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The Three Most Important Things When Hiring

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mauropm/3436674445/

I’ve worked with and spoken to thousands of hiring managers over the course of my career.

They all want to hire the best people available and will go to great lengths to do it.

Sure, some work harder at hiring than others, but they all want a hire that succeeds.

Some look hardest at skills.

Some at accomplishments.

But the most successful managers focus on three character traits, before anything else.

Attitude, aptitude and initiative.

Attitude: Skills can grow and tech can be learned, but energy expended on changing someone’s attitude has the lowest ROI.

Aptitude: Things change. Not just tech, but rules, bosses, buildings, colleagues, and anything else you can think of; an aptitude for change can mean the difference between success and frustration.

Initiative: Going beyond the job description; doing more than expected; not for a reward or the glory, but because that’s who you are.

That’s how you build an organization that succeeds and makes you look great.

Attitude. Aptitude. Initiative.

Image credit: Mauro Parra-Miranda

Golden Oldies: ­­­Pssst, Want A Leadership Silver Bullet?

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

I always find it strange that a post this old (2006) doesn’t need updating to be relevant — but it doesn’t. Nothing has changed. You are still the closest thing to a silver bullet that you’re going to find and it’s still all in your mind.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

These days (especially these days) managers spend time, energy and money (their company’s and their own) in an effort to move from manager to ‘leader’. They study examples and best practices, read books, attend seminars and classes, take advanced degrees, check out software, turn to the spiritual (if so inclined)—you name it, someone’s tried it.

Everywhere you turn you hear/read about how you need to be a ‘leader’ to get ahead, otherwise you’ll end up a <gasp> follower.

You probably won’t believe me if I say that the basic premise is bunk.

The dream is to find a silver bullet—all you need to do is say/do THIS—but it ain’t gonna happen.

But here’s the well kept secret—you already possess the closest thing to a silver bullet that exists and it’s all in your mind.

That’s right, it’s your MAP and, like a snowflake, it’s totally unique—yours, and yours alone.

And the magic that turns the bullet from lead to silver is your ability to consciously choose to change your MAP through your own awareness.

How cool is that? The very thing that frees you to soar and it’s not only yours, but also within your control.

Who could ask for anything more?

So never forget!

You are the silver bullet!

Image credit: ijm2007

Ryan’s Journal: A Culture Of Compassion

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/leighblackall/18728658808/This month is Go Grey month.

It’s a month designed to bring awareness to brain cancer and the horrible effects it wreaks on both patients and their families.

I thought it important to bring up, because I have a friend who’s daughter is terminal. Yet, while fighting brain cancer she is a light to those around her.

You may ask yourself, how is that related to culture? Under normal circumstances I would agree I don’t see the connection either, but I believe there is one in this case.

My friend has instilled a culture of compassion into her life and that of her little girl.

She posts constant updates on non-profits that support cancer research, updates on other child warriors fighting the good fight, and also shares messages of hope.

This may be deeper than culture, it’s character and it has the power to transform institutions and people.

I watch her and feel both a deep sadness but also respect for what she is going through and accomplishing.

I am a parent myself and I feel blessed daily that my girls are healthy and safe. I am not sure I would have the strength that this friend has shown under the same circumstances.

How can character change an institution?

There are numerous examples of one person transforming a company. Steve Jobs, when he returned to Apple, always comes to mind.

And there are cases where the leadership transformed something for the worse — Yahoo?

Character has the ability to almost be self sustaining. It burns bright and true regardless of circumstances.

How do we harness that in a culture? The first step would be, do you have a good character. In the age where there is no right or wrong it can be tough to determine, but, as a rule, I believe if you are taking the time to honor your fellow man and putting them first, you’re on the right path.

So this month I ask that you take time to examine your character, look to serve others, and learn.

Just like my friend who gives her all, we have a choice every day to make it a great day or not.

Image credit: Leigh Blackall

Ducks in a Row: The Cult Of Me

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/joannaleeosborn/9802436943/

The “cult of me” isn’t new.

Through time, all generations were self-absorbed, but due to sheer size, the Boomers are the original me generation.

Gen X wasn’t much better and in 1982 Steve Wozniak financed The US Festival. According to Glenn Aveni, director of a recently released documentary about the festival,

“Woz felt the 1970’s were The ‘Me’ Generation and that it was time for the world to embrace a less selfish credo, one of unity and togetherness.”

Great music, but little effect.

Millennials come next, slightly more of them (75.4 M to 74.9) and most happily carry on the focus on me.

Tech has driven that focus across all generations via selfies and social media to the point that for millions their experiences, meals and even their lives exist only if they constantly post them online and they are liked, shared, and retweeted.

There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.

The focus on me has led to a focus on being happy — polls and articles measuring happiness, and comparing happiness.

Back in the day, the Boomers considered everything a challenge that must be overcome. Fast forward to now and Millennials, especially those in Silicon Valley, see the world as a series of problems to be “hacked” (modern times call for modern words).

Which, to put it politely, is a crock.

Andrew Taggart thinks most of this is nonsense. A PhD in philosophy, Taggart practices the art of gadfly-for-hire. He disabuses founders, executives, and others in Silicon Valley of the notion that life is a problem to be solved, and happiness awaits those who do it. Indeed, Taggart argues that optimizing one’s life and business is actually a formula for misery.

This is important, because, in many ways, it’s Silicon Valley that is shaping much of our world — even for those of us who choose not to actively participate.

But I doubt Taggart and his ilk will change that attitude or the obsessive focus on “my world.”

Scott Berkun, a former Microsoft manager and philosophy major who has written multiple business books on the subject, says philosophy’s lessons are lost on most in Silicon Valley. Many focus on aggrandizing the self, rather than pursuing a well-examined purpose. “If you put Socrates in a room during a pitch session, I think he’d be dismayed at so many young people investing their time in ways that do not make the world or themselves any better,” he said.

I never saw life as a challenge or a problem. I prefer a different mantra.

Life is a mystery to be lived — not a challenge/problem to be overcome.

It’s a happy way to live.

Image credit: Joanna Lee Osborn

Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Making Your Company Socially Responsible

Monday, May 15th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote this in 2012 with high hopes that more bosses would move in Chris’ direction, with an eye to making their workplaces more socially responsible and individuals more aware of the world outside their little corner of it. Sadly, the importance of ‘me’ has grown considerably, dwarfing, at least in the media, those who strive to move beyond that narrow focus.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI met an interesting guy over the holiday.

“Chris” has a small startup in the financial services sector and is starting to gain traction.

He said it’s been an uphill battle and that he wishes he had spent the same energy doing something “socially responsible,” because it would be a lot more satisfying.

I’ve heard similar comments from other entrepreneurs and small biz owners.

Happily, this is one of those times it is possible to “have it all,” because all it takes is changing the way you look at the world.

Having a socially responsible business doesn’t require a focus on solving social ills and it certainly doesn’t mean forgoing profit—without profit your business won’t be around.

It does mean running your business in a responsible manner

  • pricing fairly, passing on savings whenever possible and never gouging
  • fair wages and other compensation
  • fair employee treatment (not playing favorites, etc.)
  • reducing your carbon footprint
  • community involvement and contributing whenever possible; and
  • believing that it’s not all about you.

None of this is rocket science and all of it makes good, profitable, business sense.

In fact, Chris and others who feel the pull to help fix the world would do well to read Richard Branson’s Screw Business As Usual to see how others are ‘doing well by doing good’.

Note: the unseen pause is between ‘screw’ and ‘business’, not between ‘business’ and ‘as’,

Image credit: HikingArtist

If The Shoe Fits: Tech And Responsibility

Friday, May 12th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAlthough I rarely get comments, I would really appreciate any insights you can offer on this subject.

KG sent a press release he thought would interest me; it should interest you, too.

The Montreal-based artificial intelligence startup Lyrebird today unveils its voice imitation algorithm.
With this innovation, Lyrebird is going a step further in the development of AI applications by offering to companies and developers new speech synthesis solutions. Users will be able to generate entire dialogs with the voice of their choice or design from scratch completely new and unique voices tailored for their needs.

First, a quick story.

Years ago a friend got in trouble when someone spoofed his email, catfished him and made a bomb threat to a local school.  Fortunately, he was able to prove it wasn’t him.

It turned out that it was a kid who was mad at his teacher.

People are catfished all the time. Usually it’s not a big deal, but sometimes, as with my friend, potential repercussions can be very serious.

Nobody likes being catfished, but think of the damage that could be done using Lyrebird’s algorithm.

How could you explain a threatening or obscene phone call in your voice?

Lyrebird talks about benign uses, such as “personal assistants, for reading of audio books with famous voices, for connected devices of any kind, for speech synthesis for people with disabilities, for animation movies or for video game studios“ and shows off audio examples, including Donald Trump.

Now think what the outcome could be from a highly inflammatory call to Kim Jong-un mimicking Trump’s voice.

Tech people talk all the time about how they are “changing the world” and making it better, but they seem far more focused on enhancing their personal brand and making money, while turning a blind eye to any potential negative effects.

Are they truly amoral?

Or do they even owe humanity at least some consideration of the possible negatives?

What am I missing?

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: Humble Or Charismatic

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/edvinajh/5710373433/

Many of the actions of people such as Travis Kalanick, Donald Trump, Parker Conrad, etc., are deplored, yet they seem to have no effect on people’s opinions.

They go their merry way while thousands of far superior leaders are ignored.

When the subject does come up the usual response involves the infamous “yes, but…”

Why is that?

I finally found an answer that makes sense from Margarita Mayo, a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IE Business School in Madrid.

Mayo terms the first type of leader ‘humble’ and the second ‘charismatic’.

Humble leaders improve the performance of a company in the long run because they create more collaborative environments. They have a balanced view of themselves – both their virtues and shortcomings – and a strong appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions, while being open to new ideas and feedback. (…)

[Charismatic leaders], despite their grandiose view of themselves, low empathy, dominant orientation toward others, and strong sense of entitlement, their charisma proves irresistible. Followers of superheroes are enthralled by their showmanship: through their sheer magnetism, narcissistic leaders transform their environments into a competitive game in which their followers also become more self-centered, giving rise to organizational narcissism, as one study shows.

Mayo’s research and the other’s she cites (with links) provide proof of the value produced by the humble leader vs. their charismatic counterpart.

However, I think there is another problem happening in the background that is word-related.

Ask most people if they want to be remembered as ‘humble’ or ‘charismatic’ and most will choose charismatic.

Warren Buffet aside, ‘humble’ is more often associated with dorky, weak, shy, and unassuming.

Not adjectives most people would choose to describe themselves.

Thanks to Wally Bock for leading me to this article.

Image credit: Edvin J.

Golden Oldies: Discriminating Leadership and Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Monday, May 8th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

This week is a two-fer, the first post was written in 2009, while the second is from 2015. Both contain links to other relevant posts. And both address a pet peeve of mine involving words — what else — their use, misuse and baggage.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Discriminating Leadership

The ability to influence is not the sign of a leader; nor are visions, forceful opinions, board seats, titles or popularity. After all, if a high media profile was a sign of leadership then Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are leaders.

Millions of people are influenced and even inspired by writers and actors, but does that make them leaders? Angelina Jolie is considered a leader for her tireless charitable efforts as opposed to her screen credits; Rush Limbaugh may influence thousands, but I’ve never heard him called a leader.

It is the singular accomplishments; the unique actions that deserve the term, not the position you hold or just doing your job.

I knew a manager who thought his major accomplishment was managing his 100 person organization, but that wasn’t an accomplishment—that was his job. The accomplishment, and what qualified him as a leader, was doing it for four years with 3% turnover and every project finished on time and in budget.

Jim Stroup over at Managing Leadership (no longer available) wrote, “There is a strong and general instinct to ascribe positive values to what we have determined to be examples of leadership. In a world that so often confuses forcefulness with leadership, this can be – and frequently is, in fact, revealed to be – an exceedingly dangerous habit… There is a particularly frustrating – and increasing – tendency to characterize any practice or trait deemed “good” as “leadership.” When an executive exhibits behavior that is highly valued – or even expresses a perfectly ordinary one especially well – he or she is declared to be a “leader,” or to have demonstrated “leadership.”

Dozens of corporate chieftains who were held up for years as exemplifying visionary leadership now stand in line for bailout money—or dinner in jail.

There is no way to stop the word being used and abused, but you have the option to hear it for what it really is—a word with no baggage, no assumed meaning.

A word on which you focus your critical thinking instead of accepting it blindly, assuming that all its traits are positive or rejecting it based on nothing more than ideology.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aafromaa/4476152633Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Last week I had lunch with four managers, “Larry,” “Mandy,” “Paul” and “Ashish.” At one point the conversation turned to how the ability to influence people affected the ability to lead.

It was a lively conversation, but I stayed on the sidelines; noticing my silence, Ashish asked me what I thought.

Instead of responding I asked all of them what the difference was between influence, persuasion and manipulation.

This provoked another active discussion, with the upshot that while it was acceptable to influence people it was wrong to manipulate them. This time it was Mandy who asked what I thought.

I responded that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the three.

That shocked them all, but really upset Larry.

So I explained my thinking, which formed the basis of this post in 2011.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

leaders are not by definition “good;”

they aren’t always positive role models; and

one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do [whatever] who are you to say that both the short and long-term outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

In spite of the heated disagreement I saw no reason to change my thinking.

I was surprised at the end of the discussion when even Larry commented that while it made sense that the words didn’t actually signal intent he still didn’t like it and wasn’t about to use them interchangeably, which made sense to me, because language carries the meaning (and the baggage) of the time and place in which it’s used.

Image credit: Anne Adrian

Ryan’s Journal: How Do You Set A Standard?

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/11371243606/

I recently switched jobs to a company that is smaller than my last but where I have the ability to truly achieve success or crash and burn. It’s slightly terrifying but I try to follow Richard Branson’s example of just saying yes to things first and then figuring it out as I go along.

One thing I realized after taking the role is I am the one that must set the cultural standard. It’s not that the company doesn’t have one, but most of the employees are remote and we rarely see each other.

As a result there is not really a zeitgeist in the office that tends to guide everyone’s actions. It took me a couple of weeks to reach this conclusion, but once I did I sought out some resources on how to set a standard.

I was not blessed with an iron will. For me I must work every day at maintaining discipline and work ethic. It’s not a battle, but it’s something I am very much aware of and I take steps to ensure I set myself up for success.

One way I do this is through emulation of others. I realize this may not be groundbreaking but I think it’s important to remember.

When I was growing up I would see people at the top of their game or profession and a lot of times not think about the work it took to get there. As I have matured I realize it takes great effort to achieve success and we must make it a priority. There are several people I follow on LinkedIn that hold influence. I try to emulate what they have done to form my own identity and culture.

I have also sought out mentors throughout my career. Some of these are formal, but some are not. I reach out to them for specific needs or learning opportunities.

What do you use for guidance when setting a culture? Is it a company, ideal or person?

I believe all can benefit when creating an identity, as long as we are choosing the right example to emulate.  

Image credit: Ron Mader

Golden Oldie: When Execution is an Anagram of the Act

Monday, May 1st, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

Often the most important stuff we need to learn doesn’t require multiple videos, books, and coaching. Sometimes a simple memory aid that’s easy to remember will do it, although execution still requires effort and self discipline, as in this case.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccabarray/8985496669/An executive once asked me what the single most import thing he should do and how best to do it.
I told him the answer was simple and the key to execution was found in an anagram of the act.
Can you guess the action and anagram?
The action is to LISTEN.
The anagram is SILENT.
The first is impossible without doing the second.
Flickr image credit: RebeccaBarray

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