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.