
Leaders with big visions are often seen as crack pots or zealots before the masses catch on to the imoportance of their platform.  Expect to encounter some resistance at the beginning, but don’t give up on what you believe in.  Do however, stay present to new developments and trends and what’s on the minds of the people in your burgeoning ‘tribe’.  Find common ground with them an incorporate what you can into your vision, but don’t dilute it too much by trying to please everyone. You won’t.

5. Be an exemplary model
The increased visibility that your leadership will generate will put you in the spotlight. Keep your hands clean.  Don’t be tempted by your growing power and influence.  Also, don’t avoid leadershp if you have a shady past.  If you have truly repented, take ownership for your humanity and mistakes.  Share what you’ve learned from your errant ways and promise to stay on the straight and narrow.  And then stay there.

6. Demonstrate integrity
Keep your word. Be consistent in your actions.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  Tell the truth. Make decisions your mother, spouse, children, grandmother would be proud of.  Live as though your life will be played out in the media because it might actually end up there.

7. Ask for input and help
Don’t try to get to ‘the promised land’ alone.  You can’t. And even if you do, it won’t be very gratifying. As you enroll others in your vision, identify key people in your cause and solicit their opinions and help.  The more people you have actively engaged and on the bandwagon with you leading others as well, the easier your road trip will be.

Do these things consistently and you’ll find yourself living a fulfilled life, making a difference and leaving the world in a better place than you found it.  That is your purpose so go live it.

5 Things Every Team Needs to Win and Flourish

Most work in companies gets done through interaction between people.  Some managers mistakenly think they can just hire people, give them a job or task to do and then expect that they’ll ‘make it happen’.

Recently, I’ve heard leaders say “Do your job!” like that person could just wave a magic wand and have everything turn out ‘peachy keen’.

In reality, most tasks require planning and collaboration and a whole lot more in order for them to be completed successfully. It’s the bosses job to facilitate activities, not just dictate them.

I’ve identified 5 things teams need to have in order for them to be successful and productive.

  1. Goals
  2. Roles
  3. Rules
  4. Styles
  5. Scores

1. Goals
Each person needs goals, but the team itself needs goals as well.  Without knowing there they’re headed as a group, teams will flounder.  Individual self-interests will prevail and competition will ensue.

  • Where are we going?
  • Why is that important?
  • Who are we serving and why?

2. Roles
Team members need to be clear about their individual roles and how they are contributing to the accomplishment of the goals.

  • What does everyone on the team do?
  • How do ‘hand-offs’ occur?
  • How does my work impact them?

3. Rules
Rules provide structure, systems and processes that make teams more effective.

  • How do we communicate with each other? How rapidly can we expect a response?
  • What processes do we follow?
  • How do we make decisions around here?
  • What happens when things go awry?
  • How do we share in the wins?

4. Styles
It’s critical to understand the human side of each team member.  People are more than just cogs in a wheel.  When team members take time to know each other beyond their roles on the team, getting the work done will take much less effort.

If I communicate with you on your terms, appealing to your thought process and priorities, fewer ‘breakdowns in communication’ will happen.  Expectations will be more explicit, not implied.  Implications lead to assumptions and  assumptions create mistakes and unfulfilled expectations and opportunities.

5. Scores
Scores are often measures of the goals that have been set.  They allow a team to track their progress and ultimately, their success.  Scores also allow analysis of what could be improved.

How does your team stack up?  If you are the leader, how well are you facilitating the creation and management of these 5 critical items? What improvements can be made?

When you attend to the people side of your business, your business can deliver on the profit side.