There are things that work and many more that don't. Let's discuss what we've experienced . . . not our opinions . . . but actually what our days and nights as marketers, business leaders, parents, people are teaching us. Please give us a hand. Tell us about your experience with this stuff.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Leading an Organizational Breakthrough

Great organizations are not only built on the genius of one or two people.  If that were not true, Apple's stock would be moving toward zero.

However, few organizations understand how to harness the insight and intelligence of their managers who are so close to the product/service and sometimes closer to the clients?

Over and over, its been my experience that if I use a proven facilitation process to get my team to address strategic, tactical and business issues, the team doesn't just do well, they exceed my expectations.  And the team can be high-end professionals or line managers.  In total, they know more, are committed more and will respond to any effort which sincerely allows them to identify opportunities and strategies to become better than we currently are.

What is actually required of the leader is two things:
  1. They must set the bar:  what are we trying to do or where are we trying to go.  And most importantly they must make it clear that 'the train has left the station, so get on board'.
  2. The leader must engage their team in a process that brings the most important ideas to the forefront and ensures that the plan to reach the bar is representative of his team.  This is not only important for 'buy-in', but truly, the best ideas will come from the team.  (note:  I define 'best' as ideas which meet the bar criteria and which will get executed.  There are great ideas that can't or won't be executed by the team and those ideas mean nothing.)
So our math here for organizational breakthroughs depends on the leader setting the bar, providing a team process for planning/execution and making sure they don't get in the way too much.  People don't just surprise you sometimes, they can surprise you almost always, if given a chance.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Want High Performance? Do What Jacob Does

I was recently visiting Kansas City and watching my 5 year old grandson, Jacob, play baseball (with 7 year olds) when a line drive was hit up the middle and Jacob leaped to his left, became parallel with the ground and made an amazing catch.  The entire parent crowd on both sides let out an audible 'wow'.

After the catch, many parents came by Jacob's father and expressed their amazement at the catch.  'Such talent', 'I can't believe he caught  that', etc.

But what I knew was that Jacob had made that catch hundreds of times before.  The year before (when he was four), at Jacob's insistence, I had spent an hour throwing balls that required him to dive in order to catch them.  I knew that for years Jacob has been making the throws, the catches and the plays that the other parents and coaches were dazzled by.   And that it was less about talent, though he has that in abundance, and more about practice.  Even at 5, there is no baseball game, no soccer game, no basketball game that will present Jacob with a situation where its his first rodeo.

He has pitched 100's of baseball games (not pitches, games).  He has scored a thousand goals.  It is what he does.  He has separated himself from his peers based on his practice.  Oh, by the way, did I mention that he is always the smallest player on the field?  Makes no difference.

There is no substitute for experience.  Not talent, not intuitive insight, not knowledge from a book.

And there is no substitute for practice.  Your 'n' count for the number of times you've tested it, done it, researched it is almost everything.

It comes down to what you have done . . .over and over again.  Ask Larry Bird and yes, Micheal Jordan.  Both legendary men of practice.

What's the great old quote?  'Wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from bad decisions.'  You betcha.

Are you talking?  Talk from experience.  Note your practice and decide if you should open you mouth.

Are you defining yourself professionally?  Please do it from what you've done.  Then seek to get as much practice at the things which give you energy and joy.

Malcolm Gladwell famously refers to an old study we had been referring to for years.  As I remember it, its purpose was to find the predictors of professional success for Julliard violin students.  After identifying and testing a myriad of variables, it was found that practice was the clearest and most dependable predictor.  Those students who practiced some 6,000 hours became members of an orchestra; those who practice 8,000 hours might become the concert master (head the violin section); those who practiced 10,000 hours could have a solo career.

So the math for high performance is:  do what Jacob does.  You find the thing that gives you energy and joy and then you do it as many times as your resources and opportunities will allow you to do it. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confusion is Sending You a Friendly Message

Particularly as a young man, I felt a need to be sure of myself and strident and to walk with conviction.

I see many people in their 20's these days with a similar attitude. I refer to it as 'Young Man's disease" which, of course, is an omage to my own history.

However through the years, some important people have encouraged me to prize clarity over progress and over action. And for me, clarity takes time.

I can't overstate how many decisions I've made in my life where I've substituted desire for clarity or truth for clarity or guilt for clarity. All of those can be incredibly destructive in the wrong situation. And each tends to minimize or eliminate other important points of view.

And there is the danger. When one does not have the necessary professional or personal experience to make certain decisions or deal with challenging circumstances, one tends to substitute the natural confusion that can normally exists with ego, false confidence and defensiveness. And unfortuneately that leads to many minor disasters and some not so minor.

So the math here reads like this:  Move too slow and it may cost you something, move too fast and it could cost you almost everything (paraphrasing Brant Bryan; yeah, I didn't listen to him).  But if you want to know when to move, decide, take action, then you will have to cultivate a discipline which leads you to clarity; and this will take time.