Great Leaders Are Interesting – Are YOU?

Great Leaders Are Interesting – Are YOU?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Let’s face it – the best leaders have always grabbed our attention and piqued our imagination. They have a way of captivating, fascinating and intriguing us. It’s the interesting people with whom we want to engage, as they’re the ones who inspire and motivate us to be better and do more. The simple truth is few of us desire to be led by those whom we don’t find interesting. So my question is this: great leaders are interesting – are you? In the text that follows I’ll share my thoughts on how anyone can become more interesting.

Most people I know think of themselves as being interesting people. That’s all well and good, but the real litmus test is whether or not others find you interesting. Are others desirous of having you be part of their inner circle, or do you constantly find yourself on the outside looking in? Do people seek you out for advice and counsel, or do they ignore you and just simply tolerate your presence? The real question is, do people hunger to be led by you?

While many find themselves in a position of leadership, few understand their role as a leader, and regrettably, fewer yet actually lead. These struggling leaders attempt to control people by imposing their will on others (not interesting), as opposed to attracting those who desire to be a part of their team and then creating an environment which frees them to innovate (very interesting).

It’s a very noisy world, and with more and more people adding to the chatter each and every day, it has become quite difficult to stand above the noise and be heard — this is particularly true if you bore people. Here’s the thing — you can have all the answers, but if people don’t want to hear them what good is all your brilliance? Perhaps the main benefit of being interesting is when you interest people they’ll seek you out — you won’t have to chase them down. When you do engage, they’ll listen.

These five items will help anyone become more interesting and, at the same time, will help you become a better leader.

  1. Be externally focused. You’ve heard me say it before: “Leadership isn’t about you, but what you can do for those whom you lead. It’s not about how much you can get out of your people, but rather how much leverage you can create FOR your people.” Leaders who are purposed about making those around them better will always be interesting and relevant. If you want to be interesting to others, be interested in others.
  2. Stay ahead of the curve. If what you offer (skills, knowledge, etc.) is dated, you simply won’t be interesting or effective. Interesting people are voracious learners and unlearners. They are passionate about both personal and professional development. Interesting people are in constant pursuit of betterment in all they do. They are intellectually, philosophically and emotionally curious. They’re rarely interested in best practices, but they are like heat-seeking missiles in search of next practices. You cannot be interesting if you’re not growing. You cannot lead a growing company (at least not for long) if you’re not growing as a leader.
  3. Add value. Think about the most interesting people you know and you’ll find they’re givers not takers. They add value to those they cross paths with. Interesting people aren’t just joiners, they’re contributors. If you want to be interesting, learn to add value in your roles, relationships, and interactions.
  4. Always leave them wanting more. A little mystique goes a long way to making you more interesting. Let me be clear — I’m not talking about playing games, but simply becoming astute in your interactions. Interesting people don’t conduct monologues — they participate in dialogues. You probably don’t like to be lectured, so what makes you think others want to be lectured by you? Interesting people spend far less time talking and much more time asking questions. If you want to be more interesting always leave them wanting more.
  5. More humility and less hubris. Think of humility as an attraction magnet and think of arrogance as a relationship repellent. The reality is people love authentic humility and they detest displays of arrogance. While you don’t have to be liked to be a leader, it certainly helps. Interesting people are slow to take credit, but quick to give it. Because interesting people rarely shine the light upon themselves, others are all too happy to make sure they receive the attention they so clearly deserve. If you want to be more interesting try exercising more humility.

There’s no denying it’s the interesting people we want have as friends, leaders, co-workers and associates. Smart leaders have long understood the key to relevance and influence is found in how interesting they are to others. Great leaders are not boring — are you?

Leadership and Storytelling

Leadership and Storytelling

Leadership and Storytelling

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Leadership and storytelling go hand-in-hand. In fact, leaders who lack the ability to leverage the power and influence of storytelling are missing the very essence of what accounts for compelling leadership to begin with – the story. If you’ve ever been captivated by a skilled orator whose articulation and eloquence has influenced your thinking, you understand the power of the art of story. I refer to story as an art form because it is. Storytelling requires talent and practice, but as with any worthy discipline, the investment yields great benefit.

A story is the root level driver behind successfully communicating any message. A subtle side benefit of well crafted stories can be found in their versatility – they can be delivered in person or by proxy, and in visual, textual, or verbal form. Stories are the instruments that tug at your emotions, speak to your logic, support your beliefs, and reinforce your positions. Great stories challenge, engage, inform, persuade, entertain, mobilize, convict, and inspire. Smart leaders understand stories highlight learning opportunities and create memorable experiences. Are you consciously and consistently using story to be a more effective leader?

There is no denying everybody loves a good story, and there are numerous reasons why. Think about the novels you’ve read, movies you’ve watched, speeches you’ve listened to, ads that have hooked your interest, or virtually any other message delivered by any other medium, and it’s the story that either seals the deal or leaves you feeling cheated.

As a leader, it’s your ability to tell a a compelling story that sets the tone from the top. Story is the fabric upon which culture is built. It helps you to successfully establish rapport, evangelize a vision, champion a brand, align expectations, build teams, attract talent, assuage concerns, relieve tension, and resolve conflict. A leader’s story needs to engender trust while implanting your brand promise in the minds of your various constituencies in a manner that is memorable, authentic, relevant, and actionable.

Stories are also quite revealing. Carefully listening to a leader’s story will reveal their character or a lack thereof. Disingenuous leaders misuse storytelling in an attempt to shield, buffer, distract, lull, or misdirect. They use story to prop-up their ego, drive their agenda, and to take aim on their adversaries. The storyline propagated by those playing at leadership is all about them. Their stories are laced with “I” and “my” and their primary focus is to shine the spotlight on themselves.

By contrast, the authentic and appropriate use of story has an outward focus, and is laced with “we” and “our” as the main points of emphasis. Great leaders understand a story is most powerful when it offers hope and encouragement, when it’s inspires unification and collaboration, and when it has a humanizing effect. Smart leaders understand storytelling is a highly effective method of creating engagement, opening or extending dialog, and finding common ground. Perhaps the most valuable use of story is to shine the light on others. Leaders who use the power of story to publicly recognize the contributions of others are simply more successful than those who don’t.

So my question is this; why not incorporate storytelling into your leadership repertoire? While leadership is a complex subject to be sure, it all begins with the story – tell it well and succeed; tell it poorly and fail. This is a simple, yet powerful message I encourage you to take to heart. Finally, while becoming a great storyteller is important for a leader, it’s also important for leaders to become great story makers.

Thoughts?

Leadership & The Power of Listening

Leadership & The Power of Listening

Leadership & The Power of Listening

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Great leaders are great listeners, and therefore my message today is a simple one – talk less and listen more. The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. They recognize knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening. Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader who comes to mind…you’ll find they are very adept at reading between the lines. They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. In today’s post I’ll quickly examine the merits of developing your listening skills. Warning: this post isn’t going to coddle you and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy – it is rather blunt and to the point.

Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it. In this age of instant communication everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind, they fail to realize the value of everything that can be gleaned from the minds of others. Show me a leader who doesn’t recognize the value of listening to others and I’ll show you a train-wreck in the making.

In other posts I’ve pointed out it is simply not possible to be a great leader without being a great communicator. This partially accounts for why we don’t encounter great leadership more often. The big miss for most leaders is they fail to understand the purpose of communication is not to message, but to engage – THIS REQUIRES LISTENING. Don’t be fooled into thinking being heard is more important than hearing. The first rule in communication is to seek understanding before seeking to be understood. Communication is not a one way street. I’ve interviewed and worked with some of the most noted leaders of our time, and to the one, they never miss an opportunity to listen. In fact, they aggressively seek out new and  better ways to listen.

Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes you understand the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach the point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator. A key point for all leaders to consider is that it’s impossible to stick your foot in your mouth when it’s closed. Think about it…when was the last time you viewed a negative soundbite of a CEO who was engaged in active listening?

The next step in the process is learning where to apply your new found listening skills. Listen to your customers, competitors, your peers, your subordinates, and to those who care about you. Ask people how you can become a better leader and then LISTEN. Take your listening skills online, and don’t just push out Tweets and Facebook messages, but ask questions and elicit feedback. Use your vast array of social media platforms, toolsets and connections to listen. If you follow this advice not only will you become better informed, but you’ll also become more popular with those whom you interact with.

Have you ever walked into an important meeting and wondered who the smartest person in the room was? If you mull this over for a moment you’ll find the smartest person in the room is not the one doing all the talking – it’s the person doing all the listening. You’ll also notice that when intelligent people do speak-up, it’s not to ramble-on incoherently or incessantly, but usually to ask a question so they can elicit even more information. The quiet confidence of true leaders has much greater resolve than the bombastic displays of the arrogant.

Following are 6 tips for becoming a better listener:

  1. It’s not about you: Stop worrying about what you’re going to say and focus on what’s being said. Don’t listen to have your opinions validated or your ego stroked, listen to be challenged and to learn something new. You’re not always right, so stop pretending you know everything and humble yourself to others. If you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them.
  2. You should never be too busy to listen: Anyone can add value to your world if you’re willing to listen. How many times have you dismissed someone because of their station or title when what you should have done was listen? Wisdom doesn’t just come from peers and those above you – it can come from anywhere at anytime, but only if you’re willing to listen. Expand your sphere of influence and learn from those with different perspectives and experiences – you’ll be glad you did.
  3. Listen to non-verbals: People say as much (if not more) with their actions, inactions, body language, facial expressions, etc., as they do with their verbal communications. Don’t be lulled into thinking because someone isn’t saying something they’re not communicating. In fact, most people won’t overtly verbalize opposition or disagreement, but they will almost always deliver a verry clear message with their non-verbals.
  4. Listen for opportunity:  Intuitive listeners are looking for the story behind the message, and the opportunity beyond the issue. Listening is about discovery, and discovery can not only impact the present, but it can also influence the future. Opportunities rarely come from talking, but they quite frequently come from observing and listening.
  5. Let listening be your calling card: One of the best compliments you can be paid is to be known as a good listener. Being recognized in this fashion will open doors, surface opportunities, and take you places talking never could. Listening demonstrates that you respect others, and is the first step in building trust and rapport.
  6. Recognize the contributions of others: One of the most often overlooked aspects of listening is thanking others for their contributions. If you glean benefits from listening to someone, thank them. Even if no value is perceived, thank them for their time and input. Never forget to acknowledge those who contribute energy, ideas, actions or results. Few things go as far in building good will as recognizing others.

Allow me to leave you with one final thought to reflect on – if you’re ready for advanced listening skills, don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out dissenting opinions and thoughts. Listen to those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. True wisdom doesn’t see opposition, it sees only opportunity. I believe is was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Speak little, do much.”

In my opinion great talkers are a dime a dozen, but great listeners are a rare commodity. What say you?

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If you believe you’re not a leader, don’t be surprised when others begin to agree with you. #Leadership

Leadership – It’s About The People

Leadership – It’s About The People

Leadership – It’s About The People

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

If you think leadership is about you, your ego has led you astray. Leadership has little to do with you and everything to do with those you lead. If you think leadership is about the bottom line, think again; it’s about the people. Without the people there is no bottom line. Closely examine the core characteristics of great leadership, and you’ll find it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Leadership lives and dies by it’s ability to engage, influence, and care for the people. Are those you lead better off for being led by you?

It’s Not About You
Many view leadership as little more than a stage from which to promote themselves. While it’s true being in a position of leadership may afford you a marvelous platform, it’s important to recognize there exists no leadership platform but for the people. You didn’t build the platform, the people you lead built the platform and have entrusted it’s care and well being to you – forget this and failure is certain.

Why Do You Lead?
Leadership can represent a pursuit, discipline, practice, passion, calling, skill, competency, obligation, duty, compulsion, or even an obsession. I’ve known those who have worshiped at the altar of leadership as a religion, and a bit of reflection will reveal more than a few leadership revolutions dotting the historical timeline. Do you lead to glorify yourself, or for a purpose greater than yourself?

Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur on your leadership journey.

If You Don’t Care About Those You Lead – You Have No Business Leading Them
You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously.

The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom (see: Shut-up and Listen). I’m going to make this as simple as I can; leadership is all about the people – nothing more & nothing less.

It Doesn’t Matter Who’s Right
Being right isn’t the goal – accomplishing the mission is. It’s not about being right it’s about achieving the right outcome. If you can only lead those who agree with you then you will have a very small sphere of influence. Stop and think about this for a moment – history is littered with powerful leaders who have fallen, failed, or who have been replaced, usurped or betrayed. Fear doesn’t engender loyalty, respect or trust – it breeds resentment and malcontent. A leader not first and foremost accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.

Let me be clear – I’m in no way espousing form over substance. This is not solely an issue of likability, but one of trust and respect. That said, you will rarely find likability absent where trust and respect are present. Smart leaders put their people first and keep their commitments. They understand that promises made are meaningless, promises broken are costly, and promises kept are invaluable. It doesn’t matter where you went to school, how smart you are, or what your title is, if you want to succeed as a leader, take care of your people.

As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below…

The Myth of Potential

The Myth of Potential

The Myth of Potential

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer,N2growth

Here’s the thing – we all have potential, maybe some more than others, but we all have it. Potential is easy to recognize, but not so easy to realize. Most of us intrinsically recognize the gift of potential, but many simply choose to do nothing about it, and sadly, it’s the rare few who will maximize their potential. The problem with potential is society has deemed it to be a fungible commodity. People in today’s world trade on potential as if it were performance – it’s not.

Most people are fed a steady diet of potential from the moment they’re born. Parents, teachers, coaches, and eventually employers all contribute to the problem by overrating potential as a certain predictor of future performance. Potential affords no surety of outcome; it merely offers hope. While hope can clearly serve as an inspiration, it can also quite easily become a delusion. Leaders would be well advised to place less stock in potential and focus their attention on effort and outcome. We must stop looking for leaders and recognize the leadership skills of those who exhibit more than just potential. Good leaders don’t promote people hoping they’ll perform – they promote people after they perform.

Ability and aptitude are only gifts if understood and used. The cold hard truth is you’re not special because of your potential, you’re special because of your dogged pursuit of your potential, and you’re even more special when you achieve your potential. Don’t tell others how gifted you are, provide them with tangible evidence you know how to use your giftedness – show them.

The world is awash with potential. We don’t need more potential. We should not be starved for potential leaders, but we should be very, very hungry for real leaders. Leaders should recognize and acknowledge the unique potential in everyone, but avoid actions which create rewards based solely on the existence of potential. Smart leaders are much more interested in high character, high achievement, high engagement, and high performance than high potential. Reward performance not potential.

Where people get confused is potential has little to do with success. In fact, many studies have been done which show little correlation between potential and actual attained success. What the studies do show is a high correlation between work ethic, performance and success. Realizing potential takes focus, determination, and dedication – it takes work. In my experience working with some of the world’s most talented CEOs, it was/is their drive not their potential which had the greatest impact on their success. Potential absent drive will simply go to waste.

Potential is unrealized attainment – nothing more and nothing less. The key to converting potential into attainment is commitment. So my questions are these: are you committed? Are you committed to put in the energy and effort necessary to realize your potential, or will you squander your potential? It’s much easier to talk about your potential than it is to realize it, but then again, outstanding achievement has never been easy.

Thoughts?

 

Recruiting vs Talent Management

Recruiting vs Talent Management

Recruiting vs Talent Management

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

I recently participated in a panel discussion about the future of the recruiting industry, and quite frankly, I was surprised with many of the prevailing attitudes and thoughts surrounding the topic at hand. As is often the case, I was the contrarian on the panel, and while I probably shouldn’t have been shocked, it was the fact most recruiters seemed to believe the status quo was fine, the future was bright, and they didn’t see the need for change that perplexed me. In today’s post I’ll examine the future of recruiting from a bit of a different perspective than many in the executive search business…

Those of you who read my work with any amount of frequency know how strongly I believe business is fluid, dynamic, and ever evolving. Furthermore, you are likely just as familiar with my position that a static business, which doesn’t constantly innovate around the changing needs of the marketplace is the same thing as a dying business. While many recruiters and executive search firms may think they’re exempt from the aforementioned business principles governing sustainability, they would be sorely mistaken to be so brazen in their attitude and approach.

The fact of the matter is both employers and job seekers continue to become more demanding in their requirements of one another. This phenomenon is occurring during a time where employment markets worldwide have never been more competitive. My question is this; Does this sound like an environment where service providers (namely recruiters) can stand idly with a business as usual attitude?  I think not.

The reality is in maturing and complex market environments clients’ demand more from their service providers. Executive search firms desiring to remain competitive must focus on increasing their value added benefits in order to stay in the game. Those recruiters who have incomplete service offerings, and who don’t completely immerse themselves in understanding the culture and environment at their client companies will find it difficult to eek out a living moving forward.

While my personal practice is focused on providing leadership advice and counsel to Fortune 500 CEOs, as the senior operating executive at our firm I also have oversight responsibility for our talent management practice.  From my perspective, I can’t imagine not integrating services throughout the talent management lifecycle. The identification, recruitment, deployment, development, retention, and succession of talent are clearly issues best addressed in an integrated service offering. Approaching talent management in a fractionalized approach is an inefficient and flawed process.

I am so committed to the beliefs espoused above that our firm engineered its talent management practice in a fashion which offers clients a broad array of service offerings. The simple truth of the matter is that it aligns our agenda with that of our clients, and makes for solid long-term relationships driven by much more than placement fees.

Here’s the thing – “recruiters” while filling an important role, simply don’t add the value a sophisticated client will desire in the future. Those recruiters looking to grow their business must transition from candidate sourcing to embracing a comprehensive approach to talent management aligning their interests with the long-term objectives of their clients. Executive search firms not working with their clients pre and post placement have failed to understand recruiting is no longer a business, but simply one component of a much greater process. Anybody can make a hire, but that’s not the end game – rather it’s just the beginning.

Thoughts?

What Would You Do

What Would You Do?

What Would You Do?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

What would you do if you didn’t need to work? Golf, travel, volunteer, spend time with family and friends, teach, go into politics – the list of options are virtually endless. A friend of mine called me today, told me the sale of his business had closed, and then informed me he had enough money to never need to work again. He told me he was calling to ask what I would do if I didn’t have to work again. I was impressed with his logical pursuit of advice and counsel, but wasn’t at all surprised that he was searching for a bit of direction. While many entrepreneurs tirelessly seek their exit by disposition, few have spent a great deal of time planning what life after work looks like. In today’s post I’ll ask a few questions and share a few thoughts with the goal of causing you to think about what defines you.

I want to begin today’s post 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 wealth, your experience and intellect, as well as your passion to create a legacy that transcends your title. Having the advantage of hindsight, I can say with great certainty that who you are a a person is infinitely more important than the job you hold. 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 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.”

While my friend is the farthest thing from the illustration provided in the aforementioned quote, I have seen far too many people fall into this category. My hope in authoring this piece 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 significance 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.

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.

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 fail to 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’s important is your underlying motivation as evidenced by what you do with what you have.

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 solely 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 only pursuing 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 ensure 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.

So, what would you do if you never had to work again? What defines you? C ‘mon you know you’ve thought about it – share your thoughts in the comments below…

Leadership and Self-Awareness

Leadership and Self-Awareness

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Leader Beware – ignorant bliss, no matter how enjoyable, is still ignorant. If you’re in a position of leadership and don’t feel you have any blind spots, you’re either very naïve or very arrogant. All leaders have blind spots – the question is what are they doing about them? The reality is most leaders invest so much time assessing the cultural and functional dynamics of their organizations they often forget the importance of critically assessing themselves – big mistake.

I’ve never understood leaders who make heavy investments in personal and professional development early in their careers, who then go on to make only minimal investments in learning once they have reached the C-suite. Learning and development are lifelong endeavors. The learning journey doesn’t come to an end just because you reach a certain station in life – or at least it shouldn’t. It has consistently been my experience that leaders who are not growing simply cannot lead growing organizations. Moreover, leaders who fail to continue developing will always be replaced by those who do. A leader who fails to understand the value of self-awareness fails to understand their own true potential as a leader.

It’s at the C-suite level an executive must be on top of his/her game as they have the broadest sphere of influence, the largest ability to impact a business, and they also now have the most at risk. It is at this place the leader should make the heaviest investment in refining their game, because increased performance will pay the biggest dividends. Let me be as clear as I can – the more responsibility a leader has, the bigger their obligation to be on the forward edge of learning, growth and development.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates had a few guiding principles that today’s leaders would do well to adopt: Socrates said, “Know Thyself” and “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Those leaders who actively pursue gaining a better understanding of themselves will not only reduce their number of blind spots, but they’ll also find developing a sense of awareness is the key to increasing emotional intelligence. The better you know yourself the more effective you’ll be, and the better you’ll relate to others.

Following are 5 things all leaders should embrace if they desire to be more self-aware:

  1. Never Stop Learning: I read an article last week in Chief Executive Magazine profiling 6 leadership lessons from Mark Zuckerberg. Lesson #1 was: “Make your own development a priority - Zuckerberg knew he needed to be a leader (and not just a tech guy) if Facebook was going to go anywhere, so he hired an executive coach to learn management and leadership skills.” If top CEOs, Billionaires, leading scholars, and others who have reached the pinnacle of their profession can continue to invest in themselves, then so should you.
  2. Context Matters: Just as life is not static, neither is the environment you work in. Leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The best leaders apply their craft contextually based upon the needs of those whom they serve. If you don’t know how to nuance your leadership skills you will simply miss opportunities others won’t.
  3. Be Kind: People go out of their way to help those whom they like. Likewise most people won’t lift a finger to help those they don’t care for. Smart leaders are purposed to build into those they lead. They understand leadership success is found by ensuring those whom they lead are better off for being led by them. Mean, arrogant, or belittling behavior may feed your ego, but it doesn’t serve your best interests as a leader.
  4. Surrender: A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their ability to control. Here’s the thing – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those whom they serve. Forget span of control and think span of influence.
  5. Begin the Process of Unlearning: Just as important as learning, so is shedding the emotional and intellectual baggage trapping you in the past. Human nature causes most of us to hold onto wrong, unhealthy, or outdated ideas, concepts, thoughts, feelings or practices. The fastest way to become more self-aware is to challenge your own logic. If you’re really serious about finding the flaws in your thinking, ask others to help you identify gaps or faults, and then listen very carefully to what they share with you.

Becoming self-aware isn’t difficult, but it will be hard in the beginning. Becoming self-aware requires you to place humility above hubris, and to place a higher value on truth than you do on your ability to rationalize and justify your thinking. I’d encourage you to stay the course as few things of value come easily. Thoughts?

Why the “F” Bomb Shouldn’t Be Dropped

Why the “F” Bomb Shouldn’t Be Dropped

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

I recently read an interesting article on The Wall Street Journal discussing the use of colorful language in business settings. It prompted me to re-post an earlier piece I authored on the same subject. While both perspectives cover some of the same ground, the article in The Journal hedges a bit too much for my taste. You’ll find my piece a bit more direct and firm in expressing there is NEVER a good time to drop the F-bomb.

Okay, I know business is far less formal today than in times past. I understand many people are more tolerant of colorful language than they used to be. In fact, some even encourage the use of profanity as a means of being true to one’s authentic self. Case in point – The Journal article stated: “Deployed at the right moment and in the right setting, a well-chosen curse word can motivate a team, dissolve tension or win over an audience.” If you can’t motivate a team, dissolve tension or win over an audience without cursing, then I would suggest your toolbox might be a bit light. Call me old school if you will, but I don’t buy any of the aforementioned arguments as legitimate in supporting the use of indiscreet, inappropriate, and unprofessional language.

Before I go any further, let me state for the record that I’m not a prude, nor am I a mama’s boy. I’ve traveled the world (23 countries and counting), spent years in athletic locker rooms, served in the military, and have been in my fair share of interesting places. I’m also not going to come at this topic by presenting a religious argument, or from the perspective of academic elitism. That said, I am going to tell you what I think of the value of possessing a great vocabulary. Moreover, I will comment on what I believe to be appropriate and inappropriate use of speech, and I’ll do it all without pulling any punches.

While today’s rant has been brewing for quite some time, the following thoughts spawned from the regretfully sad reality there is virtually no public place you can venture into without being subjected to someone’s total lack of verbal courtesy. If that isn’t bad enough, the use of vulgarity has pervaded the business world to the extent you’re hard pressed to get through the day without having to deal with it in some form or fashion. As a leader, is this acceptable to you? It is not to me.

I recently viewed a YouTube video of a very highly regarded speaker, and simply could not believe the presentation was so heavily laced with profanity. The powerful message being espoused was only weakened by the sloppy and offensive language that was so unnecessarily inserted. It’s been my experience the best leaders and professionals have no need for the use of profanity. Here’s a thought…a leader should strive to inspire, motivate and challenge others to a better and greater end, but never should a leader dilute their message to the lowest common denominator.

Stop for a moment and consider this – even if you don’t feel the use of profanity is offensive, I guarantee you someone within earshot definitely does. So my question is this: is it more important to you to exercise your personal discretion (indiscretion??), or to exercise consideration for others? Here’s the cold hard truth – if you think your profanity isn’t offending anyone, you’re just plain wrong. It’s not a matter of whether or not I can handle it, because trust me when I tell you I’ve heard it all before, but why should my wife, daughter, mother, etc. have to endure it?

Does profanity even bother you in the slightest, or have you become so desensitized you don’t even notice what I’ve just described as being true? In this author’s humble opinion, there is absolutely no value whatsoever in coloring your verbal communications with expletives. As noted above I’ve seen a lot in my life, and experience has shown me the use of profanity typically boils down to an individual being guilty of having one or more of the following flaws:

  1. Lack of Intelligence: The English language offers us the choice of so many wonderful adjectives, analogies, abilities to paint word pictures and to use a variety of other descriptors, such that there is no need to substitute with expletives. The insertion of a four letter word for “emphasis” usually only points out the speaker lacks command of his/her vocabulary. Nothing flashes “stupid” like the use of profanity. Don’t make the mistake of appearing to be uneducated if you’re not.
  2. Laziness: We have all met bright people who swear. This usually means they either think they’re smarter than everyone else so people will put up with their use of profanity, or they have just fallen into a rut and are too lazy to work on improving their verbal communication skills. Either scenario is a negative label professionals should not desire to be tagged with.
  3. Poor Anger Management: People who are not quick on their feet, or do not possess adequate conflict resolution skills, often revert to profanity as a safety net of sorts. If all else fails, people who fall into this category resort to attempting to intimidate the other party with the use of profanity (see # 4 below). People identified as having anger management issues typically don’t reach their full potential without learning better skills. If you would rather spend your career advancing in the ranks, as opposed to spending time in counseling or coaching sessions, lose the profanity.
  4. Insecurity: People who lack confidence in themselves and/or their abilities often try to bolster other people’s perception of them by using off-color language as an attempt to feign strength and power. Here’s a tip…it doesn’t work. Profanity won’t intimidate anyone (at least not any worthy opponent), and will likely only lessen your image with the audience you are so desperately trying to impress.
  5. Socially Inappropriate Behavior: The show off, ego-maniac, substance abuser, the female trying to be “one of the boys” or the wannabe comedian are all examples of socially inappropriate behavior, which often times results in the use of profanity. Nobody likes a show-off, substance abuse is never a good thing, most people don’t find it appealing to associate with women who curse like the proverbial drunken sailor, and inappropriate jokes are more likely to get you a sexual harassment charge than a laugh. Even if you do elicit a brief chortle from your audience, they will likely not be left with the impression you were hoping for. Here’s a Myattism for you: “when in doubt, remember vulgarity doesn’t add value.”

Bottom line…few things make an impact, or lack thereof, like the words you allow to flow from your lips. Regardless of your station in life, vocabulary absolutely matters…It matters to an even greater degree for those in positions of leadership. I welcome your comments below, but remember that I’ll only publish those comments written without the use of expletives…

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