Archive for the ‘Role of a Leader’ Category
The psychology of confidence is just as important in the boardroom as the bedroom. As Wikipedia suggests, “Confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy as those without it fail or don’t try because they lack it and those with it may succeed because they have it rather than because of an innate ability.”
Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter wrote a book “Confidence” which could be distilled down to the following: Losing streaks are often created and then perpetuated when people lose confidence in their leaders and systems, while winning streaks are fueled by confident people who are secure in their own abilities and the ability of their leaders. Winning streaks are characterized by continuity and continued investment, while losing streaks are marked by disruption and a lack of investment that typically give way to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Long-term winners often face the same problems as long-term losers, but they just respond differently. They know how to recover quickly and not let failure mess with their head.
We’ve all seen classic human behavior when our confidence is shaken. It could be the coach who throws out the game plan and tries the “Hail Mary” leading to further embarrassment of the team or the business group that starts blaming each other for petty issues. Or, at the high school dance, it could be the shy guy who feels smaller and smaller after two girls turn down his offer for a dance. And, of course, in the bedroom when performance anxiety strikes, one can feel like there are three Olympic judges propped on chairs above the bed ready to reveal their scores.
If “Disappointment equals Expectations minus Reality”, at some point after a few too many disappointments, we start expecting less. This is often the path to personal depression and it could be the same for an economy, which shares that same word – depression – to describe a similar valley. We end up with a “sulking economy.” And, that’s where we are today. For a leader, it’s not an easy thing to rebuild the expectations of one’s people after constant disappointment. The tried and true method of doing this is what I call the “momentum of victory,” creating a feasible goal in the short-term and achieving it. Once that’s accomplished, it means finding another small, concrete win on the horizon. Winning and losing are 90% mental.
Lyndon Johnson was the first White House occupant to have The Conference Board looking over his Presidential shoulder and rating “consumer confidence” as a monthly measurement of our collective psychological well-being. This strong man from Texas saw confidence plummet late in his time in office. True again four decades later when his fellow Texan George W. Bush saw nearly an 80 point drop in confidence, the worst since LBJ. Our most effective confidence-producers have been Reagan (41 point rise) and Clinton (40 point rise). Barack Obama is a man who inhabits his head. Yet, like any athlete – especially a basketball player – hopefully, he knows that over-thinking rarely enhances performance. It’s time for our shrink-in-chief to step it up and find his natural rhythm as a leader. When in doubt, find the goal that we can all believe in and achieve (maybe, today it’s re-establishing our credit rating of AAA) and start creating a micro-map of small victories that can re-establish our confidence as Americans who have a common goal.
[Originally posted March 28, 2011 on The Huffington Post]
Henry Ford complained, “Why is it when I need a pair of hands, I have to get the whole man as well?” Sorry, Henry, that’s how it works. My father, when he was in the midst of strenuous management-labor negotiations would say to me as a kid, “I love business, but the people side of business can be really frustrating.” As much as I love my dad, I see the fallacy in his thinking now that I’m no longer a young whipper-snapper. There is no people “side” of business. The most neglected fact in business is that we’re all human and virtually everything we do in the context of business can be distilled down to the emotions and whims of people, just like you and me.
Douglas McGregor, who wrote “The Human Side of Enterprise” fifty year ago, suggested, “Behind every managerial decision or action are assumptions about human nature and human behavior.” McGregor was the management guru who popularized Theory Y management, or the idea that people long for a workplace that allows them to actualize their greatest potential. Humans are trustworthy, motivated, and collaborative. Unfortunately, most of us come from the Frederick Taylor scientific management school of thinking. Taylor famously suggested 100 years ago that, “In the past, man has been first; in the future, the system must be first. The first object of any good system must be that of developing first class men.” I’m sure Henry Ford was a big Frederick Taylor fan. Theory X management is based upon the premise that men, by nature, are moldable and need to be trained because, left to their own devices, men are lazy losers. Have you ever worked at a company that had this kind of underlying assumptions about its people? What was the effect on the work climate over time?
The intersection of psychology and business is typically seen as being as congested, stressful, and emotionally barren as a peak commute traffic day on the LA freeways. But, thankfully, we live in an era in which neuroscientists are teaching us about the malleability of our brain and the emotionally contagious nature of our workplaces. We are not robots and, yet, when we’re treated as such, we can lose our passion for our work and our compassion for our fellow employees and customers. Yet, companies that create a healthy “psycho-hygiene” are able to tap into the full potential of their people. These companies evaluate their leaders not purely on financial results but on scales for both results and relationships, they create cultures of recognition knowing that positivity has a ripple effect just like negativity does, and they create a sense of purpose and meaning that helps employees feel that they’re motivated by an internal calling or inspiration as opposed to being a trained seal who only performs when financial incentives or awards are offered.
In sum, we’re finally starting to realize that organizations are purely the sum total of the relationships that make up that organization. The companies we admire are like the people we admire: resilient, authentic, personable, collaborative, ambitious, and humble. Daniel Goleman has proven that two-thirds of the success in business is based upon our Emotional Intelligence as opposed to our IQ or our level of experience. As we look for the next crop of future CEO’s, maybe it’s time for America’s corporations to start interviewing grads from the Psychology masters’ programs rather than the MBA programs.
2011: THE YEAR OF CURIOSITY
[Originally posted December 20, 2010 on The Huffington Post]
‘Tis the time of the year to reflect and project. I’m going to take my cue from the most famous management theorist of all time, Peter Drucker, who lived to the ripe old age of 95. This leadership guru incorporated two practices into his professional and personal life that I’ve decided to adopt in the new year.
First off, Drucker made it a practice of spending two weeks every year reviewing his work, a habit he picked up from his Editor-in-Chief when he was working for a newspaper in Europe. He would set aside this time to “review my work during the preceding year, beginning with the things I did well but could or should have done better, down to the things I did poorly and the things I should have done but did not do.” Simple idea, yet few of us practice this kind of self-reflection. I’m off to the beach for the next few days and, while I won’t spend two weeks on this, I will spend a few days doing an inventory of what I learned this year and how I can apply it in 2011.
Peter Drucker’s other practice – to adopt a new subject, completely unrelated to his work life, to study and master over the course of three years is an unadulterated form of curiosity. When I spent some time with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the landmark book Flow, this summer, he told me that the most important trait for 21st Century innovation isn’t creativity, but instead it’s curiosity. Curiosity – that blessed alchemy of wonder and awe – is a quality that we all had as a child and yet, with time, most of us found ourselves on a narrower and narrower path.
For more than 60 years, Peter Drucker studied one subject at a time from Japanese art to Civil War history with the intent of mastering the subject. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it helped Mr. Drucker keep a facile mind and a youthful spirit into his mid-90’s. So, starting in 2011, I am going to take one subject per year and devour it – both mentally and experientially. This first year I’m going to tackle the sublime and geological magic of natural hot springs. Why and how were these created? Why do some smell so different than others? What are the health benefits or risks associated with using them? And, what’s the history of public bathing? And, as I will do in the future with subjects like Renaissance art or hang gliding, I plan to explore these subjects by literally diving in. So, in 2011, I will visit a different natural hot spring every month of the year. Iceland and Japan, here I come!!
Some of you may think this is silly. How can this be related to business leadership? One of the most sage pieces of advice I ever heard went something like this: “Great managers have great answers. Great leaders have great questions.” At the heart of great leadership is a curious mind, heart, and spirit. Today, business serendipity and profound innovation will come from seeing the metaphors and natural laws in one part of life and applying them elsewhere with a vision that less curious minds would never have imagined. See you in the springs.
“ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS….” – MY FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOKS
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “What are your favorite business books of all-time?” That’s a tough question to answer. It’s sort of like “What’s your favorite color?” The fact I like purple doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a purple business suit, nor does it mean that you’ll like purple either. So, for the sake of categorization, I’ve listed my favorite business books by theme with a little info on my favorite in the category and then a list of great also-rans. Given the time of year, you’re welcome to forward this list on to your friends and family as part of your wish list so that you can continue to be a business gladiator in 2011.
LEADERSHIP: James MacGregor Burns’ landmark Leadership outlines the difference between transactional and transformational leadership better than any book I’ve ever read.
Others: Leadership is an Art by Max Dupree; Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King & Halee Fischer-Wright; On Leadership by John W. Gardner; Authentic Leadership by Bill George; Leading the Revolution by Gary Hamel.
PERSONAL MASTERY: Peter Drucker is the most prolific and persuasive business writer of all time and his classic The Effective Executive is a perfect gift for the young person entering the workplace or those of us who are a little older and want to brush up on our habits.
Others: Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman; How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie; Are You Ready to Succeed? by Srikumar S. Rao.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP/SMALL BUSINESS: I started my company in 1987 and Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business was my bible for understanding the similarities of planting a garden and growing a small business.
Others: The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack & Bo Burlingham; Small Giants by Bo Burlingham; Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki; The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar.
PURPOSE/MEANING: Simon Sinek’s Start With Why has become a recent hit helping to remind us that life and business isn’t as much about the how or what, but it’s essentially about the “why.”
Others: Meaning Inc. by Gurnek Bains; The Hungry Spirit by Charles Handy; Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl; Business as a Calling by Michael Novak.
CORPORATE CULTURE: Southwest Airlines has proven over 40 years to have the most resilient and evolved culture of any organization so it’s not surprising that The Southwest Airlines Way by Jody Gittell Hoffer would be my favorite in this category.
Others: Nuts by Kevin Freiberg & Jackie Freiberg; First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman; The Service Profit Chain by James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser & Leonard A. Schlesinger.
CUSTOMERS/MARKETING: Here’s an offbeat psychological choice — Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy helps get inside the head of your customer to understand what makes people tick and how do we make decisions.
Others: The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine & James H. Gilmore; Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath; A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury & Stephen Fenichell; Loyalty Rules by Frederick F. Reichheld; Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith; The Purple Cow by Seth Godin.
CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM: Firms of Endearment by Rajendra S. Sisodia, David B. Wolfe & Jagdish N. Sheth makes the most compelling argument I’ve read about why thinking systemically about your business and the broader stakeholders is both smart for business and good for the world.
Others: Good Business by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; Mid-Course Correction by Ray Anderson; The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken; A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business by Ari Weinzweig.
HAPPINESS: A few years ago, this wouldn’t have been a business category but it’s now the most popular genre of book and employee and customer happiness is on the lips of every CEO. Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness is about as good as they come — relevant to our personal lives as well as how we make people happy in business.
Others: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh; Maslow on Management by Abraham H. Maslow; The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky; Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson.
Happy Holidays to all of you!
GETTING MORE MOJO FROM MASLOW: In Order to Survive the Struggles of the Economic Recession, We Need to Reframe Difficult Business Experiences as Opportunities to Find Meaning in Our WorkWednesday, November 24th, 2010
Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychologist who was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp and wrote the influential tome Man’s Search for Meaning once lamented, “People have enough to live by, but nothing to live for; they have the means, but no meaning.” This is a predicament of modern man. Once we’ve addressed our basic needs in life, what do we strive for?
Modern man is a worker bee. To us, business means busy-ness. We work 25 percent more hours per week than we did a generation ago, not counting the time we spend e-mailing colleagues from home or while we’re on vacation. As we toil away to keep up with the cost of living, we often fail to recognize the high spiritual price we pay for being more focused on means than meaning. But why? Research shows that this approach can be counter-productive. Gurnek Bains, lead author of Meaning, Inc: The Blueprint for Business Success in the 21st Century, says that meaning directly drives employee commitment and engagement. Industry-leading companies like Google, Genentech, and Southwest Airlines—which regularly appear on lists of great places to work—have learned that the key to raising performance levels is to create a sense of real meaning for employees. “This has a tangible and demonstrable impact on business results. Now that other forms of competitive advantage have become commodities, creating a sense of meaning for people will be what makes the difference for most companies in the future.” It is critical, then, to transform the economic challenges of the recession into opportunities for us to understand and infuse meaning into our work.
When I started my company, Joie de Vivre Hospitality, nearly a quarter century ago, I decided that the name of the business should also be its mission statement. Joie de Vivre has since grown into America’s second-largest boutique hotelier, based on our commitment to “Creating Opportunities to Celebrate the Joy of Life.” We distilled our credo into a two-word mantra, “Create Joy” which is stamped into the blue rubber bracelets that all new employees receive during orientation and that many veteran staffers routinely wear.
But one learns the difference between a glorified mission statement and a belief system that guides behavior when a company faces a “once-in-a-lifetime” economic downturn— and, really, we’ve faced two of these in the San Francisco Bay Area in the past decade. In late 2001, I was struggling. I had 1,000 employees, and I didn’t know how I was going to make payroll. The combination of the dot-com crash, 9/11, and a worsening economy had put Joie de Vivre at risk. One afternoon, I walked into a local bookstore in search of a business book that would help ease my financial pains—or at least give me a clue about how to survive. I quickly realized that what I really needed was some serious personal guidance. So I moved from the Business section to the Self-Help section of the bookstore (conveniently located next to each other), where I reacquainted myself with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, one of the most famous psychological concepts to explain human motivation.
I suppose that a guy who names his company “Joie de Vivre” should naturally gravitate toward self-actualization. Maslow is known as an early leader in the human potential movement; he believed that psychology was too obsessed with our worst behaviors when a lot can be learned from our best practices. He first popularized the axiom, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail,” aptly describing his peers’ over-emphasis on neurosis in the mid-20th century. Re-reading Maslow helped me to see one of the most neglected facts in business: the fact that we’re all human. And, no matter what our role—CEO, line-level employee, customer, investor— in a particular business is, we each have a hierarchy of needs that determines what’s important to us. Late in his life, Maslow started applying his hierarchy of needs to organizations and businesses. Unfortunately, he died in 1970 at the age of 62 before he could closely examine how his theory might shift from the individual to the collective.
During that downturn nearly a decade ago, I started “channeling Abe” to see how I could apply his theory to my company. I figured the worst that could happen is we’d go bankrupt, so why not learn something along the way? I distilled the Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid from five to three levels, or key themes, which make up what I call the Transformation Pyramid: survive (safety and physiological); succeed (esteem and love/belonging); and transform (self-actualization). These themes aren’t just relevant in business; they’re fundamental in life. I looked at how to apply them to the three most important stakeholders in Joie de Vivre: employees, customers, and investors. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on employees.
Maslow concluded that individuals’ deepest motivations sit at the top of the pyramid—and take on an inspirational quality. For example, in his research on people’s relationship with their work, he asked dozens of nurses, “Why did you go into nursing?” “What are the greatest moments of reward?” and “Tell me a moment so wonderful it made you weep or gave you cold shivers of ecstasy.” The nurses answered by describing peak experiences that were virtually life-altering. Nurses who were most able to express a peak experience seemed most “called” by their work.
In A Simpler Way, Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers wrote, “People do not respond for long to small and self-centered purposes or to self-aggrandizing work. Too many organizations ask us to engage in hollow work, to be enthusiastic about small-minded visions, to commit ourselves to selfish purposes, to engage our energy in competitive drives. Those who offer us this petty work hope we won’t notice how lifeless it is … when we respond with disgust, when we withdraw our energy from such endeavors, it is a sign of our commitment to life and to each other.” Maslow helped me understand that my Employee Pyramid was defined by money (survive), recognition (succeed), and meaning (transform).
We all have basic needs that need to be met, and our work compensation package is the means to that end. But Gallup has shown in multiple surveys that money is not the primary reason that people leave a company (in fact, it usually comes in fourth place). People join a company, and they leave their boss. Recognition, which addresses people’s success needs and usually taps into one’s sense of social belonging or esteem needs, is what creates loyalty in the workplace. But money and recognition are external motivators for doing any job. Those who are engaged in something they’re passionate about—such as the nurses Maslow interviewed—have transcended the bartering relationship that defines most relationships between employer and employee. They have tapped into an internal motivation that fuels them. They are inspired by what they do. They have moved from just focusing on the tasks they do each day to imagining the impact of their work. As they become more aware of that intangible we call meaning, employees move to the transformational peak of the pyramid.
Most companies get a little lost in the ether at the top of the pyramid, because it’s easier for bosses to “manage what they can measure,” and it’s simpler to do a benchmark compensation survey than to try to gauge meaning. Someday we may have a “Corporate Meaning Index” just like we have a Dow Jones stock index, so that we can quickly scan who is playing at the top of the pyramid and who isn’t. In studying my own company and dozens of other meaning-driven businesses, I’ve come to realize that workplace meaning can be dissected into meaning at work and meaning in work. Meaning at work relates to how an employee feels about the company, their work environment, and the company’s mission. Meaning in work relates to how an employee feels about their specific job.
I believe that meaning at work is far more important than meaning in work. When employees believe in the work of the company, the whole Hierarchy of Needs is satisfied. Those employees clearly have their basic needs met because they have confidence in the financial stability of the company, which means they have job security. Believing in the company’s mission also typically creates deeper alliances among employees because the sense of being part of a connected crew and the pride that comes from group success satisfy our social or esteem needs. Finally, their self-actualization needs can be met by feeling that we are part of an organization making a difference in the world, plus there’s a halo effect that may render the work they do day-to-day even more meaningful.
One of the most profound decisions I made during the depth of that last downturn was to start managing the business based on meaning and to start measuring meaning in various ways, from asking questions on biannual work-climate surveys to querying line workers in monthly staff meetings, “What’s the best experience you’ve had in the past month here at work?” The question I really like to ask our employees goes something like this, “Most of us think of our job in terms of ‘What am I getting?’ What if you asked yourself daily, ‘What am I becoming as a result of this job?’” Helping our employees reframe their work, changing their tasks to make their jobs more meaningful, and creating a democratic culture in which employees help define our business strategy has helped Joie de Vivre’s turnover rate drop to one-third the industry average. We were recently crowned the “second best place to work” in the San Francisco Bay Area, a remarkable feat for a service company that’s full of people cleaning toilets in a region full of high-tech companies famous for plush corporate campuses.
I learned quite a bit about meaning in business during the last downturn, but this downturn has been full of lessons, too. During the dot-com bust, my desire to learn tended to be organizational, but the worldwide Great Recession has led to more personal lessons. I’ve found myself on an emotional roller coaster the past couple of years. I’ve had five friends or colleagues commit suicide, primarily due to stresses at work, and I’ve seen countless companies in the travel and design industries dissolve under the pressure of this relentless economy. My greatest epiphany resulted in a series of what I call “Emotional Equations” (also the title of my next book, due out in 2011) that help remind me how the world works. The most profound equation that I’ve used for myself and for the managers in my company has been despair = suffering–meaning. I learned this from reading Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
As teenagers, we learned algebra and found there were constants and variables in an equation. That’s true in life, too. The constant in a concentration camp, or in a recession, is suffering. There will always be suffering. Yet, the variable in life is meaning: How do we find a sense of meaning, even in the most difficult times? This is a question that I’ve asked my employees and myself, because if you can find meaning in the rubble, you will lessen your despair. That’s how this equation works: more meaning equals less despair. Yet, most of us in a difficult time put our attention on the suffering. Life and business are all about where you place your attention. If Frankl can live through a death camp by rediscovering the importance of meaning in our lives, we can live through a painful recession by reframing difficult economic experiences.
CAN BUSINESS BE ENLIGHTENED?
[Originally posted Nov. 8, 2010 on the Huffington Post]
A half-century ago, few would have suggested that the world’s companies might have a bigger impact on the planet than would the various governments of the world. But, today, there’s no doubt that business — for better or often worse — impacts our lives in more and more profound ways, whether it’s how we communicate with each other in the digital age, whether we are surrounded by pollution, or how we look for global solutions to an ever more connected world. Consciousness and commerce need to feel less and less like an oxymoron.
Recently, I had the good fortune of leading a five-day global teleconference with nearly 14,000 registered listeners from more than 100 countries as 40 different worldwide business leaders and academics talked about how an enlightened business community can make a difference in the world. If you’re interested in learning more, all of the audio is free if you register here. This blog is meant to be a guide to the four key themes that arose from the varied speakers: Great companies have great purposes; Be conscious about your culture; Harvest leaders; and Think bigger than your company.
Someone once said, “our purpose in life is a life of purpose,” and this applies to companies also. One of our esteemed speakers said that the best companies think of themselves as “purpose maximizers” rather than “profit maximizers,” as with a noble and magnetic purpose you are more likely to create sustainable profits. Another suggested some great legacy companies like Hewlett-Packard became truly transformative when they moved from a place of thinking of how they can be the best in the world to being the best for the world. All of this brought me back to Peter Drucker‘s profound management question, “What business are you in?” That’s a question that every leader should ask their people. The first time you answer it, your answer will be obvious, but by the fifth time you repeat the question, it is likely that you will have uncovered your purpose or corporate essence and this is far more important than coming up with a catchy marketing slogan (which is how most companies try to prove to themselves and the world that they have a purpose).
Secondly, a common theme that many speakers suggested was that corporate culture is an essential part of company vitality. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh surmised that a company’s culture is its brand in today’s more transparent world. And Monika Broecker, who founded the School of Personal Growth at Google, suggested that the best companies know that corporate training is just a disguise for personal development. An enlightened business recognizes that their internal eco-system is like a pond. Stagnant ponds smell and it’s hard for anything to live there. Healthy ponds have a flow of new water coming in and they create an environment where things grow. Ponds are also an apt metaphor for the ripples that are created when a stone is thrown. The most prevalent and contagious ripple in most companies today is the emotion of fear, yet a healthy culture dispels fear. So, if you want to inoculate your company against the debilitating effects of fear, invest in your culture.
Thirdly, everyone agreed that the leaders we breed today are different than the command and control generals of the past. We’re looking for conductors today who are more adept at the nuances of bringing out the best in an orchestra. If the most neglected fact in business is that we’re all human, it’s not surprising that emotional intelligence was outlined as the most important quality of leadership today. The ability to empathize and understand the other is progressively more important in this small world we live in. Authenticity, transparency, and humility were also qualities that emerging as more important for leadership in this century than the last. Anne Mulcahy‘s rein as CEO of Xerox, which she took over when it was very troubled, and her succession planning to help make Ursula Burns the new CEO a few years later shows the importance of healthy and effective leadership when a leader realizes their most essential task is to create the next round of leaders in their organization.
Finally, Richard Barrett suggested that companies are starting to realize that “a business is a wholly owned subsidiary of society, and society is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.” Social responsibility needs to be intrinsic within the mission of a truly conscious business and reflected in everything it does, rather than just grafted on for marketing purposes (which sometimes can be the case with Corporate Social Responsibility programs). Companies and leaders are role models — not just with the business community — but in the broader world. And, when any of us thinks of ourselves as a role model — whether that’s as a parent being observed by their kids or a leader under the microscope of their followers — it creates a natural stepping up of how we carry ourselves and what we expect from ourselves. If individual business leaders are willing to approach their work with this level of consciousness, we may actually experience a more enlightened business community with great collateral benefits to the world.
Enlightened Business Summit: 40 free recorded interviews with world luminaries to help your business thrive
If you missed any of the Enlightened Business Summit, it is not too late! You can still listen to all of the interviews…for free! Simply click here to register and gain access to all 40 recorded teleconference calls. Listen at your leisure and capture the inspiration!
Here’s what people said about the Enlightened Business Summit:
“WOW, my view of career, success and money has truly shifted”
“An amazing group of inspiring experts in the area of conscious business”
“Groundbreaking insights and inspiration for action…for the marathon of the 21st Century enlightened leadership”
“Synergy and co-creation leap from every session, giving us great hope for a thriving future”
I’m very excited that in a couple of weeks I will be emceeing one of the largest business teleseminars in history entitled the Enlightened Business Summit. I was asked to co-curate this five-day event (Oct. 25 to 29) all of which is free and accessed purely by your phone. I am thrilled with the line-up of speakers we’ve gathered from notable business leaders such as Tony Hsieh from Zappos, John Mackey from Whole Foods Market, Casey Sheahan from Patagonia, Shai Agassi from A Better Place, and George Zimmer from the Men’s Wearhouse to best-selling authors including Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi (Flow), Tim Ferriss (The Four-Hour Work Week), Marcia Wieder (Dreams are Whispers from the Soul), Keith Ferrazzi (Never Eat Alone), and Bill George (True North). I will be interviewing most of the 40 speakers, and participants will have the opportunity to ask questions during the calls. The teleconference format also allows for conversations among the thousands of participants during many of the sessions. For those who love the line-up but don’t have time, you can also register and then buy the recorded audio program. Toward the end of the summit, we will announce that I will be leading seven weeks of PEAK Leadership phone trainings starting on November 3 (and the first two weeks are free).
To learn more, please register at the Enlightened Business Summit website. I won’t see you there, but I certainly hope to hear you on one or more of the calls!
APPLE AND THE A’S: THEY’RE BOTH PLAYING MONEYBALL
[Originally posted Sept. 28, 2010 on the Huffington Post]
As we round the bases for the last two weeks of Major League Baseball, it’s worth noting that big league managers may know more about 21st Century leadership than do Fortune 500 CEO’s, with the possible exception of Steve Jobs. Remember Michael Lewis’ bestseller Moneyball about how Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane remade the game of baseball by looking at new metrics as a means of determining which players had the greatest impact on his team’s success?
The A’s, like Steve Jobs’ Apple versus Microsoft, had high odds against them with a team payroll that was just one-third of what a bigger market team like the New York Yankees could pay their players. So, Billy Beane reevaluated the conventional wisdom that stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average were the most important statistics to consider when selecting players for a team. Doing rigorous statistical analysis and a certain amount of gut wisdom, Beane was able to show that little-considered stats like on-base percentage or slugging percentage were bigger indicators of offensive success than some of the historical numbers that most teams used. And, the Oakland A’s leveraged their intellectual competitive advantage to selecting bargain players who helped them in a series of improbable playoff runs. Sadly for the A’s, the rest of the league caught up and teams like the Boston Red Sox parlayed these “Sabermetrics” (what Beane called these unique numbers) into the World Series and the A’s are back where they started, a perennial also-ran.
Most business leaders are using 20th Century metrics to create 21st Century success. We were taught to “manage what we can measure” and, generally, what’s most easily measurable is the tangible in life. In business, this translates to metrics like profitability and cash flow which are clearly important, but actually are outputs, not the inputs that create success in the modern company. Today’s most valuable business assets often don’t appear on a balance sheet, an accounting relic that is 500 years old. In our knowledge economy, it’s not the tangible factories or equipment that creates sustainable success, it’s the intangibles like innovation, employee engagement, brand reputation, and customer evangelism that drive market performance. Stock analysts suggest that 80% of Apple’s value doesn’t appear on its balance sheet. The balance sheet is the output, just like the baseball standings are the results of how you’ve invested in your inputs.
We’re living in a new era and, yet, we’re using the old metrics. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s GDP now comes from the intangible service industry (as opposed to the tangible manufacturing or agriculture industries) where competitive advantage isn’t about who’s the biggest, but it usually goes to who’s the smartest. Savvy business leaders are learning how to measure those intangible assets like loyalty and reputation (there’s even benchmarks now for how your company is showing up on social media websites) so that they can modernize what they’re managing. What are the inputs or “Sabermetrics” in your business that you’ve been ignoring?
Fortunately, Hollywood is a step ahead of most business leaders as they realize that Moneyball defines our 21st Century world of underdogs looking for a leg up. You’ll see Brad Pitt playing Billy Beane next year when Sony Pictures brings this epic story of “what counts” to theaters around the world. Let’s hope a few business execs sneak off on their lunch hour to learn this leadership lesson on the big screen.
[Originally posted August 24, 2010 on the Huffington Post]
One of the great mysteries in life is why some of us prefer to be swamp-dwellers. Not literally. I’m not dissing those living in the low country of the Gulf States or, frankly, anyone stuck in less than pristine living conditions. No, what I’m talking about is why some of us choose to be prisoners of our own minds. My grandmother used to tell me, “Some days, you need an escort to take you through that dangerous neighborhood that is your mind.”
Ask a thoughtful swamp-dweller why they perennially veer toward the negative and they may tell you that low expectations translate into less disappointment in their lives. In fact, philosopher William James once wrote that self-esteem could be distilled down to an equation: success in life divided by expectations. Recent studies have shown that Asian-American students coming from families with high academic expectations of them tend to have lower self-esteem even when they score very well on their exams, so maybe there’s some truth to this. But, low expectations can also translate into less success when one’s spirit and motivation is poisoned by a lack of hope, meaning, or possibility in one’s life.
In the context of business, we’re all aware that some corporate cultures create a momentum of victory while others create a constant feeling of failure. Given that my company often takes over the management of hotels that are in a downward spiral, I know the signs of a troubled culture: passive aggressive communication, lots of finger pointing, and universally low expectations. Yet, there are many companies that have risen from their swamp whether it’s Continental Airlines with a newcomer CEO Gordon Bethune in the 90′s or Apple with returning CEO Steve Jobs at around that same time. In both cases, these execs first had to help all in the organization believe in themselves again and identify a few initial victories that they could point to in order to start building that momentum of victory.
My son has just been released from prison after a Federal Judge found that his constitutional rights had been violated (due to mistaken jury instructions). While he was initially ecstatic about being out after being wrongly accused for four and a half years, he started to gravitate back to familiar territory: Will the County District Attorney choose to appeal the Judge’s ruling? Of course, this has enormous implications for his life, but it’s also something he has little influence over and, for the time being, there’s so much life to catch up on and to celebrate that obsessing on the D.A.’s actions can become a no-win game. One of the responsibilities of friends and family is to escort each other through the dark alleys of our minds when there are sunny, open spaces just around the corner.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the past few days in Montana with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (and his wife Isabella), the author of Flow and many other books on how to live an optimal life. One of the basic premises of Flow is that life is at its best when we’re expertly navigating between challenge and skill. Think of a graph with two axes: with challenge on the vertical axis and skill on the horizontal axis. Flow occurs as we move diagonally away from the intersection of these two axes toward the upper right hand corner. But, most of us spend our lives toggling between boredom (low challenge, high skill) and anxiety (high challenge, low skill) living a life that feels too full of inertia or exertion.
Mihaly says someone in Flow
…concentrates their attention on a limited stimulus field, forgets personal problems, loses their sense of time and of themselves, feels competent and in control, and has a sense of harmony with their surroundings…they cease to worry about whether the activity will be productive or whether it will be rewarded…they have entered a state of flow.
This is true of individuals inside and outside of work as well as companies that pursue an organizational predilection toward Flow.
Manifesting a good life by just thinking positive thoughts is not enough. There’s no doubt that healthy psycho-hygiene creates a greater likelihood of living a life in flow with the world. But, I prefer to think of this as more like planting yourself “downwind from the flower shop.” Your willingness to build your skills and to accept challenges — emotionally, professionally, intellectually, athletically, spiritually — is your means of placing your destiny at a fortuitous intersection where good things come wafting your way. To understand how to find that flow in your life, read Mihaly’s book of the same name or Finding Flow or Good Business (to understand the context for work) or The Evolving Self (how Flow can make a difference to society).