Tag Archives: To the point

To Speak As A Leader

Not sure where I first read the speech, but it left a lasting impression. The D-Day speech General Eisenhower did not have to give:

“Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

It is a little footnote of history.  The landings went well, the war eventually won.  Books were written, movies made, and heroes created.  But it is the illustration of a fundamental trait of leadership that makes the handwritten speech so impressive.

With all the speech making, sound bites, “news cycle” noise that surrounds us, I keep thinking back to one of those Leadership 101 ideals:

When the news is good, use the terms “the team”, “we” and “they” and ensure the credit goes to others.

When the news is bad, use the terms “I”, “me” and “mine” and take the blame.

Simple thing really, but it is the mark of great leadership.  There are so many things that go into being a good leader – decision-making, conviction, consistency, vision, and on and on, but one standard remains.  Leaders take the blame and give the credit.

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Filed under Business, Coaching, Current affairs, leadership

The Dichotomy of Lennon

You have to be a bastard to make it, and that’s a fact. And the Beatles are the biggest bastards on earth.
John Lennon

Interesting – we all think of Oprah, The Beatles, and all the other wildly successful entertainers, musicians and artist in the way that they wish to be thought of – benevolent and kind, caring and giving.  However, what we often overlook is that they all posses an unbridled passion to succeed.  To “make it” as John Lennon would say.  And what they ask us to forget is the bastard part.  In doing so a valuable lesson is lost.  Success requires relentless work, focus and drive, as well as a healthy dose of reality – the reality that to a degree you “have to be a bastard to make it”.  Remember – this is John “Give Peace a Chance” Lennon talking.

It is not a contradiction.  In athletes the “killer instinct” is praised.  Michael Jordan was known as the ultimate closer; Kobi Bryant “the assassin”; Lance Armstrong the perfectionist.  We demand it of our athletic champions, yet we do not want to see it or even acknowledge that it just might exist in our entertainers, business leaders and even political leaders.  Dare I say Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for all their public posturing about donating their estates have and had massive reserves of drive and a fair degree of “bastard” in them when it came to their business dealings.

It is not a bad thing having the drive and focus to succeed coupled with the ability to sacrifice and to make the tough, unpopular decisions.  That is the “bastard” trait John Lennon was speaking of from his days with The Beatles.  They had to make tough, cutting, real world business decisions – they had to sacrifice, to work literally thousands of hours, to pour in all they had to become what they became.  It did not make them bad people.  It was business.  Sometimes business and leadership, entertainment and sports, success and achievement requires a bit of the bastard in all of us.  It is not a bad thing.  It is reality.  It is sort of hard to believe – that “bastard” would have been 70 tomorrow.

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New Jobs – You Are Starting Over

As only John Lennon could put it so clearly, “it will be just like starting over…”

The sense of relief of having landed the new job is palpable.  Candidate’s are relieved to have weathered the interview and selection process, and are at times relieved to have landed on their feet professionally and financially.  Transitions, either seemless and of your choosing, or dynamic and forced upon you, are stressful evolutions.  However, that sense of relief must evaporate before the first day on the new job.  Much as graduation ceremonies are referred to as commencement, acceptance of an offer is not the end, but rather the beginning of a journey.

Realization that the hard work is ahead, not behind, is a tough pill to swallow for many.  What you did is in the past. It might have been a key component in getting you the new job, but rest assured, it is now squarely all about what you will do going forward. You were hired to perform, not to rest on your laurels.

Starting over is never fun, and it is never easy.  There is always uncertainty, possibly some bruising of the ego, and maybe a little crisis of confidence.  It will take time to hit your stride, to come up to speed.  It will also take work, effort, commitment, and good old fashioned sweat equity.  Knowing and accepting that you are starting over is half the battle.  Having the energy and will to fight the battle that is starting over is what ensures victory.

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Filed under Coaching, Interviewing

Chicago 2016 – Reinforcing the Fundamentals

The announcement of Chicago, and really the United States, early exit from the 2016 Summer Olympic voting offers at least two immediate lessons. Both are timeless lessons in life and business. Fundamentals that seem to trip-up even the most veteran, experienced professionals. Simply put – know your audience and minimize your personal downside.

Clearly I am no expert when it comes to the International Olympic Committee, its members, its mode of operation, or its inner workings and decision making.  Nor am I professing to understand to any significant degree all that goes into bidding for and/or hosting an Olympic Games.  However, what I am very sure of is that there are lessons to be learned for all of us, especially when they are fundamental issues that have just been played out on a very public stage.

Knowing your target market is critical in business and in life.  Every sales presentation, product or service that is designed or marketed, every interview, every interaction is aimed at or positioned towards someone.  It is absolutely critical that the presentation be directed to the decision maker.  One must know who your target market or audience is, what their concerns are, what factors might play into their decision making.  Being sensitive to their paradigm is absolutely critical.  Simply stated, it is about them, not about you.

A great deal was made of the “Chicago delegation” that went to Copenhagen, with special attention given to the presence of Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.  A country’s First Lady – makes perfect sense, she is an individual of consequence on the international stage.  There is great significance in her participation – it demonstrates national level commitment to the ultimate IOC decision makers.  Oprah Winfrey is clearly a powerful presence in American popular culture, of that there is no question.  However – does she impact these particular decision makers?  Is she tied to the Olympic movement, is she an Olympian, a member of their community, a person who holds sway within their world?  Doubtful at best.  To an American audience she matters, but the ultimate decision makers were not an American audience.

It is critical to remember that whenever any of us are debating a decision that involves spending our personal or professional capital, there is potential downside that must be considered.  There is risk in every decision, and taking risks is a necessary part of life and business.  Knowing and honestly evaluating the downside is crucial, arguably of greater importance than evaluating the upside potential.  Managing and minimizing your risk when spending your personal and professional capital is paramount.

Obviously it is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight that the presence and personal pitch of the President to the IOC was not a winning move.  Whether he should have gone to Copenhagen is open to debate and will be critiqued to exhaustion.  Was there upside to the President’s involvement – absolutely.  Was there downside – clearly.  Was there more risk than originally considered – only time will tell. Losing now and again is part of life, part of business – everyone knows and accepts it.  Setting yourself up for big, public, resounding, crushing defeats – never wise.

Though there will never be one simple, all encompassing answer to why the Chicago bid was rejected – was it just Rio’s time, was it a poor sales presentation, was it geographic voting blocks, was it anti-American backlash, IOC bribery issues ala Salt Lake City, or was it W’s fault still – no one will ever know, and in the end it really does not matter.  What is clear is that it is always about the fundamentals.  Life and business are always about the fundamentals. Know your audience and minimize risk.

Never ask the question unless you already know the answer goes the old adage.  The same goes for spending your own political, personal, or professional capital – you better be very sure of what the outcome will be before you throw that blue chip on the table.  Take risks – absolutely.  Calculated risks are even better.  But betting big when you have massive downside exposure is foolish.  In a sales presentation, in an interview, with whatever your product or service might be, whatever relationship scenario you can imagine, it is always about them, not about you.  Ask any Olympian – it is all about the fundamentals.

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Filed under Current affairs, Politics, Sports

The Value of Being…Mad?

Sometimes winning requires you to just get mad, to get mean…with yourself. Mad enough and mean enough to dig a little bit deeper, to go a little longer, work a little harder, and ultimately do just a little bit more than you ever thought possible.  In short, do more than everyone else.

It reminds me of the classic Clint Eastwood western, The Outlaw Josey Wales.  Just before the climatic final fight scene (it is a western – there has to be a climatic fight) when a nugget of motivation is shared in his timeless, gravely, direct manner:

Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you got to get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean! Cause if you lose your head and you give up, then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.

Over-the-top, Hollywood, cinematic western action drama – absolutely.  However there is a some validity to the statement.  There will be times where that little extra shot of motivation is required, when digging a little deeper is the only way to make it happen.  Getting mean in a “grit your teeth” and push through the immediate obstcale manner.  Being petty, undercutting, and unethical is not the idea.  Getting mean with yourself – holding yourself to the highest standard regardless of the short term, immediate pain.

Sometimes life might require you to reach into that inner place and draw on some deep seated “meanness”.  Go for it, get mad.  Just remember to put it away once you have your momentum back.

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Commitment; Involvement – It’s all the same right?

Sometimes, it is the simplest things that say the most.  From the wisdom of country cooking and Americana comes a classic.

Commitment and Involvement.  It’s like a bacon and eggs breakfast…the chicken is involved; the pig is committed.

There it is, clarity.  When it comes to what really matters, to what is truly the most central things in your life, are you committed, or are you just involved?

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But was it relevant?

As we head into the Final Four and the culmination of March Madness, I could not help but think of relevance as it pertains to our society, to sports, and specifically to interviewing.  We live in a “right now” world – yesterday is ancient history and tomorrow is light years ahead.  It is a never ending bombardment of stimuli in a relentless campaign to grab our collective attention.  College basketball goes from the relative background of thought during the regular season to the forefront of our collective consciousness during March Madness.  Amazing what office pools and single elimination tournament play does for ratings.  Regardless of why, for one month each year college basketball becomes relevant – people care.

The question for anyone interviewing is are you relevant?  Yes, being personable and interesting, warm and likable are important, but you must be THE answer to THEIR need – it is a business decision.  Are the things you are saying, the stories you tell, the talents you highlight and the case you make relevant to the company?  Are you aware of what they need and are you directly addressing those needs?  Is your presentation and product – you – relevant to their needs?  Are you clearly illustrating how and why you are the right fit, how you will make the organization better immediately?

“The interview went great.  We really connected.  It was a great conversation.”  Thus begins many a post interview debrief.  However, issues sometimes arise when we review what the topics of conversation really were during the interview.  “Connecting” and having great “conversation” are wonderful things, but they are no guarantee of a successful interview.  Were the topics relevant to the business situation is the critical question.  You are only relevant to them if you are bringing something of value – will you make them a better business by being able to fill the role they need filled, now.  

In the final analysis, are you and your experiences relevant to the company and position?  If you are answering anything other than an emphatic “yes” it would be wise to seriously evaluate your presentation.  Find the best possible stories and examples and tailor them to the interview.  In the hyper competitive environment in which we live, being relevant makes all the difference.   Oh, and please remember, interviewing is a single elimination tournament – you have to win to advance.

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Filed under Interviewing, Sports