Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why developing a personal brand is critical in this economy.

Ever since Tom Peters talked about the importance of “brand you” and long before, people have been developing their own personal brands. Whether its celebrity brands of Tiger Woods, Donald Trump or Richard Branson – or perhaps lesser known personal brands of a host of authors, coaches, dancers and songwriters, we know that there is a way to cash in on the success of a personal brand.

For years, actors and actresses have been building their own brands and then renting them out to the director of their next film. That’s what makes the cash registers at the box office ring. But the same approach can be utilized for anyone in the work place. Celebrity or “expert” status can be developed at even the local level by being a person who is well-connected, willing to teach and share, willing to be open.

Authors gain a unique position in the marketplace simply by writing and publishing their thoughts about their expertise or lessons learned. It seems an author can gain almost instant credibility and turn into a sought-after speaker just by getting a book published. Doesn’t even have to be a best seller. But if it does rank on the best-selling lists (which doesn’t always mean it’s a great book), then some level of celebrity status is sure to follow. Just think about J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books – a young, unwed mother determined to write. Or authors like Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield – who were turned down from 134 publishers until they finally found one who would take on the Chicken Soup for the Soul series – which is still going strong, 100 million books later.

Personal brands give a person leverage that didn’t exist before. Not only in the job market, but also in generating passive and residual income. A recording artist makes money each time his or her song is played on the radio or a CD is sold. Both recording artists and authors can make money when they sleep as books and CDs can be purchased from or Barnes & Noble any time day or night, in any country around the world. Not a bad gig. Not everyone has the talent to be a recording artist, but as Bob Proctor says, everyone has a book in them. At least one, perhaps two – or perhaps many more.

But why should YOU work on building YOUR personal brand? I guess the answer to that question is “Why wouldn’t you?” Why wouldn’t you want to strive to be well known in some way? I do believe in the law of attraction but I also believe each of us must take some action in order to attract people, business, money and abundance to us. A personal brand can be started so easily with the use of the social networks that literally someone could be on their way to building their brand in a day. And with a little effort in the evenings – even while watching reruns of House – one could build an internet presence within just a few short weeks.

But certainly that’s not the full answer. Building your own personal brand is critical in this economy because it is like life insurance. It adds a certain level of protection for your income because many people are, for one reason or another, looking for jobs. Or they have jobs but the income isn’t enough to cover their expenses. Or they’re simply not satisfied with either the income they’re making now – or where they are in on their career path.

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine – a very successful and well-educated individual – and he commented that there were points in his professional life that he felt like he has lost his momentum. The adventure in his career wasn’t always there. Have you ever felt like that? I know I have, many times. Many people fall into that same category – the category of “seekers.” Always wanting more. And knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that “more” is out there just around the corner. That they have the potential to do more, to have more and to, most importantly, be more. Can you relate to that?

During the holiday season, people begin planning for the New Year and make their resolutions. I hope that one of the resolutions you make for yourself will be to take your own personal brand to the next level. And then, do what Mark Victor Hansen suggests, “write a list of 101 goals in 20 minutes.” Be aggressive at what you want to achieve – more is possible than what we first believe. And let's not be afraid to define ourselves and share our beliefs, values and hope for the future.
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Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Web 2.0 status: Social networking, blogging and more

I'm definitely making progress on adopting Web 2.0. Slow, but moving forward.

I've chosen LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook as my social networks. I use all three because their purposes and applications are different -- and certain groups of my contacts tend to use only one or two of the three. Most of my business contacts use LinkedIn, many traditional network marketing folks use Plaxo (it's been around for a while and started as an online contact management system) and Facebook tends to be used by friends as well as non-traditional business people and entrepreneurs. I use the word "tend" because there are exceptions to all. For example, I have a few contacts that I thought for sure would be on LinkedIn but they're on Facebook instead. Go figure.

I use Twitter for micro-blogging, and added a list of my most recent tweets to my blog. Also use to help me with status updates so I can type it in once not thrice. My blog is registered with Technorati, BlogCatalog and the local RVABlogs, and I've figured out how to ping those sites when I have a new post -- still working on making all the pings automatic, though. And of course, my Blackberry helps me manage the posts and notification emails -- still working on updating my mobile applications -- apparently I need an app called Twitterberry.

Being on the social networks and writing my own blog helps me to much more fully understand the idea that email will be used in a more limited fashion. Connecting with people -- for individuals and businesses -- doesn't happen as much in email. Interaction, and lots of it, takes place on the SN's and Twitter, even for businesses like Starbucks and news magazines. But not everyone is up-to-speed on all this yet -- not even as far a long as I am and I feel pretty behind the times compared to many -- so email will be used for quite some time. Especially for outbound email to your social network contacts, using online software programs such as Emma, Vertical Response or Constant Contact. Customer Relationship Management or CRM as we marketers refer to definitely just got a complete makeover.

I admit I didn't "get" Twitter at first but once I started following some cool people with cool things to say in one or two lines of copy, I realized how fast I could keep abreast of new technology, social networking, relevant links, blogcasts, and news. I can keep up with people that I may never have a chance to meet, like Lance Armstrong or Steve Jobs. And a quick glance at the tweets and that's all that's necessary. My blog is now linked to my social networks so the latest posts appear on my LinkedIn profile, Plaxo and Facebook. Rather than always trying to get people to my blog, there are more ways to bring my blog to them.

LinkedIn has added several new applications which make that social network more robust and interesting although I think they will have to smooth some things out a bit. I added the Amazon read list to my LI profile but what I don't like about it and is different than the widget that appears on my blog is that it doesn't get hooked into Amazon's affiliate marketing program. So I may drop the LI application for that purpose as I seem to be loading in my favorite read list twice. So the only benefit is keeping my name out there because every time I add a book to my LI Amazon read list, it generates that notice for my connections.

LinkedIn also added TripIt so that when I plan a trip to Denver, I can see all the people who live or will be in Denver when I visit there which certainly helps to plan for an effective trip. Great application for sales professionals or to meet up with colleagues at association conferences. I also added Bloglink to my LI profile which not only incorporates my blog for others to see on my profile, but lists all the blogs of my connections for me to see. Because I have so many connections, though, the latter takes forever to load and seems to defeat the purpose. Again, I think LI has to smooth out this app to make it beneficial and helpful.

As for blogs... someone mentioned to me recently that she heard a brand marketing speaker say that blogs are dead. That speaker is short-sighted, in my opinion. While I do agree that you can use social networks and micro-blogging to gain awareness and brand recognition, clients still want to know how you think and what your perspective is on certain issues so that they can choose to identify, agree, disagree, contrast, etc. You have to do things to put the Law of Attraction to work -- know what I mean?!

In addition, if you're interested in earning residual / passive income by using Google ads on your website or blog, you won't get any traffic nor ad clicks if you don't continue to post relevant blog content. Lastly, as I mentioned in a previous post, blogging forces the author to write content in short blurbs (well, long in my case) that can then be used later for online articles, ebooks and books -- all things that can earn the author some online cash. So if you have goals to earn money while you sleep, then blogging is still the way to do that.

While I've come a long way in adopting Web 2.0, I still have many other goals to meet. But I've got a good foundation and platform set for future branding and marketing. And that's worth a lot.
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Blog, blog, blog. What's so cool about it?

There are many reasons why people start their own blog but for those of you who haven't gotten the hang of it yet -- or just think it is too overwhelming -- I'd like to share a few reasons why I blog.

Reason #1: It's healthy.

First, there's the health benefit of the act of writing itself. Yes, writing -- like laughter -- is simply good medicine. Our forefathers wrote in leather bound journals and blogging is simply the modern-day equivalent. In fact, Sandy Grayson has written a book about this type of writing called "Journalution: Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life and Manifest Your Dreams" if you'd like to read further. Writing can ease the stress and frustration people have as they strive to accomplish goals. Or did you ever have a time in your life where you felt like you just were not being heard? Like no one is really listening? Blogging can certain alleviate those feelings and, at the same time, provide an emotional boost with an overall sense of accomplishment after writing each post. Just think of it as part of your overall wellness plan.

Reason #2: It's the best form of ideating.

Generating ideas, finding solutions to problems or finding new and more effective / efficient ways of doing things are all challenges that people face these days -- in business or in life. Blogging can be a way to get thoughts out of the mind and "on paper" so you can begin to crystalize random ideas into solutions. Or connect two or more ideas into something really innovative. Or to get rid of old ideas so that you can make room for new ones, as if the act of writing somewhat releases the old. Just like the feeling one gets when the closets are all cleaned out and you donate all those old clothes you never wear to charity. New ideas seem to flourish in a mind that isn't saddled with old thinking.

Reason #3: It's a great way to share and teach.

Sometimes people struggle with blog content. I certainly did at first. But I quickly realized that I can easily blog about what I learned that day, or week, or sometime in my past. So I often ask myself "what did I learn today?" And no matter how trivial I sometimes think that lesson is, I often also think "wouldn't that lesson be beneficial to others?" And usually the answer is "yes." Even if one person benefits from the lesson that I've learned, it would be worth it. Besides, didn't people benefit from the writings of our forefathers? Jefferson? Franklin? Of course. So writing in the form of a blog is the same idea. Sharing ideas, spurring discussion, teaching lessons on a range of topics from leadership to jumping rope. What? You don't think jumping rope is beneficial? Just try it for 10 minutes and see what I'm talking about...

Reason #4: Blog content creates ebooks and books.

I talk to lots of people who dream of writing a book someday. I, too, have it on my vision board. But how do you eat an elephant? Yep, one bite at a time. So blogging is a very simple and easy way to write on a certain subject in order to start getting the ideas down for that book. Plus, it creates a writing habit. If you want to author a book, then you have to be disciplined in writing -- it's not going to happen any other way. I mean, you can't win the NY marathon without running, right? And once you have enough content written, the ebook is easy to compile. And once you have the ebook compiled, then the book is within reach because it will then feel doable. And once it's doable, then you'll have to create a new vision board because the old one will have become a reality.

Ok, those are the first 4 reasons why I think blogging is so cool. I have a few more so I'll post Part 2 at a later time. And once I do that, I'll probably have enough content to produce an ebook on why I think blogging is so cool. And I will have finished my first ebook. So you can see just how easy it is. I mean, um, I can see just how easy it is.

So, did this blog help you in any way? Did reading it cause you to think about starting a blog? Or authoring an ebook? If so, then my writing -- in addition to being part of my wellness plan -- accomplished what it was designed to do.

Happy writing.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Building your personal brand. What's your message?

We only have one body, one identity, one life. Our uniqueness is ours alone, and doesn't belong to anyone else but us. It's easy to hide behind the company we work for. Or the people we associate with. Some people just don't want to "put themselves out there." Living under the radar, so to speak, seems more comfortable. And yet we long for some level of personal success, achievement, satisfaction or fulfillment.

But I don't believe there's any reason to hide our strengths. Who we are. Our authenticity. It would be like the parable of the man who hid his talents by burying them. To him were given no more. But to the man who utilized his talents, many more were given.

Some people think that building a brand identity costs a lot of money. Or time. It really doesn't have to. Brands can be built almost entirely using the internet these days -- and many of the services are free or at nominal cost. Just like anything else, it's only difficult if we make it difficult.

What do you want to be known for? What do you want to say? What lesson have you learned that you'd like to share? What can you teach from your experience? What opinion do you have about a topic that you're passionate about?

Brands are simply a culmination of thoughts and images of an individual or company, and the perception of that brand is often in the eye of the beholder. Brands are never fully built or complete. Rather, they are moving targets being shaped proactively by the owner and those with whom the owner interacts.

When you ask some people about their brand, they think about the brand of the company they work for or are associated with. But I like to ask people about their own personal and individual brand. Yes, that's right -- I'm asking you. Are you proactively crafting your unique story? Do people know who you are and what you stand for? Or are you standing idly by waiting for your brand to be created all by itself?

I encourage you to take some action today. I'm amazed at how many people still do not have something simple as a website or blog that begins to define them. God has given us gifts in the form of talents. Let's not bury them in the sand.

There's a video about a little boy who picks up a starfish on the beach and throws it back into the ocean. And an observer asks what he is doing. And he tells that man that if the starfish doesn't get thrown back in it will die. As the man looks across the beach that goes on for miles, he says to the boy that he can't possibly make a difference as there is miles of beach and hundreds maybe thousands of starfish that have washed up. As the little boy throws another starfish in the ocean, he replies by saying "I made a difference for that one."

Building a personal brand isn't about us necessarily. Oh, it can be, for sure. But it's really about being authentic and true to ourselves. And it's about sharing a story or lesson that perhaps just one person -- another human being -- can be inspired by and go on to do something in his or her life that's good. Something that maybe he or she wouldn't have done if the two people had not crossed paths. Take action today. You'll be surprised at the goodness you'll receive in return.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Talented "do-whatever-it-takes" People: Amazing and priceless

This weekend, I had the honor of working an event in Orlando with a handful of really terrific people. And I'm amazed at the level of commitment and service these folks brought to this event. They are used to working with people like themselves, somewhat outside of the corporate and traditional business world. So I know that working 18- to 20-hour days non-stop is almost commonplace for them. I don't think they realize how unusual it is to work with people who will do what they do, with such a wonderful serving attitude and who will still smile and laugh and have fun no matter what goes wrong, no matter how many problems they solve, no matter how tired and physically and mentally exhausted they become.

People like that inspire me to be at my best. To not let my teammates down. To do whatever it takes to create a fabulous experience for the participants. To do special things for other people. To not let anyone pass me by without offering them a smile. To help others be their best.

I think we learn a lot about ourselves in those moments or challenging times in our lives that we are pushed to our limits. Somehow we can handle more than we could before, fewer things seem to bother us, and we get more accomplished in less time because our boundaries have been expanded, our tolerances have been extended, and our physical and emotional selves begin to become immune to sickness, pain and stress.

Clearly not everyone would choose to put themselves through such a test. And certainly not many people would do it repeatedly. But for those who do, something happens to them over time. As the good book says, iron sharpeneth iron. As we become stronger ourselves, we help others to become stronger. We understand more fully to lean on a power that's greater than our own. To have faith that everything will turn out just fine. And for that reason, I suppose it's not a bad gig. You know, to work with such talent. I figure that in a few months time, I'll take my own self to a new level. To a place I've not been previously.

I'm a different person than I was last Thursday when I left to work with these folks. And I'll reach another new level when I work with them again in a few weeks. They tapped into their greatness and helped me to tap mine. And there's no better way to learn than to do. I admire them, honor them and will be forever grateful that I was a part of their team.

To the 6 event team members and all the event volunteers, I say "thank you." You truly rock.
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ryder Cup Leadership: Azinger's strategy worked

I've been stewing for a few weeks on the leadership efforts displayed by that of the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Paul Azinger, admiring both his dedication and courage to set up the underdog team for a win.

For two years, he worked diligently on both the strategy and setting the vision. The strategy included getting what he felt was an antiquated selection process fixed so that the players who were playing their best going into the Ryder Cup actually got to play. In addition, he was able to negotiate 4 captain's picks instead of just 2. That helped him to feel like he could implement a truly winning lineup because, at the end of the day, a win can only be achieved if the guys were playing well leading up to the event.

He also set up a vision which, interestingly, wasn't so much about winning at all. He wanted simply to utilize the Ryder Cup as an opportunity for as many people as possible to have an experience they would never forget, win or lose. He even made sure he had 3 co-captains, people he knew he could trust and people who had had his back in the past when he needed them. Faldo said he didn't want more than one, that he himself wanted to maintain a pulse on the tournament. But you have to admire Azinger for realizing that having a small core team around him would not only give those guys the experience of a lifetime, a small thank you for their previous service to him, but would also help to relieve the intense pressure and tension that an event of that magnitude ensues.

Whether you're an avid golfer or have tooled around a bit or even have never picked up a club in your life, Azinger certainly shows us some leadership lessons that we can apply to our business, our clients' businesses and our life.

1. Make a thorough evaluation of the current situation, what has worked and what hasn't. Azinger met with all the past U.S. Ryder Cup captains to get their input, but in the end he made his own analysis and conclusions.

2. Push for change. If your analysis reveals to you that the process needs to be improved then, by all means, do what you have to do to make those changes happen. Azinger had to stand up for what he believed in, he made specific recommendations on what needed to be changed to improve the selection process, and got agreement by the golfing gods. No small feat.

3. Set a vision that people can embrace. And champion the cause. Companies often fail maintaining a vision because either their vision is only about making money or they forget to rally their people around the common bond. Azinger did a great job of creating a vision that was about creating the experience of a lifetime and he grounded his vision in plans that supported it, even with a PEP rally, t-shirts printed with the "13th man,"-- a phrase he coined for the Kentucky crowd, and making sure the details supported his vision. I believe a vision like this took pressure off the team because they knew that if they had a great experience they were winners to matter the final outcome.

4. Let the team members be themselves. What I liked about Azinger's style was that he seemed to allow each team member to flourish in their own space. Professional golfers certainly are akin to this more individual sport so allowing their strong personalities, their playing preferences and their individual strengths to shine through was key to the success of the overall team.

5. Allow what's going to happen, happen. Game day is not the time to micro-manage. Azinger had a lot of trust in his team and his co-captains, he believed in the strategy and vision that he cast, and when it came for the guys to tee it up, he had to "let go and let God" so-to-speak. He had to let it ride. This is probably the most difficult thing for a leader to do -- to gently stand back. To coach and not direct. To reassure and not be disappointed when things don't go your way. To continually motivate and pump up both the players and the crowd or audience.

6. Celebrate with your team and extended team. I fully believe that Azinger planned to celebrate fully even if they lost. Because his vision of creating a highly memorable experience would have been fulfilled. And the team would not have walked away with heavy heads in defeat. The fact that they could celebrate with such a patriotic win just made the end sweet -- a win that they could share with their family, friends and the rest of the nation especially at a time that the nation -- and the world for that matter -- is in economic turmoil.

There has never been a time in recent history in which influential leadership is as important as it is right now. Whether you're running a department, a division, a company or a nation, it is imperative to be an effective leader who can cast the right vision, who can implement strategy and change for the better, and who can encourage greatness in the people he or she leads.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where does impact live? 5 tips from the Master Media Coach.

One of the best speakers at last week's World's Greatest Marketing Conference was media coach, Joel Roberts. As a media coach, his job is to get other people to listen to your story which means he has to help you create a compelling, impactful story in the first place. So here are 5 things that I learned from him last week that I thought I'd share:
  1. Don't go to the media expecting to get interviewed or to get publicity until you're ready. Get clarity first and have your marketing in place before you attempt to sell your story.
  2. Clarity comes with concrete, specific language and does not live in the abstract. If you're going to make impact, be as specific and clear as possible. If you try to tell people what you do or how you got to the place you're in now in general terms, not only will you not be able to sell your story but you won't even get listeners. The media favors the concrete over the abstact, every time and all the time.
  3. Sell the problem first, not your solution. What's the problem you remedy for your clients or customers? This is a common mistake that people and businesses make. Make the problem known! Talk about it with drama and grit. Don't just enroll people in the problem but pull them in. Submerge them in it. Steep them in it. Paint that picture. Address it clearly and head on -- or -- get them to have the problem you solve (there are two kinds of problems -- ones people have or ones they don't). Think of yourself as being in the problem distribution business. You can only sell your solution when people can relate or identify with the problem first.
  4. Make it real. Make it human. Look for balance between humanity and your expertise. So in addition to making your story crystal clear, remember to access that place -- that human, vulnerable place in you -- predictably and learn to articulate the message precisely. Access predictably; articulate precisely. Tell the most dramatic story, whether it's your personal story or one of your client's. Choregraph your own energy around it when you tell it and bring the emotion in to it for people.
  5. Follow a model; master it then transcend it. An easy short model to begin with is to use this phrase "Today I'm (insert all the good specifics about your current success) but it wasn't always that way. I used to be (insert the things you were that you're not now) and/or I tried (insert specifics of all the things you tried) and nothing worked. It wasn't until I discovered (insert the thing that turned you around, your revelation or epiphany) that led me to where I am today. Can I tell you more?" If you can begin with this model of how to set up the short version of your story, then you'll be able to pique the media's interest (or anyone you're selling to) about why they should hear more. Basically, you'll use this as "the short memo that explains why the longer memo is necessary." Master this template and then you can revise to make it your own.

Joel is a masterful media coach who has helped many authors and corporate executives prepare for major media interviews on Oprah, the Today Show and radio stations too numerous to mention. His joy comes from teaching intensive 3-day Excellence in Media seminars, and upcoming dates along with contact information can be found at

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Your next lecture. Take a stand.

I'm still being inspired by Randy Pausch's last lecture, the meaning behind his life lessons and what he accomplished by sharing his beliefs with the world (well, he might not have known it would be with the world but YouTube had a different idea).

And certainly the political season is in full force and, no matter your views, we know that it is time for both candidates to take a stand on their beliefs and communicate their strategies and action plans for fixing our economy and keeping us safe. As we hear speeches and listen to beliefs, plans and opinions, we can be influenced to shape our own thoughts in order to vote for the candidate that we feel will be best to lead this great nation.

Whether it's Randy Pausch or a politician, taking a stand for kids or country is vitally important. Mission critical, in fact. There are many professors like Randy Pausch and hockey moms like Sarah Palin and singers like Paul Potts in the world. People who are doing great things but for most of their life hide behind running their day-to-day lives, when the world needs to hear what they have to say. The world needs to hear their voice. To positively impact the lives of others. To inspire a cause. To challenge the status quo. To entertain. To move people at a cellular level.

So if tomorrow you were given a stage and you had a chance to give a speech the whole world may hear, what would you say? What lessons would you like to teach? What talents or experiences would you like to share? In what way would you like to influence others? What legacy would you like to begin creating and leaving for your family?

Each of us already have a stage and we probably don't even realize it. That stage starts in the form of a blog. An ebook. A book. A conversation at the coffee shop. A talk in front of a small group.

Harv Eker once said, "if you've learned something and you don't teach it, you're ripping people off." You know, that couldn't be further from the truth. Some people say they're afraid to put themselves out there. Yes, it does require a decision -- a rather simple acceptance of being who you are.

So what if. What if you share and you don't get any feedback. Who cares? That doesn't mean a life didn't get changed for the better. Some people will never tell you. Or some will tell you years later. As many trainers have said, "if I only make a difference in one life, it will be worth it." And I agree. But what if you could make a difference in 100. Or 1000. Or 1 million. Or 10 million.

Randy Pausch just thought he was giving a lecture for his kids and a few people at CMU. He didn't know that the lecture he would give on September 18, 2007, would be seen by over 10 million people on YouTube. Nor did he know the material would be published so quickly into a book that would live on long past his life. In fact, I just gave a copy of the book to my nephew for his college graduation, with a note that said "may you achieve all your childhood dreams." That one bit of inspiration, or the many millions like it, wouldn't have been possible if Randy hadn't of made the decision to press on, even in the face of impending death, to spend some of his last days writing a speech and putting some slides together. He made a decision. He took a stand. He shared his beliefs.

And so did our country's founding fathers. Proof that we can't take anything for granted.

So what's your next lecture? What of your life will you share with others? And when will you share? Take a stand.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Optimum Performance: Defrag your life, your business.

Most of us know when our computer is starting to run slow, to gag and to just not work as well as it used to that performing a simple hard disk defragmentation process is often all it takes for our computer to run better and for us to regain our sanity. Now I'm definitely not an IT pro, but I believe the process can take an hour or so and it basically finds all the free space that is in very small chunks and moves it all together in one big chunk. Once that happens, the system seems to have found some sort of freedom, and the computer works like it used to -- much faster and without any hiccups (you know, those things that always make one have to reboot all the time).

Isn't that how it is in our lives sometimes? Things will be going well and then all of a sudden we just don't seem to be getting things accomplished like we used to. A couple of months (or God forbid, years) go by and we look back and it seems like we've barely moved the needle from where we were before. As if we were in slow motion.

And our businesses can be the same way. We can take a quick walk through our offices and with careful observation we could probably find little pockets of "free space" everywhere. If we could just get all that wasted time together in one area, we could figure out how to accomplish the next goal, or get the Client or our Customers something they didn't expect, or spend some time planning for next year. We might be surprised that those pockets of free space could combine to equal a week's worth of time -- but we always say we're too busy for that off-site planning session which could improve team work and create ideas for implementation in the next quarter or next year. Or that we're too busy to take our family away for a short weekend for a little vision planning.

Most of us tend to regroup at the New Year. January 1st seems to be the time when everyone gets refocused on priorities and goals for the upcoming year. That's the time when we rejigger our lives or put everything we're doing through the defrag process. Cutting out the things that no longer serve us well, focusing on the things we want, reorganizing our "free space" to become more productive and to perform at a higher level, whether in business or in our own personal lives.

I encourage you to think of the upcoming Labor Day Holiday in a new light. To focus in on your work and life to make sure you're getting the most out of it. To be sure that what you're doing and how you're spending your time is running at optimum performance and is serving you well.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Own your greatness.

I'm getting ready to embark on a new chapter of my career to help people do what Les Brown says, "own your greatness." What inspires me are the people who are seeking more, those who ask "is that all there is?" or "How'd I get here?" or who say "I'd really like to be doing something else." Those who want to do more fulfilling and rewarding work, not being satisfied where they are.

Then there are the people who by most accounts are already successful who need a little boost, too. The CEO who is looking for the next chapter of his/her life who just hasn't stopped long enough to think it through or make it important enough to take action. The author who's already published and sold many books but hasn't figured out how to build his or her internet presence. The Think Tank group that hasn't figured out how to use blogging to collaborate and expand their collective thinking. The small business owner or entrepreneur who needs to take his/her business to the next level.

There are so many things that stop people from what I refer to as "mission critical." I believe it is critical, somehow mandatory, that each one of us fully lives our mission. And I'm talking about in business or in life. Can you imagine? What would it be like if you and everyone around you did nothing but exactly what they were put here on earth to do?

I'm reminded of Paul Potts, the opera singer who won Britain's Got Talent reality TV show for '07. The guy had a voice like that and was hiding out selling cell phones for goodness sake. No confidence whatsoever. Unbelievable. His life has completely changed -- and all of us are the benefactors as we have the wonderful opportunity to listen to the passion in his voice because he chose to own his greatness -- he chose to trade his singing in the shower for singing on the world's stage. There's no way one can listen to Paul sing Nessun Dorma and not be moved. Truly moved. And his humble story just makes him that much more compelling as an artist. And everything he's been through in life has made him what he is today.

The thing is...he's not the only one. There are many more like him. Those of us who hide behind whatever lack of confidence we have in ourselves. Having incredible talent and not even being aware of our amazing gift. And "gifts" are like that...they come so naturally to us that we don't even realize what we've been given. We have to stop, be aware and make the right decisions.

I love what Paul said in his biography, "I was so nervous I was shaking like a jelly, but when I watch that audition back, I can see in my eyes that when I start to sing I go to a totally different place and the nerves just vanish."

What do you do that takes you to a totally different place? Where can you can get lost in doing it and time just seems to stand still in the moment? Where can you feel free from fear? What moves you??? Remember that everything in your life -- all your experiences, successes and failures, happiness and sadness alike -- have been given to you to bring you to this place. This moment right now. Will you choose to own your greatness? Or will you cower and retreat to a place of perceived safety? Be bold.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The maturation of Mandela: His 8 lessons of leadership

If you haven't yet read Time magazine's article on on Nelson Mandela, it's an impressive recap on Leadership from the man who's now 90 years young. I've listed 3 out of his 8 leadership lessons that I'm most passionate about -- you can read the article and choose your own.

Lesson #1: Courage is not the absence of fear -- it's inspiring others to move beyond it.

That is so true. Often we have to take some action ourselves in order to help others see that it's o.k. And sometimes it requires great faith in ourselves, our abilities, the unknown and a higher spiritual power. One of the best quotes of all time is from Gandhi, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

Lesson #3: Lead from the back -- and let others believe they are in front.

This is a critical leadership lesson. I've seen many leaders make the mistake of always thinking they should be in front instead of drawing out the greatness in others. And they can't even begin to see how and what it costs their companies in terms of creativity, innovation, engagement, speed, client relationships, (I could go on and on). It's like they forget that their role as a leader is to teach and inspire others to lead.

There are two books that I've devoured on this subject, because I felt the authors were humble in their writings, realizing the mistakes they had made and where they had achieved success within their organizations. The first is from Michael Abrashoff, "It's your ship" and the second from Belasco & Stayer, "Flight of the Buffalo." Both books are in my Amazon recommended read list.

Lesson #7: Quitting is leading too.

I don't think we hear this very often in leadership advice but it is good advice to heed. Mandela says, "Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make." And I would add that knowing "when" to equally critical.

His 90th Birthday

Quoted from the end of the article... Ultimately, the key to understanding Mandela is those 27 years in prison. The man who walked onto Robben Island in 1964 was emotional, headstrong, easily stung. The man who emerged was balanced and disciplined. He is not and never has been introspective. I often asked him how the man who emerged from prison differed from the willful young man who had entered it. He hated this question. Finally, in exasperation one day, he said, "I came out mature." There is nothing so rare — or so valuable — as a mature man. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Nelson Mandela is proof that one person can make a difference. Let's never stop asking ourselves, each day and each present moment, how we can make a difference in the lives of others. Be inspired by one man's life.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Exuberance: Where does it come from?

I've really never thought too much about the word "exuberance" until I met a land developer in northern Virginia by the name of John Clark. We were talking about ways to describe his passion for land development and in particular for his vision of Haymount, a new urbanist community near Fredericksburg -- a project he's been working on for many years. It was more than passion and certainly more than joy that flowed from him. He was nearly giddy.

To be exuberant is to be "joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic," according to Webster's dictionary. It's more than just having enthusiasm or passion -- it's more like unbridled enthusiasm that's somehow in one's blood and running through their veins rather than an attitude one professes.

So how do we believe so deeply in our vision -- whether for ourselves or for our company -- that we have this unrestrained joy that exudes from us? Is that possible? Realistically, it's not possible to maintain it through the trials and tribulations of life -- or is it? Is that a choice we have?

I remember Anthony Robbins once talking about achieving the point of "sustained joy." I mentioned it to a couple of colleagues and we all talked about how that seemed so impossible to achieve in one's life. Yet Tony, the eternal optimist and NLP expert, believes it is possible. That if you enjoy and love what you're doing so much, that nothing bars you from the feeling and belief that you are truly doing your life's mission. You know, what God intended you to do in it's closest form. And when we're in that place, we experience that joyfully unrestrained enthusiasm (en-theos = in God) that is better referred to as exuberance.

Have you ever experienced that profound joy in your life? When you just could feel yourself enthusiastic beyond belief? Like you were so happy about what you were doing in your life that you couldn't even see straight?

Could you imagine if we were to feel like that more times than not? Rather than experiencing it once in a blue moon -- we would feel it most of the time? Can you imagine the sustained energy that would be with us if we could only figure out what to do that makes us happiest? It's so simple. Find our life's mission and just do it. Do you know what your life's mission is -- what you were put here on earth to do?
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Monday, August 11, 2008

Take a risk or stay the course. No reward in the latter.

We've often heard that doing something is risky. Our society pressures us to play safe. Stay where you are. Go down the path of least resistance. Don't rock the boat.

Yet boats are made for rocking. And great sea captains never become great sea captains by sailing calm seas. Sometimes we can't see that staying put or playing it safe is the biggest risk we could ever take. That fear of the unknown is the only thing that holds us back from propelling us forward. From reaching our goals. From making the quantum leaps in our lives. Why should we be satisfied with staying where we are? Who says we should just keep plugging along in the bay of mediocrity? What is it that we really fear? Are we fearing taking a risk or what will happen if we step out of our comfort zone -- or are we fearing our own strength and inner power?

This has long been debated but I'm often so inspired by Marianne Williamson's writing...

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson
Made famous by Nelson Mandela

When we take a risk, when we step out of mediocrity, when we move away from fear - we often step into the light where we can see more clearly. And not only that, we help illuminate the way for others to do the same, just by our one simple act. When we don't take what so often seems like a risk or the road less traveled, we not only hold back ourselves, but we hold back those around us. Those who could be inspired -- even liberated -- by our actions.

So the next time you're faced with a choice between what appears to be risky and what appears safe, be sure to look at it from all angles before making a decision. Don't be swayed by what society says, or what perhaps a well-meaning parent told you as a child -- don't be pressured to play small. Do accept your own power -- the impact that only you can have -- and light the way for others. With risk comes reward -- a fulfillment beyond measure.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Leadership that resonates, captures passion

Last week, a colleague gave me a brochure for the upcoming 10th annual Forbes Executive Women's Forum, Building Bridges. Quite a few great speakers on the line up, including Shelley Lazarus, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak at the DMA last year.

But I enjoyed reading the agenda details for speaker Annie McKee, co-author of Resonant Leadership: Renewing yourself and connecting with others through mindfulness, hope and compassion. The blurb to describe her talk says "What distinguishes great leaders? Exceptional leaders capture passion. Through resonance, leaders become attuned to the needs and dreams of people they lead. They create conditions where people can excel and are able to sustain their effectiveness through renewal..."

There are some great insights to ponder here. Connecting through mindfulness. Capturing passion. Becoming attuned to needs and dreams (which reminds me of the book, The Dream Manager). Sustain effectiveness through renewal not just of others, but ourselves.

Sounds great conceptually. But in our day-to-day world, how often are we as leaders truly connecting with people? How many of us take a moment to find out what drives an individual team member? Or to make "renewal" a part of the team or company's culture? I believe it happens, sure. But most often we're so busy getting work out the door that we're not keenly attuned to people's needs.

There's a lesson here for all of us. That today, we can make an effort to genuinely connect with someone and build a bridge between who they are and the job we're asking them to do. That's how we capture passion and bring it to life. How we resonate with others. Agree?
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Indecision: The opposite of being bold

"Each indecision brings its own delays and days are lost lamenting over lost days...What you can do or think you can do, begin it. For boldness has magic, power, and genius in it."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
1749-1832, Poet, Novelist and Scientist

And that's all I've got to say about that.
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Monday, August 4, 2008

Freedom in a little word called "choice."

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
- Viktor E. Frankl

Words to live by, literally. If we could only learn to live this lesson -- that we have a choice in our responses to people or situations. We can choose to react or we can choose to respond, the latter often coming to us by delaying the response just a bit. Finding that space to collect our thoughts, take a breath, weigh our options, and choose the best response -- which may be a calm response or no response at all.

And then there's the implementation of the 5 minute rule. That when something is really getting to us that we either do something about it right then and there -- take care of the situation calmly of course -- or we choose to let it go so that it doesn't continue to eat at us, as that's unproductive. The 5 minute rule requires discipline -- and lots of it -- but a good practice nonetheless.

Viktor Frankl understood a bit about growth and freedom and hope -- all things we can choose to live for. He exhibited a higher level of consciousness, which he viewed as sort of an unconscious spirituality. Isn't that what it takes to have freedom in our lives? Our decision or choice to respond versus react to situations almost requires us to reach a bit deeper in our being, beyond the ego mind and into the spirit-filled heart. To think more about others and less of ourselves, even in just that split moment of "space" that Viktor refers to. To allow ourselves the freedom that is ours, if we choose.
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Sunday, August 3, 2008

How powerful is intuition? In business. In life.

Most people would probably agree that we can't run our businesses or our lives on intuition or gut feel alone. Facts, figures, information, competitive environment, past success or failures all play a part in our decision-making. But when faced with a choice where all things seem relatively equal, learning to trust our intuition can be extremely valuable.

There are many successful business people who will tell you how important it is to believe and trust intuition as a guiding factor. Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates have all admitted that much of their success can be attributed to their ability to sense what's right based on instinct rather than rational processes. Even Einstein wrote that "the only valuable thing is intuition."

John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends, was quoted as saying "Intuition becomes increasingly invaluable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data." So the question is how powerful is intuition becoming as a legitimate and highly recognizable tool in our society? According to a 2006 PRWeek CEO survey, 62% of CEOs use their gut feel when making decisions. And then there are companies who pay $10,000 a month for business intuitionists, like Laura Day, who was recently featured in Newsweek, to help them as an organization become more intuitive, innovative and creative. Obviously, Seagate Technologies and other companies must think it's extremely valuable.

We all possess intuition. Some people have more of an innate ability to pay attention to it and trust it than others, but we can all learn to do that. You probably know people who are very objective in their judgment and then others who are naturally subjective. Or people who tend to be more original and creative thinkers and others who would prefer to simply restate what others have said.

Arupa Testolin, of Intuita, wrote an encapsulating article on the importance of intuition in management decisions. She closed by saying, "Our greatest challenges today will be surmounted by choices made, not from what we know, but from what we don't."
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is all leadership appreciative leadership? You decide.

I'm reading and being inspired by Robert E. Quinn's book, "Building the bridge as you walk on it: A guide for leading change." Not a weekend read (too deep for that) as there are many thought-provoking leadership concepts to digest. One so far really stood out, and that is the concept of appreciative leadership, as quoted here.

"It could be argued that all leadership is appreciative leadership. It's the capacity to see the best in the world around us, in our colleagues, and in the groups we are trying to lead. It's the capacity to see the most creative and improbable opportunities in the marketplace. It's the capacity to see with an appreciative eye the true and the good, the better and the possible."

- David Copperrider (quoted in Creelman, 2001).
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Inspiration is like oxygen to the soul.

Several years ago, I was with a group of managers and we were talking about leadership and our role as leaders. We talked about the word inspire, and I remember one fairly young manager saying "whoa, I never thought of myself as someone who inspires." He responded as if the word was sacred. But by the end of the session, he began to really grab hold and accept the idea, and walked away looking at his position in a brand new light.

He was right in thinking the word carried some sort of holiness to it. It was derived from the latin word "inspiratus," pp of inspirare which means to "inspire, inflame, blow in to," from "in-spirare" which means "to breath" or "to breath into". Websters says that "to inspire" means to influence, move or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration." So I like to think that "to inspire" or "in-spirit" means to breathe spirit into someone, to not only touch their soul but to awaken it, as if we were breathing oxygen into someone who needs it to sustain life, i.e. a method of divine CPR.

So you can see how critically important it is to inspire someone, to wake up in the morning with the thought of "who am I going to inspire today?" or better yet "how many people can I inspire today?" Inspiring someone isn't difficult -- a smile, an act of engagement or a few words of gratitude or encouragement is sometimes all it takes to bring greatness up and out of someone's inner being. Try it for 21 days (it takes 21 days to create a habit) and see how you can breathe life into others.

For those of you who are leaders in your organization, you have much bigger opportunities and perhaps a much bigger responsibility to inspire your employees. There are some very simple things you can do to inspire people such as take 6 people on your staff to lunch -- but take 6 people you've never had lunch with before. Invite them personally. Or call an impromptu "stand up" staff meeting for no other reason than to share with them how you personally were inspired by something or someone lately, and make the story relevant to your staff. Employees have a tendency to emulate the leadership, whether they consciously choose to or not. If you inspire them, they'll be more likely to inspire others.
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

On being bold: the journey continues

For those of you who know me, you know I'm not shy. I say what's on my mind. I'm candid, frank and direct. And of course, I'm always encouraging other people to speak up and do the same.

But I still get people who tell me to "be bold" or "how could you walk away and not tell them" or "people really want to hear your opinion" or "there are people who want and need your guidance." You're kidding, right?!? People don't want to hear...

And then there's this really funky talent I have where I can rather quickly conceptualize combinations of people and ideas, in sort of a visionary way. It's really hard to explain but it has to do with maximizing people's potential and getting them out of their own box so that they can be freed up to think and act outside the box. I know, I know, sounds so simple but it's a very complicated thing that happens in my brain all the time. The weird thing is that I can apply it to just about any situation or business or anyone -- at any level at just about any time. No research needed -- just a little bit of observation time and my brain wiring goes into action. The more observation, the more concepts I see.

I think the visionary part is that I can "see" the impact of what could happen if a few barriers were lifted -- and those barriers are sometimes difficult to explain to people because they are often barriers in the way people think.

The challenge, of course, is capturing those ideas and sharing them. I'm so used to the ideas coming at a fast pace -- they are so normal to me -- that I discount half of them just like fleeting thoughts. As if they have no value to me or anyone around me. Like popcorn. And then there's the challenge of when I do share, that people either look at me like I have 3 heads or they completely react and disengage and never even try to go with me on the thought journey. Only once in a while do I run across someone who "gets it." So I'm usually left with this vivid "potential picture" that nine times out of ten just fades away until the next one comes, and the next and the next.

If I had my drothers, and I suppose I do, I'd create a new title for myself -- something like chief potential officer. To me, that'd be the coolest job in the world. Job description? Easy as 1-2-3: Observe. See potential. Explain the picture. That's it. No different than an artist or sculptor.

It was Michelangelo who said... "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." For me, uncovering potential in a person or a business is simply to take away that which isn't necessary. That which has no purpose. That which no longer serves one well.

I don't know if being more bold is what it will take for me to move forward in my own life. But I do know that being more of who I am -- more accepting of the gifts that God has provided - is mission critical. If I can make a difference in one person's life, it's all worth it. But what if I could make a difference in hundreds or thousands? Or what if by my making a difference in a few lives, many lives could be changed as a result?

Being bold is not about being in someone's face as much as it is about facing challenges head on, with an almost quiet and even deeply spiritual confidence. It's about having the courage to be truly authentic. It's about pushing through fear to gain the opportunities that only freedom from fear can bring. It's about realizing that explaining a "vision" or a conceptual idea can change the direction of a company -- maybe not today, but maybe within a few months or even the next year.

Will you go on this journey with me? Will you commit to being more bold?
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Change or Die. Second chances are few and far between.

When I was about 18, I was driving my very first car -- an olive green '69 grand prix -- home late one Sunday night when I fell asleep at the wheel only to wake up finding myself going up a hill at 45mph in the oncoming traffic lane with the nose of a semi-truck right in front of me. Miraculously, he was able to swerve over toward the lane I should have been in and I stayed out of the ditch, missed a mailbox and came back only to clip my right front fender on his 18th wheel. He didn't stop. There was little damage to my car. So I went home to wake up my parents to let them know that I was alive.

A couple weeks ago my uncle, my last relative alive besides my two siblings, was feeling ill. It was a Sunday night after attending a car show so he went to the emergency room only to find that he was quickly on the road to a major heart attack due to 90% blockage -- so they stabalized him, sent him home to get his paperwork finalized and performed triple bypass surgery a couple of days later.

We both got second chances at life. But for my grandmother who died of bone cancer at 56, for my father who went out running one hot day and passed out and into a coma and died over a year later at 52, and for my mother who died recently of lymphoma brain cancer, they didn't. Nor did a friend's baby who died recently after only 8 months on this planet. "Life is short" takes on new meaning to anyone who's had a second chance -- or has been close enough to someone who didn't.

Change is difficult, whether it's quitting smoking as my uncle has had to do or simply changing our thinking to wake up out of our comfort zones. In business, organizational change is something we have to continually work at. And with this economy, and how the world will be changing in the next few years, we are forced to change more than ever.

The title of this post links to a Fast Company article written in May '05 - entitled "Change or Die" which offer some different perspectives that are still relevant today -- perhaps more so.

There's also a short ebook that you can buy from that is a summary of Robert Quinn's books on deep change. It's titled "Deep Change or Slow Death" and has some interesting thoughts on this subject as well.

All of us are faced with changes we have to make in our lives or our businesses in order to survive. Change is hard, yes. But we really don't have a choice. Embracing change is the best thing we can do as we may not get that second chance. Leading change by being the catalyst for it is the role that each of us must play with as much passion and emotion as we can muster in order to change behaviors, thoughts and patterns. Each of us has to be committed to creating changes in both our lives and our organizations because if we're not changing, we're dying. There's really no in-between. It's just a matter of time.

I almost got hit by a Mac truck; don't let it happen to you. It's time to wake up. Today.

Note: I wrote this one week before Randy Pausch passed away. Please be inspired by Randy's strength, character and truth as depicted in "The Last Lecture" book or video -- or by his Time Management lecture. There is never a time when we shouldn't be doing something meaningful with our lives.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is the economy making advertising better?

Gas prices are up, stock market is down, financial institutions are struggling, consumer confidence is waning at best, home values are declining, spending is down... and marketing budgets have been either cut or reallocated. Those of us in marketing -- both corporate or agency side -- know that, now more than ever, the advertising messages have to cut through, they have to resonate with the intended audience, they must deliver results. None of this is new news -- we've heard it all before.

So is advertising really getting better? Have we challenged ourselves enough to think outside the box -- a phrase we've heard all too often lately? Are we really listening to the consumer more than we've ever done before - recently? Is the creative work reflective of continually challenging ourselves and our thinking again and again and again?

Selling in a down economy can be done, and it can be done effectively with the right value proposition for the new economy. With messaging that's relevant today and not yesterday.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The new business agenda: Is your mission big enough to be your business strategy?

A few years ago, I read the book "Mavericks at Work: Why the most original minds in business win." So I was delighted to see co-author and Fast Company co-founder Bill Taylor on the Maximum Impact simulcast in May as I wanted to hear what this business futurist had up his sleeve.

While his message didn't stray too much from the book, his passion and belief about originality was about as authentic as I've seen... Strategy and ideas -- implemented of course -- reshape organizations. Companies with the clearest sense of purpose are the ones that win. Those with a distinctive mission have a very different kind of impact. Strategy as advocacy -- not just a company but a cause. The only sense of sustaining leadership is thought leadership. Not to be different but to have a mission that becomes the company's strategy. Success is much more than price, features, product or a service -- it is about passion, emotion, identity, being memorable even with the small touches...being human. This is the side of the business that will make the most difference in both growth and sustainability. Being not just problem solvers but solutions finders for our customers and clients.

So what is it about our businesses that people find memorable? What will make them stick when competition or the economy is tough? How do we rise above and find opportunities amidst the chaos?

Bill reminds us that ideas can come from anywhere and any person in the world. We shouldn't feel like we need to be the smartest person in the "room" -- it's o.k. to tap the hidden genius and the collective genius in our organizations and beyond.
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Leadership is influence.

John Maxwell's view of leadership is so simple. He boils it all down to the fact that leadership is nothing more than influence. And if you can simply influence people in positive ways, they'll discover through their own abilities that they can accomplish more in both their personal lives and in business. And when each member of the team changes individually, the whole team changes collectively. The flywheel starts turning, as Jim Collins says. One person's move in a positive direction can influence many others around him or her. As Gandhi says, "we must be the change we wish to see in the world." How will you positively impact someone's life today?
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Seagate spends $2 million annually for team building

Many of us have been to team building events but Seagate's week-long event for 200 if its employees seems to just top them all. A week in New Zealand practicing lessons based on the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. Unbelievable. The blog title links to the article that appeared in Fortune magazine back in May -- which starts with "Everyone here's going to die..."
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It's official.

Yes, that's right. I'm finally a blogger even though I've been dabbling for a while. The blog was really easy to set up and configure. Welcome -- and please don't be shy about adding comments!
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