Don’t Go It Alone

Richard Leider is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He is best known for his research and work in helping leaders unlock the power of purpose. In our culture of fierce independence, marquee CEOs, and snap decisions, we tend to think about leaders as Lone Rangers: incredibly smart, self-sufficient, and supremely confident. Leider suggests a different paradigm. He says, “Isolation is fatal.” We are more complete and more effective when we don’t try to do it all ourselves. We need a Sherpa. A trusted companion. A confidante. A sidekick. Richard calls this person “a sounding board.” It’s not a group of people, but rather one person with multiple attributes. What makes up such a unicorn? According to Leider, someone with these four attributes: Committed Listener: genuinely wants to know and understandIs able to be a Wise “Elder:“ brings experience to bearIs also able to be a Wise “Younger:“ challenges from a new perspectivePurpose Partner: encourages and supports accountability That’s a big ask but imagine the power of having this person by your side! I hope you have someone. If not, give it some thought. You’ll be a better leader and a whole lot happier with someone else beside you on that mountain... read more

Who Not How

In EOS®, we coach teams to be both healthy and smart. “Smart” is having world class tools and strategies to achieve your vision. “Healthy” is getting those results in a sustainable way – i.e., with a healthy culture. Most books focus on either healthy or smart. I just read a book that does both: Who Not How by Sullivan (of Strategic Coach fame) and Hardy. The authors illustrate why you’re severely limited by focusing on how to do things. Instead, true breakthroughs come by focusing on who we need for the results we want. Great achievements come from leveraging the combined skills of others. Usually, our first thought when facing a business challenge is, “How will I get this done?” We list tasks, allocate resources, and set milestones. Inevitably, when we focus on what we have to do, we hit barriers. The bigger the goal, the bigger the barriers. And the more we procrastinate. Sullivan and Hardy instead recommend starting with who. Your first question should be: Who is better equipped to do this? Who will compliment my strengths to accomplish these goals together? The authors share impressive examples in both large and small companies. This quick summary doesn’t do the book justice. It’s about much more than teamwork. The leadership insight, combined with compelling stories, make it an important read. Be prepared for a paradigm... read more

Return to Great

Great books get better with every revisit (just like great movies, poetry, art, friends). I just reread Good to Great (GTG) by Jim Collins. It’s a classic. Collins and his research team uncover the primary truths about what propels a company from being just “good” to being “great.” The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®) is built on GTG principles. Rereading the book reminded me of important lessons we all must remember and relearn periodically. Three stand out. It’s not fair to burden great employees with weak performers. We can’t be great if we don’t have the courage to eliminate our C players.The concept Identifying your Hedgehog is an iterative process, not a single event. Based on the Greek parable, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one thing,” it’s that singular point where professional passion, core competence and making money intersect. It might take years to figure out, but worth the effort.Discipline, for its own sake, can be misguided. When Collins refers to a “culture of discipline,” he means the right people engaged in appropriate vigorous thinking, followed by disciplined action within a values-based system. I encourage you to reread GTG. You’ll pick up a few new thoughts and remember old ones — once again finding inspiration to be a leader who drives... read more

Everyone’s Top Challenge

“Right people in the right seats” is an EOS® driver. And the key to long term success. Most leaders I know confirm their biggest challenge is finding “A” players. It’s the proverbial needle in a haystack. A client just introduced me to a book that meets this challenge. The book is Who by Street and Smart. It’s insightful, practical, and simple. The system breaks down the hiring process into four stages: Scorecard, Source, Select and Sell. It has a process and excellent suggestions for each stage. The authors also share interesting insights from extensive research; some intuitive, some not: It’s ok to let your gut tell you who not to hire, but don’t rely on instinct to decide who to hire. We’re not as smart as we think we are!When candidates share their employment history, start with the earliest chapter; it’s a more natural way and therefore yields better insights.Don’t hesitate to interrupt candidates; otherwise, you’ll waste valuable time with unnecessary details and tangents.Don’t skip reference checks. You select the references from their history. The candidate makes the introductions for you.At every stage of the hiring process, you have to sell your company. You don’t want to lose your “A” candidates to the competition. The Who methodology is straightforward but takes commitment and discipline. Definitely check it... read more

Reward vs. Responsibility

In his must-read book The Motive, Patrick Lencioni shares the fundamental difference between mediocre and great leaders. Most of his other books on leadership deal with how to be a great leader. This one covers why we should want to be a leader. As usual, the why is more important than the how. Two forces drive people towards leadership: what you get and what you give. Examples of rewards you get are recognition, status, freedom, power and money. If this is your sole motivation, you’re likely to: Choose what you do, delegate or ignore based on what you personally like/dislike vs. what the business needs from youIgnore team development, telling yourself you don’t want to micromanageAvoid regular/complex communication on the self-serving basis that you shouldn’t need to repeat yourselfDodge difficult decisions, especially about employees, forgetting that “you stand for what you tolerate”Run boring, ineffective meetings because it’s easier Lencioni refers to this as “reward-centered leadership.” At the other end of the spectrum is “responsibility-centered leadership.” In his words, this is “the belief that being a leader is a responsibility; therefore, the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging (though certainly not without elements of personal gratification).” All leaders are driven by both reward and responsibility. Strengthening your responsibility motive is what makes leaders truly great. The book is a fast read — it’s a fable about the journey we all take as leaders. Read it. You’ll see yourself in new ways. By the way, if you’re not sure where you’ve seen that photo before, it’s from the movie Office Space. Enjoy some humorous social commentary on leadership and... read more

I’m Too Creative

Entrepreneurs, leaders and solopreneurs often claim their creativity is stifled by process and discipline. “My inspirations are too vital to be stymied by a set of rules.” “I need chaos to be inspired.” “I thrive with a messy desk.” There are one hundred verses to this song. Yet they’re all out of tune with reality. We need structure, process, and discipline for long-term success. A savvy EOS Implementer and colleague, Tip Quilter, shared an analogy explaining the relationship between the results you want and the operating system driving those results. Think of football. The game provides goal posts, chalk lines, points and penalties. But you play the game. You choose the coaches, the players on the field, and call the plays. There’s also a referee, watching that you follow the rules. Ultimately, winning or losing is up to you. The rules of the game are the operating system for football. EOS® is the operating system for your business. The referee is your EOS Implementer. You’re still the one who plays the game; you’re responsible for the results. The more aligned you are with the rules, the fewer the penalties. The more you practice, the greater your success. Winning any game is a function of understanding how to play, practicing hard, and being disciplined. Not Hail Mary passes. Suit... read more

Slow is OK

As leaders, we work to inspire confidence, demonstrate mastery, and create a compelling vision. This tempts us to react quickly and showcase (or show off?) our business acumen. It’s human nature, especially in a world that demands instant gratification and quick solutions. However, this doesn’t always produce the best outcome. Seth Godin writes a short daily blog about leadership. Last week he poetically spoke to this issue with an important reminder: The quick comeback. The clever repartee. The ability to, in the moment, say precisely what needs to be said.As the world gets faster, more of us feel the regret of the staircase. The perfect remark, often cutting, comes to us just a little too late.Don’t worry about it.Because as the world keeps getting faster, there’s actually a shortage of thoughtful, timeless ideas that are worth sharing an hour or a week later. Each Godin blog post is a short read — 60 seconds or less. It’s well worth the time you’ll invest... read more

No Quick Fixes

Turmoil creates a cry for change, always with a sense of urgency. Get sales up fast. Change how we process orders. Fix a problem right now. Unfortunately, it’s easier to call for change than it is to make it happen and/or to lead it. The best leaders are both patient and urgent when fostering change. Not an easy combination. Systemic change requires patience and a relentless commitment to make it happen. That’s why repetition is built into the EOS® system. Resistance to change has many sources: Biases. We see the world not as it is; we see the world as we areEntrenched processes. “This is how we’ve always done it”Embedded cultural norms. “This is just the way we are” To be an effective leader for change: Challenge and clarify your own vision and biases on a regular basis: ask questions, demand feedback, ask for insight about your potential blind spotsHire, fire, and reward people on their values as well as their capabilitiesMake decisions based on data, not subjective criteria, or worse, politicsDemonstrate confidence by recognizing issues and resolving the most important onesCreate a culture of accountability driven by documented processesHave the fortitude to set priorities and meet regularly, week in and week out, year after year And remember, change isn’t always initiated by leaders, but it’s always achieved with... read more

A Bridge for Crisis

“Crisis creates leverage to change” — Bruce Rauner (American businessman, philanthropist, and 42nd governor of Illinois) Today the best leadership teams are on high alert. They are paying close attention, learning some hard lessons, and making changes — some large and some small. Shorter deadlines, more trial and error, and daily huddles are some of the more common ones. Some of those changes will remain in place, others will not. Patrick Lencioni just wrote an insightful article in Chief Executive. It highlights four positive aspects of where we are and which lessons to remember as we lead people into a “new normal.” It’s a quick read with good nuggets. On the topic of “Over-Engineering,” Lencioni says, “Our goals become clearer and the stakes become higher during a crisis, allowing us to ignore silos and find ways to create and implement solutions without overthinking, nitpicking and fear of failure. We’re not insisting on perfection but focusing on the essential elements of a product or program and moving quickly.”Focus, clarity, discipline, and “less is more” – all are hallmarks of EOS® . The current reality provides a constant reminder of their... read more

Hanging On

A crisis like the current pandemic requires we assess, respond, and adapt. Sometimes we have to simply hang on. No one can predict what the new normal will be. Getting to the other side will take a lot of creativity, discipline, and probably new ways of conducting business. Equally important and often overlooked are the fundamentals. Whether your company has to reinvent itself, regroup, pivot, or adapt in some other way, the time-tested tenets of good business don’t go away. Twenty years ago, Jim Collins wrote his classic Good to Great. Chapter Four is a primer in leadership and management during a time of chaos and change. It’s a short, powerful read. Collins’ four basic practices: Lead with questions, not answersEngage in dialogue and debate, not coercionSearch for understanding and learning — without blameBuild red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored Fellow EOS® Implementer Mark O’Donnell recently suggested I re-read the famous Chapter Four. I’m glad I did and suggest you do the... read more

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