Daily Thought 5/14/12: Teamwork

New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a family member’s graduation from the University of North Carolina. UNC did a fantastic job selecting their honored speaker and hosted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg used this platform to share life lessons from his career path and important take-aways from his successes in business and politics. These take-aways each shed some light on the “real world” and how we can be successful over time. My favorite point was focused on teamwork.

Bloomberg said teamwork is the key to success AND leadership. “You will never hear a great leader say ‘me or I’ but rather ‘we or us’.” This was a tremendous point to hear. This is another way of phrasing the age-old adage that a great leader is quick to praise others and quick to accept blame. This humility illustrates the gratitude and understanding that great leaders have about their team members.

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Daily Thought 5/11/12: Accepting Defeat and Moving On

May marks one of my favorite times of the year. Not only do I get to celebrate the birthdays of several family members and Mothers’ Day, the month of May also brings the Indianapolis 500!

Last year a young 23 year old rookie, JR Hildebrand, took the lead late in the race. He was running away with the race and only a few laps remained as the crowd went wild. Soon the white flag unfurled signifying one lap to go and everyone cheered with excitement as Hildebrand whipped around the 2.5 mile oval one final time. Then it happened. The unthinkable. As he lapped a slower car in the final turn, Hildebrand’s car got out the the groove and smacked into the wall. While the damaged car scraped down the wall and limped across the finish line, Hildebrand was passed by the late Dan Wheldon and wound up finishing in second place.

No one could have predicted what would come next. In a very un-tewenty-three-year-old type of way, Hildebrand reacted with utmost professionalism and candor. He was calm and collected and accepted the outcome without complaining or blaming anyone else. The truth of the matter is that the rookie had just finished second in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and the reality was that he had just blown the race win. I ran across a fantastic interview with Hildebrand that covers the ups and the downs of his first Indy 500. The most impressive part of the story is that he handled the situation with such grace that he won over a number of fans and returns to Indianapolis for another shot, this time as a known, and respected, veteran.

There are a lot of great tidbits in there that help showcase the ability to be graceful in defeat. Inevitably everyone experiences (ok, almost everyone) some sort of defeat in their lives. As many great leaders have alluded in various ways, it is not about what happens but rather how we react to it that shows who we really are. When you get knocked off the horse will you complain and overreact? Or will you get back on it and ride off into the sunset?

“Even before the car had come to a stop, I knew I was going to have a bunch of microphones shoved in my face and I wouldn’t be able to just bat them away. I thought, “I’m going to have to stand up and own up.” -JR Hildebrand

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Daily Thought 5/8/12: The Enemies of Greatness and Happiness

I recently stumbled upon a piece in Forbes that seems to explore Jim Collins‘ matra that good is the enemy of great. This article provides a quick overview of the six enemies of greatness (and happiness).

  • Availability- settling for the “low hanging fruit”
  • Ignorance- limitations based on what you know
  • Committees- bureaucratic bull poop
  • Comfort- inability to stretch yourself
  • Momentum- getting stuck in a rut
  • Passivity- not engaging all the way

Instead of diving into why each of these traits make achieving greatness difficult, I thought it would be valuable to think of creative ways to overcome them. I won’t claim to be a expert but it is always important to get creative and think your way out of a problem.

  • Availability- set your sights on a goal that takes a little bit of effort but will make your project great
  • Ignorance- always seek advice and help from others, you can never ask too many questions
  • Committees- give everyone a specific task and deadline, hold them accountable and push forward
  • Comfort- is it just me or is it a lot more exhilarating to stretch beyond your comfort zone and get a win because of your efforts?
  • Momentum- just like getting stuck in a rut, success breeds success
  • Passivity- find something that you are truly passionate about and you will never be passive
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Daily Thought 5/1/12: Bosses and Employees

Phew, it has been a while since my last post and for that I apologize. I was on vacation a few weeks back and then got caught up catching up. Alas, I am back.

Over the past week, Geoffrey James has run a series of complimentary blog posts for Inc. that explores the relationship between bosses and employees in situations where the boss is successful.

The first post explores traits that make a boss extraordinary. Of the eight mentioned best practices, it is important to see that six of them focus on the relationship between boss and employee. And all six of those suggest that the best bosses empower and trust their employees and work in a great symbiotic relationship.

The follow-up piece looks at traits that make employees the best for their bosses. Unsurprisingly six of these eight tips relate directly to maintaining a positive working relationship with your boss and they all provide building blocks for trust, responsibility, and freedom. Essentially if you are true to your word and good at communicating, you will make your boss happy.

James finishes the second piece with a very intriguing, and I think accurate, thought that I will close with:

Know your real job.

Regardless of what it says on your job description, your real job is to make your boss successful. There are no exceptions to this rule. None.

And, by the way: Your boss’s real job is to make you more successful. The reversal of these priorities is the source of almost all organizational problems.

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Daily Thought 4/4/12: The Godfather and Building Trust

Box art

Box art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because its been a little while since I last shared a post, I have two articles to share today.

Recently movie fans celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Godfather. This iconic mafia film offers up a variety of unforgettable quotes, plot turns, and some good old machismo. To capitalize on the celebration, Fast Company published an interview with an entrepreneur about the leadership lessons in The Godfather.

  • Build a powerful community
  • Hold people accountable
  • Don’t get emotional
  • Be decisive
  • Spend time with your family

All five of these points are very basic tenants of being a good employee, teammate, or leader. I personally like to reiterate the final point: “spend time with your family”. In order to be your best self at work, it is imperative to have balance and enjoy your time away from the office.

This morning I stumbled on our second article on my twitter time line. As we have discussed previously, building trust is paramount to success as a leader. Leading with Trust, an interesting blog focused on best practices with trust, did an interview with the writer of The One Minute Manager regarding the best three ways to build trust as a leader. Each is simple and important for establishing trust and credibility with your followers.

  • Goals: using goals sets clear expectations and parameters from the beginning
  • Praising accomplishments: giving others public credit allows you to show your genuine appreciate for their work
  • Reprimanding errors: while this appears counter intuitive, this builds trust by showing you trust the individual but want to prevent the error from reoccurring

It is pretty clear to see some distinct commonalities between two entirely different takes on the subject of leadership. Taking lessons from The Godfather and using the three practices of trust will certainly help to build a loyal and hardworking following.

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Daily Thought 3/21/12: Leading Up

Recently I had been planning a post out in my head about “leading up”. That is, how to lead your manager/supervisor/leader. Then today I ran across a nice piece on the American Management Association website about influencing your boss.

This article hits on a lot of keys to leading up. When you lead up, you need to be able to influence those above you to achieve your vision and goals. The best way to do this is to earn the trust of your supervisor and make their goals your goals and vice versa. By showing your dedication to them, they will in turn become more dedicated to you and give you more autonomy to make decisions. Once you are making important decisions you are able to direct conversations and projects, thus leading everyone involved (including those above you).

Its funny when you think about it. The same basic tactics that make you a great leader for your followers can also help you become a leader of those above you.

  • Pursue mutual success
  • Make them know they can trust you
  • Focus on what is important to them
  • Adapt to their work style
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Daily Thought 3/15/12: The Power of Theatrics

Yesterday we visited a very intense letter from a resigning Goldman Sachs employee, Greg Smith. Smith argued that Goldman was losing sight of who they are and what made them that way.

Forbes put together a nice analysis of the piece that compares this letter to a scene from AMC’s hit series Mad Men. The point that the Forbes article makes is about drawing a line in the sand and being dramatic. In both examples we see and ethical dilemma. The leader understands that in the short run “doing the right thing” will cause the bottom line to take a hit. He also understands the long term need to do what is right.

By drawing this line in the sand, in a very dramatic way, the leaders are able to make their point very clearly. This shows their followers the difference between right and wrong and that doing wrong will not be tolerated. It is tough to stand up for what you believe in like this, but as a leader it is necessary.

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