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100 Best Business Books of All Time

Following years of reading, appraising, and retailing business books, 800-CEO-READ creator Jack Covert, ex-president Todd Sattersten, and present general manager Sally Haldorson have selected and appraised the one hundred greatest business titles of all time—the ones that dispense the biggest payoff for today’s occupied readers. It’s a great list, and in the vein of all lists, bound by argument and long-windedness about what is and isn’t contained in this list. Each book gets a couple of pages of outline handling.

Best Business Books on Improving Your Life

Best Business Books on Leadership

Best Business Books on Strategy

Best Business Books on Sales and Marketing

Best Business Books on Economics and Metrics

Best Business Books on Management

Best Business Biographies

Best Business Books on Entrepreneurship

Best Narratives of Fortune and Failure

Best Business Books on Innovation and Creativity

Best Books on Big Ideas About the Future of Business

Best Business Books on Management and Leadership Lessons

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Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

Create Partners, Not Employees or Followers

People want to succeed. The vast majority want to feel good about themselves and their work. Nevertheless, sometimes, it is tremendously difficult to balance day-to-day duties with the emotional needs of your employees.

There are no quick fixes or simple formulas for generating a culture that unleashes the competency of people. It occasionally requires intervention into a number of dimensions of organizational life: challenging management philosophy and practices, communicating and aligning everyone to the business strategy, cultivating processes and systems, providing training in social and business skills, etc.

Whom would you rather have at your side in a tough spot? A partner who shares full responsibility for decisions and their outcomes? Alternatively, a subordinate who does just what you say and shuts up about ideas he has that may be better.

Rationally, you want the former; emotionally, you may choose the latter. Leaders bow to a multitude of short-term pressures: severe demands for quarterly earnings, risk aversion, distress with uncertainty, resistance to change, linear extrapolation from past experience, and reluctance to cannibalize established businesses.

'It's Okay to Be the Boss' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 0061121363) Reflect on your career. Have you ever kept quiet when superiors were creating problems? What caused you to withhold your counsel?

I guarantee you they were being “the boss.” Everything about their tone, body language, verbal language, and behavior was indicating you that they were the boss and you were the subordinate. Chances are you learned from them what a boss looks and sounds like. Whether you admired their style or not, some of it rubbed off on you.

When you act as a superior, you will have subordinates. Act as a partner, and you will have partners. Yes, you may be the senior partner, but they are still partners, not underlings, or subordinates.

One key dissimilarity between the behavior of a “boss” and a “partner” is the way you talk. You talk differently to partners. It is not just what you say, but how you say it. To a subordinate, you might say, “This client wants his order fulfilled now. Make it happen.”

What is the message? It is not just “Get the order done now,” but it is also “I’m the boss; this is what I want—and there could be outcomes if I don’t get it.” It does not require a dramatic act to make the point that the receiver is your subordinate. Are you aware of how often and in how many ways you send similar messages?

This is not how you would talk to a partner. You might be just as clear about what you want and when; however, your delivery would create partnership, not subservience. You might ask, “How can we do that?” Alternatively, “Can you make it happen?” You would seek the individual’s knowledge, responsibility, and mutual obligation. When employees are seen as partners, they will understand that their leaders do not simply see them as the means to achieve their own personal targets.

You talk differently to folks below you than to folks across from or above you. So what? The higher you go, the less direct experience you have of customers, stakeholders, and problems. It is harder to get a real feel for what is happening. You become more reliant on on good information and insight from those who are in touch. So, they need to feel invited to tell you the reality they see, especially when it differs from the one you believe is out there.

You likely think that you already extend this encouragement, but you may discourage people from giving you inconvenient information. Unless you make an effort to discover in what ways you do this, you will continue to do so.

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

Create Partners with Your Subordinates

To create partners and have your employees’ best interests in mind, try this exercise:

  • Start every meeting with a question: “Is there anything I’m not getting about this issue that you think I should?”
  • Whatever the answer, respond with interest and ask, “Can you tell me more about that or give an example to help me understand it better?”
  • Ask questions until you have clarity on the points. Do not argue. Do not cross-examine—just clarify.
  • Thank the individual or group making these points.
  • Incorporate what makes sense into the decisions.
  • If no one spoke up, after the meeting ask the individual who is likely to be forthright, “What am I doing that keeps everyone from talking?”
  • If this individual gives you insight into how you dissuade feedback, convey your gratefulness. Find a way to reward the honesty.
  • Invite this truth-teller to sit in on more meetings and after each one gives you feedback on anything you did that made others act as subordinates.

Simple Ways to Build Trust With Your Employees

Build Trust with Your Employees

Trust is established when even the newest rookie, a part-timer, or the lowest paid employee feels important and part of the team. This begins with management not being reserved, as well as getting out and meeting the troops.

'The 27 Challenges Managers Face' by Bruce Tulgan (ISBN 111872559X) By doing this you will have the self-awareness to create partners. You will also have earned their trust. They will give you their best advice and devotedly support decisions that are based on reality.

By creating this environment where your employees are treated as partners working toward a shared purpose, you will foster in your employees a sense of ownership not simply to their job, but to the whole process. This will inspire not only partnership between the company’s divisions/teams, but it will also help nurture innovation as employees are stimulated to look beyond what they usually work on or how they approach their job.

Good partners invest time and energy in making cognizant judgments about who their leaders are and what they espouse. Then they take the appropriate action.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Create a Great, Happy, Satisfied Workplace

How to Create a Great Workplace

How does any company, small or large, gain competitive advantage in a crowded and highly competitive marketplace? Instinct tells us to watch what our competitors do and try to the same things better. But, because competitors are also trying to get better, you won’t gain much from that approach. Though counterintuitive and less comfortable, a more productive approach is to be different. By taking that tack, your activities are less likely to end up as commodities, differentiated only by price.

Several companies have taken their basic assets and by rearranging them, have created unique business propositions and a distinctive presence. These companies have made specialization decisions that enabled them to align their assets and activities differently.

First, there is Southwest Airlines. Their strategy is to compete with the automobile as a means of intercity transportation. To that end, they serve short routes with frequent departures. To keep costs low, they limit themselves to one type of aircraft—the Boeing 737. Because they have the industry’s largest 737 fleet, they buy or lease on very attractive terms. Further, they serve no meals, offer no seat assignments, and do not transfer baggage to other airlines. They avoid airports with high landing fees or frequent delays. This enables them to make quicker turns and fly more legs each day, resulting in lower fares. Today they are profitable.

Second, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has shot from relative anonymity to become a leader among car rental companies. They achieved this not by copying Hertz and Avis, but by specializing in a different market. Instead of competing for airport rentals, they aimed at the insurance and car repair markets. They cultivated both by giving superior service and tailoring their activities to individuals who have lost the use of their cars for a period. No one else was doing that.

Edward Jones experience was shaped by just few factors. The first was the insights Ted Jones. Unlike his father, Edward D. Jones Sr., whose vision was to be a department store of finance, offering every product and service, Ted saw a vast underserved market of serious, long-term investors. Instead of offering everything in one market, he wanted to distribute a limited range of highly reliable long-term investments in many markets. His vision was different.

The second factor was the decision in the early 1970s to codify Edward Jones’s beliefs and strategy. Edward Jones had a successful business model with 120 representatives, but also had only $1,005,000 of capital in a business that was based on capital. Edward Jones had to specialize in areas that were not capital intensive.

The thinking of Peter Drucker guided Edward Jones. He teaches that every business must answer three questions:

  1. What is our business?
  2. Who is our customer?
  3. What does the customer consider value?

With so little capital, Edward Jones couldn’t compete for the highly profitable institutional or underwriting business. Knowing it was impossible to do it well, Edward Jones chose not to do it at all. Edward Jones were making trade-offs to align its resources to serve one customer one way. As Michael Porter points out, you define trade-offs not in terms of what you choose to do, but what you choose not to do. At that point, Edward Jones had begun to make ourselves different.

Edward Jones

How to Create a Great Workplace

Here are 10 trade-offs made by Edward Jones. None made was unique. None suggests moral superiority. However, each makes that company a little different and together, they make us so different that few competitors even want to emulate Edward Jones.

  1. Edward Jones’s initial decisions addressed the Drucker questions. Edward Jones were in the securities industry serving the serious, long-term “buy-and-keep” investor. The value Edward Jones sought to add was to help our customers achieve their financial goals through sound advice and a face-to-face personal relationship. In doing so, Edward Jones chose not to serve large institutions, or frequent traders because few, if any, traders are consistently successful over time. Edward Jones chose to forego these markets, one promising large commissions and the other, and frequent commissions. However, they were realistic decisions, knowing that others were not lining up to offer personal service to smaller investors.
  2. If Edward Jones were to serve one customer, Edward Jones felt they should focus on one profit center—the investment representative (IR) who directly serves the customer. They wanted to closely align their activities with their customers’ interest. That notion prohibited profit centers in their trading and syndicate departments. One profit center also meant no manager would get an override commission from the work of their investment representatives. Each of these decisions was at odds with industry practice.
  3. Edward Jones chose not to manufacture its own products. As distributors of a number of mutual funds, it would have been possible to start selling Edward Jones’s own funds. By offering house brands, they would capture the manufacturer’s profit. However, by concentrating on the products offered by preferred vendors, Edward Jones still had the best investment managers working for customers.
  4. Rather than try to lure licensed and trained IRs from competitors, Edward Jones chose to grow its own. Since Edward Jones couldn’t pay competitors’ brokers a bonus to come work for them, Edward Jones dedicated ourselves to on-going training to prepare IRs to serve one type of customer—the individual investor, one way—with sound long-term investments, and in one format—a community-based office. This was and is Edward Jones’s only business. For training Edward Jones were eager to invest capital. Today, using specialized materials and customized facilities, Edward Jones prepares 200 new IR candidates each month. Edward Jones also provides ongoing training to all 7,500 IRs and office administrators. All training is aligned to serve the needs of one customer. Training is the company’s main investment.
  5. Compliance with regulatory and industry standards is the foundation upon which all else rests. Again, alignment helps Edward Jones with their task. They see IRs as artists. Each is given a canvas and a palette of paints. The canvas is compliance. One may not stray beyond its boundaries. Here, the power of technology and the judgment of associates are applied exhaustively to oversee and monitor all activity. The IR’ s palette, meanwhile, contains the products and service Edward Jones want to offer and excludes those they don’t. Within those boundaries they create their masterpieces. The most important aspect of compliance, however, is the sense of responsibility built into the local nature of Edward Jones’s business and the face-to-face relationship. When an IR meets a customer at church, the club, at scout meetings, or in the grocery store, the customers are real people. In seeking alignment with the needs of the serious individual investor, Edward Jones closes off potentially profitable options. But, by specializing, Edward Jones increase its leverage, offering tailored services to the one market they choose to serve. Also, by avoiding compromises they sharpen our image, which is our brand.
  6. To reduce internal competition, Edward Jones ties all bonuses to the firm’s success. Every IR has a direct financial incentive to help, rather than compete with, fellow IRs. Since this model attracts high-achievers, if Edward Jones were to set up incentives that rewarded them for outperforming one another, the resulting conflicts would be destructive. So, Edward Jones never reward the top 10 percent or top 100. All incentives are inclusive. If you achieve, your reward never comes at the expense of a colleague.
  7. Since none of Edward Jones’s products or services is tangible, nearly every associate at our firm is a knowledge worker. Their screens could contain calculus or video games. The only thing that matters is results. Because knowledge work defines the worker’s identity, the reputation of the company and its work style are crucial. Both contribute to the worker’s self-image and self-worth. Since most knowledge workers live to work, not work to live, they aspire to provide a collegial workplace. Edward Jones retain a dress code. They expect civility. They also respect the contribution of each associate.
  8. Edward Jones loves technology. Technology enables Edward Jones to deliver excellent service to more than 7,000 locations in 50 states, Canada, and the UK. For some financial services firms, the Internet presented a dilemma—should they offer online trading? For Edward Jones the decision was easy. In society, about 15 percent of the population likes to do it themselves. Since our value added is the IR-customer relationship, Edward Jones chose not to establish channel that would compete directly with IRs. Instead, Edward Jones’s internet site supports the IR-customer relationship.
  9. Edward Jones have always had heroes. Peter Drucker teaches Edward Jones how to respect the dignity and contribution of each worker. Michael Porter affirms that it’s crucial to be different, to sustain competitive advantage. John Kotter teaches that a growing organization requires many leaders. Warren Buffett shows us the power of principles and discipline in investing. Southwest Airlines shows that enormous potential exists in markets that others reject. Wal-Mart proves that you can grow without compromising service or profit margins.
  10. Edward Jones chose to remain a partnership. It will only become a corporation if they have a compelling need to do so. Because Edward Jones started with so little capital, it created a model that minimizes the need for capital-intensive items, such as bricks and mortar, product manufacture, large inventories, or proprietary trading. Edward Jones limits spending. Thus, as a partnership, Edward Jones have funded our expansion internally.

You need to find way to set yourself apart, even if those differences seem minor. Align your activities so customers and prospects can recognize your unique business proposition. By striving to be better at what you already are the best at doing, unlimited growth is possible.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

The Wonderful Benefits Intergenerational Coaching

The Wonderful Benefits Intergenerational Coaching

All generations have similar values. Many deliberate that there are such differences between generations but in reality, all feel that family is the value chosen most commonly by people of all generations. Others embrace truthfulness, love, aptitude, happiness, self-respect, knowledge, etc. So why do people at work think the ethics between generations are so different?

'Unlocking Generational Codes' by Anna Liotta (ISBN 1935586424) The public declaration of these hymns reveals how applause, pain, and politics interface within a historical setting of Roman oppression. Because even though the values are the same, the behaviors that go along with those values may be different. In addition to the standing of not snubbing the supposed stereotypes of employees, we should also not overlook undercurrents that occur in work groups. The diverse knowledge base that junior employees can present is a benefit that can be taken advantage of.

  • Give More Feedback: Animators at Disney generously pronounce how painful it can be to have directors plussing their ideas until the tiniest details, say a sliver of hair, seems just precise. We are probably unaware that people would like to know how to improve, and they merit to know it. It is their right. Besides the rewards of intergenerational learning for individuals, benefits of this learning process can also be found for corporations. Intergenerational learning leads to a higher level of social capital. This increased level of social capital has in turn the potential to enhance knowledge flows between workers in an organizational context. The negative feedback is often buried and not very specific.
  • Boost Flexibility: Literature provides a choice of concepts that are directly related to those of familiarity demand and supply. Employees working in the service sector, salaried employees, employees in executive positions, and employees with higher wages have better access to conventional flextime than other groups. The Cleveland Clinic hiring as many as two millennial doctors to replenish each retiree, as young MOs demand more work life balance. Business is concerned with productivity and profits. People are an progressively valuable resource, which management is becoming more affected to manage effectively. Attaining operative knowledge management integration is an eminent challenge facing both general management and project managers.
  • Lavish Praise for Intergenerational Workplace Lavish Praise: After considering the observations in light of extant research, we present a multi-stage process model that describes the central dynamics at work in the business experience. Over the following decade, the centers presented new communication and educational tools and maintained a wide variety of cultural events including exhibitions, forums, exchanges, and publications. The support provided to individuals and organizations proved instrumental and contributed to an added visibility of the region. The results of the analysis are deduced in the business context in order to show how communication research may impact to the analysis of intergenerational learning in a specific business. The company’s polished performances balance cheery explorations of humanity with serious concerns ranging from death, aging, and solitude to immigration, beauty, and fairy tales.
  • Adorn the Office: Apple plans to spend $1 billion to revamp a chief corporate campus with a focus on new technology and shared spaces. Foster abilities that cannot be automated away: timeless talents like critical thinking, playing nice and effective writing. Moreover, do not be afraid to skip around to understand relevant skills. This assertion also resonates with the experience of the Watsons of I.B.M. fame. In his 1990 autobiography, Tom Watson Jr. recollects how his early years were overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy vis-à-vis his father’s expectations that he take over IBM. Obfuscating the mix further were what amounted to ‘staged’ career achievements, such as when young Tom was assigned a coveted sales territory in downtown Manhattan that allowed him to meet his sales quota in just one day.

'When Generations Collide' by Lynne Lancaster, David Stillman (ISBN 0066621070) While generational issues do need to be discussed and resolved, I am troubled about making too big an issue out of them. We do not want to draw a line between two generations of managers and involuntarily disaffect them from each other. Instead, we need to learn to work together as we seek to help librarianship advance with the times to serve the needs of the public. Each manager, new or experienced, old or young, brings respected experiences, perceptions, skills, and ideas to the profession. We need to find a way to concede those assets and put them to trustworthy use.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Reduce Conflict at Work

Fierce battles over decisions, finances, resources, power, and authority are fought daily, and combatants often inflict lasting damage, when the personal interests of ambitious managers take precedence over organizational goals.

Competition can cause managers to backstab one another, hoard information, focus on personal needs, and ignore facts that don’t support their views.

Functions that operate as silos create turf wars. And the costs are high. Creativity is lost, reputations damaged. Frustrated, some executives leave for more collegial settings. Here are ways to reduce conflict:

  • Hold retreats to build camaraderie. Put people through a process to build conflict resolution and interpersonal skills co-operationely to achieve goals.
  • Reward cooperative behavior. If you talk about collaboration yet reward individual achievement, you get the behavior you positively reinforce.
  • Encourage innovation. Process routine may minimize errors and cut costs, but it can close people’s eyes and ears to better ways to do things. Innovation can increase efficiencies.
  • Create a culture of collaboration. Open communications in person, on paper, and online can lead to shared information, trust across disciplines, and reduced turf battles.
  • Clarify responsibilities. Help your people know their roles and the roles of others. Everyone’s key task is to delight customers and gain market share.
  • Seek cross-functional initiatives. Encourage teams from different areas to work together in cross functional initiatives. Invite managers from other areas to visit your team meetings when working together.
  • Enter white spaces cautiously. Certain open areas represent opportunities for revenue generation, but rather than enter them without notifying others, meet with them to gain their buy-in or agree to leverage the space together.
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Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Use Power Positively

How to Use Power Positively

Power is often a dirty word, as in “power corrupts.” Yet, without the power to make things happen, managers can’t build organizations.

Managers need to understand the dynamics of power in four arenas and harness and direct energies in ways that are not just effective and efficient, but also deeply satisfying and empowering of self and the others who lend their energy toward goals.

Power has two primary components: a vision—a goal to achieve—and energy—the impetus or force needed to bring the vision into reality. This offers an equation: Vision multiplied by energy produces the power to accomplish goals! However, opposing energies can vitiate even a great vision supported by enormous energy.

Here, then, is a more realistic equation for power:


Power = Vision
  • Energy/Resistance

    Applying this simple equation is not so simple. Once being powerful was a perquisite of managers. People did what their managers wanted them to do. Wages were provided in return for obedient labor.

    Today, managers need new ways to generate power and influence if they are to harness and focus the energy of their people into power sufficient for excellence and continued success.

    Finite and Infinite Perspectives

    I see two basic views of power:

    • The finite perspective says that power is scarce, limited, and finite—that there is not enough to go around, that someone will win, and someone must lose. This limited view of power limits the power we might accrue. A win/lose perspective of power actually creates resistance, as those who believe they will lose if you win, will fight aggressively and passively to turn the tables.
    • The infinite view sees power as abundant, unlimited, and infinite. In this view, power is accrued through partnering with and learning from others-including those who might resist. The quantity and quality of available power from this perspective is potentially infinite, facilitating great energy.

    Harnessing infinite power depends on mastering six principles:

    1. Focus your energy—focusing, releasing, and managing the energy of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve your goals.
    2. Think systemically—seeing that every thing and every action exists within some system of other things and actions, and that every thing and action within a system impacts and is impacted by every other thing and action with that system.
    3. Learn from differences—using differences to accrue knowledge and skill, not to foster contention or conformity.
    4. Seek sound and current data—operating from accurate, up-to-date information rather than from opinion, interpretation, assumption, or speculation.
    5. Empower others—supporting self and others to identify and resolve their issues and discover their excellence.
    6. Use support systems—developing and using a diverse group of supporters who contribute to achieving. Support systems achieve their goals as they reach critical mass.
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    Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

    Adapting to Change and Managing the Transition Successfully

    Life is about adapting to change and ever-increasing demands. William Bridges was right: “It’s not the changes that do you in. Ifs the transitions.”

    Organizations must continually change. The question is “how?” The leader’s task is to make change work by helping others through transition.

    A successful transition …

    • Explains what is and what isn’t over. Some things never change: You will continue to serve customers and produce products. What changes is not what you do but how you do it. Help people identify what is and is not over.
    • Respects the past. The practices that frustrate you today were someone’s innovative solutions of the past. Do not criticize widely accepted practices. Accept them as right for that time while recognizing that times change.
    • Ensures the “important stuff” continues. What is the important stuff to you? Service? Ethics? Whatever it is, it must continue. Involve others in defining the “important stuff” and ensure that the change does not disregard them. This increases support for the change.
    • Sets the stage for the future. Today’s change will open your eyes to new opportunities. As you evolve, set goals for what you want to achieve. Measure and evaluate progress. And, show others how the change will move them toward a positive future.
    • Recognizes its day will end. Don’t assume that today’s solution will work forever. And don’t think that this will be the last change.

    Long-term success depends on anticipating and responding to change and making the transition.

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    Posted in Management and Leadership Uncategorized

    How to Grow Your Company to Greatness

    Grow Your Company to Greatness

    Cost cutting is the tool of choice for managers who seek instant gratification. It’s the low-hanging fruit that puts profitability on steroids and makes a leader look good overnight. It’s like taking a hit of morphine; the pain deadens for a while, but unless you address the cause of the pain, you become addicted and never get better.

    While cutting and controlling costs is vital, it is not a strategy; it’s a tactic. It’s easy to imitate, and offers no competitive advantage. Cost cutting also leads to diminishing returns. While you’ re wringing out the last 5 percent of efficiency counting beans, a competitor with a breakthrough strategy will leapfrog over you. To grow business, you must shift to strategic thinking.

    Keep two things in mind when it comes to strategy:

    • If it’s not different, it’s dead
    • If you can’t articulate it, you can’t execute it.

    For leaders, it’s time to get back to work, because while “optimizing” is important, no business can shrink to greatness. Companies must perform their way to greatness. It takes more work to build top-line growth and gain market share by out-strategizing, out-hustling, and developing better talent. Most managers are addicted to quick fixes. But the ultimate the test of leadership is not how effectively you wield a knife, but how well you grow your business.

    Dangers of a Shrinking Business

    There are clear lessons associated with shrinking your business. Cost cutting backfires when you ax your capacity to produce. This includes training and tools to boost performance. The point is not whether the budget was under-spent, but well spent.

    Diets result in weight loss, but the excess fat won’t stay off unless habits are changed and muscle is built. It’s shortsighted to cut a training budget designed to make people more competent, while advertising lavishly for more customers. Untrained people will only abuse them. It’s a cycle of senselessness.

    Don’t just optimize—innovate! Optimizing (cost cutting) is a tactic; innovation (finding better ways to do things) is a strategy. Leaders need to do four things:

    1. develop and promote a pool of upcoming talent
    2. create an owner loyalty program that makes it insane for a customer to buy elsewhere
    3. implement a unique marketing message that sets your business apart from your competitors
    4. have a proactive, year-round recruiting program that builds a pipeline of talent.

    Innovation requires change, and regardless of how change makes you cringe, without it, there is no progress. Consider the strategy of creating a new and unique marketing message. While advertising is important, before you spend unseemly sums to spread your message, have something worth saying—like a value proposition that differentiates you from every ‘lowest prices, biggest selection, no hassle’ loudmouth. Create a message that changes the rules and raises your business. Leaders must create an “unfair” advantage to put their businesses on the path to greatness.

    If your marketing message grew stale during the boom times, you may have stagnated: Quick, in three sentences, what makes your business noticeably different than your competition? What would customers say makes you different and better?

    If you don’t have convincing answers, you have some serious work to do. Today’s consumers are easily bored and quickly switch loyalties.

    Shift to Strategic Thinking for Growth

    Don’t confuse the scoreboard for the game. I often witness leaders comparing financial statements and benchmarking best practices. Conventions provide a forum for support, accountability, and improvement. However, the financial numbers they examine are lagging indicators. More time and effort should be put into strategic reviews. That’s because strategies (the game) determine what gets put on the scoreboard (the numbers). It’s better to spend time on different practices and less time on best practices. Rather than just optimizing and getting better (often at the wrong things), it’s smarter to become strategically different.

    The best leaders don’t believe in a level playing field, or peaceful co-existence. They want their competitor’s best people and best customers. What a waste to see owners and managers treat their time like a dress rehearsal. They cut and tweak, when they should build, innovate, and compete to win.

    Decide if you want to follow the herd, or get up front and leave footprints. Are you content to co-exist, or will you step up with breakthrough strategies and solid execution? Whether you sell Suzukis or sandals, what you do is less important than how you do it.

    Dakota tribal wisdom declares that when a horse dies, the rider must dismount. Often, the dead horse is an impotent strategy, an ineffective leader, or poor process. For some, it’s time to dismount. Of course, there are other options. You can change riders. Go ahead and put a new rider on a dead horse and see how far he gets. Or, you can appoint a focus group to study dead horses. Or, you can benchmark how other companies ride dead horses. You might even declare it cheaper to feed a dead horse and keep on riding. Or, you can harness several dead horses together and see how far you go.

    But in the end, you’ll still have to get off the horse. You’ll have to innovate, not just optimize; think strategically, not just tactically. It’s time to do more than shrink to profitability; it’s time to grow your company to greatness.

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    Posted in Business and Strategy

    Leadership Manifesto

    Leadership Manifesto

    Leadership is in a state of retreat bordering on confusion, as we go from crisis to crisis, scandal to scandal, outrage to outrage. Normalcy is waiting for the other shoe to drop. More CEOs and CFOs are coming in conflict with the law. Once powerful companies are going belly up for cooking company books, creating fictitious bottom lines. Perpetrators are hauled off to jail in Armani suits. These outrages manifest the arrogance of power and greed. We are adrift in a maelstrom without a rudder.

    People are partners to leadership. They control the rudder. Yet, most are passive, obedient obsequious, polite, conforming, dependent, submissive, rudderless, or clueless. They are of no service to themselves, or their leadership. This translates into learned helplessness and irresponsibility. We get the leadership we deserve. Crisis and scandal do not occur in a vacuum.

    All are vulnerable. Our culture abhors a snitch, stoolie, or tattletale. We don’t “challenge authority“. We react to it.

    I can’t divine what will replace CEOs and presidents, but many “leaders” no longer lead and never learned how to follow. Their eyes are guided by history, not vision, by what they know, not what they can find out, by what has worked, not what is failing now, by a sense of power, not a sense of people.

    I contend that most work can be conducted much better without managers.

    Leadership is often personified in a charismatic leader (political leader), a central figure (Pope) or a person that sits at the top (CEO). I find this perspective too narrow. Leadership is far more universal, pervasive, organic, and encompassing. Everyone is a leader, or no one is!

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    Posted in Management and Leadership

    Working with Creative and Non-Creative People

    Working with Creative and Non-Creative People

    Tips for Working with Non-Creative People

    • Play to their strengths. Have a 7-to-1 ratio of positive to negative comments. When people feel good, it empowers them to take risks.
    • Give them a design buddy. Managers should have a deep understanding of the nuances of each team member, then pair up those with different skill sets.
    • The worst kind of feedback: “That’s bad” or “That’s ugly.” If you’re not a professional creative, it’s not your place. If you don’t trust the person you hired to make visual decisions, they’re just a pixel-pushing monkey.
    • Use “I feel” or “I experience.” Feelings are real. Taste is illusory.
    • Establish design principles. You can bring up these attributes, and that way you’re not complaining—you’re just mentioning concepts that have been mutually agreed upon.
    • Speak unarguably. Say what’s not working and avoid phrases like “Did you consider …”
    • Resist pulling rank. Instead, say things like, “My suggestion would be X, but you have to solve this problem.” If they can’t, let them go.

    Tips for Working with Creative People

    • The work should speak for itself. When presenting your idea, say what problem it’s trying to solve, but don’t walk co-workers through the hows and whys.
    • Pick your battles. When a co-worker tells you how she feels, you may be able to straight up ignore her, as long as you solve all major problems.
    • You could iterate forever. Move on once it’s good.
    • Even if someone gives you ridiculous feedback, treat it as valid. His pain is real, even if his issue makes no sense.
    • Avoid a design conversation when receiving feedback. The critique is never a good place to be creative. You can’t design on your feet, so take the feedback to your desk and consider solutions.
    • Ask follow-ups. Phrases like “Tell me why” will get to the root of the problem. When you dig deeper, you’ll find managers want something different than what they’re saying.
    • Annoyed? Explain you want the feedback process to be more open. If bosses refuse, quit.
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