S COTT MCKAIN wrote the book on creating distinction in a world of homogenization. In Create Distinction he discusses how we got here and how we can create distinction for ourselves and our organizations. Having passion, product knowledge and commitment is not enough. Are you creating a distinctive story so that those who chose you the first time will come back for more? It’s not just a matter of being different. It’s about being uncommonly excellent.
Creating distinction is based on four cornerstones: clarity (being precise about who you are), creativity (built on clarity, it’s about discovering a different approach—delivering creatively), communication (creating and delivering a compelling story), and customer-experience focus (create distinctive experiences for your clients).
Iconic organizations and leaders have become such universal symbols of distinction they are not only irresistible to customers in their marketplace, they compel interest and admiration across a wide spectrum.
How do you attain iconic status? How do you maintain and enhance that status once you achieve it? And how do you regain that status if it has eroded in the marketplace? The answers to these questions are explained in detail in this book. Briefly, the process is based on the five factors of iconic performance that take an organization or a leader to a level beyond distinction:
Play Offense. “Every moment you are playing defense against the competition wastes a moment you could be innovating to make them irrelevant.” Play to your strengths and create accountability with clear expectations, measurement, feedback, and consequences. Make it special—leave a trail of tangibles.
Get the Promise and Performance Right. People evaluate us on promise and performance. “The challenge is that customers will always evaluate your performance based on the promise from their point-of-view … not yours.” Performance is in the eye of the beholder. “Iconic companies find a way to accelerate their promises while improving their performance to a public that has already become predisposed to expect their excellence.”
Stop Selling. Build a relationship. “Appeal to the aspirations of your customers and prospects. Then invite them to savor the experience that they desire through your product or service.” Think less like a professional and more like a rapper—let it flow!
Go Negative. This may seem a bit counterintuitive. Know your weaknesses. “Iconic companies are obsessed with learning what they did wrong, so they can change the behavior—or process—that created the unpleasant experience in the first place.” Check your culture. It may be holding you back from iconic status. “Don’t be satisfied with satisfied customers. See to have amazed, thrilled, and overjoyed followers.” Go negative doesn't mean a negative attitude. Instead, develop a defensive pessimism. “Defensive pessimism is examining what has gone—or could go—wrong, so you take the necessary steps to prevent it from occurring.”
Reciprocal Respect. Disrespectful behavior should never be tolerated. “What you tolerate you endorse.” How do you display respect to others? McKain recommends six ways: Don’t just hear—listen. Display open body language. Don’t nitpick. Show how you’re following up. Don’t withhold praise. Treat others equally and with sensitivity.
Obtaining, maintaining, and regaining iconic status requires brutal honesty. Think like a start-up. Have an innovative mindset and look at everything you do from a fresh customer-centric focus.
Again be sure to examine your culture. “Until your culture is right internally—no matter the size of your organization—many of your external efforts won’t help.” Your efforts may just draw attention to what you’re doing wrong in the eyes of your customers. Everyone in the organization needs to be on board with providing an excellent experience. “All components of the company have to be aligned internally before they can expect results externally.”
The examples McKain uses throughout really help to drive the lessons home and trigger the thinking necessary to implement them in your situation.
By the way, McKain has a great set of five short videos on his Instagram page explaining each of the five factors. Here’s #4 on Going Negative.
* * * Like us on Instagram and Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.
WHAT SEPARATES a poor or a good leader from a great leader?
Let me make the argument that a primary distinguishing factor is in how leaders see, interpret, and think about the situations that they encounter.
To do so, consider four situations leaders can find themselves in:
Challenge and failure
Disagreement with a subordinate
Having to make a decision that involves risk
Having a subordinate that is underperforming
Here is a table that shows two different leaders and how they each see and interpret these situations differently.
Who would you rather follow, Leader A or Leader B?
Every group I speak to always says “Leader B.”
But here is what is interesting, through a personal assessment I have done with over two thousand leaders and individuals, only 5% consistently operate like Leader B.
What this hopefully demonstrates is that effective leadership is born not out of what leaders do or what behaviors they engage in, but first and foundationally in how they see and interpret the situations they find themselves in.
So, what causes leaders to encounter the same situations, but interpret them so differently?
The answer to this question is the foundation of effective leadership: leaders’ mindsets. Mindsets are the mental lenses that leaders wear that shape how they see and interpret their worlds. Stated differently, mindsets are leaders’ mental fuel filters. Every day leaders are bombarded by thousands if not millions of stimuli, and it is their mindsets that filters select stimuli or information into their brain, and what gets filter through is what ends up guiding their thinking, learning, and behavior.
For example, consider a leader that has a subordinate that suggests that the leader could improve in some way. Depending upon the leader’s mindset, the leader could see that feedback as an indicator that the employee: (1) is questioning his/her leadership abilities and get defensive, or (2) cares about him/her and wants him/her to be as effective as possible. Thus, in this instance, the leader’s mindset drives how the leader thinks about the feedback, how likely the leader is going to learn from the feedback, and the manner in which the leader will behave in response to the feedback.
Four Mindsets Necessary for Leadership Effectiveness
If leaders’ mindsets are what drives their effectiveness, do you know what mindsets you need to develop to think, learn, and behave in the most effective way as a leader?
Although mindsets are foundational to leaders’ effectiveness, most groups I speak to are unable to identify a specific mindset that is essential for leadership effectiveness.
After learning about the power of mindsets and the foundational role they play in leadership effectiveness, I sought to identify the mindsets that drive effective leadership. As a leadership researcher, I scoured the academic literature, and I identified four sets of mindsets in largely four different areas of study (e.g., psychology, management, education, marketing) that have been studied for decades. While research associated with each set has repeatedly demonstrated that the mindsets influence individuals’ thinking, learning, and behavior, they have all be isolated from each other. Until now.
I have pulled these different mindsets together into one framework to help leaders clearly identify the mindsets they need to develop to operate more effectively. Each set of mindsets represents a continuum from negative to positive as follows:
Every leader possesses a mindset that lies somewhere along each continuum, and the basic idea is that the more positive one’s mindset, the more effectively they are to think, learn, and behave in the situations that they encounter on a daily basis.
Let me describe each set.
Fixed: We do not believe that we or others can change or develop our/their abilities, talents, and intelligence.
Growth: We do believe that we and others can change or develop our abilities, talents, and intelligence.
When leaders possess a fixed mindset, they seek to avoid failure, because, to them, failure means that they are a failure. Thus, those with a fixed mindset are primarily focused on looking good, and if something does not come easily or naturally to them, they have a tendency to give up.
Leaders with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are primarily focused on learning and growing. They embrace challenges, see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, and believe that success only comes through pushing through obstacles and difficulties.
Closed: We are closed to the ideas and suggestions of others
Open: We are open to the ideas and suggestions of others and willing to take those ideas seriously
Here is a great quote from Farnam Street: “Before you smugly slap an open-minded sticker on your forehead, consider this: closed-minded people would never consider that they could actually be closed-minded. In fact, their perceived open-mindedness is what’s so dangerous.”
When leaders possess a closed mindset, they are primarily concerned about being seen as being right. As such, they seek to have their ideas supported, inclined to provide answers (as opposed to asking questions), avoid feedback and new perspectives, and see disagreement as a threat. All because they believe that what they know is best.
When leaders possess an open mindset, they are primarily concerned about finding truth and thinking optimally. In order to do this, they ask questions, seek to understand, seek feedback and new perspectives, and see disagreement as an opportunity to learn. All because they believe that their perspective is limited and they can be wrong.
Prevention: Being focused on not losing
Promotion Being focused on winning and gains
Leaders with a prevention mindset are like a ship captain whose primary objective is to not sink. When this is the leaders’ objective, s/he focuses on ensuring no problems occur, limiting risk, and not “rocking the boat” (i.e., maintaining the status quo).
Leaders with a promotion mindset are like a ship captain whose primary objective is to get to a specific destination. As such, the leader anticipates problems, sees risk as being necessary to reach destination, and is willing to adjust operations to reach destination.
The difference between these two leaders is that those with a prevention mindset get blown about by the winds and the currents of the sea and end up in a destination not of their choosing, while those with a promotion mindset are willing to brave the winds and the currents of the sea to end up in a destination of their proactive design.
Inward: Seeing others as objects
Outward: seeing others as people and valuing them as such
When leaders have an inward mindset, they see themselves as being more important than others and are limited in their sensitivity to the feelings and emotions of those that they lead. And, when something goes wrong, they place the blame on others.
When leaders have an outward mindset, they see others as being as important, if not more important, than themselves. And, when something goes wrong, they ask themselves: “Who am I being that their light is not shining.”
Becoming a More Effective Leader
Who would you rather follow, a leader whose mindsets are:
Fixed, closed, prevention, and inward, or
Growth, open, promotion, and outward?
The effect of such leaders are just like they sound. Leaders with negative mindsets are constricting. Leaders with positive mindsets are expanding.
What mindsets do you possess? Correspondingly, what type of leader are you because of your mindsets?
Again, from my personal mindset assessment, I have found that only 5% of people consistently possess all four positive mindsets.
If you are interested in learning how positive your mindsets are relative to thousands of others, I invite you to take my free personal mindset assessment. It will provide you with a personalized and comprehensive report to help you better understand each mindset set, what your mindsets are, and direction on how to improve your mindsets.
In all: The key to being an effective leader is your mindsets.
* * *
This is a post by Ryan Gottfredson. He is a cutting-edge leadership consultant, trainer, coach, and researcher. He is a leadership mindset pioneer that helps organizations, leaders, and managers identify their current mindsets and then shape them to fuel better decision making, problem-solving, development, and performance. Ryan is currently a leadership and management professor at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton (CSUF).
* * * Like us on Instagram and Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.
GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, the 41st president of the United States, died on November 30 at age 94.
As a leader produced by the greatest generation—a term coined by Tom Brokaw to mean those who lived during the Great Depression and then went on to fight in World War II—Bush lead with moral authority. A grounded and humble man, he understood that character matters in leaders.
In 2012, he told Diane Sawyer in an interview that “I've been very blessed, when you look around, compared to ... others. But you must feel responsibility to others. You must believe in serving others. I think that's a fundamental tenet of my life.”
Bush lead in various capacities. Serving in World War II, he became the youngest combat aviation officer in the war flying Bush flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific. Shot down in 1944, he was awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross for bringing the plane down and saving most of his crew.
Shortly after leaving the Navy, Bush married Barbara Pierce. They had six children, one of whom died of leukemia before she turned four. His oldest son George Walker Bush was elected the 43rd President of the United States in 2001 becoming the second president to assume the nation's highest office after his father, following the footsteps of John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. Bush later said, “I don't know what would happen, I don't know where I'd be in life if I wasn't blessed with a lot of kids and grandkids and family, including, of course, Barbara. Family means everything to me. And we're blessed a with lot of 'em.... We take great pride in what they do and what their plans are for the future. And through—through their eyes, I think of life a lot.”
He led in various capacities in his life as an oil company executive, CIA director, an ambassador to the United Nations and liaison to the People's Republic of China, and a congressman representing Texas. Most notably, he served two terms as vice-president under Ronald Reagan before becoming the forty-first president of the United States. (The first incumbent vice president to do so since Martin Van Buren in 1836.)
Here is a selection of his thoughts that reflect his view and approach to life and leading:
America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.
We must act on what we know. I take as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.
I do not mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God's love is truly boundless. (Inaugural Address 1989)
Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that. But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity — shared, and written, together. (Inaugural Address 1989)
It is possible to tell things by a handshake. I like the "looking in the eye" syndrome. It conveys interest. I like the firm, though not bone-crushing shake. (Letter to Gary Hanauser, September 18, 1979)
The American Dream means giving it your all, trying your hardest, accomplishing something. And then I'd add to that, giving something back. No definition of a successful life can do anything but include serving others."
Think about every problem, every challenge, we face. The solution to each starts with education.
There is nothing more fulfilling than to serve your country and your fellow citizens and to do it well. And that's what our system of self-government depends on. " (Address to the Senior Executive Service, 1989)
I'm conservative, but I'm not a nut about it.
All right, one more: "Aging's all right. Better than the alternative, which is not being here."
No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.
International exchanges are not a great tide to sweep away all differences, but they will slowly wear away at the obstacles to peace as surely as water wears away a hard stone.
Be bold in your caring, be bold in your dreaming and above all else, always do your best.
Don't confuse being 'soft' with seeing the other guy's point of view.
History will point out some of the things I did wrong and some of the things I did right.
His last words were to his son George W. Bush: “I love you, too.”
Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in December 2018. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.
Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear by Richard Sheridan Master Your Mind: Counterintuitive Strategies to Refocus and Re-Energize Your Runaway Brain by Roger Seip and Robb Zbierski Great Mondays: How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love by Josh Levine Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation by Gary Shapiro The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024
Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.
* * * “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
Some choices are easy like “Should I get vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” Most of our decisions are like this, and the consequences aren’t life-changing. Most books on decision-making describe these kinds of intuitive, gut-reaction decisions. But not all decisions are of this type.
Some are farsighted choices as Steven Johnson calls them in Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most. These are the big decisions—life choices—like should I move to Denver? Should I take that job? Should I move home? Should I buy that car? Should I buy the house? Should I get married?
How do we make the right choice in these kinds of decisions? The answers are rarely a clear yes or no. These are complex problems with multiple variables.
We are all familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s two-column method. Most of us just tally the number of items on each list and go with the longer list. But Franklin recommended an important final step in this process. He advised that you conduct a kind of “Prudential Algebra” to each entry to give them relative weight because not all reasons are of equal value. It makes good sense, but as we know, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
What we need is “a routine or a practice—a specific set of steps for confronting the problem, exploring its unique properties, weighing the options.” A deliberate and measured approach that allows you to think about a problem from multiple perspectives.
Johnson puts forth a three-step method “designed specifically to overcome the unique challenges of a hard choice.” All decisions have a context, perspectives, and possible consequences. This method helps to address each of them.
The method begins with building a full-spectrum map of all of the variables and the potential paths available to us. Then we make predictions about where all those different paths might lead us, given the variable at play. Finally, we decide on a path by weighing the variable outcomes against our overarching objectives.
Given our disposition towards scientific methods, we would like this to be scientific to remove the human weaknesses that challenge our decision-making. But as Tolstoy’s Prince Andrew counseled in War and Peace, “What theory and science is possible about a matter the conditions and circumstances of which are unknown and cannot be defined, especially when the strength of the acting forces cannot be ascertained?” The Prince continued, “What science can there be in a matter in which, as in all practical matters, nothing can be defined and everything depends on innumerable conditions, the significance of which is determined at a particular moment which arrives no one knows when?”
We all use mental maps whether we know it or not. The trick is to be intentional about it. “What the map should ultimately reveal is a set of potential paths, given the variables at play in the overall system. Figuring out which path to take requires other tools.” In the mapping step, you are looking to expand the context of your decision to include all possible decision paths.
The art of making farsighted decisions “with as much wisdom as possible lies not in forcing that map to match some existing template, but instead in developing the kind of keen vision required to see the situation as it truly is. And the best way to develop that vision is to get different pairs of eyes on the problem.” It requires a bit of humility as well. You are more likely to be right to the degree that you recognize that you may be wrong. We must embrace the likely possibility that we are wrong to get it right. Often what stands in our way of getting it right is our certainty that we are right. The lesson: explore other alternatives.
When we make a farsighted decision, we are predicting what will happen as a result of our decision. But that’s not easy. One of the problems we run into is assuming that things will continue as they always have—the fallacy of extrapolation. Things changes and we don’t know what we don’t know. As Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling once noted that one thing a person cannot do “is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him.” To make good decisions, we need to make those kinds of imaginative leaps.
Johnson prescribes simulations to do just that. Engaging in scenario planning or gaming is not to make accurate predictions, but “the very act of trying to imagine alternatives to the conventional view helps you perceive your options more clearly.” Pierre Wack wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “No single ‘right’ projection can be deduced from past behavior. The better approach, I believe, is to accept uncertainty, try to understand it, and make it part of our reasoning.”
It is a kind of storytelling. We create stories around our decisions all the time—“when we do this, this is what it will be like.” And that’s good. The problem arises when we fail to construct multiple stories around our choices. “That doesn’t always give you a definite path, but it does prepare you for many ways the future might unexpectedly veer from its current trajectory.”
With the decision mapped, the options identified, and the scenarios panned, it’s time to decide.
Making a decision is the final step. How do we decide? What’s best for me or what’s best for the greater good or some other cost-benefit analysis. If we’ve done the first two steps well and given ourselves an appropriate amount to process, often the decision becomes clear. “But sometimes the answer is murkier, and you have to make the tough call between a few remaining options, each of which promises a different mix of pain and pleasure to the individuals affected by the choice.”
Almost every strategy described in this book ultimately pursues the same objective: helping you see the current situation from new perspectives, to push against the limits of bounded rationality, to make a list of things that would never occur to you. They’re designed to get you outside your default assumptions, not to give you a fixed answer.
WE'RE THANKFUL for our LeadershipNow community around the world.
We owe so much to so many. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Here are links to posts on gratitude from here and around the web:
‘Tis the season of gratitude -- for friends, for family, and for delicious turkey dinners. But what about gratitude in the workplace?
November and December are notorious times for organizations to express gratitude to their employees -- holiday parties, annual bonuses and accolades they save up for this time of year. And while these gestures are appreciated, the truth is gratitude should be practiced all year round. By focusing on giving thanks just one time a year, these overtures become less authentic, and thus less meaningful.
For leaders, practicing gratitude at work is an incredibly valuable tool, and one that shouldn’t be saved for a single season. Here are a few suggestions you can implement today and use all year long, from the most personal, to the most public:
Start a gratitude journal: Not all gratitude needs to be expressed outwardly, and recognizing personally what you are grateful for can be very powerful. You may want a journal that encompasses all aspects of your life, or one just for the office. Perhaps every Monday morning you take 10 minutes to write down what work-related people and things you are grateful for. Over time, you can look back and reflect in a meaningful way.
Write Thank You notes. Sure, it’s a little old school when we are used to email and texting, but therein lies the magic. There is something powerful about taking the time to thank someone with a physical note - be it your boss, the intern or even the security guard in your building.
Incorporate gratitude into you conversations. During 1:1 meetings with both your boss and your direct reports, making a habit of highlighting something you appreciate about them. These conversations can have a lasting impact, and will serve to strengthen the relationship. Showing appreciation on a regular basis in many cases also makes conversations around areas of improvement easier, as you have built a stronger foundation with the other person.
Make time during meetings for shout outs. Public displays of gratitude can mean a lot to your employees. Make it an ongoing bullet point on the agenda, to call out a person or a team that is doing a great job, and be as specific as you can. Knowing the boss not only appreciates your work, but knows exactly what you are doing can be a big boost to an employees confidence at work.
Consider an Employee of The Week/Month/Quarter Award: This doesn’t need to be overly formal, but the idea of highlighting someone on a regular basis, either through a newsletter or a larger company meeting is a nice one. Not only does a stellar employee acknowledged, but in deciding who to highlight, you get to see some of the great work being done across the organization.
We all benefit when we take a minute to step back and recognize the good people and things we have in our lives. Study after study show that gratitude is a key factor in happiness. While we don’t often combine a gratitude practice with work, as you can see there are some easy ways to do just that. Giving thanks feeds the soul, which is as necessary in November as it is in February or June.
* * *
This post is by Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce. Fierce is a global leadership development and training company that changes the way people communicate with each other. They drive results for business and education by developing conversation as a skill. They believe that while no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, a marriage, or a life—any single conversation can. CEO, Susan Scott is the author of Fierce Leadership a Best Leadership Book of 2009.
* * * Like us on Instagram and Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.