Monday, December 29, 2014

Good Enough...Sucks

There is an odd reality to leadership. We talk about being world-class and using best practices and benchmarks to build our organizations to a level that should differentiate us from our competition.

Over time, the bureaucratic hassles and endless transactional work seems to creep into our worlds like an insidious disease. As we grow more comfortable in our roles, understand the cultures of our organizations, and appreciate how challenging the world can be, something happens.

Being good enough "suddenly" is acceptable.

Good Is Not Great
I was speaking with a colleague recently who was questioning whether or not the constant frustrations of pushing toward greatness was worth it. 

The real question was whether or not accepting good is okay sometimes, even when doing so gives you that nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach.

The answer? Hell, no!

Consider this scenario...three of your team members are having coffee and are discussing you. They talk about your style, your vision for leading the group forward, and your overall effectiveness. 

The're good enough.

How does that feel?

Let me say it...good enough sucks.

Only One Option
So here's the is impossible to be great all the time. It's also impossible to be great most of the time. "Being great" is not what I'm talking about. Striving to be great is what matters most. When your leaders, your peers, and your team members see your unwavering commitment to greatness they will follow your lead.

It will happen by default. They will not want to be left behind, they won't want to look bad, and they most certainly will not want to disappoint you when they see the amount of energy you are putting out to try and achieve an unattainable goal.

Let me say it...that type of leadership does not suck at all. In fact, it's the only kind that matters.

How About You
When was the last time you used the phrase "good enough?" Please do me a favor...stop saying that.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Future of Talent is Leader Brand

I've been a strong advocate that leaders need to be brand ambassadors for their organizations. I don't mean simply saying nice things about their companies when asked; I'm talking about a proactive approach to spread the word about the great things their organizations do on a regular basis.

After all, a strong brand attracts talented people. Talent is the name of the game in the world of business today. No talent, no product, no customers, no revenue. Capiche?

Except I've discovered a major flaw in my approach to brand.

Organizational Brand Is Not Enough
One of the core strategies of talent acquisition is to position the organization's brand in such a way that it attracts quality applicants. From there a talent pipeline is developed and the best candidates are brought on board. The organization brand is the key attraction point that brings the talent into the company. 

When we are filling positions, enhancing the corporate culture, and making progress we wrap ourselves in the corporate brand.

However, when turnover occurs, or morale dips, or there is too much "noise" in the workplace, the accountability shifts away from the spotless corporate brand and falls fully on the individual leader responsible for that area.

Wait a minute. What just happened?

Leader Brand Is Better Than Corporate Brand
Much has been written, though few have fully embraced, the concept of developing their personal brand. Honestly, I do not understand why any serious leader today is not focused like a laser on their personal brand. Here's why...

"Employees want to work for good leaders much more than they want to work for good organizations." 

Today's talent (read here really good people) know that good default...already work for good organizations, which makes the obsession with corporate brand as a stand-alone strategy a waste of time.

It is only when a strong personal (leader) brand is paired with a strong corporate brand that real talent attraction and retention can be realized.

How About You
Have you put any energy into developing your personal brand; or, are you so experienced and smart and good that you don't need one? I hate to break this to you, but if you haven't invested the time to develop your brand you are invisible...regardless of what your resume says. 

Maybe we should talk?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

(I'm Not Your) Scapegoat

Let's be honest for a minute. Leading is hard. Sometimes impossibly difficult to the point that despite our best efforts, we simply don't know what to do in the moment. When we're dealing with a crisis, or a struggling team member, or external pressure, we can fall into the trap of identifying someone as the source of our troubles versus understanding all of the facts first.

Rookies Are Obvious
This behavior happens most commonly when new leaders (from supervisor to CEO) are not comfortable handling confrontation. These well-intended folks typically do not understand that because they are uncomfortable with a situation, it does not mean they are supposed to rush to judgement simply to make themselves feel better. 

These are usually the same leaders that are passionate about culture, and teamwork, and advocating for an environment that is supportive, open and innovative. Here's the catch...because they are not willing to push themselves into areas where they can manage their discomfort, they end up looking foolish.

Leading the way to make changes for the better is admirable. However, avoiding the hard work necessary to understand issues before making judgements; getting (more) comfortable dealing with perceived problems slowly and methodically; and ensuring that the messages delivered to the team are well thought out and clear are absolutely essential.

Here's one stays if the leadership team of an organization behaves like a bunch of rookies.

How About You
What new leaders are struggling in your company? Who needs your coaching and support; and, who needs some candid feedback about how they are really perceived? It's up to us as leaders to stand alone and make it happen.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Dead Eyes See No Future (of Talent)

"The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes. Even modest talent with those characteristics grows."
- Milton Glaser

The future of work is such a wide open issue. With so many perspectives, ideas, and "guaranteed" predictions out there one might assume the next few chapters of the world of work have already been written.

But one important piece has been left out of the story. 

Leadership Talent 
Leadership will continue to make all the difference...

Check out the rest of this post over at the IBM Social Business blog.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic from IBM

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mythical Beings

I've come across hundreds of leaders in my lifetime. Many of them are so weak and ineffective it's made me wonder how they ever landed their job. 

Or any job. 


What does the ideal leader look like anyway? Are they supposed to know everything...literally everything about the business? Should they be calm in every situation? 

When it comes to decision-making, they are the ones that are supposed to have it all figured out. They are the people we all lean on when the pressure gets too intense. They are always there for the rest of us.

But who is there for them?

I'm afraid that the vision of what a leader should be has outpaced what the world will ever allow. Honestly, is anyone that good? 

Or, is there an opportunity for contemporary leaders to recognize that through relying on one another...building a small group of energized yet humble colleagues working toward a common vision...that something special can be achieved?

One of my favorite phrases in the office is to "keep it real." I say this because I don't like getting caught in the world of jargon, or HR-speak, or whatever the lingo is in the industry where I'm working.

Real people...which is everyone by the real talk. Not corporate speak, or fast-talking empty suites that can't execute on anything meaningful. Maybe it's time we stop expecting leaders to have all the answers, and allow them the freedom to engage everyone on the team to help build something special?

How About You
It turns out I've aspired to be one of those mythical beings for a long time. I've experienced the pressure to be perfect in every situation. I've felt embarrassed when I stumbled (imagine that...I'm human after all.) Leadership is a team sport...and that's not a myth at all.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Death Squad

Personal and professional transformation are phrases that often sound inspiring, yet are rarely achieved. Why is that? In a world that has changed so rapidly in the last five years, it astounds me that more leaders have not taken a long hard look in the mirror and recognized that something had to change.

Just so you look in the mirror was long...and very, very humbling.

Safe Is Death
I've spent the last twenty years in an industry that prides itself on not taking risks. Slow and steady avoids bad PR and other external forces with nefarious intent. So how does one "raised" in that environment decide to reinvent himself?

The answer for me was quite simple actually...the modern world of work demanded that I change.

Sure, I could try to play it safe for the next few years...and as my friend Ted Coine
likes to say I could "get comfortable with obsolescence."

Quite simply following a risk-averse hide in your comfort zone leadership style means professional death. No one will believe you are current. No one will believe you understand how the world works. And by the way, all of those millennials that will dominate your workforce in the next few years will never trust you to lead them in any way.

"The modern world of work demands that you get current. It doesn't matter if you don't like it. It's no longer up to you."

It Won't Kill You
As it turns out, transformation does not end your career. It creates new opportunities. Transformation does not hurt your credibility. It takes it to a place you didn't think you could get to. 

Transformation does not put you at risk in your "play-it-safe-until-I'm-useless" world. It changes you into a leader that others wish they could be.

Isn't it time you pushed yourself beyond processing paperwork and answering emails faster and faster and counting that as progress?

How About You
Staying with your status quo crowd is the real threat. The death squad you're so afraid of is the one you already belong to. It's time to break free and jump into the modern world of work. Remember, real leaders recognize they no longer have a choice. 

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Stand Up and Shout - #NewWayToWork

Last December I threw in the towel. I had been living in a never ending battle with my Inbox and had lost all hope. I gave up...thinking I could never actually integrate the most important communication tools and documents in my world into one place.

...and the email kept coming...

A New Way
Two weeks ago I participated in something truly amazing. I was one of 30 digital influencers brought to New York City to be a part of IBM's launch of an incredible new product: IBM Verse.

I was excited on several levels. Being part of a major product kick-off was cool enough. But when you add that the product could actually help me in my work...well...I'm all in!

Moving beyond the buzz, the execs, and the inspiring trendy start-up leaders who spoke, I was taken aback by the seismic shift that is underway at IBM. Our experience involved much more than just a fancy product launch. 

We spent three days connecting...challenging the collective wisdom about the world of work...and learning about the radical transformation underway at IBM that is now delivering products like IBM Verse.

I didn't see it coming.

Now I can't wait to get started! 

It's All About the End User
What excited me the most was that the new approach at IBM, and candidly what should be every organization's priority, is the end user. What is best for the customer, the employee, the get the point!

What will make a difference for those we're working with instead of what is most convenient for us? 

That my friends is the way we all should focus our leadership styles forevermore.

Who's with me?

How About You
Check out IBM Verse and see for yourself how you can integrate all the aspects of your world into one place. It's clean, straightforward, and simple. It's time to stand up and shout about the future of work and how we want it to function...with us in mind. Isn't that how the world should be anyway?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, November 24, 2014

We Shall Destroy - #Thinkathon 2014

Last week I had the privilege to attend the inaugural Thinkathon session in New York City hosted by the amazing team at purematter and IBM Social Business. Thirty of us were brought together from all walks of digital life to tackle the future of work. 

What does it look like? 
How will people work? 

What will the workplace...and workspace...look like?
What about loyalty?

What about full-time employment?
Will any work get done?

What about the younger-aged (and younger-minded!) workforce? Are they all self-serving work-life balance fanatics who don't appreciate 70 hour work weeks?

We were brought together to destroy the world of work as it exists today.

The Future is Cool...and Scary!
Our session kicked off with a fascinating (and haunting) message from Faith Popcorn, a prophetic futurist who is so accurate you'll want to follow her around and simply listen. 

Robots, genetic transformation, and the potential for more than one hundred million displaced workers got us all fired up to continue our mission!

Start Destroying!
The afternoon was then taken over by Hendre Coetzee, an absolutely brilliant facilitator and leader who guided our group of "world-of-work assassins" through a series of highly interactive and challenging sessions on what it will mean to work in the future.

We powered through five key drivers that will change how we work forever:
- the future of work talent
- the future of work culture
- the future of big data/analytics at work
- the future of technology at work
- the future of work collaboration/communication

Whoa! Heavy topics for a group of heavy-hitters!

By the way, when, not if, you seek out Hendre for guidance in your own organization you will not be disappointed. He is masterful at his craft.

How About You
The man that made this all possible was Bryan Kramer, CEO of purematter and the connection to the IBM Social Business team. Kudos to you Bryan and your amazing team for putting together an event that blew me away. (The following two days focused on IBM's #NewWayToWork campaign...more on that later!)

What are you doing to get out in front of the evolving world of work? Are you clinging to the status quo? Don't do it! The future is now! I'm fired up to hack the future of work in my organization! Who's ready to destroy with me?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

thinkathon pic

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Expert In You

As it turns out, I wasn't born with experience. In anything

I made my way through high school and college...still no experience. I stumbled in to the world of work and tried to find my way. I didn't have any experience at that point either. So I jumped in to graduate school...clinging to a little tiny speck of real life.

I did have one important thing...lots of confidence. It's not that I wasn't intimidated by those around me with years and years of experience. They offered perspectives on issues that I didn't even realize existed.

But I listened...and learned...and wanted more.

So, I figured that if it was going to take me a lifetime of learning to become an "expert" I might as well dive in and try my best right out of the gate. So I did. I tried new things. I took risks. I used tools that other people thought were a waste of time in meetings (remember when PowerPoint was new and cool?)

My confidence never wavered, even if the those around me thought I was wasting my time.

One of the unexpected outcomes of being both confident and willing to take risks is that good things happen. For me those good things meant new jobs with expanded responsibilities. 

Even when I took a risk on an operations role that was eliminated a year later, I knew I had made the right decision to go for it. How many HR leaders have actually spent any time in an operations role? 

I've continued to take risks...BIG ones! But each was worth it. Even when others simply didn't see the value because they had not allowed themselves to open their minds to the modern world of work. 

It's okay. We all get there eventually...maybe I'm cursed being on a different schedule than others.

How About You
Do you have the potent combination of confidence and risk inside of you? I think so. It creates opportunities for those of us willing to see them. It opens doors that a few years ago we might not even have seen right in front of us. It can make all the difference.

I'm no expert...but I do know that life is too short to hold back. Take a closer look at your world...and go for it.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 


Monday, November 10, 2014

HR and the Power It Holds

I love modern, sleek furniture. The days of giant dark wood desks and foreboding offices are gone for me. I prefer a more open style that sends a message to everyone that I'm not hiding behind my over-sized mahogany (esque) structures anymore.

Doesn't the HR job title already get in the way of employees being comfortable in our workspace?

More Power
There's another furniture discussion  we've all heard in the HR universe. I don't like that one for a couple of reasons.

First, HR has lots of power. Don't believe me? Just ask any employee that has been in trouble since 1950. Still don't believe me? Try randomly selecting an employee and asking them to come to your office because "you need to speak with them." I wonder what type of reaction you would get?

Second, whining is lame, it detracts from the credibility of the profession, and erodes the HR leader's personal brand. Oh yes, personal brand. By now we all realize that EVERYTHING we do affects our personal brand. There is no distinction between personal and professional life any longer.

There is only life.

Share the Power
In what seems like a never-ending attempt to cling to the power crumbs thrown from the operations leaders, HR can lose focus. Our reality is that through reaching out and allowing other leaders to feel they have some of HR's power, we will actually grow our value to the organization.

Consider this...a manager who is stressed about a difficult situation in her department reluctantly reaches out to HR for support. Feeling as if she's failed and has to give up control in order to get her problem resolved, HR has a decision to make.

The shrewd HR leader does much more than "coach" the leader through her problem. The real opportunity for HR is to focus on ensuring that leader feels valued. 

The performance planning process no longer equates with the leader's failure. Instead, it becomes a partnership with a colleague vs. an exercise in waving the white management flag.

Don't let the leaders in your organization surrender. The connection you build with them in lieu of "telling them how to handle the situation because they couldn't figure it out" will push your value and power through the roof.

Everybody wins. I like winning.

How About You
Who holds the power in your organization? You have more than you think. Respecting that power, and sharing it with your colleagues will go a long way to building your brand, and your HR team's brand too. Everybody wins.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Out of Place

“Life is at its best when everything has fallen out of place, and you decide that you're going to fight to get them right, not when everything is going your way and everyone is praising you.”
- Thisuri Wanniarachchi 

What are you going to fight for today?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

New Found Power

"Good enough."

"No complaints."

"It's all good."

We use these terms all the time, don't we? It's as if we've accepted that our careers, or lives, or passions naturally settle into a routine that is less than stellar.


I love the work I do. You probably do too. That doesn't mean I like every single thing I'm responsible for, but in total I am passionate (yes, I used that word) about leadership and change and innovation. But what happens if the work we love suddenly becomes something different over time? What if we finally notice that the energy and excitement we once felt has changed?

Maybe the work has evolved and we just didn't notice? Maybe expectations have changed and we didn't fully understand? Maybe the natural changes that occur in life caught up with us and "suddenly" we realize that what we once believed to be true is no longer accurate?
Drama and Power
Once we have clarity that our careers, or lives, or passions are just "good" a new world opens up before us. I'm not convinced that life should just be good enough, or that I should be thankful for everything just so I don't sound ungrateful.

Why shouldn't your career be great? Why shouldn't you be fired up when you think about your work? Why is settling something we're almost expected to do?

I'm not playing that game, and neither should you.

When the drama around you becomes the work...when the behavior around you gets in they way of good leadership...when the noise is the real culture... need to stop playing along.

How About You
Let's return to a time when our energy and passion drove us to excel in our work. Hold others accountable. Hold yourself accountable. Keep pushing yourself and those around you to avoid the trap that settling represents. It's time to take your power back because quite honestly...settling stinks.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Toxic Sleep

I've spent years working out....and stopping...then starting again. It's not an uncommon cycle for many of us. I tried various strategies, programs and tricks to keep myself motivated. None of them had the staying power to help me move from being a "talker" about fitness to actually becoming committed to my health, until the summer of 2013.

Physical Health Is Not Enough
If you asked me if I knew working out and eating clean were good for me I would obviously answer yes. But if you asked me if I knew how to commit to being healthy I would only recently be able to answer.

That's the funny part. My brain knew the right answer, but I did not fully realize the powerful difference eating clean and regular exercise would make in my life.

For the last fourteen months I've had a different answer when I'm asked about health and fitness. 

Life Is 90% Mental
My transition from knowing I needed to workout, to understanding that I needed to be committed every day has changed me.


My world starting moving faster than ever before. Yours may have picked up speed too. Balancing the many hats we wear in life, managing nonstop changes in the workplace, and pushing myself to take on new challenges for the first time in my career all happened during this period of time.

...but I couldn't figure out how to quiet my mind when it was racing with so many thoughts, ideas, and pressures.

...but I couldn't find the right formula to balance my energy for the responsibilities I had to deliver on.

...but I couldn't "do fitness half way" and find any peace.


So I went all in. I realized the combination of eating clean, a decent amount of sleep, training at a high level, and pushing myself harder than ever before actually brought a sense of calm I had not experienced in the past. 

Think about that for a moment. My commitment to health actually slows my life down, gives me some control, and brings me peace each day.

How About You
What techniques do you use to quiet your mind? Do the vices in your world include a commitment to building energy through hard work in the gym or at home with a DVD or workout routine? 

Is your network part of your fitness lifestyle? Do you fuel your body to build the energy you will need to be successful? Or, do you allow stress to be a convenient excuse to sit on the couch and make unhealthy choices.

Find some peace today.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.