Community Leadership

community leadershipHave you ever been asked to help with a great cause to share and make a difference within your community?

A couple of months ago, I was approached by Shawn Murphy of Achieved Strategies to see if I wanted to contribute a guest blog post. It was a blog series titled “Revive and Thrive” and its focus was for this new year of 2011. Of course, I was willing to participate and help add value to the cause. Being able to contribute alongside the many great members of the leadership community was a great privilege.

At the time, I focused on four key areas in which I found to be important based on discussions with leaders from several communities, such as Lead Change Group, Twitter’s #CustServ chat which is focused on Customer Service and is held every Tuesday night at 9 PM Eastern Time, and those from the 2010 World Business Forum Blogger’s Hub.

In a post titled “What’s Next” – The four areas in which I felt were important for us to ‘Revive and Thrive in 2011’ were: Relationships, Following, Leading, and Experience.

I believe that each of the four, are key areas in which we need to focus on during the rest of this year. The relationships we have in our lives today are paving the way we choose to live our lives tomorrow. With positive communication, we are able to help others achieve their goals and dreams. If any of these become hindered, we need to recognize and respond to it immediately. Almost all problems stem from lack of and/or poor communication.

The next two key areas I feel go hand and hand, a ‘yin and yang’ of principals if you will. Following and Leading. This is always a great topic of discussion, as many times people will ask “What makes a great leader?” “How can somebody lead all the time and never follow?” “If somebody is following others, how are they able to lead?” – I think you get the idea.

The fact of the matter is that both are equally important and tend to feed each other. Who we follow today are those we will lead tomorrow. And, those who we lead today will help those we want to follow tomorrow. If we continue to follow the “Define, Learn, Do” model – we continue to keep things moving in the right direction. Forward.

Lastly, I touched on the importance of Experience. All of us are here for a very short period of time. When we are able to connect with others, we are opening the doors to new experiences. Whether it is personally, professionally, or spiritually – what we do today cannot be taken away from us. There is so much opportunity available to us, only we can make the decision to make our goals and dreams become realities.

Take One Step Back, and Two Steps Forward

one step back two steps forwardHave you ever taken a step back to look where you are in your career? Do you have yourself positioned to move forward if you so choose to? Sometimes advancing is easier than you think.

Just the other day, I reconnected with an old friend. Currently working at a Help Desk she expressed an interest in both Project Management and Business Analysis, IT related.

Here is what I told her I saw based on previous experience:

The ITIL (glorified glossary but some staffers love seeing the cert) seems to be gaining more and more weight within the IT industry. When it was first introduced, it was a joke. Nothing more than a test of one’s understanding of terms… no focus on fundamental platforms, understanding of code, or overall logic. But, it now actually contains some good placement. You probably already see the ridiculous amount of certifications that are available. Most are in place to appease employers, but I’ve found experience outweighs any certification I’ve ever obtained, and I stopped counting after 20. It just got out of control past that.

While consulting, I found that both areas (project management and business analysis) of interest that you have can blend together very well. A project manager for IT based rollouts don’t need to be much of a techie, just the ability to have a basic understanding of what is going on and how to efficiently and effectively communicate with the buyer, the vendor(s) and his or her internal workforce. Some of my best paying jobs were when I would oversee and new rollout or system integration. If you’re easy to get along with and can communicate well with others, it’s a piece of cake.

Unfortunately, true “business analysts” are in a tough position right now. Due to the current upswing in the marketplace, companies are not looking at cutting costs (surprisingly) as they are looking at preparing for the next 10 to 15 years of growth and revenue generation. Expect to see a lot more small businesses pop up and loyalty based cultures get put in place amongst them. The ‘big box’ corporate strongarms are going to get gobbled up by larger/merging markets and will flounder as (cough) “standards” – for the masses.

What are you doing now… is it scalable? Is it helping you? Or is it hindering your opportunity for advancement in the workforce?

Business Startup Wealth Building

startup wealth“Your largest wealth-building asset is your income. When you tie up your income, you lose.” ~ Dave Ramsey

Does it take money to make money?

Income represents money you can invest to make more money. If you tie up all your future income, you will always be living in the past. As Dave Ramsey tells his listeners every week, you cannot jump at an opportunity without the necessary cash on hand.

Planning ahead for financial “curveballs”

Entrepreneurs need to plan ahead for business expenses – and planning ahead includes collecting the funds you need to start your business. Some people do this with credit cards (not a fan at all, but I’ll touch on that later), which can be useful IF you keep your debt to a manageable level. Risks arise as you go overboard buying things you don’t need.

Your Business Plan Lays Down the Groundwork

Your business plan can help you keep track of the financing amount you need and provide you with a blueprint for the necessary purchases you need to make before launching your startup. If you are starting a business that requires an inventory, your start-up capital needs to be greater than if you are starting a service based business where you will make money from your labor.

Stay Liquid

Successful entrepreneurs also know the value of keeping cash at hand to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. And they know the importance of saving time for the future, by not paying for the past.

Do you have any business startup stories to share about financial tips and tricks?

“Abs at Jabz” – Why Switching It Up Helps

jabz health naples floridaThe other day I walked into the gym to find that once again… the machines and workstations have been moved! Here is a little something I learned from this…

So I’ve been a member of the gym I go to for over a year now and I’m glad I made the switch when I did. Before joining Jabz Health and Fitness, I worked out at a Lifestyle Fitness, also for about a year. Both gyms are good, but are very different in many ways.

For me, when I got back into a dedicated workout routine, Lifestyle Fitness was fine. It was a fairly large fitness center and offered quite a few amenities (pool, tanning, spin classes, day care, and a great locker room with a private entry sauna). It was a gym where all levels of members walked the floors, each with their own set of goals, both long and short term. There was a certain social aspect that I imagine appeals to most, but I am the type of person who likes to go in, get my swol on, and leave. After 8 months or so, a certain social level started to develop there and I began to notice members weren’t so focused with their workouts, but were more focused on chit chatting and gawking at any new guy or girl that walked in the door. The motivation I had started to drop off a little bit and a change of scenery was in need. My workout partner mentioned that he had stopped by his old gym, which was once a Gold’s Gym, and suggested to go check it out.

Upon walking in, I sensed a level of intensity that was very appealing. There was a certain smell the gym had, the lighting seemed to be just right, the machines looked used but not busted up…rugged if you will. The free weights were more than adequate, and to top it off…there were several dedicated spots for boxing, cage fighting, and MMA training. This is exactly what I was looking for, without even knowing it!

Recognizing The Comfort Zone

After a few months of solid results, the gym decided to move some stations around. At first, this was an annoyance because I just got familiar with where everything was at. I then began to realize this was a good thing, as for it allowed me to find machines that I’d normally wouldn’t use. This was a good thing because, after a year or so of the same routine, I began to notice I was overtraining and not switching it up enough.

Sometimes when we hit plateaus and things become stagnant, we need to switch things up a bit. I’m a firm believer that if we don’t do it ourselves, God will do it for us. When we stay inside our comfort zones too long, we begin to become oblivious to our surroundings and often lose sight of what we’ve been keeping our eye on the entire time. I feel that the “workstation relocation” was a good thing and it made me realize that I needed to change things up a bit, both inside the gym and out.

When you realize that you are in need of change, what works good for you and how do you go about doing it?

7 Abilities Of The Indispensable Leader

indispensable leaderAs some of you know, I’ve been reading a lot more than usual. I believe this to be a transformational period for me, one that I’m embracing more and more each and every day. For the past six months or so, I find myself reading 5 or 6 books at a time while listening to one audiobook each week while walking/running to and from the gym. After a long break, I’ve come to appreciate the views of many great authors. Some in which a lot of us have heard of and deserve all the credit they receive… if not more. And then there are the authors that many never hear about for one reason or another.

This takes me to the old saying that “You become the person you will be in five years from the books you read and the people you surround yourself with.” I find it more and more amazing each day how we can grow as servant leaders by seeing the world through other’s eyes. When a worldview is presented in front of us by somebody else, I often feel like it’s a paradigm shift. Of course, reputation and creditability have a huge impact on this, but what if they didn’t? What if we take what we’ve learned up to today and use our own judgment and choose to move forward by what we read and create something remarkable?

Ironically, I’ve recently finished reading Seth Godin’s latest, Linchpin along with re-reading Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind… back to back.

This has been very good for me, as for I’ve needed to step further into my creative (or lack thereof) side of life and out of my over-analytical logic based left brain. In addition to rewriting my first book and finishing up the outline for my second book, I’ve been racking my brain (or brains so-to-speak) to create something meaningful, something that will help others based on what I’ve learned and allow for it to be absolutely remarkable…even if it’s small.

Seth Godin has expressed 7 attributes which he feels are what indispensable leaders need to possess. I have taken some notes and highlighted them here:

1. The ability to provide a unique interface between the members of the organization.

Your organization is a network. What holds it together and why? Making sure that everybody is there for the right reasons. A mission…the tribe knows where they are going and racking up accomplishments along the way. An indispensable leader help lead while he or she connects with the organization. The organization also needs to include the customers and prospects…providing the bridge from the outside world to the company.

2. Being able to deliver unique creativity.

Creativity is personal, original, unexpected, and useful. It requires domain knowledge and trust. Being able to deliver unique creativity is the most challenging part…not only to help the organization grow as a team but to also allow for us to continue being indispensable.

3. The courage to manage a situation or organization of great complexity.

When situations get complex, there is no manual, or some say “no map.” Indispensable leaders make their own maps and find the way as they continue to focus on the tribes objective(s).

4. Demonstrating the ability to lead customers.

We are living in times where markets are shifting and audiences are spreading out. Consumers are seeking engagement. They are looking for people to follow. The traditional (or 20th century if you will) model of commerce defined a brand and a team of people goes sell it to those who are willing to buy. It’s a very static approach and definitely a one-way transaction. “Here is the latest widget… take it or leave it” and at the end of the day, it’s still a widget. The 21st-century model is very fluid, interactive and decentralized. Meaning, organizations need more than what they’ve been used to. It means that every person that interacts with a consumer, or a business, or even other team members who work from within needs to be focused on marketing as leadership. There is no script, no manual, no map… just the ability to lead.

5. Inspiring staff

A friend and I were having a conversation the other day and some of Newton’s Laws came up. This got me to somehow relate the laws to teams and their efforts. A team at rest tends to stay at rest and forward motion is not the default state of any group of people, especially large groups of people. When there are many levels of management, politics and such all become a factor and then before you know it…everything seems to slow down due to excessive process. If the work environment is that of an industrial platform, a factory or manufacturing facility, then this isn’t much of a problem, as for the owner or foreman controls the department heads, and the department heads oversee his or her shift leaders and so on.

6. Providing domain knowledge.

Combining knowledge with smart decisions and generous contributions can change the way things are done. Strategy and motivation, combined with emotion and confidence allow for the map makers of our society be able to contribute to our organizations in ways that allow for everyone to understand the meaning, the common goal so deeply.

7. Possessing a unique talent.

Leaders need to be able to see things that the follower doesn’t already. Possessing a unique talent/skill allows for a team to collaborate creatively and effectively. When seeds are planted, beautiful things begin to grow. It is up to us to decide how we are going to nurture and manicure it.

I am very interested in your to share your voice on this matter. How do you see these abilities playing a role in your life?

Using Simplicity To Stimulate Innovation

steve levitt wbf2010Co-author of the bestseller Freakonomics, Steve Levitt, took the stage at the World Business Forum to share stories about tax fraud, passing gas, and prostitution. This was definitely not a typical economics discussion, but a great storytelling experience. He expressed how some of the best ideas in business today are also the simplest ones.

“The best ideas are the simplest ones, and after you hear them they’re totally obvious, yet they evade us for years and years and years. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking to have great ideas. You just have to think and keep your eyes open.” ~ Steve Levitt

He said the problem most businesses have is that they don’t make time to step back and think about things like academics within the organizations.

“As an academic, I do nothing,” Steve said. “I am in the classroom 60 hours a year. Other than that I can do whatever I want and can think about ideas. In most workplaces, people have jobs to do and that gets in the way of thinking and creating innovative ideas.” One company that bucks that trend is Google, which encourages employees to spend 20 percent of their time on new ideas. This has led to Google Maps and other tools for the company.

Also, academics dedicate their time working on one question incredibly well. In business, people have hundreds of questions to answer by the end of the week. With that much volume, it’s hard to answer each question well. In some cases, just an answer is sufficient.

Levitt said he is jealous of businesses because they have their own data to work with. “Businesses create their own data,” he said. “As an academic I have to sit back and wait for it.” While businesses have a lot of data, many companies tend to make big decisions without feedback or metrics in place to learn about what they’ve done. He recommends that for every decision, companies should answer the question, “in a month, will I know if that was a good decision or bad decision?” Otherwise the data is just data, not insight.

The most striking difference between academics and business in Levitt’s view is that academics come from a perspective of “I don’t know,” he said. “Meanwhile, the phrase “I don’t know” is the least common phrase in business. It seems that everyone’s job is to pretend they know the answer.

He challenged the audience at Radio City Music Hall to repeat the phrase to themselves at least once a day, and to also encourage employees to do it. Once they say it, it allows them to step back and experiment with new ideas. “If you can never admit you don’t know the answers to questions, you can never get better.”

Something I found interesting and brave (to say the least), was that he left the audience with brief personal story. A story about his meeting with a call girl (for business purposes), and how he advised her to raise her fee with no adverse impact on business. She just needed to take a step back and think about it.

Take a moment to step back and look how you can simplify your innovative passions. How would you do it and how would you help others simplify their goals?

Three Items About Social Technologies

charlene li wbf2010Co-founder of Altimeter Group, Charlene Li, spoke on the first day at the World Business Forum. She passionately expressed the value of social technologies.

“Social technologies are all about the relationships you can form.”

Here are a few items of interest and advice from Charlene Li:

1. What social technologies does better than anything else is create, foster, and build relationships. They enable authentic and transparent relationships.

2. You can’t control personal relationships, so don’t think you can control business relationships. In fact, you have to give up control in the social space, but you have to still be in command. To do this you have to inspire and lead your customers.

3. You simply cannot put a Return On Investment on a tweet. Make sure you’re asking the right questions when thinking about what to measure regarding the value of social technologies.

The one thing that stood out about Charlene was the connection she made with the audience. Her sincerity and passion poured out effortlessly. She focused on the importance of emotional intelligence within communities, both personally and professionally.

How do you use social technologies to enhance your relationships?

Three Key Elements Of A Performance Culture

carlos brito wbf2010During the World Business Forum, Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, explained to the audience his three elements of a performance culture: dream, people, and culture.

Dream:

Dreams are important because they set the bar. Once you set that bar it anchors everything. You have to dream big. Dreams have to be stretched but credible. And you have to know about 80 percent how you’re going to get there; the rest you can figure out along the way.

The dream has to inspire and align people. Organizations are formed by people… this is obvious, but that can be easily forgotten. If leaders work in harmony on that dream, the company goes forward. When company leaders don’t work together, things stall and often begin to fall apart.

Keep raising the bar; don’t be afraid to dare and try harder. Be public about it. Make it measurable. Be remarkable!

People:

Great organizations are formed by great people. No one says, “I’m going to hire average people.” Great people are the ones who, when given the right training and opportunities, will get better than the managers who hired them. If you’re afraid of hiring people better than you, you’re not a good leader. The benefit of hiring great team players is that those people will push you to do better, too.

Great people attract other great people, it’s a magic and a perpetuating experience. Conversely, mediocre people like to work together because it’s easier. Great people like a meritocracy; they like to know what their future opportunities are. Put pressure on your team. Good teams perform best under pressure.

You have to be the coach and spend time with people. Imagine if a sports coach didn’t coach and train his team. He’d be fired. Don’t say your agenda’s too busy. Make time for your people.

One of the few sustainable competitive advantages an organization has is its people. If you hire and train right, competitors can’t duplicate it.

Culture:

Create a culture of ownership. If I’m an owner, failure is not an option.
Think about rental cars. People treat them differently than their own car. You don’t want that attitude in your companlong-termng job hoppers. You want people who think long term and who feel a sense of ownership in the organization. Zappos is an excellent example of this.

Show that you value great employees’ contributions by training and promoting people from within.

What are your thoughts about Carlos’ three key elements of a performance culture?

Jim Collins’ List Of 10 To-Dos For Successful Leadership

jim collins successful leadershipThis morning at HSM’s World Business Forum, Jim Collins, leadership expert and author of Built to Last and Good to Great shared a list of 10 to-dos for successful leadership:

1. Do your diagnostics. (There are free tools at www.jimcollins.com). Self-assess how you’re doing. Find weaknesses to improve upon.

2. Don’t focus on your career; focus on building pockets of greatness throughout your career.

3. Fill key seats with the right people. Ask yourself whether that’s the case in your organization. If not, start to make changes.

4. Adjust your questions to statements ration; focus on being interested more than on being interesting.

5. Ask yourself, How is the world changing and what are the brutal facts? Do a brutal facts inventory.

6. Turn off your gadgets and create white space. One day for every two weeks. No email, cell, etc., instead spend time engaged in hard disciplined thinking.

7. Time is truly the great equalizer. The question is not what we do, it’s what we have the discipline to stop doing. Rank order priorities and remove the bottom of the list.

8. Get insight into your passion; consider how you and your organizations can be useful in a way that society values.

9. Stop doing titles! The right people for key seats realize they don’t have a job, they have responsibilities.

10. Set big hairy audacious goals (for 15-20 years out) so you’re creating your own future. Spend more time asking how can be useful instead of show you can be successful.

“Never give in,” he said. “Never, never, never, never.”

World Business Forum 2010

world business forum 2010Six weeks ago, I received an invitation to be a featured blogger at the 2010 World Business Forum, which is being held October 5th and 6th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Come to find out, this is an invitation-only opportunity offered to a select group of top business bloggers and establishes a membership amongst the WBF10 Bloggers Hub.

As I read over the invite, I was uncertain if it was actually true. I expressed gratitude for kindly extending the invitation to attend the forum and asked why I was chosen to attend, as for I felt that I had yet to contribute anything of significance to the leadership community. Micheal Singer replied with: “I found your blog on someone else’s blogroll, and I took a brief look and liked what I saw. We’re looking for interesting viewpoints. And while many of our bloggers have institutional ties and recognition, etc., we also want some new voices. This is a great opportunity to stretch your voice and reach some new people if you want the opportunity. It’s that simple.”

Past speakers in the World Business Forum include political figures such as Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Rudy Giuliani, Tony Blair and Colin Powell, CEOs such as Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Herb Kelleher and John Chambers, financial experts Alan Greenspan and Jeremy Siegel as well as management experts Tom Peters, Peter Drucker and Jim Collins among others. This year’s World Business Forum boasts a dynamic agenda and a dizzying array of speakers, including former U.S. Vice-President/Nobel Prize Recipient Al Gore; Avatar director James Cameron; Blue Ocean Strategy co-author Renée Mauborgne and more than a dozen other exciting thought leaders spanning the spectrum of world business.

After inquiring with the management company responsible for putting together the forum, I found that as a member of the WBF10 Bloggers Hub, I will be spending two days with a bird’s eye view of these thought leaders as they explore the latest trends and changes in global business today. The Hub will also offer me an unparalleled opportunity to share their insights with my audience via blog, twitter, etc… something very important to me, as for its readers just like you that keep me at this.

To see a list of the bloggers who participated last year and to read a sample of their posts, visit the World Business Forum’s Blogger Hub; you can find complete details about WBF10, including all the conference speakers and topics here.