Family Matters

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

For the last post of the year I decided to update a piece I published earlier this year – I also consider it to be the most important work I authored this year…it applies to all of us.  Over the years I’ve come to believe that there is only one sure fire litmus test for measuring leadership success, and to the chagrin of many reading this post, it has little to do with what happens on the job. Today’s post might push a few buttons and test the boundaries of your comfort zone, but if you stick with me, I promise you’ll be glad you did. I’m going to peel back the layers on your personal brand, question your priorities, and quite possibly put a big dent in your carefully crafted professional facade. We’re going to get very personal today – How’s your family life?

If the opening paragraph caused you to wince, then the text that follows is written just for you. If the next sentence seems a little preachy, it’s meant to be. The true test of any leader is not measured by what’s accomplished in their professional life, but rather by what’s accomplished at home. If you’re a well oiled machine at work, but your family is falling apart at the seams – who cares? Let me be blunt – you won’t earn anyone’s respect, at least not the respect of anyone who matters if your concern for career success overshadows your concern for the well-being of your family. If you’re struggling with the family balance thing my advice is simple: don’t attempt to balance your family – make them your priority.

Think About Your Legacy:

Create a legacy that transcends your career. Having the advantage of the hindsight my gray hair affords me, I can say with great certainty that who you are as a person is infinitely more important than the title you hold at work. There are few things in life as thought provoking as witnessing what by all outward appearances seems to be a successful executive, but as you begin to peel back the layers of their carefully crafted veneer, you quickly come to realize that they are little more than an empty, bitter, and frustrated person. They work their entire career chasing some illusive form of fulfillment only to fade into the sunset with nothing more than an empty lifetime of regrets as their reward.

I’ve simply lived too long to buy into the myth that success in the workplace will create happiness at home. While it makes for a nice sound bite to console those with a guilty conscience, IT IS A LIE. If your business is growing, but your spouse is crying and your children are neglected, it’s time to do a reality check on your priorities. If your secretary respects you, but your spouse doesn’t you have serious issues that need your immediate attention. If you would rather spend time with your online “friends” than with your children, it’s time to pull the ripcord on your internet connection.

Here’s the cold hard truth…if you cheat your family to invest into your career, you and your loved ones will pay a very heavy price. It is simply wrong to value your workplace commitments over your family commitments – moreover it’s not necessary. If your focus is on your family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish. Get this wrong and not only will your family suffer, but so will you as you someday mourn the loss of what could have been, but cannot be recovered.

If you really want to get to know me, don’t waste time reading my bio or scrutinizing my professional successes and failures, get to know my wife and my children. My best work, the work that I’m most proud of, is the relationship I have with the love of my life whom I’ve been married to for almost three decades, and with my two grown children who now consistently teach me more about life than I taught them. While I’ve had more career success than I probably deserve, I’m just as flawed as anyone reading this post. What I can tell you is that I’ve always made my family a priority. I don’t regret a single second of time I’ve invested in my family, but I’ve lost track of all the regrets I have over time squandered on the job.

You see, everyone creates a legacy – the question is will it be one worth leaving? While a legacy is classically defined as something of significant and/or lasting value that survives its creator, the best legacy is one that can be lived before it is left behind.

The bottom line is this:

If you’re a superstar at work, but a slacker at home you’re not succeeding at anything other than being a disingenuous, ego-centric charlatan. If this describes you, you’re not a leader you are a poser. As a very wise person once said (my wife), “don’t waste your time investing in those who won’t be crying at your funeral.”

Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve espoused above, I’d love to hear your comments below…

Success vs. Significance

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

As one year draws to a close and another begins, I can think of no better time to dust off an old post and ask you to ponder the difference between success and significance. Some would say that any discussion along this topic line is nothing more than a semantical debate. However, it is my opinion that those who hold this view truly don’t understand the difference between the two, and are simply attempting to blur lines in order to feel better about themselves. Harsh? Perhaps, but I’ll let you be the judge. In today’s post I’ll attempt to clearly lay out the differences between success and significance, and why you’ll be better off setting your sites on the latter and not the former…

I believe “success” can be a very dangerous thing in a vacuum…You see, success is in the eye of the beholder, whereas significance is a view of you that is held by others. Complicating matters further, I believe few successful people actually make the transition to significance, but every person of significance is successful. I want to frame my thoughts on the topic of significance by beginning with an excerpt from my book “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“:

“By the time you reach the CEO level you should be striving to move beyond success and towards significance. You need to use your network, your fiscal resources, your experience and intellect, as well as your passion to create a legacy that transcends your title…If it seems trite to be asking you to ponder if you are in fact leaving things better than you found them, then I would suggest that you reconsider your values and your vision. As a CEO you have the ability to influence positive changes, and to make contributions well beyond those who have not been afforded the same opportunities, and it would be nothing short of tragic for you not to clearly understand this. While it is never too late to begin thinking about finishing well, the simple truth of the matter is that the longer you wait to begin thinking on a significant level, the less significant your legacy will be.”

Let me ask you to spend a few minutes and mull over the following questions:

  1. Do you understand the difference between success and significance?
  2. Did the attainment of your 2010 goals lead you closer to success or significance?
  3. Is the pursuit of success or significance driving your quest in 2011?
  4. When people describe you do they talk about what you have achieved for yourself or what you’ve accomplished for the benefit of others?

My hope in authoring this post is to have you adjust your thinking when it comes to the definition of success. My clients usually tend to be successful individuals prior to finding me. My goal is to simply help them leverage their success into becoming significant individuals over the course of our dealings. The sad reality is that far too many people either confuse success with significance, or they are so focused on success that they are actually blind to the meaning of significance. The simple truth of the matter is that with the proper focus you can have your cake and eat it too.

Just take a look around and you’ll see that most people use their knowledge, resources, and experience to acquire things in an attempt to satisfy their personal desires, which in their minds constitutes success. Contrast this with the people that use their knowledge, resources, and experience to serve and benefit others, which by my standards constitutes significance. Just as success must be defined before it can be achieved, so must significance. While both require sacrifice, success comes at a great price and is often based upon the compromise of values. Significance on the other hand is driven by personal values and is a gift that cannot be purchased.  

Let me use an example which contrasts a politician (often successful and rarely significant) with a statesman (usually both)…it has been said that a politician is concerned with winning the election and a statesman is concerned about future generations. The politician makes promises and is motivated by pride, ego, notoriety and personal success. The statesman keeps commitments, is motivated by service above and beyond self, and by making a lasting difference. The typical politician spews tired rhetoric while lining their pockets, and has little hope for becoming significant. The true statesman is a breath of fresh air whose only pursuit is to make a positive difference in the lives of others. The politician in pursuit of his/her goal will live in infamy or insignificance. By contrast, the statesman in pursuit of the best interests of others will become both successful and significant.

Sure, for those “who get it” success and significance are one in the same, but for most professionals success begins and ends with the achievement of a certain list of personal goals with little regard to the impact on others. These people confuse success with significance, and regardless of their wealth and professional accomplishments, they won’t accomplish the true greatness that only comes through making significant contributions to something other than one’s self. I don’t care how your resume reads, what your net worth is, or what your W-2 shows…what I care about is your motivation, and what you do with what you have.

Let me be clear that I have nothing against those that have acquired material success, just those that have acquired their success at either the expense of others, or without regard for others. I have little respect for those who live large and give a buck ninety eight to charity at the end of the year just to feel better about themselves. By contrast I am always impressed by those who choose a life of service over personal glory, or those who understand how to leverage their personal success into significance.

While most of my clients have acquired significant material possessions, they just don’t live their lives according to a “he or she who has the most toys wins” philosophy. They don’t give because their accountant told them to, or for estate planning purposes, they give to make a difference. They don’t throw trivial contributions to a variety of charities to see their name appear on donor’s lists, they make substantial contributions (usually with little if any self-promotion). It all boils down to motivation…are you solely seeking to have fun, fame, fortune, and recognition, or are you seeking to serve and benefit others with what you have?

It is my opinion that when you start to define your personal success by the value you add to the lives of others you have arrived as a mature human being who possesses true influence and has become a person of significance. My challenge to you is this…set the chinning bar very high for yourself by reevaluating your goals and objectives to insure that you are on a path towards significance. Don’t allow yourself to become blinded by your success, rather leverage your success in an attempt to make a lasting and significant legacy for which you and your family can be proud.


Top Leaders of 2010

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Most people are familiar with the myriad of celebrity leader lists that get published this time of year – Top 10 CEOs, Top 1o World Leaders, Top 10 Entrepreneurs, etc., but you’ll not find that here. In today’s post I’m asking you to nominate the everyday community leader – the soldiers, first responders, teachers, volunteers, student leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, pastors, medical professionals, etc., who serve as inspiration to us all by the daily difference their leadership makes in our lives. You can nominate your unsung hero by leaving a comment explaning how their example of leadership touches the lives of others. From the comments submitted I’ll pick a winner who will receive a $500 dollar check, an Amazon Kindle, and a video interview to be hosted on this blog (anyone wishing to add to the prize package please send me an email). I’ll announce the winner via Twitter on Christmas Eve. Let’s not let this holiday season pass without recognizing those who make our world a better place. Let the nominations begin…

Guest Post – Kevin Eikenberry

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership absent perspective is little more than an exercise in frivolity. Today’s guest post by Kevin Eikenberry (@kevineikenberry) really resonates with me because it’s chalk full of leadership perspective. For those of you not familiar with Kevin,  he is a two-time best selling author and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that has been helping organizations, teams and individuals reach their potential since 1993. Kevin also hosts the Best of Leadership Blogs 2010 contest of which this blog is a nominee (if you haven’t voted yet, today is the last day for voting). If you’ve yet to read any of Kevin’s material you’re in for a real treat – enjoy…

We are all on a walk.

It is the journey we take each day as a leader.

We move through our day, going from one task to the next, one meeting to the next, one problem to the next. We have conversations and interactions; some small, seemingly inconsequential others lengthy and potentially memorable. Each of these is part of your leadership walk.

You may not think of your leadership journey as a walk. Most would call it work. So to be clear, the walk is “the stuff” of our day; it’s the items on your to-do list seen in a slightly different way.

You may have never thought of it as a walk, but that is how others see it.

What do I mean?

You’ve heard the phrase: people want to see leaders who will walk their talk. The most effective leaders have the best “talk”; a great vision, values, wonderful approaches and plans, and people see talk as more than just words – they see the walk. In fact your talk matters little, in comparison to your walk. The reality is, they watch and pay much more attention to your feet, than your lips.

It is your walk that matters.

As leaders whether you realize it or not, you are on a walk that others are observing in small and large ways every step and every day.

You might think of the walk as role modeling behavior, but those are just fancy words. It is the walk that people are watching. Every day too – not just on our best days, or the days we feel good, or the days we had a good breakfast, or right after we went to a great training workshop.

Remember, you are always walking and others are always watching.

Here are just some examples for you to consider:

Do you say you care about your people, your organization and your Customers? How does your walk prove it?

Do you say mistakes are important and necessary? How does your walk prove it?

Do you say you believe that your people can develop, grow and have tremendous potential? How does your walk prove it?

Do you say that listening is important? How does your walk prove it?

Do you say you are a learner? How does your walk prove it?

In the end, we are leaders only if others choose to follow. Make sure your walk is heading to a great place; a place worthy of being followed to. And know that if you tend daily to your walk, the chance of others joining you on your leadership walk is much higher.

Ultimately it is your walk that matters.

Make sure you are watching your steps.

I hope you enjoyed these thoughts from Kevin. Please leave your comments for Kevin below as I’m sure he would appreciate hearing from you. Also, if you have any suggestions for future guest posts or interviews, please share them as well.

Leadership Self Examination

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership Self ExaminationAre you a good leader? Want to find out? If you’re looking to benchmark your leadership ability the following self examination will give you a baseline to build from. While this test is not as detailed as more comprehensive assessments, I have nonetheless found it to be fairly thorough. That said, any self exam is only as good as the honesty of those taking the test. If you check your ego at the door and give a thoughtful, introspective evaluation of your ability, it is likely that you’ll learn something about your leadership abilities or lack thereof. Better yet, for those of you bold enough to place yourself under what might be the harsh scrutiny of others, you can get the benefits of a mini leadeship 360 review by asking your co-workers to rate you as a leader. If you’re game to test your leadership ability read on to take the exam…

The examination is broken down into 10 sections, each worth 10 points. If you believe you possess a fully developed competency in a section give yourself 10 points. If you possess no competency whatsoever give yourself 0 points. Grade your examination as follows:

  • 90 – 100 points = A
  • 80 – 89 points   = B
  • 70 – 79 points   = C
  • 60 – 69 points   = D
  • 59 & below        = F

As I mentioned above, use the results of the exam to determine your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. If you find that you lack skill sets and competencies in certain areas seek out mentors and coaches to shore-up your weaknesses, and more importantly, use your professional advisors to assist you in leveraging your strengths. On with the exam….

Section I: Character.
Great leaders do the right thing regardless of circumstances, situational context or other influencing factors. They will not compromise their value system and personal ethics for temporary gain. Without a consistent and enduring display of sound character you’ll find it difficult to earn the trust and respect of those you lead. While your character will be tested often as a leader, great leaders no there is no substitute for the truth.

Section II: Vision.
Great leaders possess the ability to create a vision for the organizations they lead. They have the foresight to not only create a clear and well defined vision, but also have the ability to articulately communicate the vision. Perhaps most importantly they have the ability to align interests and sell the vision unifying leadership, management, staff and external stakeholders as well. 

Section III: Strategy.
Great leaders are strategic thinkers who have the ability to translate their vision into an actionable strategy to insure its success. Strategically inclined leaders think in terms of creating leverage, anticipating & leading change, managing risk & opportunities, being customer focused, astutely deploying resources, always insuring that the business model is in alignment with current market conditions, but fluid enough to accommodate changes in market dynamics and any other items that create an advantage or defend a weakness.

Section IV: Tactics.
Great leaders tend to be tactical geniuses and display a strong bias to action. They understand the difference between raw data and useful information. Moreover they know how to leverage information and resources to achieve their objectives. They are focued, results driven and achievement oriented.

Section V: Focus.
Great leaders are focused on the mission at hand. They don’t bite-off more than they can chew by falling prey to initiative overload. Great leaders don’t major in the minors and understand that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing…Great leaders are committed to not losing focus and not giving-up.

Section VI: Persuasiveness.
Great leaders understand how to manage conflict and close positional gaps. They tend to be contextual leaders who know which skill sets to draw upon based upon the circumstances at hand to create needed outcomes and to catalyze change. They lead by serving as opposed to intimidating. Great leaders are masters of inspiration being able to take even the most critical skeptics and convert them into evangelists for the cause.

Section VII: Likeability.
Great leaders possess great interpersonal skills. They tend to be people-centric and understand the concept of servant leadership. People tend to like leaders who display good decisioning skills and high levels of integrity. While great leaders are typically very direct, they are also intuitive individuals who thrive on finesse and subtlety. They don’t expect or need to be liked to get the job done, but realize the value that likeability can offer where it can be achieved without comprising trust or integrity.

Section VIII: Decisioning Ability.
Great leaders possess the ability to consistently make good decisions. They thrive on making the tough call and are willing to be accountable for their actions. Great leaders also have the ability to make decisions quickly and often with incomplete data sets. Rarely do leaders have the luxury of being able to secure all of the information needed for a risk free decision. Rather they understand how to make a timely decision while managing any corresponding risks as others are still trying to connect the dots.

Section IX: Team Building.
Great leaders create great teams throughout the entire value chain. They understand the need for talent and are effective at recruiting, deployment, development and retention of tier-one talent. Great leaders also surround themselves with the best professional advisors possible and they openly seek the counsel of others in matters of importance. They are committed to both personal and professional growth. They tend to almost be addicted to increasing their knowledge base and sphere of influence. They are voracious learners always looking for better methods, different approaches, enhanced efficiencies, better technology and increased velocity. They are not afraid of change and growth in fact they tend to relish it.

Section X: Results.
The proof of great leadership is ultimately found in the results being attained. Leaders can be extremely strong in any of the areas above, but if they are not leading effectively or productively, if they are not meeting performance expectations, then they have work to do. Great leaders get results…

There you have it…rate yourself from 1 – 10 in each of the above sections, tabulate your score and assess the outcome based upon the grading schedule contained above. Now that you have your grade in hand, create a plan for consistent and sustainable growth in your leadership ability and review it regularly taking measure of your progress or lack thereof.

Sidebar – If you’re interested in more in-depth leadership assessments or development plans just let me know and we can talk about solutions better designed to meet specific needs. Lastly, feel free to comment on how accurately the self-exam measured your ability and identified potential development opportunities.

Growth by Partnering

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Growth By PartneringIf corporate growth is what you seek, but you lack the patience to endure the slow pace of organic growth, and don’t have the capital necessary to finance an acquisition binge, then you might want to consider the many benefits associated with partnering.  While the concept of creating a strategic partnership is familiar to many, the reality is that few companies take advantage of them. Let me offer the initial disclaimer that the subject of today’s post is a complex area that would require much more in depth coverage to do it justice. That said, in the text that follows I’ll provide an overview of the many reasons why partnering should be included as a key component of your corporate growth strategy…

Growth by acquisition in most cases constitutes a complex, capital intensive, and time consuming process. Furthermore the brain damage associated with an acquisition is just beginning when the deal closes. It is the difficulties associated with post acquisition integration that many companies often fail to consider. The merging of cultures, employees, technology, process etc., can cause what appears on paper to be the perfect acquisition to fall far short of expectations. Even in the case of an accretive acquisition, it can take far longer to reap the benefits than is often reflected in the initial projections.

Organic Growth
The predominant business risk associated with a reliance on pure organic growth is lost opportunity costs tied to a decrease in velocity of achieving business objectives. In most cases, organic growth simply means slow growth. Many executives and entrepreneurs let their concerns about the certainty of execution, or loss of control associated with transferring responsibility to a third party keep them from pursuing strategies that accelerate growth. This type of antiquated thinking puts companies at a severe competitive disadvantage. Moreover, these concerns should not be an issue with the proper selection, operating structure, and management of a partner.

Joint Ventures, strategic alliances, corporate partnering, licensing, royalty, revenue sharing, distribution agreements, and numerous other collaborative business arrangements provide an exceptional opportunity to catalyze growth. These types of ventures can rapidly meet corporate needs for key resources, generate more customers, attract capital, acquire needed expertise, expand product lines, open new markets, secure new facilities, access new distribution channels, increase production capacity, and offer a whole host of other additional benefits. The reality is that few organizations have everything they need, and the basic principle behind partnering is, no matter what the need, there is another entity somewhere that can fulfill any unmet need.

The obvious advantages to partnering as contrasted with either organic growth or growth by acquisition is the low financial and operational barriers to entry, combined with very rapid deployment capabilities. The need for speed is critical to evaluate when considering partnering as on option. Corporate partnering is very commonplace in industries experiencing rapid technology change. There is often a strong correlation between the rate and scope of change within a particular industry, and the amount of partnering that occurs within said industry.

Partnering is an extremely fluid and flexible business model. There is no preferred methodology to structure and organization as each relationship should be engineered based upon its own unique requirements. Sometimes corporate partners form a new jointly owned entity, while in other instances one partner may purchase an equity interest in the other partner. However by far the most common method of structuring and governing partnering relationships is by written contract. The presence of a governing document allows both parties to address such issues as non-competition and non-circumvention, use of brand guidelines, intellectual property considerations, performance requirements, indemnifications, and winding-up provisions among others.

As fond of partnering as I tend to be, it is certainly not without risk. Care needs to be given to the underlying motivations and business logic behind the implementation of partnering as a strategy to begin with. You must be careful not to create or strengthen a future competitor, or to become dependent upon a partner for mission critical initiatives. Businesses looking to co-venture need to exercise extreme diligence when selecting a partner as said partner will become an extension of your brand.

Despite the risks, or the form of partnering utilized, the business model has proven itself to be one of the preferred growth strategies of choice for companies desiring to maintain a competitive advantage.


To Blog or Not to Blog?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I think you’d be shocked at how many people still struggle with the “to blog or not to blog” dilemma. Most of you who have been following this blog know that I’ve been an a strong evangelist of social media, and perhaps even more so of blogging for several years now. So why is it that so many people still seem paralyzed when it comes to taking the plunge? Let’s look at the numbers…While the numbers vary depending on which source you believe, the total number of blogs on the Internet is generally thought to be in the range of 200 million blogs. By any category analysis or analytical standard blogging has obviously developed into a powerful communication medium. However the question remains, do the numbers in-and-of-themselves mean that blogging is right for everyone?

I have read many a commentary ranging from the negative – “is blogging dead?” to those who argue the opposite – “Blog or Die.” Moreover, since I author a Blog (you might be interested in reading a previous blog entitled “Why N2growth Blogs“) I must believe in blogging right? Not necessarily…If you’ve taken the time to review a random cross section of blogs on the Internet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the world would be better off without some of the content currently being published. That said, I also believe the world is indeed a better place as a result of some of the good content available via blogs. While I don’t think a business will perish if it does not blog, I wholeheartedly believe a business will clearly fail to maximize its full potential without leveraging the significant benefits that blogging affords to those who do choose to participate.

Jason Lee Miller authored a post entitled: “Blogging Hits a Crossroads” last year which I believe is probably even more relevant today than it was when it was first released. The premise of his piece is that the landscape of the Blogosphere is changing radically, and that as such many “A-Listers” have either quit, or are contemplating giving-up their blogging endeavors. Miller’s post is quick to point out that blogging is competitive, requires a great investment of time, subjects the blogger to the ire of those who have dissenting opinions, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make money blogging. I concur with all of the aforementioned assertions, but must admit that I am far from quitting…In fact, I would say that blogging is just starting to get interesting.

What makes blogging so interesting is also precisely what makes it so annoying at times…the low barrier to entry. The simple fact is that anyone can blog, which explains the existence of the huge numbers of blogs I mentioned earlier. The noise in this space is simply deafening…As Miller so aptly stated in his post, “The good stuff lasts, the chaff separates from the wheat, the cream rises to the top, all that.” The dropping-off of a few “A-Listers” is of little consequence to me, or frankly to anyone else. The litmus test for blogging is, and always will be, does your blog add value, does it make a difference, and do people benefit from the opinions espoused?

Bloggers will continue to come and go…while some will be missed, many will not. Nevertheless the reality is this…blogs are not a tool for those looking to get rich quickly (that train left the station a long time ago), nor are they likely to transform insignificant thoughts into something other than what they are. What blogs do offer is a viable and robust platform to be leveraged by those that have a message worthy of communicating. Blogs can clearly be accretive, and will continue to add brand equity to those companies and individuals who grasp the value of social media and understand how to incorporate blogging into their social media efforts.

It should also be noted that while blogs can and certainly do take people that previously lived in relative obscurity and turn them into almost overnight sensations, the reality is that the higher-up in the org chart you tend to find yourself the more benefit there is to blogging. This is simply due to the fact that more people want to hear what a high profile CEO or entrepreneur has to say. Taking into account the above considerations, not everyone can or should blog. In this author’s humble opinion, blogging only makes sense if the following conditions can be met:

You Have Something To Say: I don’t have any particular affinity for useless musings. Time is a precious commodity these days and most people I know are looking for valuable information that they can put to work for some benefit. I’m also not a fan of going to a blog to read third party news, press or the re-blogging of someone else’s information published for no other reason then to boost their search engine rankings. There are plenty of legitimate news sites and other aggregators out there so if you can’t produce your own content you shouldn’t blog.

You Know How To Say It: Mark Twain I’m not, but for the most part I can put across a cogent thought. While there is no requirement that you be a Rhodes Scholar to blog, it does help if you can communicate well in written form. The worst thing you can do for your business is to lose credibility via poor communication and a lack of professionalism. Not everyone is a writer nor should they try to be.

You Have The Time To Say It: I generally produce 5 blog posts per week (one each business day) and it normally takes me an hour or two per post. I don’t simply link to another article or make trite comments, but author original content that I hope adds value, which in my opinion is mission critical. If you don’t have the time to make blogging a priority the effort will end in frustration for both you and your audience. Post frequency is an often debated topic, but how often you post isn’t as important as meeting whatever commitment you make, and doing so with quality content.

You Have Someone To Say It To: Make sure that there is a viable audience for your content. Whether the blog is a tool for internal communication to employees or an external channel to third parties you must have an audience to either receive or pass along value. If no one is reading your content, you might get some cathartic benefit from your efforts, but there may be better uses for your time.  

There Is Some Benefit Derived From What You Say: Back to value – whether the value is received or given (in a perfect world both) does not matter as long as value is created. A blog can serve educational, social, business, philanthropic, political or any number of other agendas so long as a clear value add is present. A simple cost/benefit or risk/reward analysis should indicate whether your effort will be of value to you, and even if it is not of value to you, it may be to others.

The bottom line is that the numbers do in fact speak for themselves. Blogging is much more than the latest trend and is here to stay. So as long as you can meet the criteria mentioned above blogging can be a tremendous platform from which to effectively communicate your message. If you’re still on the fence, I would request you try and answer the following question: If you can engage those with whom you conduct business, or otherwise desire to interact with in a meaningful and value added fashion why wouldn’t you do so?   


Vision vs. Mission

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Today’s Myatt on Monday’s question was posed by a CEO who asked: “Can you define the difference between vision and mission?” What a great question…it’s always refreshing to me when an executive checks their ego and asks a clarifying question (a characteristic of great leaders by the way) rather than pretend they know the answer. The reason this is such a great question is that I’ve witnessed far too many executives confuse vision and mission in terms of both definition and application. In today’s post I’ll clearly explain the difference between vision and mission

As as a backdrop to answering today’s question, I want to share a simple organizational framework I developed several years ago to help executives gain a better understanding of leadership structure. Just like an algebraic formula, business also functions according to rules governing order of operations. My premise was that business logic is similar to the logic used in solving mathematical equations – if  you attempt to solve a problem out of sequence it will result in a flawed outcome. The framework goes like this: “Values should underpin Vision, which dictates Mission, which determines Strategy, which surfaces Goals that frame Objectives, which in turn drives the Tactics that tell an organization what Resources, Infrastructure and Processes are needed to support a certainty of execution.” (Mike Myatt, 1988) 

Let me be clear – vision and mission are not interchangeable. Confusing mission and vision in definition or in sequence of application will result in inconsistent leadership decisions, confusion among the ranks, and the inevitability of flawed outcomes. It’s important to understand that vision statements are design oriented, while mission statements are execution oriented. In fact, it is the corporate vision that should determine its mission. The vision is bigger picture and future oriented, while the mission is more immediately focused on the present. It is the vision that defines the end game, and the mission is the road map that will take you there.

Vision statements, as implied in the construction of the phraseology itself, put forth a statement of envisioned future. This vision, if successful, must be underpinned by core ideology and then expressed with clarity and conviction. A non-existent, ambiguous, or ideologically weak corporate vision is nothing short of a recipe for disaster…It would be akin to the proverbial ship without a rudder adrift without any direction or control. As noted above, mission statements should reflect greater focus on more immediate concerns that support the overarching vision. Mission statements tend to be more functional in nature dealing with a variety of touch points throughout the value chain.

In keeping with the mathematical analogies above, it’s important to note that both vision and mission should be viewed as variables and not constants. What I mean by this is both the vision and mission need to be kept fresh and relevant. If either your vision or mission become outdated and irrelevant so too will your business.  

Lastly, even though this is a discussion of the differences between vision and mission, don’t forget the first and most important step…basing everything upon core values. Don’t get caught up in attempting to develop something catchy to be encapsulated within a piece of framed artwork that hangs in your reception area yet never put into practice. It is much more important that your vision and mission be understood by company employees, and translated into the resultant authenticity of their actions. Your customers don’t care what you put on paper, but they care immensely about whether or not a company’s vision and mission are reflected in a fulfilled brand promise.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

Great Leaders Leverage Great Messaging

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

It's The Message Stupid...
Great leaders understand the power, influence, and leverage created by great messaging. Do you ever find yourself sitting back and marveling at those leaders who always seem to have the right thing to say? Contrast this with the feelings you have when you hear an awful sound-bite that makes a leader look either uninformed or unintelligent. The difference between the two aforementioned examples is that great leaders have mastered the art of finding the right message regardless of the medium, market, or constituency being addressed. In today’s post I’ll share some of the messaging secrets used by the best leaders…

So why is great messaging so important? In the business world, as a chief executive officer or entrepreneur, corporate messaging is the key to both your personal and professional positioning strategy. A leader’s message has a direct impact on their personal and corporate brand equity, how they manage a crisis, marketing initiatives, investor relations, press and public relations, team building and employee engagement, and virtually any other mission critical area of chief executive responsibility.

Sadly, the reality is messaging is so impactful that it will often times have a greater impact on your career than your performance. I have witnessed on numerous occasions CEOs with average, or even sub-par performance histories fare well because they possessed great messaging skills. Let me be clear that I’m not talking about form over substance here…They simply understood how to message their shortcomings and flaws, while engendering confidence around their planning for corrective measures to critical spheres of influence. By contrast, I have also watched CEOs with excellent performance histories not do so well because they did not possess the messaging skills necessary to keep stakeholders engaged. Simply put, the savvy and sophistication of your messaging will have a direct impact on the sustainability of your tenure as a chief executive.    

CEOs who become recognized as great leaders are prepared, articulate, consistent, and crisp in their messaging. They speak with authority, clarity, and certitude. Their messaging engenders confidence and serves to inspire and unify. Perhaps most importantly, a great leader’s message is never in conflict with their values. They will not compromise their core beliefs simply to manipulate the outcome of a specific situation. They rest in the comfort that doing and saying the right things will ultimately put them in a favorable position, and if not, they are comfortable in assuming any negative consequences that may come as a result of right thinking and decisioning.

When it comes to the construction of messaging, I have found that people will tend to fall into one of the four following groups.

  1. The Medium “is” the Message: People that fall into this camp believe that the medium will do the work for them…They believe in the reach and power of the medium to overcome any flaws in the message. This view of messaging constitutes a numbers based approach where the business logic states that if you reach enough people with the message some acceptable percentage of the people reached will embrace the message.
  2. The Market “is” the Message: This view of messaging values the target audience above all else. The message is so targeted and niche specific that it is sometimes almost unintelligible to those who fall outside of the intended target market. 
  3. The Message “is” the Message: This group believes that content is king…The emphasis here is that if the message is creative enough, or valuable enough, nothing else matters. This view of messaging is all about the teaser, the hook, the calls to action, the design, the concept, etc.
  4. The Messenger “is” the Message: This is the branded approach to messaging…If the person delivering the message has enough credibility and influence, nothing else matters. This iconic, ego-centric approach to messaging places a high premium on the spokesperson. 

My view of the aforementioned four theories is that their sum total value is greater than their independent stand alone value. Other than in matters of character and principle, I don’t tend to be an absolutist…Over the years, and especially in the genres of marketing, branding, positioning, and messaging, I believe a collaborative and cross-disciplined approach to be the key to success…While content can create credibility, credibility can also enhance the view of content. Furthermore, the best content or spokesperson in the world communicating to the wrong audience, with the wrong message, or through the wrong medium is likely to miss the mark. It takes a blending of approach to craft the right message and this will not happen when operating in a vacuum. Following are a few final thoughts for your consideration when crafting your message:

  1. It Must Be the Truth: The truth always comes out in the end…If your message won’t pass public scrutiny over time, then you have the wrong message.  
  2. Use a Multiple Medium Approach: Long gone are the days of one size fits all mediums…the best messaging campaigns take place across mediums creating multiple touch points to various constituencies and demographics. 
  3. Know Your Talking Points: Don’t allow the message to get lost in the medium. Remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. You must be consistent and convicted in your opinions and your positions. Be clear, concise and don’t compromise on key points.
  4. Know Your Audience: All messages should be tailored to the audience being addressed. This does not mean you should compromise your position, rather it means your message needs to relevant, timely, and of significance. While your talking points need to remain the same, they also need to address the concerns and areas of interest of those being communicated to.  
  5. Don’t Forget Your Critics: The tendency is to believe that your audience is comprised of friends and allies. You need to assume that every message given will find its way into the hands of your worst critics, and furthermore, that they will attempt to use your message against you.

So, what are your thoughts on the value of great messaging as it relates to leadership?