Tag Archives: Creativity

A Forgotten Art and Component of Effective Leadership…Listening

hand draws the big idea

When people say the word “Leadership” there are lots of things that come to mind. Usually the comments center on someone who is strong, in control, good communicator, decision maker, and knowledgeable. While these are unquestionably important, there is one skill that truly differentiates the best leaders from average leaders…their ability to LISTEN.

Listening in many ways is a lost art today. Everyone has lots to say and most aren’t afraid of telling us what they think. And add into the mix the Tsunami of Social Media adoption by leaders today and you have exponentially increased the volume of content leaders have to say. So with all this talking, who has time to listen? Great leaders…that’s who.

I saw an article that was simple, yet quite impactful on 5 benefits to why the best leaders listen. The article was in Enterprise NK and I wanted to share with you what they have found to be 5 areas any leader can incorporate that will help them be a better listener. But they did it in a way that is all about how it can “benefit” the new or existing leader today. The article, “Leadership – 5 Benefits of Listening,” focuses on why this is something every leader needs more of today.

Here are their 5 Benefits as to why this can help you as a leader…

  1. You Discover Things – When leaders are simply walking around their organizations and interacting with employees in all areas of the company, if they stop talking long enough they will probably discover things they are doing as a company they didn’t even realize.
  2. You Take Better Decisions – When I first saw this I thought it was a type and the word should be “make” instead. But the way they explain it makes total sense. When you listen, you get a wider range of options presented and discussed and as such you can “take” the best decisions from the group…makes total sense now.
  3. You Gain Respect – This plays completely on the value employees place on being able to have someone of importance actually listen to what they are saying. They feel more appreciated and recognized just by the simple fact you listened instead of spewed some information.
  4. You Find Out More – This one is pretty obvious and similar to #1 other than it’s an opportunity to get more depth of what is going on in a certain area to help you make better decisions in the future with better and deeper information.
  5. You Uncover Opportunities – This is probably the culmination of the all of the above…you see things you may never have seen before and with the bright and creative mind you have as a leader, you can “translate” them into potential opportunities you may never have thought of before now.

There you have it…how many of these are you, as a leader, doing today? How many can you personally improve in? How many can your team improve in to make a stronger leadership team in your company? Maybe these could be a discussion in your next leadership team meeting…providing that the team is willing to “listen” to these ideas about listening!

15 Traits of a Terrible Leader…from Their Employees

leadership skill conceptThere are lots of lists and do’s and don’t’s about “Leadership” from Leadership experts…but what about from their employees? So when I saw this article by Success.com it made me think about it a bit more and some of the insights were quite thought provoking.

The article, “15 Traits of a Terrible Leader” was sharing feedback from the YEC (Young Entrepreneurs Council) from different members. I thought it was a list worth sharing and discussing with your leadership team to see how well you would grade yourself and your team in these areas. In a time where more and more companies are hiring Millenials and others, this is a perspective we could all use…

  1. Lack of Transparency
  2. Not Listening
  3. Dismissing Ideas other than your own
  4. Valuing Experience over Potential
  5. Ego
  6. Working 24/7
  7. Lack of Empathy
  8. Forgetting about Leadership Development
  9. Being Overly Conservative
  10. Permitting Negative Gossip
  11. Poor Communication Strategy
  12. Closed-Mindedness
  13. Assigning Blame
  14. Inconsistency
  15. Being too Slow to Adapt

You can agree or disagree with this list, but either way, I think there is value in discussing each of these to see how you, as the leader of the organization, believe you are doing in these different areas. You may choose to dismiss some based on your business but I believe this is a worthwhile group exercise to have a lively debate among your leadership team. But as I tell the CEOs/Business Owners I work with all the time, the value is in the “Process of doing” as much or more than the actual outcome. Meaning, you might not change everything, but having a healthy discussion about where you stand and “why” in each area has tremendous value.

I believe it is also valuable to “assign a score” to each item on the list. A “current score” and a “desired score.” This means you might only have a desired score of a 5 in one category and a 10 in another category (on a scale of 1 – 10) but it is how well you think you and your leadership are doing that really matters. Look at the gaps…this is a classic “gap analysis” of where you want to be and where you are. Wherever there is a big gap, schedule a time in your next management meeting to discuss “Why” and this will make for a great…and helpful…discussion.

Best Business Books of 2014?

strategy + business logoIt’s that time of year where we all talk about books that we read this past year and which ones stood out in our minds. These lists will start pouring in over the next couple of months. I will share some of these with you along the way. But to give you an early start, here are the top Business Books for 2014 as put together by Strategy+Business. Let us know if you have read any of these and what you thought…good or bad…it will help the rest of us that haven’t read them get a better idea if it is worth our time our not. Here’s the list…by topical category…

Business Strategy

Marketing

Executive Self-Improvement

Organizational Culture

Innovation

Sustainability

Economics

So if you were looking for things to fill your time during the holiday season, this should solve that problem. Enjoy…and let me know what you think of these books or if you have some of your own you would like to add to the list. If you have read a book and want to give our readers a brief summary, please e-mail me (Blaine Millet) and I would be happy to put your review up as a blog post.

A Personal Story of How to Move from Success to Significance

Larry Corey - SliderWe had the privilege of having Dr. Larry Corey, President and Director Emeritus (former CEO) of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center speak at our breakfast this past week. Not only was Dr. Corey entertaining, but his message reached everyone in the room…and got us all thinking as he shared his own personal journey.

The main message he had for us to absorb and think about was something everyone could relate to…how you move from the world of “success” to the world of “significance.” They aren’t the same usually. As the youngest full professor at the University of Washington, his career started out fast and furious. He was a researcher, someone who came up with great discoveries, and someone his fellow colleagues looked up to throughout his career.

Then something happened…he left research and went to the “dark side” as his colleagues would call it, the business side of running Fred Hutch. Leaving research for administration and management was the one thing researchers don’t understand very well. Research is the pinnacle of what they were trained for in life…and they love it. Larry gave us a great example where he told us if a researcher was given a $1M and told he could bank it, spend it, or invest it into their lab, virtually every one would invest it in their lab…that’s the level of passion and dedication these people have for what they do every day. As someone who has had family members die of cancer, I am really happy to hear that answer as they continue to work on ways to eliminate it.

Larry’s job changed from writing papers on Herpes and HIV to promoting “the Hutch” as their CEO. He had to find ways to “commercialize” it to get the funding they needed beyond the philanthropic donations they receive. He had to create awareness and building funding mechanisms to grow. He had to become a true CEO and manage, build, and promote a $400M operation. No easy task for someone spending his life in research.

He challenged all of us that lead businesses that we need to have “Self-reflection and Self-evaluation” as a CEO or leader. This is a critical component to not being just successful, but being significant. He needed to move from the success as a researcher to create significance for The Hutch. So he built a system and an operation that touched many people’s lives in ways that allowed them to continue to not only survive but grow.

As they worked to build tremendous IP (intellectual property) through their discoveries and spinning off companies other big organizations wanted to buy, they became a base for opportunities. He wishes they could keep more of these companies inside their own organization and allow them to grow and prosper as well, but that is another story. Today, he has successfully moved from the research ranks and into the leadership ranks to bring incredible significance to the work of everyone at The Hutch. He has created a brand and identity second to none in the field of cancer research and treatment. He has been a huge part in taking The Hutch to a whole new level of significance in just about everyone’s life.

Jack Welch got it Right…even for Customers

Jack WelchThere is a famous quote I always loved from Jack Welch, famous CEO from General Electric. He said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near.”

Today the rate of change is eclipsing most organizations and they can’t keep up. Competition is coming in from everywhere around the world and there aren’t any solid plans on how to deal with it. Competition is coming from places we never expected…primarily because someone else sees the inefficiencies in this particular industry. Product/Service competition is accelerating faster than we have ever seen in history. Commoditization is moving full speed ahead.

Step back from thinking about your product or service for a moment…despite all these competitive pressures. Step back and think about your Customers. Are your customers changing? Absolutely. Are the experiences they expect changing? Absolutely. Are you changing the experience you give to your customers? Most are not.

The one area you have complete and absolute control over is the experience you deliver to your customer. Complete control. You can choose what the experience should look like, feel like, smell like, and be to your customer…every day. And if your customers love your experience, the majority will forgo the latest and greatest advancements in product/service just to enjoy the experience they have with your company. This is the antithesis to commoditization…it is what customers want.

I turned Jack Welch’s quote in a slightly different direction focused on the customer, “If your customers are expecting a better customer experience than you are delivering, then the end is near.”

You have no control over the rate of change on the outside…it is just going to happen and accelerate. You do have control over what you change on the inside. I have always believed in the phrase, “Change what you have control to change and let others focus on what they can’t change.” Your customers aren’t a bad place to start. They are also probably worth the investment of time and innovation to create a totally awesome experience. The end doesn’t have to be near…it’s in your control.

Bill Gates Reading List – 2012 & 2013 – Do you Agree?

While this is the time of year when resolutions abound, one that usually makes the list for most people is to “READ MORE” than they did last year. While it might be on a Kindle or iPad or even a real book, it really doesn’t matter. So we thought we would give you a head… Continue Reading

Strategy or Strategic Plan…they aren’t the same!

The word “STRATEGY” is bantered and thrown around in many of the conversations today among top executives, especially CEOs. But what does it really mean? And are they actually talking about the same thing? I don’t think so… Years ago when I first started doing “Strategic Planning” as part of my consulting role at Arthur… Continue Reading

To innovate you need to be “Remarkable”

During one of our CEO Innovation Team meetings we talked about differentiation. Not what most think about just having a product or service that is slightly different or better than the competition, but truly differentiated – both in product/service and experience. The concept of “Being Remarkable” was introduced by a well-known thought leader in both… Continue Reading

Insight into Why Companies Can’t Innovate

As we begin to kick off our CEOtoCEO Innovation Teams, John and I are totally immersed into seeing how successful companies are innovating and on the flip side, what is keeping companies from innovating – or at least why they aren’t being as successful as they would like.  Sometimes figuring out why something doesn’t work… Continue Reading

Why do people resist innovation?

I was in a meeting this past week with a Business Owner of a mid-sized company and we were talking about, what else, how to create a social media strategy that leverages his business strategy.  While that was an interesting and lively discussion, it wasn’t the point – it was about “innovation” in his organization… Continue Reading