Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach on the need for flexible thinking:

“We must dispel the notion that strong leaders don’t change their positions … or, dare we say, learn. Flipflopping when you have new information – flexing your thinking in an explicable way – is absolutely a hallmark of effective leadership in the face of accelerating change.
“Good leaders have an intuitive sense of things that must be true for their organizations to be successful and consistently check whether these conditions remain true in the external environment. They are on the lookout for things that could destroy the business model they have created. And if something changes that gives them pause, they aren’t afraid to make adjustments. When your business model may be at risk of implosion, it’s a very good thing that leaders changed their tune.”

Source: Provoke: How Leaders Shape the Future by Overcoming Fatal Human Flaws

II.

Historian Adrian Goldsworthy on concerns over the growth of organizations:

“It is only human nature to lose sight of the wider issues and focus on immediate concerns and personal issues.… All human institutions, from countries to businesses, risk creating a similarly short-sighted and selfish culture.
“Success produces growth and, in time, creates institutions so large that they are cushioned from mistakes and inefficiency.
“In most cases it takes a long time for serious problems or errors to be exposed. It is usually even harder to judge accurately the real competence of individuals and, in particular, their contributions to the overall purpose.
“For the vast majority of people, their work is less open to the public gaze but is similar in that the real consequences of what they do are not obvious.”

Source: How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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The balance between life and business is an interesting conundrum. There are articles, books, podcasts, and videos that talk about the need for work-life balance. The reality is that the balance has to be specific to your situation, and it’s a lifelong process to attain. Business leaders should be more focused on optimization strategies that create freedom in an enjoyable way.

Your goal isn’t to have your business turn into a job. While at the same time, you’d like your business to create financial freedom and an avenue for you to live an optimized life. The path to achieving your goals happens with the right habits and consistent action daily.

The good news is that you can create a happy life while also building a business that scales. For growth to be a reality, you have to employ growth strategies that are realistic to maintain. Here are three business optimization strategies that create time, freedom, happy life, and help you achieve your success goals.

1. Use systems to scale without your constant and direct involvement.

Today’s tools and software allow you to get more done without requiring a lot of your time. The issue becomes the business leader feels as if they have to wear all the hats. Too many leaders handle client onboarding while also managing sales, fulfilling the work, creating content, and everything in between. They are the jack of all trades, and they can never make any progress towards their goals because they have too much going on.

You can create more growth enjoyable when you use software and automation to systematize your efforts.  That can be using software to automate a lot of the client process. It can mean hiring a virtual team to help with various aspects of the business, even if it’s on a project basis. The point is to leverage modern growth options without having to add more responsibility to your plate.

“To be successful in business and in life, spot the possibilities while others look for problems.” – Robina Sharma

2. Focus on revenue over looking successful. 

Growth in life and business happens when there’s real growth. The world of social media gives us flashy images of success that tend to be built on a house of cards. Have you ever noticed that the most successful people in life aren’t flashy and don’t talk about wealth? The ones you see talking about six or seven figures end up being the ones trying to sell you on a program. You have to buy into their flash; otherwise, they won’t sell any of their programs. They’re selling you on a lifestyle.

The goal is to model the old saying, “make power moves in silence.” There is an important aspect of sharing what’s going on with your community, but a part of the growth process happens in private. Your goal should be to generate revenue instead of looking like you’re generating revenue. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks; they’re not paying your bills. Focus on doing the things that grow revenue, and let the results you’re getting for other people do the talking for you. 

3. Only work on the things you want to be doing. 

We spend so much of our time and effort working on what we think we should do in life. It may be societal programming or things our parents have taught us, but we don’t spend enough time doing what we actually want to do.

We create a business model that is not enjoyable to us. We take on clients we know are not a good fit and let too many people cross our boundaries. We wake up every day, look at our schedule, and start to feel dread because our day isn’t filled with the things we want to be doing.

It’s time for us to take a step back and think about how we want to show up and spend our time. The key to growth and a happy life is building a business doing the things that we want to do, which brings us joy. You use a growth model that has all of the elements that help you accomplish your goals.

Stop chasing a false image of success, and things you think will make you successful. Take time to think about the life you’d like to create and the path to get there. Think about the things that will bring you joy, and that’s how you should be spending your time.

You have some thinking to do. It’s time to have an authentic conversation with yourself about what sort of life and business you’d like to be creating. It would help if you did not spend a single moment doing things that don’t bring you joy.

Use these business optimization strategies to figure out what changes need to be made and make those changes. Get consistent in the action you’re taking to build your wealth and create more happiness in your life. Stop chasing a social media image of success and focus on creating success starting from within.

Read more: addicted2success.com

Not every internship works out, let alone an unpaid internship. Internship experience can range from coffee runs to hands-on project management. Regardless of the actual responsibilities you have in your role, an internship is what you make of it. My most successful internship was the one I took straight out of graduate school that inspired the idea behind a big-name Hollywood entertainment business.

I sold the business that would turn into Gofobo.Com to Terry Hines and Associates before even turning thirty. It’s one of my greatest achievements, and the story of how I got to the finish line might come as a surprise. My journey of success did not start with a trust fund, but with an unpaid internship and a “no.” 

The origin lies in pushing myself during every stage of my life— from working the paper route as a child, being a janitor in my high school, to signing up for countless other volunteer positions as a young adult. This tenacity reared its head as I began to encounter roadblocks that now serve as a cornerstone in one of my earliest success stories.

No Job is Too Small

I took an unpaid internship at Allied Entertainment after I got my MBA, promoting movie screenings and mailing paper tickets to those who secured them. Sorting through movies like Harry Potter and The Notebook in the backroom, noting who actually showed up and who did not. A seemingly menial task, right? 

The thing is: being down in the nitty-gritty of this kind of work is the best way to see what’s going right or wrong. I was the one to notice that at screenings we would either have too many or too few people show up. In the growing digital age, I realized this was a prime moment to transition to electronic tickets. In short: my “aha” moment may have happened on unpaid time, but boy did it pay off.

Good ideas are good ideas, and they come from everyone in the workplace. After all, it is the lack of confidence that will shrink you down, not your job title. If you treat your work like it is insignificant, you will feel insignificant yourself. However, if you treat every action like it can be groundbreaking, it will be. The sooner you take that lesson, the sooner you will see results.

Go Against the Flow, It’s Worth It

I brought the idea of electronic tickets to the CEO of the company, absolutely itching with eagerness. After all, who wouldn’t want that easy data at their fingertips? Well, apparently not him— or at least not yet. He brushed it off, saying to keep going about business as usual. It’s easier to do things as they have always been done. 

This didn’t sit right with me though. My business motto has always been to give my 100% effort, even if that means undertaking a more daunting task. Only then can you expect and see results. It’s the way I live my life most authentically: giving it my 100% over and over again. After all, hard work pays off; there’s a reason why that cliche exists in the first place. The idea of just continuing along one path because it’s the most familiar felt like a long-winded oversight. 

Faith unshaken, my vision of these electronic tickets just couldn’t go away. I knew it would make a splash in the market and was in an area no one else had explored yet. So, I went down the discouraged path and carried on with my idea anyway. I reached out to a friend from college who was similarly excited about the future of this project and we got to work. 

“There’s no shortage in remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.” – Seth Godin

Be Relentless

I trusted my gut feeling that the CEO’s “no” wasn’t a dead end. I recognized I had done the research and that my concept wasn’t foolhardy, but relentless. And being relentless ends in results. 

I know firsthand that putting in the time and effort will help see a project through. I’ll be up at the crack of dawn to get my projects finished as soon as possible, trying to check as many things off a list as I can. That’s right, I was that kid in college who finished his homework for the whole semester over the first two weekends so I can spend the rest of my time focusing on other extracurriculars.

So, over the course of two years, we worked hard. We got up early and stayed up late. Ran our pencils dull as our eyes glossed over computer screens. And thank goodness we did.

Stay Good-Natured and Listen

This story ends when I’m in my late 20s, standing in a boardroom at the end of my two years of persistent work— no longer the unpaid intern. I was an accomplished businessman face to face again with the original man that told me to drop the idea behind gofobo.com. This time, however, I had sold the idea of gofobo.com and it merged with Alliance Entertainment, becoming what it’s known for today. That’s when he told me he’d “never turn me down again.”

Make a name for yourself this way. Don’t be afraid to be bold— one day those who doubted you will no longer be your superior, but your equal. Forge partnerships with everyone. Every individual in your company is valuable with their own unique, original, and potentially groundbreaking ideas who deserve to be heard and taken seriously. 

Yes, even the unpaid intern.

Read more: addicted2success.com

When starting out, it is an uphill battle for many entrepreneurs to find their voice in their industry and get their business out there. Just like you may have experienced when job hunting back in the day, employers wanted you to have a certain number of years experience in the industry, but no-one actually wanted to give you that experience. A catch-22 that can feel totally unfair if you know your own capabilities and just want the chance to prove yourself.

This scenario is often the case for entrepreneurs. While you obviously aren’t job hunting, you are looking for opportunities to make yourself and your brand known in the world. But it seems like no-one will give you the time of day until you have actually “achieved” something. So until you are “successful” it can essentially feel like you are a nobody.

We need a to show the whole story, not just the end result

However, people don’t always want to see the happy ending to the story where the entrepreneur was ultra successful, made millions of dollars and lived happily ever after. 

While that can be inspiring, it is often much more inspiring to hear from others just like yourself who are in the startup phase right now. People who haven’t achieved their vision yet. People who, on the outside, seem like they haven’t achieved much at all despite having a couple of years of hard work under their belt.

In business books, on podcasts and in articles, we are always being told one of the secrets to success is to “love the process”. That means to love all the ups and downs that come with entrepreneurship, especially in the early days. However, the reality is something different. The process of starting up isn’t celebrated at all. Only the end result- if it ends up in what most people define as success. People only want to share your story once you’ve been through it, not while you are living it.

But this is how we get the one-sided version of entrepreneurship. The side that only shows how people are successful and make lots of money being an entrepreneur. The side with all the challenges and the ultra hard startup days remains hidden. When we only see the glory, it’s no wonder that people have a fear of failure and will quit at the first sign of trouble. Most people don’t even realise that every single entrepreneur faces challenges and no-one is an overnight success.

There needs to be a balance of what is depicted in the media about entrepreneurship and that begins with seeking out startups and letting them share their current story and their vision of where they are heading.

“There are no quick wins in business – it takes years to become an overnight success.” – Richard Branson

All entrepreneurs deserve to be role models, not just the ones who have “made it”. 

These people have just as much to offer an audience, if not more, in terms of inspiration for other entrepreneurs. These are the people who aren’t too far removed from their humble beginnings to forget how hard it was at the start and the challenges they faced in business and life to get their break.

They are living all those unique start up challenges right now. Those early years can be isolating and exhausting. There are extra challenges that startup entrepreneurs face, such as bootstrapping or working late at night after their 9-to-5 or once the kids have gone to bed.

These first years of a business are not insignificant. Startup entrepreneurs deserve to share their story, why they started, their vision for a better world and what they are working on right now. Whether they achieve “success” or not is irrelevant, because even if their businesses aren’t around in another five years, they are still role models to other aspiring entrepreneurs. That’s because they took a chance that many people don’t. They took the chance to make a difference in the world, create a different life for themselves and put their idea out into the world. All of which is something to be celebrated.

If you can help, then you should

For those who have podcasts, media sites, article submissions, events or conferences, basically anyone who is in some sort of position where they can help fellow entrepreneurs build awareness of their brand and their vision, please use your platform for good. Use it in a way that shows the many sides of entrepreneurship. Most claim to be about helping others build their businesses and create success and now it is time to prove it. Helping others also means sharing the stories of people who are relatable right now, not just those who were once upon a time.

And for those of you who are trying to get your voices heard- keep going, ignore the rejections and just keep asking. Keep sending the emails, making the phone calls and trying to establish the right connections. Keep voicing your opinions on what matters to you in any way that you can. Your time will come when others will stand up and realise that you have something great to offer the world. Then they will be knocking your door down to get you on their podcasts!

Read more: addicted2success.com

Soul of An Entrepreneur

WHEN WE THINK about entrepreneurship, we tend to fixate on people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Phil Knight. And why not? There are very few budding entrepreneurs that would not want to duplicate their success.

So, we study what these people did to try and find the perfect checklist or formula that brings us the same kind of success. The only problem is this doesn’t reflect the real world of entrepreneurship.

David Sax, author of The Soul of an Entrepreneur, says that a startup myth has developed that has “increasingly defined what an entrepreneur was supposed to look like, how they behaved, and what they did. That myth “established that entrepreneurs were brilliant and young, mostly male and white, highly educated lone geniuses who frequently dropped out of college because they were so singularly focused on a brilliant innovation that would transform industry, and maybe even in the world, through economic disruption driven by blitzkrieg growth and fueled by venture capital.”

The problem is we have come to define entrepreneurship in terms of this startup model when, in fact, it represents a tiny fraction of what entrepreneurship really is. Many more are lifestyle businesses and self-funded. Furthermore, the highest success rates among entrepreneurs come from founders in middle age and beyond with the average age entrepreneur “behind the fastest-growing new companies (especially in the technology sector) was forty-five years old.”

We need to turn our attention to what an entrepreneur really is and why they do it. David Sax began a search for the soul of an entrepreneur. He asks, “Why do entrepreneurs do it? Why do they keep at it, even in the face of tremendous odds, and the daily personal sacrifices, and the imminent threat of financial failure? Why does the entrepreneur matter, why do different types of entrepreneurs matter, and what’s at stake if we lose sight of their value?”

These questions lead him around the world to seek out entrepreneurs from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, and motivations to find the deeper meaning of entrepreneurship. We journey with Sax to a bakery in Toronto run by an immigrant family looking to get a fresh start.

For many immigrants, the need to secure some form of financial survival is the prime motivator of their move into entrepreneurship and is referred to as a push factor. Unlike the pull of an entrepreneur pursuing an attractive idea they simply cannot pass up (a romanticized core of the startup myth), a push to entrepreneurship is driven by necessity, often by a lack of better options, a problem that plagues immigrants.

We visit Tracy Obolsky in Rockaway Beach, New York, who begins her day with the rising sun surfing before she heads out to open her lifestyle business—a business designed to cover the expenses and lifestyle ambitions of the owner.

The lifestyle business captures the soul of the entrepreneur’s essential hope: To be your own boss. To use your talents as you see fit. To wake up each day and do what you decided to do. To reap what you sow, and build your life around that dream, however big or small it is.

We also meet Jesseca Dupart in New Orleans. She leveraged her African American beauty products brand Kaleidoscope, to strengthen her community and to help bring more women like her into entrepreneurship. She says, “You are responsible as a successful person to pay it forward … period! As an entrepreneur, I have to tell everybody you can do whatever you want.”

Then there are the social entrepreneurs where the donation is a marketing expense that drives growth.

This brand of socially conscious capitalism has become romanticized over the past twenty years or so, as a generation of individuals with strong values began to see entrepreneurship as the vehicle for achieving a desired change, in a way that married the dynamism of business with the broad developmental goals that had previously been the realm of governments and multinational organizations.

Sax writes, “what separates empty rhetoric from genuine values-led entrepreneurship is sacrifice.”

We journey to Argentina to see Iduna Weinert, the thirty-seven-year-old daughter of the founder of the Bodega y Cavas de Weinert winery. The family-owned business does not fit the startup myth where the immediate goal is an exit from the business. The family is often seen as an impediment to entrepreneurship. But in reality, families have always been a part of entrepreneurship. About two-thirds of the businesses owned around the world are owned and operated by families, and in America, “family firms constitute over half of the businesses in the country and half of those listed on stock markets.”

Sax notes that “entering a family business does not make a relation an entrepreneur” and few actually succeed into the second generation. But it does become something of a lifestyle. “Knowledge is cumulative and serves as the base for the next generation’s entrepreneurial ideas and the confidence to pursue them.”

Sax expands our view of not only what an entrepreneur is, but more importantly, what it means to be an entrepreneur. Sax talks to entrepreneurs that share their ups and downs, successes and failures. And failure is a very real part of owning a business. Uncertainty is a daily part of business. Only two-thirds of businesses survive their first year. The “essential ingredient that links all entrepreneurs together, wherever they are,” says Sax, is hope.

The hope that your idea has worth. The hope that it will sell. The hope that you have the ability to change your fortune … for yourself, your family, the community around you, and maybe even the world. That hope is the persistent faith we gather up in ourselves every single day, as we go out and try to make our ideas work. It underpins the personal risk that all entrepreneurs must accept and allows them to manage it, even when that risk threatens to overwhelm them.

Quote The Soul of an Entrepreneur is an engaging look at entrepreneurship. He enriches it by peeling away the Silicon Valley Startup Myth and gives us an appreciation for the men and women that takes their ideas out into the world and try to make them work. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but if you are considering it, this book will give you insight into the very human side of striking out on your own.

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What verb tense is your mind spending most of its time in – present, past or future? How about the members of your team – what time frame are their minds working in? You might consider those questions to be a bit weird or out there, but if you stop and examine the nature of your language and the quality of your thinking, you may find they’re more relevant than you’d initially think.

If you want to examine it, start by paying attention to the language you and your team members are using. Is it reflective of minds being in the past, the present or the future? Here are some clues to listen for.

If you hear a lot of discussion about the way things were before COVID-19 disrupted everything then you or your team are having trouble letting go of the past. Tip off phrases include, “I wish that…,” “I miss…,” and “I’m sorry that…” Thinking back to the past can be a source of energy and motivation when we’re reflecting on peak experiences or how to apply lessons learned. There’s a big difference though between reflecting and ruminating. When we ruminate, we stew. The ancient root of the word actually means to “chew over.” The sense of loss or regret that comes from spending too much time and attention chewing over the past can mire you in the mental and emotional muck that keeps you from taking constructive action in the present.

The flip side of being stuck in the muck on the way things were is freaking out about the way things might be. This is what happens when folks start catastrophizing about things that haven’t happened yet and may not ever happen. The mind can spin out of control into what Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey in their classic book, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life, called thought attacks. When you start hearing language (either in your own head or from the mouths of others) like, “I’m worried that…,” “I’m nervous about…,” and “I’m overwhelmed by…,” those are clues that you or your team members are over indexing on the future tense. Anxiety, fear and dread are the kinds of emotions that flow from that time frame of mind.

And, as I wrote about last week, your feelings flow from your thinking and the actions that lead to results (positive or negative) flow from the emotional state of feelings. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the connection between leadership and the time frames of mind. Clearly, the only verb tense in which anything can get done is the present tense, so, as a leader, that’s where you want your team to direct most of their thinking, time and attention. That’s not to say that you’re not working on preparing for and creating the future. It is to say that you’re making strong connections between what’s done today and what happens tomorrow. As Gandhi wrote, “In regard to any action, one must know the result that is expected to follow.”

Focusing your leadership on the present tense and how it creates the future gives you and your team a sense of agency and control. One way to do that is to regularly ask, coach and lead around the question, “What can we or should we be working on or doing today to put us in a better position one month from now, three months from now or six months from now?” Before you ask the question, you might push the mental reset button by asking everyone to clear their mental chatter by taking three deep breaths. But before you do either of those, check in with yourself. What time of frame of mind are you in? If you need to make your own adjustment, now is a great time to do it.

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For many of us in the United States, week seven or so of the work from home (WFH) period is underway. And even as attention turns to how to get people back to the office, it’s pretty clear that we’re at the beginning of a pretty long haul of a lot more working from home than we ever thought we would. From my vantage point as a long-time work from homer and a coach to a lot of leaders and teams who are new to the scene, what I’m seeing is a slow realization that we’re in a marathon, not a sprint. And that means we’re going to have to adjust if we plan to finish the race on our feet.  About a month ago on the Pivot podcast with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, noted relationship counselor and therapist Esther Perel observed of the early days of WFH, “Never before have people worked so hard and gotten so little done.”

Inspired by Perel and what I’m seeing and hearing, here are
three recommendations of things you need to stop doing this week if you want to
work a little less hard and, in the process, actually get more done. If you’re
in a leadership role, so much the better as whatever you stop doing will have a
positive ripple effect for the people on your team.

Stop Sitting All Day – You probably never imagined you’d spend so much time at your kitchen table or that desk you set up in your extra bedroom. I have had way more than one client tell me that they’re sitting at their table in front of their screen for 10 or 12 hours a day without much of a break. I checked out some data from Fitbit today that showed the average step count for their users was down 12 percent the week of March 22 just as the WFH period was cranking up. I haven’t seen more recent data but am guessing the decline is now steeper and deeper. Sitting all day is bad for your health in general and bad for your brain in particular. You need fresh input to keep your neural network humming. Get up and out of your cave throughout the day. When you come back to the screen, you’ll feel better and think better.  

Stop Making Every Meeting a Zoom Call – When the WFH period started, all the cool kids moved to Zoom. The barriers to entry were low and the value of seeing colleagues’ faces was high. The value is still there, but several weeks in, it looks we’ve all overcorrected on the use of  Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. The new notice is the emerging trend of Zoom fatigue. My colleague Beth Schumaker shared this article from National Geographic that explains what it is and why it happens. Here’s the summary. You’ve never been on stage before like you are on Zoom. In the Brady Bunch screen share mode, everyone can see everyone else’s micro expressions and you’re aware you’re being watched as carefully as you’re watching others. You might even be watching yourself as you speak which is not something you ever did pre-pandemic. It’s exhausting and leaves you depleted with less frontal brain lobe capacity to think strategically and make sound decisions. Zoom is great until it isn’t. Mix up your communications modalities. Take some old-fashioned phone calls a few times a day instead of another Zoom.

Stop Holding on to Your Original Plan – Going back to work won’t mean going back to normal. You’re not going to pick right back up with the strategic plans you laid out before the pandemic; you’ll have to continue to reprioritize and reimagine based on new realities. In spite of everything that’s already changed and all that clearly will change from this point forward, I’m hearing from clients that a lot of their colleagues are still pushing and grinding away on their original business plans for the year. I get that at some level – there’s comfort in the familiar and in the belief that by following a plan we’re in control of our outcomes. Well, in the words of Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” If you’re tempted to stick with your plan, acknowledge that you and everyone else in the world has just taken the mother of all left hooks to the jaw. If you’re still holding on to the original plan, let go of it, step back and ask, “What’s most needed and most important now?”

So, that’s my short list of three things to stop doing this
week. What’s on your list?

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In case you haven’t noticed, it’s presidential primary
season. There are any number of reasons to pay attention to primaries, one of
which is you can learn a lot about leadership communications strategies and
tactics by watching how the candidates do what they do. The most successful
ones tend to go both broad and deep with their communications. They send
messages to very large groups of people while at the same time try to establish
personal connections with individuals.

Sometimes it’s a coffee klatch for a small group and other
times it’s a rally for thousands. Sometimes it’s standing for hours taking
selfies with a line of supporters and other times it’s giving a big speech to
mark out their positions and platform. Sometimes it’s a text message or phone
call and sometimes it’s a 30 second television ad on what seems like every
commercial break.

Successful candidates are masters of both retail
communications (the coffee klatches and selfies) and wholesale communications
(the rallies and ad campaigns). Retail and wholesale communications have
applications far beyond politics. The distinction definitely has importance for
leaders of any kind of movement or large organization.

Here’s a rundown of the similarities and differences between
retail and wholesale communications and some ideas to consider as you work out
your leadership communications game plan.

Many Channels, One Strategy:  Choosing a retail or a wholesale
communications channel depends on the need, the reach and the moment.  Either way, the channels and the approaches
within them need to be tied to an overarching strategy. A simple framework for
building a communications strategy can rest on three questions that you keep
coming back to:

What? – What are you trying to
accomplish?So What? – Why does it matter and why
should people care? (And, by the way, what do they already care about?)Now What? – What do you want people to do
next? What do you want them to know or think? How do you want them to feel?

Narrowcasting or Broadcasting? Narrowcasting is
another way to think about retail communications. It allows you a lot of
opportunity to tailor your “So what?” to individuals or small groups of people
with common interests. It gives you the chance to be more nuanced in your
messaging. Broadcasting is a wholesale communications approach. It’s delivered
through online and offline channels that can reach a lot of people at once.
It’s best used for establishing themes and value propositions that can fit on
the proverbial bumper sticker. Highly effective communications campaigns use a
combination of narrowcasting with key influencers and broadcasting to the
larger group.

Simplicity vs. Complexity – Building off the
narrowcasting and broadcasting distinction is the need to hit the sweet spot on
the spectrum of simplicity vs. complexity in your messaging. As a general rule,
simple messaging (again, think bumper stickers) is the way to go when you need
to wholesale your communications. You can definitely be more nuanced and
complex in your retail communications but be careful not to make the messaging
too complex. The human brain can only process a limited amount of ideas at any
one time. Make your points for sure, but keep them short and memorable. Simple
and familiar analogies help a lot on that last point.

Adjust Your Energy Dial – As a general rule, the
bigger the room, the bigger your energy needs to be. This point was driven home
to me years ago by a client. My natural energy setting is friendly but low key.
I’m not usually going to be the loudest voice in the room. When I was getting
started in my career as a speaker 15 years ago, I had a client organization
where I spoke to 40 or 50 high potential leaders three or four times a year.
Sometimes those sessions went great and other times they were kind of flat and
I never really understood why it went one way or the other. After watching me
in action a few times over the course of a year, my client contact gave me some
incredibly valuable feedback. She said, “I notice that when the group has a lot
of energy, you have a lot of energy. And, when the group starts out kind of
flat, you’re flat. I need you to lead the energy of the room, not be led by the
energy of the room.” That’s something I worked on for several years and I’ve since
learned to adjust my energy to lead the people in the room toward a particular
outcome. That lesson has a lot of application to effectively using both retail
and wholesale communications. The more intimate channels of retail
communication usually call for a level of energy projection that is appropriate
to the room. You want to hit the sweet spot and not overdo it. In the wholesale
communication scenario of much bigger rooms where you can’t make eye contact
with everybody there, you almost always need to dial up your energy. The goal in
big rooms is not an inauthentic version of you; it’s a bigger version of you.

CTA’s Beat FYI’s – One thing we know for sure about
communications in 2020 is that people aren’t going to stay with you very long
if you don’t keep them engaged. CTA’s (calls to action) almost always beat
FYI’s (you know what that means). Whether you’re using a retail or wholesale
communications channel, your messaging needs to be delivered in a way that
encourages interaction and/or action between you and the audience, within the
audience, from the primary audience to other audiences and especially within
the minds of individual audience members. No matter what communications channel
you’re using, always be thinking about the Now What? What do you want the
audience to know, think, do, feel or believe? What’s your CTA both during and
after the communications event?

So, that’s a recap of some my experiences and observations
on the ways successful leaders use both retail and wholesale communications.
What have I missed? What do you agree or disagree with? What’s one takeaway
that you intend to act on?

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Weekend Supplement

Madam C.J. Walker

NETFLIX brings to life the entrepreneurial success story of African American entrepreneur and philanthropist Madam C.J. Walker. The four-hour mini-series Self-Made starring Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer is based on Walker’s great-great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles book, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker.

Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, on a plantation in Delta, Louisiana, to former slaves-turned sharecroppers after the Civil War. Her rags-to-riches story is inspiring and a testimony to hard work, persistence, and resourcefulness. Seeking a way out of her poverty, she became a washerwoman and cook. Eventually moving to Denver, Colorado, she married ad-man Charles Joseph Walker and renamed herself “Madam C.J. Walker.” With $1.25, she created a line of hair products and straighteners for African American women and became one of America’s first self-made female millionaires.

As her business grew, she applied her success to philanthropy giving to organizations focused on the social well-being of Black Americans. She also gave six scholarships to the Tuskegee Institute.

Walker died of kidney failure and complications due to hypertension on May 25, 1919. Her estate was valued at about ten million dollars.

While Self-Made successfully brings awareness to Walker’s life and accomplishments, it is a dramatized story—facts are compromised, but the essence is there. It is a good look into the entrepreneurial mindset. If you want to know more about her life, you might start with Oprah Magazine’s What Self Made Got Right—and Wrong—About Madam C.J. Walker.

Madam C.J. Walker on the business of life:

I got my start by giving myself a start.

If I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.

Perseverance is my motto.

There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it.

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.

I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others.

Keep in mind that you have something that the person standing before you really needs, imagine yourself a missionary and convert him.

Girls and women of our race must not be afraid to take hold of business endeavor and, by patient industry, close economy, determined effort, and close application to business, wring success out of a number of business opportunities that lie at their doors.

People are ugly not in their face but in their thoughts. So never get impressed by someone’s appearance, rather dig deep down into their thoughts to reveal the real person inside out.

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Are You Hearing or Listening?

One of the things I’ve said for a long-time as an executive coach is that if
you get colleague feedback that you need to be a better listener, take the
feedback and start working on it. The positive leadership ripple effects from
doing a better job of listening are enormous and wide-spread. Problem-solving,
team-engagement, relationships and results all improve when leaders listen
better.

I was reminded of this again a few weeks ago when conducting
colleague feedback interviews for a new coaching client. (This is the time of
year when I usually take on a few new clients.) One of the colleagues made an
interesting distinction between hearing and listening as in, “I think he hears
me, but I’m not always sure he’s listening to me.” That distinction between
hearing and listening is a simple one but yields a big difference in outcomes.

Hearing is really just sound waves landing on your ear
drums. When it stops there, it’s what I call transient listening. You’re on
your way to someplace else – physically, mentally or both. You’re basically in
transit and not present. How do you know when you’re just hearing and not
really listening? Some of the warning signs include:

Your focus is on you.Your goal is to wrap up and move on.You feel distracted or impatient.You interrupt to tell your thoughts.

Listening, on the other hand, involves a lot more than your
ear drums. When you’re really listening, you’re engaging your brain and the
other party’s brain. That’s how you build both connection and value.

From my point of view, there are two basic styles of
value-added listening – transactional and transformational. You see a lot of
transactional listening at work because it’s the kind of listening that’s best
suited to solve a problem or identify a next step. Here are some of the
signs that you’re engaging in transactional listening:

Your focus is on the other party.Your goal is to move things forward.You feel purposeful and focused.You ask open-ended questions and clarify
timelines.

In most organizations, you don’t see a lot of
transformational listening. That’s too bad, because it’s the kind of listening
that creates the most long-term value. Transformational listening not only
engages the brains in the conversation, it quite often engages the hearts. It’s
listening with the primary agenda to connect with the other person. Connection
builds trust and trust yields results. Here are some of the signs that
you’re engaging in transformational listening:

Your focus is on the connection between you and
the other party.Your goal is to learn more about the other party
– what they think, what they value and how they feel.You feel creative, connected and relaxed.You observe with your eyes and are comfortable
with silence and build on what’s said.

So, what do you think? Have you been hearing more or
listening more lately? If it’s more on the hearing side, I’d suggest you pick
one or two of the signs of transactional listening to focus on in your
conversations in the coming weeks. If you think you’re already doing a great
job on transactional listening, why not look for or create some opportunities
for transformational listening in the next few weeks? Based on what my clients
have told me over the years about what happens when they engage in
transformational listening, I can practically guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

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