Definition of Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership DefinedWhat’s your definition of Leadership? In thinking about the comments I’ve received from readers on the topic of leadership I noticed an interesting paradox…while many of you vehemently disagree on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of different leadership styles, most of you are in total agreement on the qualities and attributes possessed by great leaders regardless of style. In further pondering this dichotomy an interesting thought came to mind – If I could genetically engineer the perfect leadership gene what qualities and characteristics would constitute the architecture of leadership DNA? In today’s blog post I’ll attempt to paint the portrait of the perfect leader…

So, what traits would my perfect leader possess? Courage, character, vision, wisdom, integrity, empathy, persistence, compassion, aggressivity, discernment, commitment, confidence, a bias to action, a servant’s heart, determination, creativity, self-discipline, love, loyalty, confidence, outstanding decisioning ability, engaged, authentic, transparent, a great strategic thinker, passion, a positive attitude, intelligence, humility, great communication skills, common sense, generosity, the ability to identify and develop great talent, creating a certainty of execution, attention to detail, faith, an active listener, a prolific learner, respect for others, innovative, excellent tactical capability, charisma, extreme focus, a high risk tolerance, a broad range of competencies, and the list goes on…

If any of you possess all the above attributes please forward your resume to my attention! All kidding aside, the longer my list of desirable qualities became, the more I realized the frivolity of this exercise…There is no perfect leader; only the right leader for a given situation. As I’ve said in other posts, great leaders have the innate ability to call on the right skills in a contextually and environmentally appropriate fashion. No single leader can possess every needed attribute. It not the traits you possess as a leader, but what you do with them that matter. If I were successful in my genetic engineering exercise I would no doubt have created a leader who would be driven crazy by emotional and intellectual conflicts.

Leadership DNA aside, I recently crafted my definition of leadership. It contains what I believe to be the necessary qualities a leader must possess to be successful. While it’s a bit wordy, I’ve found it to inclusively articulate the principles needed for effective leadership :

“Leadership is the professed desire and commitment to serve others by subordinating personal interests to the needs of those being led through effectively demonstrating the experience, humility, wisdom and discernment necessary to create the trust & influence to cause the right things, to happen for the right reasons, at the right times.”

Since one of the leadership qualities I noted in the laundry list above is wisdom, I thought I’d leave you with the wisdom of others…Spend a few minutes pondering the quotes below as you consider some of the qualities which play into the make-up of great leaders:

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“There can be no power without mystery. There must always be a ‘something’ which others cannot altogether fathom, which puzzles them, stirs them, and rivets their attention…. Nothing more enhances authority than silence. It is the crowning virtue of the strong, the refuge of the weak, the modesty of the proud, the pride of the humble, the prudence of the wise, and the sense of fools.”
- Charles de Gaulle

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
- Albert Einstein

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
- Stephen R. Covey

“It’s not the will to win that matters…everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
- Paul “Bear” Bryant

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
- Lee Iacocca

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”
- Willa A. Foster

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
- John Wayne

“The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in doing so will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.”
- Eugene B. Habecker

“Doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results, is the definition of crazy.”
- Unknown

“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”
- John Scully

“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”
- Woodrow Wilson

“Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
- Will Rogers

“When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this state, stimulates me. But once a decision is made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.”
- General Colin Powell

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
- Dale Carnegie

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
- Helen Keller

“Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.”
- Benjamin Franklin

“A person who is fundamentally honest doesn’t need a code of ethics. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are all the ethical code anybody needs.”
- Harry S. Truman

Please comment below sharing your thoughts and insights on what you believe defines great leadership.

Disruptive Business Models

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Disruptive Business ModelsHow disruptive is your business model? While much has been written about corporate vision, mission, process, leadership, strategy, branding and a variety of other business practices, it is the engineering of these practices to be disruptive that maximizes opportunities. Without a disruptive focus you are merely building your business model on a “me too” platform of mediocrity. Few things are more critical to your efforts in increasing your revenue growth and corporate sustainability than understanding the value of disruptive innovation. So, in today’s post I’ll examine the power of disruption as a key business driver…

Disruptive business models focus on creating, disintermediating, refining, reengineering or optimizing a product/service, role/function/practice, category, market, sector, or industry. The most successful companies incorporate disruptive thinking into all of their business and management practices to gain distinctive competitive value propositions. “Me Too” companies fight to eek out market share in an attempt to survive, while disruptive companies become category dominant brands insuring sustainability.

So why do so many established and often well managed companies struggle with disruptive innovation? Many times it is simply because companies have been doing the same things, in the same ways, and for the same reasons for so long, that they struggle with the concept of change. My engagements with CEOs often focus on helping them to embrace change through disruptive innovation. As a CEO, I would strongly suggest you conduct a gut check during your next executive meeting by counting the number of times you hear your CXOs say things like: “That will never work,” “We can’t do that,” “That’s not my problem,” “We’ve always done it that way.” or my personal favorite, “We need to focus on our core business.” Don’t allow your enterprise to adopt an attitude of complacency, because the simple truth is that complacency kills companies. 

There are examples of companies throughout history and across every sector that have either failed to embrace disruptive business models, or have failed to maintain their once disruptive edge. Let’s just take a moment and look at a few notable examples of what happens to companies that become complacent…Why didn’t the railroads innovate? Why didn’t Folgers recognize the retail consumer demand for coffee and develop a Starbucks type business model? Why didn’t IBM see Dell coming? How did Microsoft not keep Google at bay? Why did American auto-makers lose their once dominant position to their European and Asian counterparts? How did the brick and mortar book stores let Amazon get the jump on them? I could go on-and-on with more examples, but the answer to these questions are quite simple…The established companies become focused on making incremental gains through process improvements and were satisfied with their business models and didn’t even see the innovators coming until it was too late. Their focus shifted from managing opportunities to managing risk, which in turn allowed them to manage themselves into brand decline…

At one end of the spectrum take a look at the companies receiving investment from venture capital and private equity firms, and on the other end of the spectrum observe virtually any category dominant brand and you’ll find companies with a disruptive focus putting the proverbial squeeze on the “me too” firms occupying space in the middle of the spectrum. With the continued rapid development of technology taking the concept of globalization and turning it into hard reality facing businesses of all sizes, it is time for executives and entrepreneurs to examine their current business models from a disruptive perspective. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why should anyone be led by you?  
  2. When was the last time your business embraced change and did something innovative?
  3. When was the last time you rolled-out a new product?
  4. Are your management and executive ranks void of youth?
  5. Do people in your organization laugh at new ideas?
  6. When was the last time you entered a new market?
  7. Are any of your executives thought leaders?
  8. When was the last time you sought out a strategic partner to exploit a market opportunity?
  9. Does your organization focus more on process than success?
  10. Are employees who point out problems looked down upon?
  11. Do you settle for just managing your employees or do you inspire them to become innovators?
  12. Has your business embraced social media?
  13. When was the last time your executive team brought in some new blood by recruiting a rock star?
  14. Does anyone on your executive team have a coach or mentor?
  15. Has anyone on your executive team attended a conference on strategy, innovation or disruption in the last year?

If you’re an executive or entrepreneur and you can’t put forth solid answers to the majority of the questions referenced above, then your company is likely a market lagger as opposed to a market leader. If you continue to do the same things that you have always done in today’s current market environment you will see your market share erode, your brand go into decline, your talent and customers jump ship, and your potential never be realized.

Albert Einstein said it best when he noted “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time.” Bottom line…don’t be the CEO who causes your management team to continually say “the boss won’t go for that one.” If you lead from the front by inspiring change, innovation, and disruption your business will surely prosper.

Is your business focused on disruptive innovation? If not, why not? I’d be interested in your comments…

Social Media Influence

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Social Media InfluenceSocial media influence; the harsh reality is that you either have it or you don’t. I’m going to tell you the cold hard truth about social media…what you need to know that most people won’t tell you. While anyone can have a social media presence, not everyone possesses social media influence. It’s clear to those in the know that social media is a universe of the haves and have nots. It’s the difference between relevance and irrelevance, visibility and anonymity. You might have something to say, but without influence, nobody will be listening. Put simply, having a social media presence without influence is little more than an exercise in frivolity. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts on the importance of social media influence in the building of personal and corporate brand equity.  

Before we go any further, I think it’s important to address social media critics and the naysayers by answering the questions: Does social media work? Is social media right for business? Can you generate an increase in revenue and brand equity with social media? How does social media compare with other mediums? If you’re still asking these questions WAKE-UP – get your head out of the sand, and stop broadcasting your ignorance. Validating proof of concept around social media ROI is a discussion that may have had a bit of relevance 24 months ago, but unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the last couple of years you know that numerous case studies abound which validate social media beyond any reasonable doubt.

If you think you don’t have time to Tweet or Blog, the reality is that you don’t have time not to. Here’s the bottom line: How can you possibly justify not communicating with your key constituents, stakeholders, and influencers in an environment of their choosing, where they are actively having conversations in real time? News Flash: you can’t. That said, if you’re still a social media basher, watch the following video we put together and judge for yourself:

 

Okay, it should be clear after watching our video that social media can produce huge ROI, but here’s the real story line: only if you know what you’re doing. The one thing that each of the personal and corporate brands profiled in the video all had in common is that they leveraged social media influence to accomplish their objectives. If you choose to dive into the social media world without a strategy, without understanding how to create social media influence, you will not be pleased with your results. Like anything in life, if you’re going to do something, you’re better off to do it right or not to do it at all.

There’s nary a week that passes where I don’t have a conversation with somebody who proudly proclaims that they created a Twitter page, to which I usually respond; “that’s great, but why?” Don’t get me wrong, recognizing the value of participating in the most powerful medium on the planet by getting in the game is a good thing, but it’s an even better thing when coupled with a plan. Let me say this as clearly as I can…a ready, fire, aim approach will rarely find the target.

For all you well intended ad agencies, consultants, marketing managers, brand managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals ready to dip your toe, or your clients toe in the water that is social media, keep in mind that it does no good whatsoever to have a blog that only has one published post in the last 6 months, a Twitter page with 4 followers, a LinkedIn profile with 18 connections, a Facebook account with 7 friends, etc. It’s like flashing a neon sign that says I’m irrelevant and nobody cares. It won’t do anything to help you, it will only hurt you. In today’s world no one wants to do business with a company that’s not connected, has no influence, isn’t engaged, and that doesn’t get it.

While having little or no online following can easily brand you as being without influence, having legions of followers solely for the sake of amassing large numbers doesn’t necessarily mean you have any real influence either. Anybody can amass tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of followers just by following as many people as they can and waiting for them to reciprocate. The important thing to understand is whether or not anything of substance or value underpins the numbers? Think about it for a moment…almost nothing can hurt a brand faster than constantly messaging irrelevance to a large constituency. Not a good move… 

Who you choose to follow on Twitter, which blogs you read and comment on, who you add as a friend to your Facebook account, or which invitations you accept on LinkedIn speaks volumes about what you’re attempting to accomplish online. Like most things, building and maintaining your social media footprint should be engineered by design, but the truth is that most people allow it to be constructed by default. In a perfect world you would build relationships with the largest possible universe of targeted constituents where you can productively engage and contribute.  Just as you don’t want to add to the noise, nor do you want to remain part of the silence. Having a relevant, highly engaged social media following means you have influence and can create action. Here’s a simple formula to ponder as you create your social media framework:

Social Media Influence = engagement+relevancy+knowledge+trust+presence+value+time

So, how do you start to build social media influence? The best way is to start off on the right foot by not tainting your brand or reputation.  Don’t begin by trying to sell something, but rather by listening, engaging in conversations, building trust, and adding value. Contribute knowledge and information to the constituencies that you want to build influence with. Become a part of them as opposed to a vendor to them…This is a difficult concept for old-school marketers to get their arms around, but a critical one nonetheless. I would strongly suggest reading two previous posts: “Shut-up and Listen” and “Stop Selling and Add Value” as support for these positions.  Following are a few tips to help you build influence online:

  1. Have a Strategy - If you want to create success and influence using social media you better have a plan. This sounds reasonable enough, but here’s where it gets a bit tougher – the plan isn’t about you. To be successful in creating social media influence your efforts need to be centered around others. It’s not how well you sell, it’s about how well you listen, add value and build meaningful relationships. Remember that connections are not the same thing as relationships, but that connections can develop into relationships with the proper effort on your part. 
  2. Commitment-  While technology is a natural accelerant helping to catalyze new opportunities and extend relationships, creating trust and influence will still take time. While there are exceptions to every rule, don’t expect overnight success. Regardless of the medium, you’ll rarely find influential people who don’t recognize the value of staying the course.  
  3. Don’t breach trust- you work far too hard to create a trust bond with your followers, so don’t blow it by not following through on your commitments. I would also suggest resisting the temptation to have all your communications be self-serving. Do this and you’ll be viewed as just another sales broadcast. When you do sell, do it properly, and for the right reasons.
  4. Don’t be a jerk, hater or taker – People don’t want to hear from those they don’t like. If you want to build lasting social media influence you must be seen as valuable resource and not a taker of other’s time, resources or ideas. Take a sincere interest in others – help them become successful – give more than you take.
  5. Have command over your subject matter – If you don’t know what you’re talking about, remain silent. Voicing your opinion isn’t nearly as important as helping someone else refine their thinking with wise counsel. The easy rule is to stay out of conversations where you don’t add value.
  6. Listen and respond- If you’re forcing an agenda rather than responding to the needs of your followers you’ll lose any chance at creating influence. Remember that most people will go to great lengths to help someone who has been of assistance to them.   
  7. Publish quality content that adds value – what you produce in terms of content will be become synonymous with your online reputation. It will either serve you well, or be your undoing. Frequency is important but only to the extent that qualitative considerations are not sacrificed.

As I’ve espoused before, I’m not a huge fan of one-size-fits-all strategies, and this opinion holds true in regard to building your network as well. Despite countless opinions to the contrary, I’ve come to the conclusion that while no single “right” methodology exists for building your online network, I regularly observe many “wrong” approaches…

The conclusion here should be obvious – you’ll be successful in creating real social media influence when you take the time to seek out wise counsel, and implement an authentic approach to a well crafted social media strategy. If you don’t, while you might not fail, you certainly won’t maximize the potential that exists for you. I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve put forth above – Please leave a comment and let me know whether you agree, disagree, or have a different take altogether…

Leadership & Motivation

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Since the dawn of time leaders have argued about, struggled with and sought after the leadership “x” factor – how to effectively motivate people. While there is much debate over what does or doesn’t motivate people, there is little debate that effective motivation can make a defining difference in your ability to lead change, build cohesive teams, successfully implement strategic vision, and to create a certainty of tactical execution. The video above packs what is perhaps some of the best content I’ve seen on the subject of motivation into a short, powerful and compelling presentation.

The Leadership Vacuum

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

The Leadership VacuumThe biggest problem with the leadership industry is found within the ranks of those who call themselves leadership advisors. There is nothing short of a voluminous amount of leadership information being published on a daily basis. The number of books, blogs, tweets, videos, webcasts, podcasts, etc., being pushed into the market is reaching truly overwhelming proportions. It’s been my experience that regardless of the subject, it is precisely when the noise becomes the loudest, that it’s most difficult for the consumer to extract quality and value from the market. The text that follows is meant as both a rebuke of my industry, and a challenge to my fellow practitioners…It is my hope that this post stimulates vigorous discussion, and a great deal of thought on how we evolve the practice & discipline of leadership, not for our own glory, but for the good of our clients and society as a whole.

Before I go any further, today’s rant should not be construed as a call for elitism, but rather a call for authenticity, innovation and professionalism. As leadership advisors and coaches we counsel our clients on the need for change and innovation, but have we become the proverbial shoe maker without shoes? We ask our clients “why should anyone be led by you?” but a better question might be “why should anyone be advised by us?” When was the last time you read something new, groundbreaking, or significant with regard to the practice and discipline of leadership? Is it because everything valuable in regard to leadership has already been discovered? I think not…rather I believe that many among us are sadly lacking the innovative approach to our practice that we so consistently demand from our clients.  

I believe our world is suffering greatly due to a lack of leadership. Examine any of the major problems of our time and you’ll quickly and clearly see a lack of leadership at the root of the issue. In fact, if you listen carefully you’ll readily hear a loud sucking sound that I refer to as the leadership vacuum. With all of us pushing leadership advice and counsel, why is it that our leaders are failing at such alarming rates? Are we as an industry fulfilling the mission of developing great leaders capable of handling great challenges and accomplishing great things, or are the majority of those entering our ranks just here to make a quick buck? 

I would venture to say that there are literally tens of thousands of consultants and coaches who bill themselves as leadership subject matter experts. If you Google “leadership development” more than 4 million search results are returned.  How many of these practitioners are qualified? Who are the real leadership thought leaders? Spare me the slick info-product sales people, and give me authentic, professional practitioners of the art and science of leadership. 

I have long believed in eating my own cooking. I simply don’t proffer what I don’t practice. I can’t help clients lead change if my business model is antiquated or static. It is simply not possible to develop leaders if you’re not one yourself. Let’s not create more trumped-up professional credentials to make unqualified practitioners feel better about themselves, but let’s focus on the real issue…being better practitioners of our craft, and delivering real value through actionable advice rendered to our clients.

I’m not interested in more tired rhetoric, but I am sincerely interested in welcoming dialogue with anyone passionate about the profession of leadership. Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Focus on Performance

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Focus on PerformanceI’m going old-school with today’s message – it’s going to be direct, and to the point…focus on performance. One of my pet peeves is the voluminous amount of management speak and self-help propaganda currently in circulation designed to codify a lack of performance. I’m an individual that believes in clear and direct communication, so I’ll spare you the rhetoric and just do what I do best…cut to the chase. Put simply, the formula for success, what truly differentiates you, is that you either PERFORM or your don’t.

The text that follows is not going to nurture you, nor will it serve as a disingenuous pat on the back…I’m not going to tell you what a nice person you are, but I am going to ask you to lose the excuses, rationalizations, justifications, platitudes, theories, and spin and just get the job done. This message is about zeroing-in on the main difference between the impact players and the wannabes…its called delivering a certainty of execution. Don’t give me excuses…give me results.

See if this rings true…have you ever noticed that it seems to be those soothsayers who can wax eloquent in the planning stages, that always just seem to fall flat on their face when it comes to the implementation? Again, in an effort to keep it simple, don’t tell me; show me! A great strategy that cannot be executed is not a great strategy at all…it is a failed strategy. Let me put it this way…It’s pretty darn hard to look smart if you cannot deliver the goods. 

Think of any successful leader and you’ll find they consistently get the job done. They accomplish the mission; they find a way to win; they execute. Sadly, all it really takes to stand out in today’s business world is to follow through on your commitments. It doesn’t matter where you went to school, how smart you are, what your title is, or any number of other considerations…if you want to succeed, learn to honor your commitments and execute. 

The best advice I can give you is to immediately cease and desist from majoring in minors, learn to harness your passion, leverage your resources, be disciplined in your approach, and always focus on performance. Contrasted with an earlier statement above, it’s hard to appear as anything other than smart when you are a master of execution and performance. Few things speak to a leader’s ability like consistently putting points on the scoreboard…

How to Build a Brand

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

How to Build a BrandAssuming that you have deep pockets, a talented staff, and a lot of patience, growing a recognized brand isn’t difficult…spend heavily across all mediums with consistent, creative, on message advertising while simultaneously conducting aggressive public relations and social media campaigns. Avoid controversy, maintain a high likeability factor, consistently and proactively engage your customers, be a business of character that engenders trust and confidence with your target market(s), produce a quality product or service at a competitive price point, and provide great customer service. The preceding description paints the perfect illustration of why branding is one of my favorite topics…It is complex. Unless you are a very large enterprise it is unlikely that you have the time, money, staffing, or external professional relationships to execute a brand management strategy such as the one outlined above. In today’s post I’ll share 8 tips for common sense branding that entities of any size can put into practice…

So what’s the best way to build a brand if you’re not a Fortune 500 company? Be very, very smart. Unfortunately I’m not kidding – if your business isn’t one of the deep pocketed companies capable of executing a strategy like the one mentioned above, then you must understand how to cost effectively appropriate and deploy your resources & talent in a manner that still produces results. The simple truth of the matter is that building brand equity with limited resources is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in the business world.

The following 8 items constitute the basic tenants of branding, which if incorporated into your brand management strategy will help build a solid brand regardless of the size of your company or your ad budget:

1. Treat your brand as an asset not an afterthought: If building brand equity is not a key strategic focus for your executive team don’t be surprised if your brand remains in stealth mode. If branding is not someone’s full-time responsibility then your brand will suffer from the part-time results that the part-time efforts yield.

2. Keep your word: Living up to expectations (brand promise) is critical if you want to keep your brand from going into free-fall. If you can only do one thing is business, I would strongly suggest that it be to keep your commitments and honor your promises. In absence of any other action this will keep your brand on solid footing, and in combination with the other items mentioned here will propel your brand equity with maximum velocity. 

3. Never sacrifice quality: Your products, services, leadership, management, culture, customer service, communication, etc. must all reflect high standards of quality. Quality equals value in the eyes of the consumer, and as a result often corresponds into justifying price premiums.

4. Focus on the customer: Make sure you understand the needs and desires of you customers/clients and do everything possible to satisfy them. If customer centricity is nothing more than a buzzword, and not a core value reflected in your business practices, creating growth in brand equity will be a challenge. Put the customer first in all decisions and good things will happen.

5. Understand the competition: Creating competitive separation is a must. Without strong and clearly recognized competitive value propositions you will be forced into the commodity market of competing on price points alone.

6.  Broadcast vs. Social: It is also critical to understand the difference between broadcast and social media.  The world has changed, and if you haven’t adjusted your messaging, positioning, communications, and engagement strategies accordingly, your brand will suffer. If you don’t have a big advertising budget, and even if you do, social media provides a significant opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and interactions with your customers that broadcast media simply cannot produce. If you don’t have the luxury of being able to spend across mediums, select the medium that will give the most frequency, reach, viral shelf-life & engagement and build from there. Put simply, if you’re going to spend your time and money do it where you get the biggest bang for the buck.

7. Be consistent: Consistency in all things throughout the value chain is critical. Continuity should flow from values to vision, mission to strategy, and objectives to tactics to process. Mixed messaging or practices has killed many a brand.

8. Innovate: Your brand will have at best a limited shelf life if a culture of innovation doesn’t pervade your business. Even category dominant brands can fall into rapid decline as obsolescence sets in. Don’t fall into the trap of resting on laurels and assuming that a great product or niche market will endure the test of time without constant attention to the shifting needs of a fluid marketplace.

Values Based Hiring

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Values Based HiringWhy play a game of chance when you don’t have to? I was casually reading the results of a survey on the topic of hiring methodologies last weekend when one particular survey question really caught my attention: “When considering a new hire, what is the one characteristic or attribute of the candidate that would most influence your hiring decision?” The “right” answer seemed quite obvious to me, but in reading the respondent’s (100 hiring managers, executives and HR types) answers I was truly amazed at what I saw…It is no wonder that companies struggle with talent management when they hire based on the “wrong” evaluation metrics. In today’s post I’ll share my observations and conclusions drawn from the information gleaned in reviewing the survey…

Let me start by sharing some of the representative answers (not mine) that were put forth in response to the survey question above:

  1. “Leadership ability”;
  2. “I would have to say being a good communicator”;
  3. “The ability to think outside the box and eagerness to learn”;
  4. “The ability to make a good first impression”;
  5. “Intelligence”;
  6. “Commitment to invest long hours”;
  7. “Being a team player”;
  8. “Excellent time management skills”;
  9. “Enthusiastic attitude”;
  10. “Strong analytical abilities”;
  11. “Solid technical skills”;
  12. “The ability to execute”;
  13. “The ability to follow process”
  14. “That the individual is a nice person”;
  15. “That they have a degree from a good school”;

Okay, I think you get the point by now…Again, keep in mind that these (along with the other answers posted) were given by senior managers and executives. Here is what I’d like you to consider…While the answers noted above all point to admirable traits, when you evaluate them based upon the context of the original question posed they are nothing short of mystifying…Out of 100 answers provided only two respondents answered with what I believe is the correct answer: “Integrity and Character.” You see, any of the traits identified in the 98 other answers absent character and integrity will eventually lead to some type of disconnect or debacle. Values based hiring increases performance, enhances collaboration, reduces turnover, increases morale, and creates a stable culture. The fact that character and integrity showed as poorly as they did in the survey, is proof positive for why the corporate workplace struggles with talent management.

What should be jumping off the page here is that based upon the above referenced survey only two percent of the companies surveyed appear to utilize a value based hiring methodology.  Moreover, one might conclude that 98% of these companies have the wrong people doing the hiring. I strongly suggest that whomever is doing the hiring within your organization utilize a values based recruiting model. This doesn’t just mean hire a top producer, or the candidate who graduated from the best business school, but rather hire a quality individual that is a person of integrity & character, whose values are in alignment with the organizations core values, and who also happens to be talented. 

The simple truth of the matter is that you can have your cake and it eat too if you’re willing to hold-out for the right person. It simply isn’t necessary to compromise on core values to get talent. A new hire should desire to be part of your company for more than the ability to maximize immediate earning potential…they should be interested in your company because there is a sincere alignment of values and vision.

Don’t be quick to hire based upon gut feel, but rather take time in the interviewing process to let the prospective new hire get a feel for your culture and your company. Never oversell the company, but rather disclose all the problems and weaknesses of the organization so that the candidate can make a good decision that won’t later be unwound by inconsistent messaging or practices. Above all, don’t be seduced by qualities that while they may be attractive on the surface, won’t ever make-up for a lack of character and integrity.

Critical Analysis

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Critical ThinkingCritical thinking skills are not a luxury for senior executives – they’re a survival skill. In today’s hi-tech business world we have become reliant on any number of available business tools to help us achieve better results and to perform at higher levels. We attend classes, workshops, webcasts, conferences etc., and we read books on how to master everything from the newest software application to the latest management theory. We seem to have an insatiable thirst for anything that will provide us with a perceived competitive advantage, yet we often ignore the one tool which can provide an unequaled return on investment if developed to even a fraction of its potential…the human mind. In today’s post I’ll examine the virtually unlimited benefits of becoming a better critical thinker. 

Most professionals intellectually understand that learning is a life-long endeavor, but the reality is that many executives and entrepreneurs invest very little in the development of the human mind once they have finished their formal education. Given that the human mind is without question the greatest and most powerful tool we possess, and that we all have free and equal access to it, I find it odd that it is also the most underdeveloped tool for many professionals. It has been my experience that business people tend to overestimate their intellectual ability, and as a result, they often fail to make investments in endeavors of intellectual development.

Developing sound critical thinking skills are a requirement for CEOs and entrepreneurs. Being both quick of mind, and intelligent in approach to your mental analyses of a given situation simply results in fewer mistakes in judgment. The external perception with regard to a person who possesses excellent critical thinking skills is often that they have great wisdom and discernment. Critical thinking skills while related to intelligence, are not one in the same. A great critical thinker may or may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but they will have a disciplined, fluid approach in thinking things through that often gives them the appearance of being a genius. Strong mental acuity is a competitive advantage not to be taken lightly.

Paul, Binker, Jensen, and Kreklau (1990) developed a list of 35 dimensions of critical thought. While the following list can get a bit academic, if implemented consistently, these tactics will help you better navigate the complexities of the business world:

Affective Strategies

  1. thinking independently
  2. developing insight into egocentricity or sociocentricity
  3. exercising fair-mindedness
  4. exploring thoughts underlying feelings and feelings underlying thoughts
  5. developing intellectual humility and suspending judgment
  6. developing intellectual courage
  7. developing intellectual good faith or integrity
  8. developing intellectual perseverance 
  9. developing confidence in reason

Cognitive Strategies–Macro-Abilities

 10.  refining generalizations and avoiding oversimplifications
 11.  comparing analogous situations: transferring insights to new contexts
 12.  developing one’s perspective: creating or exploring beliefs, arguments, or theories
 13.  clarifying issues, conclusions, or beliefs
 14.  clarifying and analyzing the meanings of words or phrases
 15.  developing criteria for evaluation: clarifying values and standards
 16.  evaluating the credibility of sources of information
 17.  questioning deeply: raising and pursuing root or significant questions
 18.  analyzing or evaluating arguments, interpretations, beliefs, or theories
 19.  generating or assessing solutions
 20.  analyzing or evaluating actions or policies
 21.  reading critically: clarifying or critiquing texts
 22.  listening critically: the art of silent dialogue
 23.  making interdisciplinary connections
 24.  practicing Socratic discussion: clarifying and questioning beliefs, theories, or perspectives
 25.  reasoning dialogically: comparing perspectives, interpretations, or theories
 26.  reasoning dialectically: evaluating perspectives, interpretations, or theories

Cognitive Strategies–Micro-Skills

 27.  comparing and contrasting ideals with actual practice
 28.  thinking precisely about thinking: using critical vocabulary
 29.  noting significant similarities and differences
 30.  examining or evaluating assumptions
 31.  distinguishing relevant from irrelevant facts
 32.  making plausible inferences, predictions, or interpretations
 33.  evaluating evidence and alleged facts
 34.  recognizing contradictions
 35.  exploring implications and consequences”

If you want to do everything possible to ensure your success as a C-level executive or entrepreneur, don’t rest upon your laurels, but rather continue to make investments in your personal and professional development. Good luck and good thinking…

Design Matters

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Design MattersSo, does design really matter? Let me make my position very clear…design absolutely matters. Whether it is aesthetic, functional, creative, process, innovative, intellectual, technical or applicational…design matters. While I have heard many a professional downplay the value of design, it has been my experience that most business people who espouse this opinion are commenting on something outside of their domain expertise in an attempt to justify a competing agenda or a position of ignorance. While this position may seem a bit harsh, it is nonetheless true. In today’s blog post I’ll examine why design matters.

What do you think when you experience poor design in your life? Are you likely to adopt a new software application that is poorly designed? When you are handed a business card that was printed at Kinko’s are you impressed? Are you likely to read a piece of collateral material that is poorly designed? If a newly implemented business process has design flaws, will employees follow the process or circumvent it? Is poorly designed consumer packaging likely to attract your attention as you walk down the shopping aisle? When it’s time to purchase your next automobile would you give serious consideration to a poorly designed vehicle? I could go on ad nauseum with similar questions, but my guess is that you get my point…

Now let’s examine the flip-side of the coin by looking at the positives associated with strong design. When you think of Apple you immediate think of a company that has built a strong brand around quality design. It started with the Mac, then came the iPod, next came the iPhone and now we’re experiencing the impact of the iPad. The iPod pioneered innovative design in the mp3 player vertical with great technical design, outstanding functional design, and is in a class by itself with regard to aesthetic design. Largely due to the iPod’s strong integrated design qualities it is the dominant brand in its class, commands a pricing premium, and has developed an extremely loyal and satisfied customer base. 

When you’re evaluating vendors online, and you land on a poorly designed website, how long does it take you to click away from the poorly designed site in search of a better option? You can review virtually any industry, sector, vertical, or micro-vertical and when you examine the dominant brands you’ll find quality design at their core. While there are exceptions to every rule, they are few and far between when it comes to design. If you try hard enough you can find an aberration in just about any rule, but in the case of design it will simply be just that…an aberration.

Also worth noting is that there is certainly a difference between value engineering and arbitrary cost containment. The next time you hear someone question an investment into design solely for the purpose of reducing expenditures, I would suggest that you think long and hard before doing so as few things in business produce the return on investment that a reputation for quality design can yield.

If you’re a leader, don’t dismiss design as elemental or insignificant. Design will impact your messaging, positioning, business modeling, team building, resourcing, branding, and virtually every functional aspect of what you do. Make sure that everyone within your organization pays attention to design aspects relevant to their roles and responsibilities – make attention to design part of your culture.

Think about the marketing and advertising campaigns that get your attention, the clothes you wear, the house you live in, the cars you drive, the cell phone you carry, or any number of other decisions you make and you’ll find that design plays a key role in your decisioning…Design Matters!

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