Are We So Busy Reaching Goals, We Miss What Matters Most?

Discussions on leadership often focus on strength, presence, and decisiveness, all important elements of effective leadership. But those are just the utilities of leadership. Genuine leadership that affects people deeply, that fills deep wells of trust, is demonstrated best in the act of generous praise. There is perhaps nothing more welcomed and inspiring to someone than an unexpected, thoughtful compliment.

Full article on NewCo. Shift, by Jeff Chavez

During the 2016 IAAF World Junior Championships in Poland, Jess Thornton from Australia carried the weight of her nation as she attempted to win the 400m final leading up to the Rio Olympic Games.

Yet, in the midst of these Olympic-level stakes, just as the competitors came to the line, she took a moment to respectfully acknowledge Salwa Nasar from Bahrain. Nasar had recently made the heart-wrenching decision to leave her native Nigeria, where poverty robs young women of talent and potential, for the opportunity to break-out and flourish in Bahrain. Her choice was a refusal to leave her potential unrealized and Thorton’s brief moment of praise reverberated around the world….

Full article on NewCo. Shift, by Jeff Chavez

Why Management is Noble

Clayton ChristensenHarvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen teaches Fortune 100 companies and aspiring MBAs how to apply management and innovation theories to build stronger companies. But he also believes that these models can help people lead better lives.

In his now-famous article and book of the same title, “How will you measure your life?” he asserts among other things that the most powerful motivator isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, to grow in responsibilities, and contribute. That’s why management, Christensen says, “…if practiced well, can be the noblest of occupations; no others offer as many ways to help people find those opportunities.”

A Great Idea vs. A Great Leader

Would you rather have access to the next great idea or access to a great leader with a mediocre idea?

Bill Draper, world renowned venture capitalist, was once asked this question, “When evaluating companies, do you pay more attention to the idea or the leader?”

Considering the intense focus by entrepreneurs and investors for the next big idea, I think Mr. Drapers answer is telling.

He explained, “The Leader. Even if a product is wrong, a great, visionary leader will come up with another idea. During a presentation, I keep my eye on the top person, looking at how he interacts with his team, if he understands his audience, if he is the least bit unsure, or if he lacks information he should have had. Most of all, I am looking for judgment. Why did he make certain choices in life?”

Perhaps entrepreneurs should focus on leadership skills, sound judgment, and excellent decision making as their first priority. Then, and only then, does trying to find the next Great-Idea become a worthwhile endeavor.

The Killer Instincts of Entrepreneurship

Over the last 20 years I’ve been entrenched in the world of entrepreneurship.

I’ve learned that the best of the entrepreneurial breed have a distinct set of instincts. These instincts are what enable them to create a functioning organization from just a spark of an idea. It’s an amazing and miraculous process to witness and experience.

However, “Entrepreneur” isn’t a label reserved only for the builders of businesses. It’s an accurate label for someone who leads the establishment of any organization. It’s a label for the builder of any successful movement, cause, project, team, or group; large or small.

Like a great athlete or musician with natural instincts, some people are born with amazing and obvious entrepreneurial instincts. Others…not so much. But like sports, music, or anything else, one can choose to learn through study and practice, the instincts of entrepreneurship. With persistence anyone can become a successful builder of an organization, movement, or cause.

There are few things so satisfying as establishing an organization that produces something of worth, and more important, creates an environment for other people to serve in that cause.

Over the last several years I’ve been speaking and teaching about, “The 11 Killer Instincts of Entrepreneurship.” These are the instincts shared by the fraternity of well-known entrepreneurs from around the world and from the annals of history.

The true leaders and top performers in every company, profession, industry, or charity possess a majority of these instincts. How do you measure up?

  1. The Solution Instinct:This is about problem-solving ideas and always seeing them. It’s about seeing new opportunities while traveling, shopping, or working. Seeing problems and potential solutions to those problems is at the heart of every valuable idea. Creativity is a dominant force in this process.
  2. The Detective Instinct:This is about fact-finding and due-diligence. It’s about letting go of the emotion and excitement of a good idea and taking a venture-capitalist approach. This instinct is something that keeps one constantly assessing how an organizational model will work, scale, and succeed…without personal bias.
  3. The Great Communicator Instinct:This is about connecting and continually selling the message. It’s a constant awareness that every point of communication matters. Whether communicating with partners, investors, vendors, employees, or competitors; every communication is an opportunity to strengthen your mission and be the leader of your cause.
  4. The Youthful Genius Instinct:This is about doing what you love. When we were young, we dreamed big dreams and showed glimmers of what we might become. Tapping into the expectation and excitement of our youth is central to successful entrepreneurship.
  5. The Entrepreneurial Heritage Instinct: This is about how our heritage can reveal our deeper passions and purpose. Exploring the accomplishments and failures of your roots can help one tap into opportunity, passion, and purpose. There is a reason why many families pass along entrepreneurial success and create “dynasties” of their own.
  6. The Risk-Taker Instinct:This is about going out on a ledge. No risk, no reward. It’s the fundamental factor for crossing the chasm of an idea to an organization. Finding the calculated balance of risk and opportunity is key.
  7. The Work-Horse Instinct:This is about paying the price. Doing whatever it takes. Those “overnight successes” usually require at least 5 years of hard work and incredible sacrifice to get there.
  8. The Thick-Skinned Instinct:This is about being tough. Resilience, optimism and a positive mindset reside in every great entrepreneur. What is the fundamental key to success in attaining goals? To never give up.
  9. The Flexibility Instinct:This is about being willing to change. Emotion and pride must be removed from the process while building an organization and paying attention to the best route to take. The right path naturally eventuates; if you’re able to recognize it and willing to take it.
  10. The Human Instinct:This is about people. Attracting the best people is more important than the idea itself. Treating people well, leading well, and serving with care is a fundamental reason why anything worthwhile should be built in the first place.
  11. The Knowledge-Quest Instinct: This is about constantly learning. Reading, thinking, listening, observing, absorbing, and applying is a hallmark instinct of a great entrepreneur.

Avoid Paralysis of Analysis

ParalysisWe’re flooded with information.

Lot’s of it piques interest but eventually you simply get stuck staring at it all… “Is this the right thing to do next, or is that the right thing?”

That’s Paralysis of Analysis! And before you know it, hours, days, even weeks can go by and you’re still stuck in the exact same place—nowhere.

The truth is, analyzing information creates a feeling of productivity and it creates the illusion of progress when it’s really just another insidious form of procrastination.

So, here are some important tips that can help you bust out of Paralysis of Analysis:

Tip #1: Unsubscribe from those unnecessary lists, set inbox rules, and find an expert who can answer your questions quickly. Limit your information influx and you’ll have a lot less stuff to analyze!

Tip #2: Don’t over-think your business, keep it simple. I don’t mean to oversimplify things here, but remember that building a marketing plan around your business consists of a few key concepts—a validated “niche” idea, a strong and effectively written offer/message, a proven strategy for building your own list or distribution, and the ability to execute the plan. So, focus on grabbing insight on those key concepts but don’t get sucked into spending hours and hours analyzing every possible approach to doing these things—pick a technique, confirm it with a coach or expert—then Get To Work!

Tip #3: Get To Work! That’s right, nothing moves you out of being stuck in paralysis quicker than getting moving…just start doing it! You’ll learn more and gain expertise faster than you can by reading more stuff and “thinking about” it. In the words of those killer athletes over at Nike, “Just Do It!”

Analyze yourself for a minute. Are you spending more time studying and contemplating information more than you’re actually doing real work? If so, you’re stuck in Paralysis of Analysis.

The Catalyst for Entrepreneurial Success

Catalyst2There’s an infinite number of great ideas out there. Millions of people have big financial hopes and dreams. There are a lot of people who can talk about their concept or idea with great conviction and enthusiasm—or about how they could improve an entire industry with their unique insight and experience.

But for all of the millions of ideas, concepts, and plans only a small number of them ever materialize.

Consider two of the most vital ingredients of any business endeavor—in fact these ingredients apply to any worthwhile objective that we choose to pursue.

The first is risk and the second is persistence. They’re the catalyst for entrepreneurial success.

When I was a teenager I shaped and glassed my own surfboards. I became very familiar with the process of solidifying fiberglass using a mixture of resin and catalyst. In order to create a bucket full of solution that would cover the entire surfboard, I would add several cups of standard marine resin and just about a tablespoon of catalyst. That tablespoon made all the difference—though just a small amount, it was the key ingredient that caused the entire mixture to eventually solidify into a hard fiberglass finish.

Risk and Persistence are solidifying ingredients, like catalyst, that will help any great plan actually come to life.

The trouble though, is that many people are either paralyzed by the potential costs of taking risks and choose to avoid something potentially great altogether, or after taking a risk lack the patience and tenacity, the Persistence, that’s required to see something to the finish line. In a sense, they throw in the towel prematurely.

To rise above the sea of great ideas that remain just as they are, take risks and be persistent. It’s a proven recipe for success.

It Just Seemed Like a Fun Thing To Do

In a 2010 Business Week article, Threadless: From Clicks to Bricks, the founder and CEO Jake Nickelly was asked why they decided to transition from being a completely online business to a brick-and-mortar retail business as well.

His answer struck me–and not because it’s a sound business strategy, because its not. But because it underscores a valid reason for doing business in the first place. He said, “We really had no good reason to open a store. It just seemed like a fun thing to do.”

That’s something I needed to hear right now.

Business should be something that’s fun to do.

I mean really, as entrepreneurs, why make the sacrifices we make if it isn’t fun?

The Rickshaw That Outsmarts the Competition

RickshawSometime after 8pm or so, there are a bunch of rickshaws for hire in downtown Austin. It’s a perfect way to get from one music venue to another.

All of the rickshaw operators ride bikes and pull their passengers around town. It’s become a very competitive little business out here.

I met one rickshaw operator that found a way to differentiate himself from the sea of competitors.

He was different, grabbed attention, and earned loyalty that beat the competition. In fact, I was so impressed that I added him to my iPhone contacts—he’s there as “Energizer Phil.”

Energizer Phil wears these funky bunny ears and is the only guy in Austin who literally “runs” his rickshaw business the old fashioned way—the way it all started in Asia—by running his passengers from place to place instead of riding a bike. He’s got a ton of energy. This guy truly earns his cash.

(And the funny thing was, he would run right past the guys cruising along on the bikes!)

His outfit, his hustle, and his uniqueness captures the attention of almost everyone on the street as he runs passengers up and down Sixth Street.

When I got out of a concert, I called him back up so he could take me to my car. And I tipped him really well. I doubt any of those regular bike rickshaws get that kind of repeat business and generous tips.

It doesn’t matter how common or competitive your environment is. If you’re willing to be creative, unique, and go out on a ledge, there’s always an interesting way to out-smart your competition.

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

Small GiantsWhen you think of a business, the image that typically comes to mind is an enterprise existing for the purpose of profit – and the more profit the better.

That’s what capitalism is all about, right? The entrepreneurial dream of starting from nothing and making it big – like Ray Kroc did with McDonald’s, or Michael Dell with Dell Computers.

That image makes a 180-degree turn in Bo Burlingham’s book, Small GiantsHe’s identified and analyzed 14 businesses that “Choose to be Great Instead of Big.”

Burlingham has delivered a great read that takes us deep inside fourteen remarkable companies that have chosen to march to their own drummer. They include Anchor Brewing, the original microbrewer; CitiStorage Inc., the premier independent records-storage business; Clif Bar & Co., maker of organic energy bars and other nutrition foods; Righteous Babe Records, the record company founded by singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco; Union Square Hospitality Group, the company of restaurateur Danny Meyer; and Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, including the world-famous Zingerman’s Deli of Ann Arbor.

While doing research within these companies, Burlingham outlined The 7 Qualities of Small Giants that ran through all of the profiled companies:

  1. They consciously questioned the usual definitions of success and imagined different possibilities than the usual ones. This concept had surfaced in the world of professional businesses, such as CPAs, physicians, and architects, where people talk about having a profession rather than a job.
  2. The leaders had to overcome enormous pressures to take traditional paths to success. Often this meant rejecting outside capital and growth opportunities outside their usual geography.
  3. Each company has an extraordinarily intimate relationship with its local community in which it does business.
  4. Each company cultivated exceptionally intimate relationships with customers and suppliers based on personal contact, one-to-one interaction, and mutual commitment on delivering on promises.
  5. They had unusually intimate work places, which were in effect functional little communities that strove to address a broad range of their employee’s needs as human beings, creating an emotional, spiritual, and social, as well as the economic ones.
  6. This sample represents a broad variety of corporate structures and modes of governance that they have come up with to help them achieve their driving force.
  7. The passion that the leaders brought to what the company did—they loved the subject matter, whether it was music, safety, food, lighting, special effects, or constant torque hinges. They had deep emotional attachments to their business, and this deep emotional attachment extended, as mentioned earlier, to employees, vendors, customers, and their community.

Burlingham shows how the leaders of these small giants recognized the full range of choices they had about the type of company they could create. And he shows how we can all benefit by questioning the usual definitions of business success.

Rapido es Happy!

Rapido HappyLet me introduce you to David. He’s one of the janitors who worked in our office.

This guy is amazing, really.

I met him a couple years ago. I couldn’t help but notice him! That’s because one evening I was startled when our front door burst open and I heard a rapidly moving “something” and keys jingling loudly, rushing toward my office. Adrenaline kicked me into the state of fight or flight and before I could get out of my chair to defend myself, David-the-Janitor ran by my office pushing his trash-bin-on-wheels. He literally ran through our entire office, from cubicle to cubicle, emptying our trash bins!

For the next week I watched him run around the office, doing his job as if the world depended on him to get it done. Honestly, I was inspired.

How often do we drag through our daily responsibilities or trudge through life without passion and energy?

Finally, one evening I invited him into my office to take a break. I proceeded to utterly confuse him with my terribly broken Spanish. But we managed a basic conversation.

After we got acquainted, I asked him if he ran like this through the entire building and he said, “Si!”

I asked him if his boss was the devil or something and he said, “No!” So I said, “Then why do you run, David?” He replied, “Rapido es Happy y slow es Sleepy!”

Wow. Here’s a guy who does something basic, something a lot of us would probably complain about…and he’s found one of the great keys to happiness.

Work hard, work rapidly, and take pride in whatever it is you do–and most of all, be happy.

Thank you, David!