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WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?

We often think of learning as something we are doing all of the time. But we aren’t. Mostly we are repeating or reinforcing what we already know. And that gets in the way of learning.

And when it comes to learning from mistakes we ignore, blame, and rationalize to protect our self-image. All of which, deprive us of the chance to learn.

In Never Stop Learning published by Harvard Business Review Press, UNCC professor Bradley Staats provides the processes we need to follow to become perpetual learners. Like most things worthwhile learning must be deliberate. Learning is a process that requires your constant attention.

Learning Requires Process Focus, Not Outcome Focus

Learners focus on how they got to the result. For me, this was the key chapter. Process focus involves understanding all of the elements that contributed to the outcome. An outcome is not a single event. It is the result of many smaller events. We tend to place more emphasis on the outcome than we should. And perhaps more importantly, “we believe the outcome is a reflection of our finite ability and thus we judge it as an evaluation of ourselves—so we focus on performance goals rather than learning goals, to our detriment.” A focus on learning goals builds on a growth mindset. “To a growth mindset, the outcome is simply one input about the state of the process and the individual’s general learning.”

And here’s another benefit of focusing on the process. Dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said, “Freedom to a dancer means discipline. That is what technique is for—liberation.” Staats adds, “Success, even in a novel situation such as dance, depends on understanding the building blocks. Once we understand the basics, we can deviate productively to innovate and learn.

Ask Questions

We can’t learn if we think we have all of the answers. “When we ask questions, we fill in the blanks in our own knowledge.” Staats recommends we ask, “Is my approach correct?” Again this gets back to his point on having a process focus.

We think our knowledge is more complete than it is and so we miss learning opportunities.

Like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, “we often need to slow down to go fast. Slow and steady, like the tortoise, can win the race when we ask thoughtful questions to help us learn. Rushing to answers when the world is changing around you is a shortsighted strategy at best. The answer that worked yesterday is unlikely to be correct tomorrow. Increasingly, we are tasked with activities that require judgment and expertise—not just mindless repetition of the same answer.”

We don’t ask enough questions.

Learning Requires Recharging and Reflection, Not Constant Action

We always hear that we need to have an action bias. And that’s great in overcoming analysis paralysis and of course, results are the basis of our reputation. But doing for the sake of doing something is worse.

Staats relates the example of the strategy of professional goalies when dealing with penalty kicks. Statistically they would be better off staying put in the center to stop the penalty kick. But they most often don’t. Researchers found that most often they don’t. “They wanted to be seen doing something, even if that something was wrong. Given that most tasks that require our attention involve uncertainty, it is inevitable that we will sometimes make the wrong choice…. This fear of making the wrong choice prevents us from pursuing strategies that could help us both now and in the long run.” I would add, who wants to be standing still and miss stopping the kick. We want to be seen as doing something even if statistically, moving might not be the best strategy. The false impression is that we aren’t trying.

Being Yourself to Learn

When we are ourselves, we will be “more positive, more motivated, and able to engage in more open learning.” Staats notes, “The challenge is to be authentic but not outlandish. The advice holds: you must release the individual if you want to learn. But as with many things, moderation is important. Overdoing it, as defined by the situation you’re in, will create problems for you and others.” Sometimes it’s wise to dial back the authentic you.

Playing to Strengths, not fixating on Weaknesses

Here’s the key: “Don’t try to fix irrelevant shortcomings. We learn best when we play to our strengths—those capabilities at which we excel.” We all have some critical weaknesses that need our attention. And those should be given our attention.
Say no to the idea that any weakness must be treated as a learning need. Instead, focus on the key qualities that enable you to create value and differentiate yourself.

And of course, we need to keep our strengths in check. As the Swiss-German philosopher wrote, “All substances are poisons; there is not which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.”

Specialization and Variety

We can become boxed in by what we know. Only by intentionally expanding our knowledge and experience and including others can we make new connections. “When we become too specialized, we see what we want to believe rather than what is actually there. We think deep specialization is a way to learn, but it may constrain how we understand new material. Learning therefore, must incorporate variety as well as specialization.

Variety keeps us from running on autopilot. We think the world works a certain way. When we encounter new circumstances, “we fail to learn because we believe that the same od lessons apply.” A balance of specialization and variety is important though. “Moving across different domains may permit us to see connections, but only if our understanding is deep enough to recognize them.”

Learning from Others

The people we interact with are key to our success. Interestingly, Google found that “great team performance, learning, and innovation were less a function of individuals’ prior skills than of how the team members interacted and their previous experience with one another.”

Staats has found that, “In isolation I may be able to come up with an interesting way to think about things, but the back-and-forth of having that idea challenged is what tests and thus improves me.”

Determination

When it comes to learning, it’s easy to get distracted by everything we need to get done. And our environment changes. But if we fail to learn wee become irrelevant. “We end up solving yesterday’s problems too late instead of tackling tomorrow’s problems before someone else does.” Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said, “Ultimately, the ‘learn-it-all’ will always do better than the ‘know-it-all.’”
Living in a learning economy means that we must all approach learning with four mindsets: focused (choose which topics to learn and focus on them deeply), fast (get up to speed quickly), frequent (always be open to learning even from the most unexpected places), and flexible (be able to decelerate and switch to the next opportunity).


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“The Leader of the Future” was edited by Francis Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Richard Beckhard. In the foreword written by Peter Drucker, he writes: “Leadership must be learned and can be learned—and this, of course, is what this book was written for and should be used for.” Here's how you can be one of FIVE people to win a FREE copy of “The Leader of the Future”:

TO ENTER:
• Sign up for the LeadershipNow Lead:ology Newsletter Enter referral code: IGJUNE18 (Open to U.S. residents only)
Winners will be announced June 29th!
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THE DOLLAR GENERAL CORPORATION began in 1939 as J. L. Turner and Son in in Scottsville, Kentucky by James Luther Turner and Cal Turner. Scottsville was a small town of only 2,000 people and 60-miles south of Nashville. Not a great place to build a retail business. They were wholesalers to local retailers. Eventually Cal Sr., came up with the idea of opening a store with only one price—a dollar. And in 1955 the first Dollar General store was opened.

In My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company, Cal Turner, Jr. shares the ups and downs of running a family business for just over 37 years, and along with it some good down-to-earth common sense.

Cal Jr, learned from his grandfather the value of listening. Because of a freak wrestling accident, his grandfather, lost his Dad at age 11 and had to leave school to run the family farm. Finishing school with only a third-grade education might hold some people back, but not Luther Turner. He saw it as a plus. “He was convinced that everyone he met was smarter than he, and that he needed to learn something from each of them. He became a first-rate observer, a great listener, and a dedicated student to life. What he practiced was more than empathy. It involved valuing the other person and his or her information, insight, and perspective.”

Cal Sr. liked living in a small town because he believed it made you a better person. “If people are keeping an eye on what you’re doing,” he said, “then you might think twice about doing something you shouldn’t.” And everyone did keep an eye on Cal Jr. His mother taught him that he needed “to reach out and connect with everyone, to be interested and respectful no matter what.”

His mother had a huge influence on him. She valued principles. She believed that “if you have a commitment to moral integrity, you don’t need a bunch of picky rules. They aren’t necessary; in fact, they become just so much baggage.”

She also taught him to separate the problem from the person. She told him, “Son, for a good boy, you get into a lot of trouble.” Cal Jr. learned to focus on the solution and the lesson.

When you separate the problem from the person, everybody can come together to learn from the solution. If we focus on labels and affixing blame, we are not going to be good at solving problems.

His Dad also provided much-needed support. He would compliment him in front of others. Cal Jr. finds that “so much of success and failure lies in what we take away from our primary relationships.” A family grounded in love can survive almost anything.

A solid value-based upbringing makes it easier to focus on others. “Leadership exists when an organization overcomes having a boss or a boss mentality. A boss only gets results; a leader gets development.… A true leader vests the authority in the organization.”

The company was built with no strategic plan. When Cal Jr. introduced it he thought he might get resistance from Cal Sr. But Cal Sr. knew it was time to make changes, but responded with, “I hope you won’t create plan planners but will have plan doers.”

Thinking strategically allowed them to reexamine the way they had always done things and take a good look and individual strengths and weaknesses. A better leader emerges when a person owns his or her own weakness and reaches out to make a connection with other people to help fill in the gaps.

He has said that the doors of the executive suite tend to keep everybody out, but strategic planning opens the doors to bring everybody in. Running the business becomes a company-wide proposition.

On teamwork, Cal Jr. says, “Collaboration, then, is the process of raising individual selfishness to group cooperation and accomplishment, which can spur the group—or the organization, the nation, or the planet—to greater success.” What they created was a values-based dynamic in the organization. “The least control for the most development of our niche.” Those values included: “We believe that productivity is attained by emphasizing strengths in a positive environment, not by dwelling on weaknesses in an environment of guilt and blame.”

A secret to their success he refers to as “selective unscrewing.” “Our past has always been screwed up, and every year, we just selectively unscrew a bit.” Continual improvement.
The concept of “unscrewing” has to do with change, and change is something most of us resist. It may be simple fear of the unknown, for we cling to the security of a predictable structure or pattern, although it’s worth remembering that people also get bored with the predictable.

That’s the unscrewing process, taking the next step in bettering your approach, and the key is teamwork.

A forgotten value his Dad believed in, is the idea that “your dress reflects the respect you are showing the other person.”

The title of the book—My Father’s Business—is a bit of a double entendre. While Cal Jr. spent a lifetime tending to his Dad’s business, he also believed it was his calling. At one time he wanted to go into the ministry. A preacher convinced him otherwise. He told him not to do it. “Find anything else you can do and do that, because only if there’s nothing else you can do are you truly called to be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are far too many preachers who were never called in the first place.” But then it came to him from a few lessons learned working with customers what God wanted him to do. “I could have much more effect on the lives of our customers day in and day out in our stores than I ever could as a preacher conducting three services a week.” He discovered His Father’s business in his life—a principle that guided him throughout the rest of his life.

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“I actually felt as if I was going to perish,” said psychologist Stanley Milgram upon asking a subway rider for their seat.

Asking for help makes most of us uncomfortable and we often go to great lengths to avoid doing it. We fear rejection. We fear that people we think less of us. We believe people don’t really want to help. But the truth is we need the help and support of others to succeed. To be sure, leadership is fundamentally about asking people for help. “Reaching your fullest potential—professionally or personally—requires you to understand how to enlist reinforcements when you need them. For many of us, ‘when you need them’ is literally every day,” writes Heidi Grant in Reinforcements.
Yet our reluctance to ask for help means we often don’t get the support or the resource we need. Making matters worse, our intuitions about what should make others more likely to help are often dead wrong; our fumbling, apologetic ways of asking for assistance generally make people feel far less likely to want to help. We hate imposing on people and then inadvertently, we make them feel imposed upon.

We underestimate our chances of getting help, especially from those that have said “no” once already. We don’t like saying “no.” We don’t think less of people when they ask us for help. But for some reason we forget that when it is our turn to ask for help.

Research shows that people actually like us more when they have been able to help us. It makes them feel good too—unless they feel compelled to help. Asking someone, “Can you do me a favor?” increase the likelihood that they’ll say yes, but usually because they now feel trapped.

So what are the subtle cues that motivate people to work for us?

Grant says, first of all, don’t make it weird by overdoing it on empathy (i.e., ASPCA commercials), apologizing profusely (just ask), using disclaimers (“I normally wouldn’t…”), emphasizing how much the other person will love helping (“This will be fun!”), and reminding people that they owe you one, among other tactics.

Instead try these three ways of asking others for help:

In-Group Reinforcement

Those members of our group are the most likely to help us. To create a sense of in-group among people, use the word “together,” create or highlight shared goals, identify a common enemy, share common emotions, experiences, and feelings.

The Positive Identity Reinforcement

Most people like to think of themselves as helpful because it is part of what it means to be a good person. We reinforce that with gratitude and appealing to the things that matter to them. “To maximize positive identity reinforcement, know your audience and emphasize what matters to them, not to you.”
Gratitude is a glue that binds you and your benefactor together, allowing you to hit the same well over and over again when you need support, know that it won’t run dry.

Also, “the more unique the help, the more closely tied it is to who they are.” If people feel that anyone could help you, it is more likely that they will pass thinking that someone else will help. They need not bother. “To activate the positive identity reinforcement, find ways to convey that the helper is in a unique position to help you.” “You’re my only hope.”

The Effectiveness Reinforcement

People want what they do to make an impact—to have meaning. If we feel we are not making an impact, we are likely to lose motivation. People need to clearly understand the impact of their helping.
Research shows that when people are unable to get any kind of feedback about how well they are doing on a task, they quickly become disengaged from it.

The question is, “How do I know what I am doing is important?” “How do I know that my time, money, or effort wouldn’t be better spent some other way?”

Be clear up-front about what you want done and the impact it will have. And be sure to follow-up. Let them know how things turned out. As a leader, “helping people see the impact of their work—their help—is one of the most important motivators you can wield.”

Reinforcements is written in an engaging way and is full of solid research to support the approach needed to get the help we need to succeed. It is practical advice for anyone asking for help in a way that will leave both parties feeling good about the relationship.

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YOU’VE HEARD of the Bermuda Triangle, where ships and aircraft disappear without explanation. There’s a workplace equivalent, a triangle where good will and productivity vanish. How many working hours of the average day do you and your team spend in the Drama Triangle?

This triangle was developed as a social model years ago by Stephen Karpman, a student of Dr. Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis. It maps out a type of dysfunctional interaction that is common in the workplace and in our homes as well. The word “dysfunctional” is nothing to be afraid of – it just means “not working very well.” Effective leaders notice when their relationships are working and when they aren’t … and as a result, they learn to stay out of the Drama Triangle.

Karpman used this triangle to define three points that arise predictably in any dysfunctional real-life drama: the Persecutor, the Victim, and the Rescuer. Notice that all three of these are roles we can choose to play, or choose to step back from, at any time.

So for instance, let’s assume that one of your team members promised you an update about an important project by Tuesday afternoon. It’s Wednesday morning. You don’t have the report yet. Here are three ways you could choose to respond:
  • “I said that report was due Tuesday and I meant it!” (Persecutor. This role sends the message “It’s all your fault,” typically in the voice of a critical parent.)
  • “There are three important meetings today that depended on me seeing that report from you … and now I’m going to crash and burn at all three.” (Victim. This role is all about “Poor me.”)
  • “Look -- send me the data you have and I’ll finish that report for you.” (Rescuer. The classic enabler.)

Every time you see one of these roles emerge, or find yourself tempted to play one of them, you can be certain that the Drama Triangle is beckoning … and you’re about to get sucked into it. One classic pattern is: boss attacks (Persecutor), people defend themselves (Victim), other people come to their aid (Rescuer). Be honest. How often do you really want to do that? Here’s what’s important to notice: The Drama Triangle is a game. If you choose to play, you’ll be asking for an exchange that’s high on conflict and denial, and low on resourcefulness, self-awareness, and win/win outcomes.

The problem is, it’s easy to play this game without even realizing that you’re playing, and easy to become addicted to drama without realizing you’re addicted to it. A lot of the leaders we work with are shocked to learn that most of their workplace interactions fall within this dysfunctional triangle! The leader’s title typically means he or she is given the responsibility of judging or dictating … and that can be a slippery slope toward the Persecutor role. If you’re not careful, you can spend the majority of their working hours playing this game. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The very first step to overcoming a drama addiction is simply to learn to recognize what’s happening. Start noticing that that the Drama Triangle game typically begins with one person – it could be you – taking up the Persecutor or Victim role. If you sense a piece of communication coming from your side that is some variation on “It’s all your fault” or “Poor me,” step back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if that’s really the only way you can express yourself. It’s possible you’ll come up with a better way of approaching the situation – one that doesn’t simply invite the other person to intensify the drama. For instance:
  • “I know you’ve been really busy with a lot of different projects lately, but is there any way you could get me that report we talked about by one o’clock today? If not, could you think of anyone else we can get to help you out with it?”
  • Or, even better, give the person a chance not to fall into the trap at all. Send a note well ahead of time reminding them about the project and when it’s due. Leave people enough time to readjust before the deadline.

No blame. No drama. Just good communication!

Your responsibility as a leader is to support your people, start good conversations, and make good outcomes possible. The Drama Triangle goes in the exact opposite direction of all three of those goals: it disempowers your team, starts lousy conversations, and makes terrible outcomes much more likely. If you spend even one minute a day in the Drama Triangle, that’s one minute too much.

The only way to win this particular game to resolve not to play – and then stick with that decision!

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This post is by David Mattson. He is CEO and President of Sandler Training, and author of The Road To Excellence: 6 Leadership Strategies to Build a Bulletproof Business. He oversees the corporate direction and strategy for the company's global operations including sales, marketing, consulting, alliances, and support. Under Mattson's leadership, the Sandler organization expanded domestically and internationally to over 250 offices in 32 countries. For more information, please visit the Road to Excellence website.

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Editor’s Note: The Road To Excellence asks the question, “What, exactly, stands between my company and organizational excellence—and what do I do about it?” David Mattson identifies 14 blind spots that have the potential to kill a business. The problem of course, is seeing what you don’t know. The Excellence Process consists of six steps that when taken in order and made part of your culture will turn excellence into a process and help to get rid of your blind spots.

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IF PEOPLE NOT COMPANIES, generate value, why isn’t talent at the center of every company’s strategy? It’s time to take charge of talent.

Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, and Dennis Carey write in Talent Wins:
Most executives today recognize the competitive advantage of talent, yet the talent practices in their organizations use are vestiges of another era. They were designed for predictable environments, traditional ways of getting work done, and organizations where lines and boxes defined how people were managed. As work and organizations become more fluid — and business comes to mean sensing and seizing new opportunities in a constantly changing environment, rather than panning for several years into a predictable future — companies must deploy talent in new ways. In fact, talent must lead strategy.

To make this happen, they recommend forging what they call the G3. This is a group that consists of the CEO, the CFO, and the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). Together, they “lead the way on anything where the deployment of talent influences the company’s results.” It is the “multiplier of your capacity, time, and capability.” Bringing the CHRO into the mix, signals that “talent consideration must be a critical part of every important decision.”

Of course, for most organizations, this means greatly expanding the role of human resources. Finding, recruiting, supporting and developing talent is mission-critical work in the organization. Beyond just administrative work, it must become a creator of value and competitive advantage.

The relationship between the CFO and CHRO is vital. Together they can do more than they could alone by “ensuring that the company’s financials and the company’s people are continually, inextricably linked.” The success of the G3 is up to the CEO, but the CFO and the CHRO “must be star performers who can learn from each other’s language and dive into each other’s business.”

Training has to be built into the daily fabric or tour organization. People appreciate in value. “Investments in training are strategic bets on your most valuable assets.” This is not a haphazard process but one that uses predictive analytic software to find the right roles for talent, spotlight weaknesses, and forecast the skills that will be needed in the future. Another part of this is rigorously reexamining the organizations legacy processes and instilling a mentality across the organization that everyone should be developing their skills. “These moves quicken the pulse of a company, and help the company have the nimble urgency needed to compete successfully.”

Driving a talent-first reorganization is the job of the CEO. The CEO is the organization’s top recruiter and it requires their constant attention. “Where to find people with the imagination and skills to propel the company; how to position your critical 2 percent and multiply its impact; what kind of talent the company lacks and how you will get it—becomes Job One.”

CEOs need to have on their agenda:
  • Hold weekly meetings with the G3 to steer the company
  • Stay constantly involved with those in your critical 2 percent. You should personally know them. You should personally sponsor many of them. And you should constantly be looking outside the organization to add to their ranks.
  • Put talent at the center of the board agenda, right up there with strategy and risk and compliance issues.
  • When making any strategic move, start with the talent implications—you must know which leaders will drive value.
  • Pay as much attention to developing and executing the talent strategy as you do to product strategy or competitive strategy.

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Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in June 2018. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases this month.

  Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive by Bradley R. Staats
  Straight Talk for Startups: 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds-From Mastering the Fundamentals to Selecting Investors, Fundraising, Managing Boards, and Achieving Liquidity by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman
  Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You by Heidi Grant
  Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied by Howard Yu
  Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers -- and Seize Success by Dawn Marie Graham



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.

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"He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes."
— Barrow

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Here are a selection of tweets from May 2018 that you might have missed:
See more on Twitter.

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IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. That’s where servant leadership begins. Success is based on your influence in the marketplace and those you help. Or rather, it is significance over success. This is a very different mindset from a power-leadership model. And it takes time because we are predisposed to lead from a power mindset.

When Art Barter bought Datron World Communications in 2004, he was determined to create a servant leadership culture in his organization. In doing so the company went from $10 million in annual sales to $200 million today. He explains, “by following the principles of servant leadership, we were able as a committed and engaged team to create a growth mindset and far exceed our normal production with basically what we already had.”

In The Art of Servant Leadership II, Barter shares the journey from power-based leadership to servant leadership. Inside you will find the ups and downs, the trials and triumphs, and the rewards of making the journey. What worked and what didn’t.

Making a change from a power-based leadership style to a servant leadership style is not easy and must begin at the top. At the beginning there are trust issues. And quite frankly, it is a difficult approach to wrap your mind around. It’s unnatural and some otherwise great people will never make the transition. It’s an ongoing process—a cycle of education, understanding, applying, and reflecting.

Educate to Own
Leaders must educate to the point of ownership. It has to be ongoing and consistent. Barter began by preaching more or less but soon learned that if they were going to own it, they and to be part of the educational process. Based on the principles of servant leadership, he asked his team to define what servant leadership looked like to them and then said let’s do that. “Let them decide up front what that will look like; it allows them to start their transformation, because they own that definition.” Barter moved from educate-to-train to educate-to-own. It is important too, says Barter, that the leader’s voice is in the process so that everyone is speaking the same thing and that you meet people where they are.

Understand and Empower
When things get tough it’s easy for a leader to fall back on power. And when you do it takes humility to face the real issue. Barter said that he had to look at himself at times and ask, “’What did I do to generate that response?’ It took me a while to get to the point where I started looking inside first.” He adds, “They can’t put me on a pedestal and expect me to be perfect, because I’m going through a continual transformation right along with them.” As to empowering others, “there are times when the best thing you can do to help people transform is to stop teaching them and just encourage them, giving them space to work on their own transformations.” Not just listening but listening to understand, empowers people.

Apply
You can’t put an organization on hold to make the transformation to a servant leadership culture. You must be profitable and self-sustaining. But servant leadership stresses the means more than the results. It is a culture that makes it safe for failure. Encouraging others and one-on-one mentoring helps to send that message. Here are two key thoughts that caught my attention in this section:
Someone on your team isn’t performing well. Maybe this person is dealing with some personal issues, or perhaps is struggling with what he or she is being asked to do. What would happen if two other people on the team took that person aside and helped him or her get through those challenges, and stayed with the team member until the challenges were resolved? What would that look like in today’s workplace? In most work places, a person starts falling falls alone because nobody wants to be part of it.

That’s the basic difference between the power model and the service model. The power model says, “If I do something, I want something in return.” But the servant leader says, “We’re here to help you. We’re willing to give you what you need. You can reward us if you feel like we served you appropriately.” It’s an investment, and most of the time we’ll see something out of it because people see that we conduct business differently.

Reflect
Self-reflection and team reflection are necessary in a servant leadership culture. At Datron the create what they call a “fascination-for-the-truth” environment. It begins by never killing the messenger. They also host monthly get-togethers, and quarterly off-sites. They invest money into developing the team by sending people to conferences, bringing in outside speakers, and encouraging reading.

Confrontations at Datron are meant to restore relationships and not to convince the other person that you’re right and they’re wrong. The real test of servant leadership is if those you are serving are growing.

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IT'S EASY TO THINK that you need a title to be a leader. So much of what we talk about when we talk about leadership is in the context of a title. It’s also easy to think that there’s only one way to lead.

In Co-Active Leadership, Karen and Henry Kimsey-House define leadership as “those who are responsible for their world.” So much of leadership is about initiative—taking responsibility. In this sense, anyone can choose to lead. “Leadership development, then, becomes about growing the size of the world for which one is able to be responsible.” Naturally, this would mean not only becoming “first-class noticers” but increasing one’s competence.

A multidimensional view of leadership allows for anyone to lead. The authors have created the Co-Active Leadership model that is multidimensional. “Everyone, at different times, plays all five roles, shifting from dimension to dimension as the circumstances and the needs of the moment require.”

The five dimensions are:

Co-Active Leader Within
This is where all leadership begins—from within. It begins with taking responsibility for who you are, knowing your values, and then leading in alignment with those values. I agree with the authors that what we need to lead is within us, leading with a “take me as I am” approach can lead to disaster. Self-awareness is about seeing who I am in relation to those I impact and asking ourselves if this the person I want to be. Opening our heart is not enough. The bigger question is what is motivating the heart. From “Within” we move into the other dimensions as appropriate.

Co-Active Leader in Front
Leading in front is not about being in charge. A Co-Active Leader in Front fosters a “connection with the people who are following them and stand firmly for a clear direction and purpose.” They understand too that it is not about them, it’s also about creating the space for others to step up and share their knowledge and creativity. It’s about providing guidance.

Co-Active Leader Behind
This is about service. Co-Active Leaders Behind “focus on providing whatever is needed and, through openhearted and enthusiastic participation, advance the action in a way that holds everyone together.” They are most concerned about the whole. It’s about encouraging others.

Co-Active Leader Beside
Two can be better than one. Co-Active Leaders Beside “take responsibility for their world by creating their partnership around a shared vision and intention and supporting each other’s strength to generate a powerful synergy in which the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.” It’s about partnering with team members.

Co-Active Leader in the Field
The field referred to here is “the energetic field that surrounds all of life and offering us information all the time.” So Co-Active Leaders in the Field is “about expanding our attention beyond individual people to connect with the energetic field that surrounds life.” It’s about drawing on insights from beyond the rational mind. It about sensing and connectedness.

Seeing leadership as more than top-down command, frees anyone to lead. Seeing leadership in the multi-dimensional way the authors present here, enriches a leaders responses and approaches to any given situation.

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IF YOU ARE THINKING of starting a business—and apparently nine million Americans are currently thinking about it and only about 500,000 actually do each year—you will want to read Burn the Business Plan by Carl Schramm.

The highly-romanticized, high-tech startups that we read about and want to emulate are less than seven percent of all start-ups and they experience the highest failure rate of all business startups. Eighty percent disappear within five years.
Most entrepreneurs never went to college, and most did not start their companies until they were well along in their careers. The average entrepreneur is nearly forty years old when he launches, and more than eighty percent of all new companies are stated by people over thirty-five. More entrepreneurs are between forty-five and fifty-five than any other cohort, and entrepreneurs over fifty-five now create more companies than those under thirty-five. And—another surprise—the chances of a new company surviving rises with the age of the entrepreneur.

What these high-tech startups have in common with all other entrepreneurs is that they don’t follow a business plan. The detailed and rigid planning of your typical formal business plan is of little value once the business gets underway.

Just as German Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke once observed, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy,” “it is rare,” writes Schramm, “to find an entrepreneur who reports that his business plan was of much use…. Entrepreneurs must learn to dance to the market’s ever-changing tempo and rhythm. Planning doesn’t help and is mostly a waste of time.” Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amex, Disney, GE, Walmart, and Google are just a few examples of companies that began without writing a formal business plan.

To build a successful company, one has to be able to change direction as shifting facts and circumstances dictate. In my experience running a manufacturing company for over 30 years, Schramm is right on.

While I believe that the basics of running a business and the type of mindset that is required can be taught or presented, I would agree that you can only learn by doing. “There is no time-tested body of knowledge that will improve the probability that a startup will be successful.”

As Steve Wozniak, Marc Randolph, and many others have suggested, a great way to learn entrepreneurship is by working in a big company. “The average entrepreneur works for someone else for nearly fifteen years before starting his own business.”
Many entrepreneurs who started their own careers in large corporations regarded them as critical to their subsequent success. Most important, they learned the culture of business, how big companies did or did not do a good job of serving their customers, and their customers’ continuously changing needs.

Building a company takes time. Rather than flipping their companies, most successful founders work at it for the rest of their lives. When you begin everything changes. “While many aspiring entrepreneurs think that starting a company is all about one good idea, in fact, successful entrepreneurs know that their first idea was seldom what made their company successful.” And here’s something to think about: “Failure rates are considerably higher for companies that are started with the intention of a short-term sale.

Every startup has one CEO. The myth that two entrepreneurs coming together makes for a better company is just that, a myth. A realistic “look at the history of startups shows that every company, even those claiming multiple founders, had just one person who functioned as the ‘entrepreneur-in chief.’ She is the person who sparked the idea, first articulated the vision for the company and brought others together; the person who functions as the company’s driving force, without whom the startup never would have happened.”

Another reason success as an entrepreneur favors age is that “creating a new product or service is an organic process, one that is shaped by background, experience, and acuity of the innovator.” “The average age of an inventor awarded a patent is forty-seven. The reason? Innovation involves a synthesis of accumulated knowledge, much of it subconscious, that the inventor has absorbed and compiled over his life.”

If you are aspiring to be an entrepreneur, you would be wise to read widely across many fields and disciplines. Innovators are curious and have a voracious appetite for learning.

Schramm tells the stories of Dyson, Head, Kasbar, Stebbins and others who “weren’t even sure that what they were toiling to achieve was a ‘company,’ they were just sure that they had really good ideas.

Other interesting ideas Schramm covers:
  • Franchising is often overlooked as a real entrepreneurial business and is generally not taught in colleges.
  • “You should operate with sufficient flexibility so that you are open to considering other ideas as you work on your original concept.”
  • Business plans are for investors. Most businesses become successful without venture capital and venture capital is no guarantee of success. “The average startup needs $50,000 in capital.” And this comes mostly from savings, credit cards, family, second mortgages and reinvesting revenues.
  • “An entrepreneur’s planning is fundamentally different from how managers in large companies follow well-researched and formalized business strategies. The planning process in a startup can be described more accurately as situational decision making, an imperfectly informed, just-in-time, default strategy.
  • “Entrepreneurial planning involves learning how to make critical decisions quickly, mostly about matters never anticipated, likely while relying on incomplete information.”
  • It takes time. “Of the thirty percent of startups that survive past five years, most are not profitable until they reach their seventh anniversary.”

Burn the Business Plan is a fascinating and accurate look at what it means to be an entrepreneur. It should be required reading in business schools and by anyone contemplating a startup. Schramm tells interesting stories of entrepreneurial successes and failures all of which add to the value of this book.

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