Without the people around you taking good decisions, you will always need to step in to stop disaster from happening. In the IESE MBA program we have a course called “Analysis of Business Problems”. We teach a 6 step process for business decision making:
They deserve a promotion because of past efforts? No.
What ideas do you have?
There is one characteristic without which you cannot be called a leader.
Followers? Yes… but what do you need to have as a leader so that others actually follow?
The Fundamental Characteristic of a Leader
You know where you are going.
…and then the power to Communicate
…and then you need to develop the ability to engage with people so that the destination becomes a shared destination.
If you can begin to paint the destination in the minds of others with stories you begin to engage not just their hands, not just their skills, but their whole self in the committed pursuit.
A Shared Vision of a Worthwhile Destination
How do you engage those around you to commit to the journey?
Don’t “motivate” people.
Figure out something that is worth doing. Figure out how it will make your life better, how it will make their lives better and how it will make society better.
Help others understand that being part of it will be better for them and their life.
How do you share this destination with others? How’s this as a script:
Let us move forward: This is a good use of our time…
Here is what is in it for me…
Here is what is in it for you…
Business as an Infinite game
Simon Sinek shares a powerful concept in his book “The Infinite Game”. He has popularised the distinction between Finite games and Infinite games.
Chess is a finite game. Soccer is a finite game. Tennis is a finite game. They each have a set of agreed rules, and a clear victory condition at which time the game ends. The objective in a finite game is to end the game as victor.
Business is not a finite game. Life is not a finite game. Leading human beings is not a finite game.
Success in life is keeping it engaging to play for all those involved (including yourself!).
A game everyone plays voluntarily is more successful than a game where some must be compelled to play.
If you are going to set up an organisation, you can compel people to perform with threats and fear. It is much more effective to engage them to play a game that is meaningful for them, and for you… and for society as a whole.
How to lead the whole Person
Imagine these two requests from a leader:
“Go home and take 4 hours to think about how you will contribute to this organisation over the next year” or
“Go home and take 4 hours to think about your life and formulate a plan for your life with this business being a part of the plan”
Which is the question of the bigger leader?
Jordan Peterson reports a 10% increase in contribution where leaders ask the 2nd question to their teams.
You want yourself and your team to see that working for you serves their higher order purpose.
If not, this is not the job for them. Help them find a place where they can serve their higher purpose.
In golf, one poor shot can trigger a state of mind that leads to a run of poor shots. I hit my drive into the bunker. In frustration, I try a more difficult shot than I should, and put it in another bunker. I then try and hit it extra hard to reach the green in 3… and leave it in the bunker.
Chess international master Josh Waitzkin says that the moment when a chess player really loses the game is when they think they are ahead, and after a move they realise that maybe their position is not so strong. The next move will be too aggressive because they are anchored on the emotional sense of being ahead.
A professional learns to forget the past and play the shot or the move that they have in front of them. An amateur compounds the error.
One poor shot does not ruin a golf round… unless you let it.
The same occurs in life.
Do you let one mistake lead to three more?
On a diet… one biscuit leads to 3 more? …that’s how to screw it up.
Covid is a physical disease, but the wider impact will be on the mental health of the billions who have been hit by the economic shutdown.
Who do you feel is struggling to keep things together?
Every single one of us has incredible power to lift up the spirits of the people that are around us. It requires a choice. It is harder when you are struggling yourself. It is important. The people around you need your leadership.
How can we help those around us feel good about themselves?
In the video, I share 3 ideas.
Let them help you
Shine a light on their strengths
Who needs your attention today? Who around you would benefit from a few minutes of facetime or skype or a phone call?
Living in Fear – the mode of seeking “Freedom from” and seeking validation for our past decisions
Living in Confidence – the mode of clarifying “Freedom to” and making choices as a responsible being.
Over the last 7 months, I have noticed that I have slipped into the living in fear mode. I knew what I didn’t want, but not what I did. I was waiting to see how the world would work out rather than committing to creating my own clear path.
In an episode of internet procrastination, I came across this tweet… and it led me down a rabbit hole.
Tom Peters, the Original Management Guru
Tom Peters wrote the book “In Search of Excellence” back in 1983 and began a major shift in Business studies. In place of scientific management, business began to look at what leadership might be… and begin to treat employees not as robots, but as human beings. The role of leadership is not to maximise production, it is both to achieve productivity and to make sure that employees, customers, owners and communities benefit in the process.
I came across a recent interview with Tom Peters. He spoke with Vala Afshar of Salesforce and Ray Wang of Constellation Research. I’ll share Vala’s summary of the interview (original article here)
11 Lessons on Life from Tom Peters:
1. The most important leadership lessons were taught to us in middle school.
Peters has advanced college degrees from Stanford and Cornell, and yet he remembers his 4th-grade teacher as one of the most influential people in his life. Peters said that his 4th-grade teacher loved him and the other students. It is about people who deeply care about other people. Care about your people. Teach them to be better humans.
2. Never hire anyone who does not have high emotional intelligence (EQ).
And never, ever promote anyone who does not have a sky-highEQ.
“We only hire nice people” is a mantra that Tom Peters admires. Don’t hire the jerks, regardless of their deep expertise. Can we train for higher EQ? Peters thinks that if we have institutions that are thoughtful, caring, and people first, then we will have teaching opportunities to increase emotional intelligence.
3. Positive reinforcement is 30X more powerful than negative reinforcement.
Peters talked about a Google study of their top employees and what made them perform. They discovered all of the top 7 attributes of their top employees were all soft skills. Project Oxygen had surprising results — the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.
possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
being a good critical thinker and problem solver;
being able to make connections across complex ideas.
Peters also talked about the negative impact of categorising players as A-players vs. B-players — the fastest way to demotivate half the population.
4. Always start with honesty and humility.
No living human being today knows what they are doing. There are no experts in unsolved problems. Regardless of the size of your business, we must all admit that we do not have the answers. Instead, let’s work together to make forward progress. Be human and care about people. Peters weeps about a 20-person restaurant owner who is struggling now. Peters talked about mangers who had to execute layoffs, but when doing so with compassion and empathy, the workers effected ended up hugging their hiring manager. Be human.
5. Take care of your employees by protecting their safety, health, and future.
Peters read a memo from the Blue Mountain Community College, Boardman, Oregon that was communicated to their employees during the work-from-home quarantine:
You are not “working from home,” you are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
Your physical, mental, and emotional health are extremely important right now. Take care of yourself!
You should not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours.
Be kind to yourself and don’t judge how you are coping based on how you see others coping.
Be kind to others and don’t judge others on how they are coping based on how you are coping.
Success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal.
6. It is about stakeholder value, not just shareholder value.
Peters talked about long-term thinking companies have produced vastly more income, jobs, and wealth as compared to short-term thinking companies. You cannot expect customers to love your company before your employees do. Caring about your employees, customers, partners, and the community is good for business. If you take care of people, you will make a lot of money, this according to Peters. Maximizing shareholder value is no longer the path to sustainable growth. Values create value.
7. This is the time to listen, learn, care more, and change.
Tom Peters was not willing to comment about racial tensions in our country because he said that “I am part of the problem.” I asked Peters to talk about the current state of health, economic, racial, climate, and leadership crisis and he said that no one should pretend to know the answers to these unsolved problems.
8. What you have done in the past two months, and what you will do in the next two months will define your leadership legacy.
Peters strongly urged business and community leaders to recognize that who they are as human beings will be defined by what they are doing now. Leaders emerge in times of crisis. How you behave, the degree which you were helpful, the degree of thoughtfulness will define you.
9. There are two kinds of virtues — resume virtues and eulogy virtues.
What will people say about you at your funeral?
Peters referenced the work by David Brooks and his article on eulogy virtues. Brooks wrote:
“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues, and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?”
Peters reminded us to focus on the eulogy virtues — this is how you can live a recommendable life.
10. Leadership Team Must No. 1: Put more women in charge.
In the age of COVID-19, Peters released a new piece titled “Excellence 2020: The 27 Number Ones,” succinct guidance about where to focus your leadership — from hiring and training to culture and management — now and always.
Tom Peters shared several research findings regarding why women are better leaders than men. Peters also talked about the importance of pay equality. Women should be paid the same as men for the same work. Peters also shared encouraging news about more women are graduating from colleges than men. When Peters graduated from Cornell, there was only one woman graduate out of 800 engineering students. Today’s Cornell graduating class consisted of 51% women graduates.
The final story that Peters shared with us was an emotional story for Peters. The story involved Dwight David Eisenhower and the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landing, where Eisenhower went to the beach, putting his arms around the soldiers and wishing them Godspeed. I want you to see the video (35 minutes, 40 seconds into the video) because the delivery from Peters will bring tears to your eyes.
11. Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind.
Tom Peters referenced the famous quote from Henry James. Peters said that this mantra should be the guiding principle for all schools and businesses. Let us behave well as individuals now. Let us hold ourselves to a higher standard.
In his 30 years of asking this question, Wharton Business School Professor Stew Friedman has heard one word become increasingly common: Flexible
Elements of Flexible Leadership
What does it mean to be flexible as a leader?
capable of bending easily without breaking; able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances.
What context do we need to know in order to easily adjust our plans and strategy to altered circumstances?
Flexibility requires Context
In order to be consciously flexible as a leader, you must have clear the relative value of different aspects of your life. As a leader of teams, you need to help others develop their own clarity and explicitly use it in your decision making.
Dr Friedman says that too many people take a binary approach. They take for granted that professional and personal are two ends of a weighing scale. Increase one, reduce the other.
This is not a straight trade off. This trade-off approach leads to unnecessary sacrifices.
In Vistage, our stated mission is to increase both profesional effectiveness and enhance quality of life. We place both at the core of the question. We don’t want your life quality sacrificed for professional effectiveness, nor vice versa. We want a conscious integrated decision.
The key of flexible leadership for yourself and for those around you is to get clarity in 3 ways:
Life 101: Develop competence. Build the discipline to finish small projects. Solve interesting problems. Help good clients succeed. Do lots of small good things for other people. Share the credit. Take the blame. Share your journey. Associate with good people. Help others realise they are capable of more than they think. Give them confidence. Lift them up if they fail. Celebrate their courage. Ask them what they learnt. Be present in their lives. Live with purpose and intention.
The days of sending your CV over to HR and waiting for the job offer are dead. No great job offers come through HR.
As Seth Godin says “No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”
“My boss won’t let me”
“They won’t give me permission”
“I don’t have a publisher”
“Oprah Winfrey won’t respond to my emails”
Stop “waiting to be chosen” and “Pick yourself”.
If you want to write, write. If you want to make videos, make videos. If you want to be creative, make things with creativity. If you want to run an event, invite 50 people to an event. Don’t wait for permission… because there is nobody left to actually give you permission.
If you ask your boss for permission to do something, this is what they hear: “If this fails, blame goes to you (because you gave me permission); if this succeeds, credit goes to me (because I did it)”. Only an idiot would take this deal. Your boss didn’t get there by being an idiot.
Great problems create great leaders. Take the time to build the foundations before you build the skyscraper. Take responsibility. Become a trusted team member.
A friend shared with me a wonderful resource on business innovation over on the Visual Capitalist website. I’ve share links to the original source at the bottom of this post, and a number of other valuable resources that can help with business innovation.
I remember a lesson from my MBA. “…to remain profitable in the long term, your products must remain different over the long term.”
Warren Buffett and “Big Moats”
Warren Buffett talks about businesses with “big moats”. A big moat for a medieval castle kept the attackers from reaching the castle walls. A big moat for a business means that competition finds it difficult to offer a similar value proposition at a similar price point. If your product or service is not different from the competition, you have no moat.
In today’s open society, outside of state regulated monopolies, the only long term source of differentiation is innovation. Where does innovation come from? How can a company think about the different directions to innovate their product offering?
The 10 types of business product innovation:
How you make money
Connections with others to create value
Alignment of your talent and assets
Signature of superior methods for doing your work
Distinguishing features and functionality
Complementary products and services
Support and enhancements that surround your offerings
How your offerings are delivered to customers and users
Representation of your offerings and business
Distinctive interactions you foster
Innovation Tactics: 100 approaches to Identify Innovation
One useful resource is Doblin’s (part of Deloitte) list of over 100 tactics (pdf) that correspond with 10 Innovation Types framework.
Further Reading on Business Innovation
The original Visual Capitalist post is very much worth a read… and provides much more depth on each of the 10 types of business innovation:
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