Data Ruben Ugarte

SOMETIME between the 1st and 4th century, something incredible happened. Indian mathematicians invented a system for measuring objects. Arabic mathematicians eventually adopted the system, and it was through them that Europe would eventually learn about the numerical system we still use today.

Ever since then, numbers have played an important role in our lives. Statistics surround us, and leaders need to have a good grasp of numbers’ roles within their companies. Here are the key things leaders should know about data — and what things they can safely ignore.

Data Can Speed Up Decisions

The decisions that you make as a leader can have an outsized impact on your company. Data can help you speed up these decisions and ensure that you’re making the correct choices. If you’re exploring a new market to enter, data can provide you with potential projections about sales and give you an idea of the type of customers within this market.

The quality of your decisions and the speed at which you make them matter. Look back at the last year, and you’ll realize that it wasn’t just about making the right decision, but doing it rapidly. The entire world went into lockdown within weeks, and leaders had to determine how to shift entire companies into remote work, change how they serve customers and try to figure out how to survive.

You can also use data to help your team make better decisions. Leaders know that they need to delegate, but the actual process isn’t always clear. The people under you may not have the same confidence or intuition, but they could be accessing the same information. They could use data to guide them to the right decision without your involvement. Better yet, they can measure the success of their decisions.

Data Is Your Flashlight and Map

Think about a cave. It’s dark, humid and you can’t see more than a few feet ahead of you. You know there’s an exit somewhere, but you’re not sure how far it is or what path to follow.

It would be nice to know the exit direction, but instead, you have a map and a flashlight. And that’s all you actually need! As you lead through uncertainty, think about how your team adjusts to last-minute changes and what kind of map you’re using. The best leaders can quickly create maps for new situations — and better yet, they know when to abandon the map and when to follow it.

The new CEO of UPS, Carol Tome, came in with a simple idea: saying “no.” UPS should say no to the wrong customers, wrong product lines and wrong ideas. UPS stock has risen over the last year, and it’s well-positioned to grow beyond the pandemic.

I don’t think Ms. Tome knew exactly what might happen under this strategy, but she gave her team a map and flashlight. She trusted that her team could adjust midway through and continue moving towards the exit.

Data Can Help You Measure Success

Measurement is important in providing options for determining opportunities and new ideas — and determining whether the direction you take is successful.

Think about what data you’ll be using to measure progress on your goals. You can explore reports, dashboards and working with specific people to generate the relevant data.

Consider also scheduling regular touchpoints to talk about the data and discuss opportunities. What new customer segments are appearing? What products or services should you abandon?

Innovation needs to be consciously thought through and carried out. Look at Great Britain’s efforts for funding innovation. It has plans to create its own Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and give money to innovative ideas. The results are yet to be seen, but it’s moving in the right direction. Leaders are ahead of the pack, trying to scout these innovation opportunities.

Numbers have been a blessing and a curse. They’ve given us the ability to understand our world, but they aren’t always intuitive. Use data to speed up your decisions, guide you in the dark and measure success. Better yet, use data to become a better leader for your team.

* * *Leading Forum
Ruben Ugarte is founder of Practico Analytics, providing expertise in data analytics. He has worked with companies on five continents and in all company stages, helping them to use data to make higher quality decisions, boost performance, increase profitability, and make their teams world-class. He also maintains a popular blog with more than 100,000 readers. His new book is The Data Mirage: Why Companies Fail to Actually Use Their Data (Business Expert Press, January 22, 2021). Learn more at

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Predictive Analytics Competing in the Age of AI

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If you’d like to build yourself up so you can continue to perform at a high level no matter the circumstances that surround you at the moment, sign up for the free 90-Day Master Class hosted by the founder of, Joel Brown

I’ll admit it, I’m a little scared. I don’t know how this is going to pan out, let alone the short term and long term effect it will have on my business. As a business owner, this is the worst time to hide. It is your responsibility to address your staff and let them know how your organization is going to respond and survive.

I won’t tell you how to run your business. I know that some businesses have to furlough and lay off people. I get it. I also know that good people are hard to find. Especially leaders. I’m going to share with you 3 tips on how to keep your best people during a crisis.

1. Repeat your purpose

If you tell a brick layer to start laying down bricks with no specific purpose or vision of what is being done, the brick layer will eventually quit from fatigue or boredom. If you tell a brick layer that every brick they lay is for a wall that is going to insulate and protect their country, or to shelter their own family, the brick layer now has a sense of purpose.

What vision are you painting for your team right now? Doom and gloom? Or are you sharing your emergency response plan? People only care about food and shelter in moments of desperation, but with people being forced to stay at home, there has been a surge in the home fitness industry, food delivery services, and the need for in-home entertainment. TMZ even reported that there was a strip club using Instagram to live stream their dancers.

I’m confident that somewhere in all this craziness there is a demand for your product or service. Remind your team of that need. Right now you have to sell, sell, and resell your team on the current and future demand of what you have to offer.

2. Delegate

When things get tough and money gets tight is when business owners and managers pull the reins back by letting people go. Then to make matters better, they try to assume all the responsibilities of those they had to furlough or let go. Now is not the time for you to put more on your plate unless you absolutely have to. Now is the time for you to lead and find solutions.

Get your best people and delegate more responsibilities to them. This might sound counterintuitive but there’s a reason you’ve identified them as your leaders. I am often surprised by the results of giving my busiest people more work.

During this crisis I have assigned members of my own team new projects to work on. Ideally I’d recommend projects that can generate immediate revenue, but these projects might also include long term growth opportunities that the team hasn’t gotten to yet because of time constraints. Most people are going to have a lot more time on their hands right now.

3. Virtual Hugs

Zoom shares have skyrocketed in the midst of this crisis for obvious reasons. Microsoft Team users have risen by 40% in the last week. Face it, we’ve learned that we can do a lot of things remotely. The compound effect this will have on commercial office space is yet to be revealed.

Productivity aside, there is an additional benefit to these virtual meetings. Human interaction and connectivity. Human beings are social animals. Leave us alone too long in confinement and we’ll start talking to ourselves. The biggest plus to these virtual meetings is the ability to connect with people again. When one of your best team members feels like they are a one woman/man island, they are easier to pick off by other organizations who are willing to listen to them vent.

Take a couple extra minutes to connect with your team. Ask them how they are doing. Listen. You’d be surprised how important lending an ear is for the well being of your tribe.

May we all come out of this united, stronger, and wiser. I hope that these 3 quick tips help your business or organization weather this storm.

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My Crisis Leadership Playbook

Along with testing our public health and economic systems in unprecedented ways, the COVID-19 pandemic will test leaders at all levels in all organizations as never before. When I talk about the ideas in my book, The Next Level, one of the first things I usually say is that the next level is any leadership situation which requires different results. Since different results require different actions, leaders need to make adjustments of picking up new behaviors and mindsets while letting go of others to create the results that are expected or hoped for. Well, here we are. The apple cart has been turned completely upside down and leaders everywhere are going to need to make some big changes to restore health and well-being for the people in their organizations, their communities, their nations and our planet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how what I already know about
leadership applies and what else needs to be in the mix for all of us in
leadership roles now that the world has changed so dramatically. The ideas I’m
sharing in this post are the basics of a crisis leadership playbook that is something
of a work in progress. I’ll update my thoughts as I learn more but wanted to go
ahead and share what I have now in the hope that there is something in here
that may be helpful to you and the people you love and lead.

The first thing I’m sure of is that effective leadership in
this new era begins with effective self-management. When I was writing the 3rd
edition of The Next Level in 2018, I summarized a lot of what I’d
learned in the 6 years since writing the 2nd edition with three
leadership imperatives:

Manage YourselfLeverage Your TeamEngage Your Colleagues

You can think of these three as forming a pyramid with
managing yourself at the base. Nothing else works as well as it could or should
if leaders don’t manage themselves effectively.

So, what does it mean to do that well? Back in the old days
(February 2020 and before), I focused on four domains of routines – physical,
mental, relational and spiritual – that are the building blocks of effective
self-management. I practice what I preach with those routines but, like
everyone who is reading this, have had to learn over the past couple of weeks
how to adapt those routines to the new realities of social distancing and life
and business operating rhythms that are radically different than what they were
pre-pandemic. I’ve always talked about optimal routines and “good enough for
today” routines. For example, my optimal physical routine is a 75-minute hot
yoga class in a room with 60 other people and a great instructor. That’s not
happening now so, like a lot of you, I’m using online yoga and fitness classes.
Not my old optimal but good enough for today and it’s helping me be at my best.

What I haven’t spent as much time thinking about over the years that I am definitely thinking about now is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. There’s about a 100 percent chance you’ve heard of it, but if you haven’t looked at it lately, Google it and give yourself a refresh. The base of Maslow’s hierarchy is Physiological needs like air, water, food, shelter, sleep and clothing. (If Maslow were alive today, I imagine he’d add toilet paper to that list.) The next level of his pyramid is Safety needs like personal security, employment, resources and health. The pandemic strikes right at the heart of this level of needs. The third level of the hierarchy is Love and Belonging with characteristics like friendship, intimacy, family and a sense of connection. Have you noticed how many FaceTime or Zoom calls you’ve been on the past couple of weeks to check in with family and friends? That’s because, even in the age of social distancing, you have a need for love and belonging. The top two levels of Maslow’s pyramid are Self-Esteem and Self-Actualization. My sense is a lot of high achieving leaders are not as immediately concerned about these two as they were a month ago. Other, more basic, needs have taken priority.

crisis leadership

And that brings me to a new way that I’m thinking about
leadership in these early days of the pandemic. As the accompanying picture
illustrates, it’s about the way great leadership radiates across concentric

The center and smallest circle, but a very
important one, is You. To be any good for anyone else, you have to take
care of yourself and manage yourself effectively. Your personal routines may need
to be modified but you still need ones that will help you be at your best.

The next circle is occupied by your Family
and Friends. You want to meet their physiological, safety and relational
needs because you love them and care for them. When you do that at whatever
level you can, you then free up mental and emotional bandwidth that you need to
serve and lead your Team.

Your Team is where your leverage is. When
you lead and serve them well, you can do great things together. The first task
is to do whatever you can to help them meet their own basic needs. The second
is to role model the approach you want them to take. Remember, as a leader, you
control the weather. However you show up is completely predictive of how your
team shows up.

From there, your work is about how you engage
with your Colleagues, your Partners and other Stakeholders
and, ultimately, the Customers and Citizens that rely on your

I’ll wrap up for now with some basic building blocks that,
along with self-care and caring for others, are essential for leading
effectively in a time of crisis:

Establish Clear Short-term Priorities: Long-term
visibility is impossible to come by right now, so focus yourself, your team,
colleagues and other stakeholders what you’re trying to solve for in the next
90 days. What do you collectively need to do in the next 30 days to create that
90-day picture? What can you and your team do this week to support the 30-day agenda?

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: The old cliché has never been more true than it is now – you can’t over communicate (virtually as much as possible of course). As you organize and execute on your communications strategy, consider using William Bridges’ Four P’s checklist:

Purpose – what are we trying to do, why
are we doing it and who are we doing it for?Picture – what will success look like in
the timeframe we can envision?Plan – what’s our plan for doing that?Part to Play – what are the roles and
responsibilities of everyone on the team? Where are the interconnects and who
has accountability for what?

Create Way More Connection and Touch Points Than Usual:
As the leader, be super intentional about keeping everyone informed,
encouraging and creating opportunities for support and celebrating the wins
along the way. There will be some to celebrate!

So, those are my current thoughts on running a crisis
leadership playbook? What resonates with you? What would you add? What’s
working for you? What else is on your mind? Please let me know. I’m here to
support you.

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Eat Slep Work Repeat

SSTRESS is a given in our lives. Not all of it is bad. For most of us it comes and goes, but for about 25% of us, it is a severe and constant reality according to one NPR/Harvard study. Many are experiencing anxiety leading to burnout at increasingly higher rates.

There is something we can do to put joy back into our work. To that end, Bruce Daisley, a former VP at Twitter, offers 30 hacks for bringing joy to your job in Eat Sleep Work Repeat.

Daisley draws on insights from a range of researcher and experts to identify three themes for creating happier work environments:


Twelve simple hacks to restore energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. The fundamental problem is that we simply aren’t practicing behaviors that recharge us. And it shows. Several suggestions include:

Try Going for a Walking Meeting. When we get our blood pumping through our bodies, there is evidence to suggest that walking rather than sitting will clear our heads and increase our creativity by up to 60%.

Eliminate Hurry Sickness. Constant business doesn’t equal achieving more. Calibrate urgency. “On the next occasion, you find yourself asking for something urgently, ask yourself whether you really do need it ASAP. If you can make some things less urgent, you’re being more honest with yourself and helping to create a better working environment for everyone else.” Take time to reflect.

Turn Off Your Notifications and Have a Digital Sabbath. Set up microboundaries to make technology work for you. Avoid weekend e-mails and work. Cal Newport says, “The modern work environment is actively hostile to Deep Work. I think the way that we’re approaching knowledge work we’re going to look back at in maybe fifteen years from now and say hat was disastrously unproductive.” We don’t know how to use the technology we have.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is “better than any other performance-enhancing intervention.” If you think you need to burn the midnight oil to get more done, consider that “you’re more likely to get where you need to be after eight hours sleep.”


Eight strategies that will bring trust and connection to your team, enhancing your powers of collaboration and building your collective intelligence. Several of the ways to improve team culture:

Move the Coffee Machine. The secret to building Sync is to get people talking together. Help people come together by design.

Create a Social Meeting. People experience Sync best in social situations. “Social time turns out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50 percent of positive changes in communication patterns.”

Laugh. “The looseness of thought that laughter provokes triggers our creative juices, encouraging free association of ideas.” A lack of laughter may signal that something is wrong on the team.

Know when to Leave People Alone. Getting a team involved in a project too soon can be counterproductive. But we all need feedback and discussion to perform better. So there is a balance. “Sync is about people working together in harmony—but no amount of Sync will change the power of individuals applying gray matter to difficult problems alone. Creativity is about thinking and then discussion—a team in Sync will make sure it’s doing both.”


Ten ways to get your team to a “buzz” state—a sense of engagement and positive energy. Positive Affect (our inclination to experience the world in a positive way) + Psychological Safety = Buzz. How can we bring Buzz into our workplace?

Frame Work as a Problem You’re Solving. If we frame the challenge as a problem we all need to solve, we learn faster and together. “Frame the work as a learning problem, not as an execution problem,” and “introduce a clear sense of uncertainty into the room.”

Focus on the Issue, Not the People. If you provide incentives to cooperate, employees will share information and train others, but if you pit people against one another, they will naturally think only of themselves. It comes as no surprise that “workplaces that put too much emphasis on individual performance find themselves achieving worse results.” Again, there is a balance. “Remove the personal element and encourage people to focus on the work at hand than the individuals involved.”

Replace Presenting with Reading. While awkward at first, consider beginning each meeting by reading a document prepared for subsequent discussion. It can level the playing field. “Teams that have a more equal distribution of communication tend to have higher collective intelligence because you’re hearing from everybody, we’re getting information and input, and effort from everybody is they’re all contributing.” Successful teams are good at reading the nonverbal responses of others and adapting their behavior accordingly.

Relax. “One reason why Buzz so often seems to be beyond our grasp is that we’re not good at being ourselves.” A good sense of humor goes a long way to create positive affect and psychological safety. “Researchers found that “those who laughed together were significantly more likely to share intimate details with one another, and to be closer to their real selves, than those in a nonlaughing control group.”

While it’s true that for the vast majority of us, we can’t make these ideas company-wide policy, or control every demand placed upon us, we resort far too easily to blaming our circumstances on our company. We can do a lot for ourselves by approaching what we do differently. With a little personal responsibility and resourcefulness, most of these helpful hacks are within our grasp. Even a few of them would go a long way to improving our disposition.

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Deep Work Positive Leadership

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Ever had a manager who told you they had an “open-door
policy?” Who knows, maybe you’ve even declared that yourself. The open-door
policy implies that your team members or colleagues can come to you with
anything. That desire to be a transparent and open leader is admirable. The
problem starts when people knock on the proverbial door (and knock and knock)
and no one’s home.

When I’m doing colleague feedback interviews for an executive
coaching client, I’ll sometimes hear that person described as accessible. Other
times, a colleague will describe the leader as available. On rare occasions, I’ll
hear that the executive is both accessible and available.

You might think the two words mean more or less the same
thing. They do in the dictionary, but they don’t in the realm of leadership.
There’s a big difference between the two and the example of the leader who has
an open-door policy but is never around to answer it explains the difference.
Accessible and Available. Not the same thing.

Being accessible is mainly a function of
personality. Accessible leaders:

Put people at ease.Encourage open and honest conversation.Provide coaching and guidance.Don’t stand on title or hierarchy.Seek feedback.

Being available is mainly a function of time
management. Available leaders:

Put team members and colleagues on their list of
priorities.Leave time in their weekly calendar for
unscheduled conversations.Make clear to others how and when they can be
reached.Keep their meeting commitments except in case of
true emergencies. (This is especially true for regularly scheduled team
meetings or team one on one’s.)Make good use of technology – particularly video
conferencing – to be available virtually when they can’t be physically.

The benefits of operating from these “best of” lists for
accessibility and availability are pretty clear. Both the leader and their team
learn more, develop faster and have higher levels of engagement and

So, how are you doing? Are you accessible, available or both?
What’s one thing you could start doing in the next week to move the needle in a
positive direction for you and your team?

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Canaday More Productive

FOR THE PAST DECADE or so I have spent a lot of time in organizations getting to know their leaders and how they work. That inside look has given me a firsthand account of what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Suffice it so say, this is not your father’s organization.

For example, the amount of incoming communication is staggering. The average knowledge worker in the U.S. is interrupted every 11 minutes by some form of communication. Every 11 minutes! That kind of distraction takes an unseen toll on us as leaders. Add to that the mountains of data we are generating and the inability to keep up with it, let alone make real sense of it.

Today’s leaders are being asked to both do more AND think more. Is that even possible? I’m a fan of multi-tasking but this seems unreasonable. Expecting leaders to succeed in the context of a constant, act-more, think-more, produce-more world is self-defeating, at best. At worst, it could be disastrous for our projects, for our teams, and for our health.

So, how do we keep pace and, at the same time, get better as leaders.

Evolved leaders have figured out that they need to hit the pause button. Instead of making action the default for every challenge, these leaders are pairing that alternative with an opposite response. It’s not about replacing action, which we know is a necessary leadership ingredient. We still need to reach our goals, meet deadlines, and produce results. This is different.

They think of it as developing a companion habit that celebrates THINKING rather than DOING. It involves a strategic pause. A “mental time-in”. Space for their brains to percolate and process the mounds of the information they’ve been packing in.

If you want more time for big-picture-thinking and the “mental space” to envision vastly different solutions, follow these steps:

1. Make an Unbreakable Appointment with Yourself

Set time aside every day (or at least every week) to step away from the chaos and let yourself reflect and plan. To connect the dots between information in different ways and to look at challenges from a fresh angle. It can help you gain remarkable clarity and give you the mental space to finally execute on ideas you’ve been sidelining.

Yes, I know that will feel awkward at first. Your calendar is probably jam-packed with meetings and commitments, so it might seem unnecessarily selfish to mark off some “me time.” Don’t let that stop you. Consider this an unbreakable appointment with yourself.

2. Make everything you do earn its rightful place on your calendar

Why? Leaders often feel trapped by an endless treadmill of meetings and tedious paperwork and that level of chaos has likely become their new normal. Even strangely comfortable. In fact, NOT doing all of those things would somehow feel wrong. If you want to free up time to let all that you have consumed percolate, you need to take a fresh look at everything you do. Ask yourself:

• Does this meeting or task move me or my team forward?
• Does this support department or company objectives?
• Am I doing this to drive results or to make someone else comfortable?

Taking a fresh look at everything inevitably uncovers opportunities to free up time for big-picture thinking.

3. Make a “Stop Doing” List

Ironically, some leaders approach downsizing their to-do lists by…creating another list: a “Stop Doing List.” This is actually an excellent mental exercise and an important step in making room for a “mental time-in”.
Your “Stop Doing List” might include things such as:

I will stop saying “yes” to every request without first considering its worth.
I will stop letting other people control my day and my time.
I will stop allowing interruptions that hijack my schedule.

Through the process of letting go, you can find time you never knew you had.

4. Encourage your team to pause.

As a leader, you have the power and influence to help your team members develop new habits that can make them more productive. Make sure they also have time in their schedules to stop and think. That’s tricky when deadlines are tight, but the long-term benefits will be worth it. Give them the calendar space that encourages them to give it a try.

As hard as it is for us doers to believe, all the evidence says that maximum effectiveness and innovation start with…STOPPING.

Yes, it’s tough to do. I admit it. We’ve been taught to move forward, to finish, to be relentless. We have even been handsomely rewarded for it.

But if you want your organization and your team to grow, take a strategic pause. Give yourself time and space. You, your team, and all your stakeholders will be glad you did.

* * *Leading ForumSara Canaday is a rare blend of analytical entrepreneur and perceptive warmth. That powerful combination has increasingly made her a go-to resource for helping leaders and high-potential professionals achieve their best.

Her insights come from her real-world experience and a surprising phenomenon she noticed in her own rise up the corporate ladder: The most successful people aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQs or best job skills. Career advancement is actually more closely linked with how people apply their knowledge and talents—their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others. Sara is the author of Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom for Breakthrough Performance and You—According to Them. She is a sought-after leadership speaker and educator, a leadership instructor for LinkedIn Learning and is an adjunct Executive Coach with the Center for Creative Leadership.

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You According to Them Simplicity

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doubt, you’ve heard the phrase that the perfect is the enemy of the good. That
doesn’t just apply to other people; it applies to you and your team too. And,
the thing is, a lot of the time what you expect as a leader is your version of
perfect. There are some cases when perfection is truly an objective measurement
but most of the time it’s subjective and good enough is good enough even if it
doesn’t meet your version of perfect.

everything has to be perfect, not much gets done and the growth of your team

are three action step ideas you can take as a leader to hit the sweet spot
between what has to be perfect and what can be “good enough.” By following
these steps, you’ll get more done and grow your team.

First, ask yourself on a regular
basis, “By getting personally involved in this, do I create a significantly
better result?” I’ll bet you’ll find some pretty interesting answers to that
question. And the answers are going to be, most of the time, not so much. The
key word in that question is significantly. Is your direct involvement as a
manager really going to make it that much better? It might be marginally better
with your involvement but is that really the highest and best use of your time
and attention? What about the impact on the development of your team?

Second, recognize that while you’ve
likely become an expert in a lot of things, getting results through your team
probably no longer requires you to be the expert. Now that you’re in your
leadership role, start giving away the things that you’re an expert in to your
team. That’s how they’re going to grow and develop. They may not do it exactly
the same way you would do it, but at some point, earlier in your career,
somebody took a bet on you and asked you to do some things that they used to
do. You did them well enough that you’re here now. Place the same kind of bets
on your team. Identify the things that you’re an expert in and start giving
them away to your team. 

Third, step back and consider the
risk to reward ratio as you decide what has to be perfect and what can be good
enough.  As you do, recognize that there are different kinds of risk. To
name a few, there’s financial risk, operational risk and reputational risk. You
certainly want to mitigate those, but if you look at your team’s daily
workstream many of the things they’re doing everyday don’t have a lot of direct
impact on those risk factors. There are also other types of risk like the risk
of lack of engagement, low morale and developing and retaining great talent. To
mitigate those kinds of risk, you need to factor in the rewards of giving
people space and support to learn from mistakes and develop into doing their
best work. 

the growth of your team and get more done by letting go of perfect.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

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twitter Here are a selection of tweets from September 2019 that you don’t want to miss:

This one document may have just changed Corporate America forever by @JohnPKotter “The mission of the corporation was to maximize shareholder gain were out of date, irrelevant, not true, or all of the above.”
Has Your Leadership Reached The Point of No Return? by @WScottCochrane “To build and maintain momentum, you must recognize these points and bravely step across them.”
Andrew Davis on Leading with Curiosity via @DDIworld
4 C Vitamins for Better Leadership from @wallybock
5 Things You Need to Know about Building a People-First Economy via @bkpub
The 4 Mindsets of High Performance Teams by @RandyConley
Avoid these classic leadership mistakes by ⁦@JanePerdue via ⁦@SBLeaders
How To Become The Best In The World At What You Do by @LaRaeQuy
How to Lead in a Caustic Culture by David Dye @LetsGrowLeaders Grow Leaders
19 Leadership Trend Reports for 2019 from @leadingincontxt Linda Fisher Thornton
How to Maximize Your Greatest Point of Influence by @Leadershipfreak Dan Rockwell
Tech Founders Predict the Next Wave of Startup Growth via @VisualCap
VIDEO: “Thank you Lt. Dan!” In a world of negativity, it’s refreshing to see a celebrity focused on serving others. @GarySinise via @donhornsby
Coaching Challenges by @kenbyler Here’s a few things I have learned about the challenges of coaching.
Prepare the Way for Your Gemba Walk by @wallybock
Impossible Is Always Possible by @FSonnenberg
Leadership: 5 Essentials to Team Building 21st Century Teams by @KateNasser For great teamwork, leaders must define team in a new way and build them in ways that match the team, the goals, and the changing dynamics of business.
Redefining Success: Adopt the Journey Mindset to Move Forward via @StanfordGSB To sustain the behaviors that helped you reach a goal, think about the achievement as a journey rather than a destination.
Podcast: Michael Moritz: Look for Unexpected Opportunities via @StanfordGSB The top two challenges facing the tech industry: identifying promising companies and promoting diversity.
10 Sayings That Reveal The Heart of Courage in a Leader by @WScottCochrane
Business Lessons from the Top 0.01% @JohnFoleyInc
Why It’s Important For Leaders To Let People Know What They Are Thinking from @JohnBaldoni
The Liabilities of Being a Perfectionist by @shawnlovejoy
Aim Higher: Why Servant Leaders Create a Culture of Trust by @SkipPrichard
How To Develop The Heart Of Courageous Leadership by @WScottCochrane Every leader faces defining moments when the difference between success or failure comes down to the courage to make the tough decision.
Learning is Never Wasted by @LeadToday Steve Keating
Things Every Courageous Leader Knows (That Most Ignore) by @LollyDaskal
5 Reasons Why New Executives Fail via @DDIworld
Be Careful with Multi-Person Feedback—It’s Easy to Get it Wrong by @artpetty
How to Immediately Spot a Bad Leader by @LollyDaskal
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That Will Never Work Hard Times for Leaders

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Michael Lombardi
MICHAEL LOMBARDI has been an American football executive for decades. He has worked on the staffs of NFL legends Al Davis, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick and with Nick Saban while with the Cleveland Browns. He is also a media analyst writing for Bill Simmon’s The Ringer, where he also hosts his top-ten sports podcast, GM Street.
In Gridiron Genius, you will certainly get the inside scoop on the game of football, but it’s much more than that. As a three-time Super Bowl champion, Michael Lombardi provides lessons in organizational culture, team building, strategy, and character. His philosophies on how to build championship teams were foundational for the teams built by both Walsh and Belichick.
Organizations of all types will benefit from the insights found here. “Football is ultimately a business, and as in any successful business the most important ingredients are a sound culture, a realistic plan, strong leadership, and a talented workforce.” So let’s look at some of the leadership lessons to be found here.
The main lesson that comes through his experience with great coaches and owners is that culture comes first. “If you haven’t created an underlying ecosystem of excellence, short-term success is all it will ever be.”
On Bill Walsh building the San Francisco 49ers in 1979: “From the talent on and off the field, to the quality of the workplace, to the practice fields. No detail was too small for Walsh to consider because, to his assembly line way of thinking, only the sum of them all could produce the organization he wanted. As he was fond of saying, if he managed to perfect the culture, the wins would take care of themselves.”
He writes: “Character assessment is by far the hardest challenge for team builders. More than any other factor, inaccurate character assessment is why draft boards are to this day littered with so many mistakes. For starters, let’s be honest, there’s a sliding scale of morality in the NFL (as in every industry), in which the more talented a player is, the more he can get away with.”
“Each player retains information differently, and it’s the coach’s job to determine the best way to instruct him.”
What Makes a Great Quarterback?
A winning way. (Winning is a habit.) A thick skin. (The measure of who we are is how we react to something that does not go our way.) Work ethic. (Your best player has to set a tone for intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.) Football smarts. (A quick mind come with preparation. You prepare so well that you don’t have to think; you just react.) Innate ability. (Born with it quality: Walsh couldn’t define it, but he knew it when he saw it.) Carriage. (Quarterbacks have to inspire. They can always look as if they have it all under control and that somehow they will figure out how to lead the team to victory. No one wants to follow a sulker.) Leadership. (Quarterbacks who fail to gain the respect of teammates leave a team rudderless.)
Building a team: “A big part of Walsh’s genius was his uncanny ability to spot a quarterback in a crowd. Even from a distance and after only a few throws, he could sense immediately if a quarterback could run his offense. Guys like Walsh and Belichick are unusual this way: They can visualize how skill sets fit in their schemes in a way that both maximizes those abilities and fuels the system.”
From Bill Belichick:
“Although practice doesn’t make perfect, it gets you closer to perfection each time you do it.”
“We aren’t collecting talent; we are building a team.”
Mental Toughness: Doing what is best for the team when it might not be the best for you. If players can fight past exhaustion, if they can focus when they’re completely drained, well, that’s mental toughness.
On Bill Walsh:
“His meticulousness was evident everywhere.”
“Walsh opted for less experienced men who shared his curiosity and displayed a willingness to learn his system and methods.”
What Makes a Great Coach?
Command of the Room. Followers need something to commit to. A leader has to have a plan. On Nick Saban at Cleveland: He had a strong plan and an effective way of communicating that plan, and his ability to be self-critical earned the players’ trust in a way that rivaled their feelings for Belichick.
Command of the Message. What good is the plan if you can’t talk about the plan? Players can’t accomplish anything unless they can visualize the path. Delivery isn’t as important as meaning.
Command of Self. Personal accountability is the ultimate sign of strength. Sophocles sums it up best: “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” Ego is the leading cause of unemployment in the coaching world.
Command of Opportunity. Becoming an NFL head coach is a process. You learn on the fly. In the beginning, it is likely you’ll be bad at it. You just have to keep working at it until you get good and pray that you don’t end up a one-hit wonder.
Command of the Process. A leader must be fair and consistent. When rule don’t apply to everyone, the ensuing chaos collapses whatever foundation a leader has tried so hard to build.
In a particularly good section of the book, Combating Complacency he talks about how Belichick and Walsh fight complacency. This was interesting: “Whether the Patriots have just won the Super Bowl or not, the first thing Belichick does is wipe the slate clean. One of his favorite sayings is, ‘To live in the past is to die in the present.’ It’s why you see no Super Bowl trophies as you walk through the players’ entrance and why all the photos from the previous season are removed as soon as the season is over. That clean slate demands a trip back to basic principles and fundamentals after a detailed examination of the current process.” He adds, “What impressed me the most about Belichick and Walsh in their self-awareness. With the same kind of success in the NFL many lesser men have become close-minded, authoritarian, and lazy.”
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Of Related Interest:
  Leadership is Destroying Culture by Michael Lombardi at TEDx
  4th and Goal Every Day
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