Leadership Lessons I Learned from My First Sergeant (Part I)

As an Army officer, I technically out-ranked any enlisted man.  That included the first sergeant, the ranking non-commissioned officer in any company.

Technicalities aside, my WWII veteran father had educated me early that the first sergeant was really the guy in charge.   The opportunity, my Dad told me, was to learn from the first sergeant.  I’m glad I did.

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Leading in a Disruptive World

The cover of WIRED magazine this past month read “How to Survive the Great Tech Panic of 2017”, touching on topics like robot overlords, self-driving cars, cyber warfare, comment trolls, cyber attacks, privacy breaches, Ransomware, text neck, nuke hacks and artificial intelligence.

It’s no doubt that this disruptive digital era has created a more complex business environment for brands as customers today are more engaged and connected. A company’s ability to remain agile, open and responsive in order to develop deeper ties to clients is being tested in unprecedented ways, impacting all industries and disciplines. Fortunately, these technologies have the potential to be growth enablers for businesses and leadership teams, helping serve clients and better interpret their needs more effectively.

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Organizational Artifacts And The Reshaping Of History

As Winston Churchill once proclaimed, “History is written by the victors.” While this sentiment may hold a bit less weight in today’s society where even the “losers” can shape the collective narrative with the help of things like the internet, the “winners” do tend to hold quite a bit of power over shaping how future generations interpret the events of the past.

One way to shape peoples’ interpretation of the past is to remove and replace the physical artifacts of a people. The statues, monuments, images, the schoolbooks and stories that do not align with the version of history that you wish to promote. Read More…

The Leader As Coach: Building On Contact And Connection

Leaders serve in many roles.  Yes, they must do the mundane but necessary chores of managing assets and balance sheets, but their most important work is to inspire others.  And that involves the leader serving as a teacher, as a mentor, and as a coach.

Often we know how to teach others.   And we routinely provide mentoring by setting an example and being available to nurture those around us.  In my experience in industry, though, I have found the coaching piece to be the most difficult role for leaders to assume.

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Weathering An Organizational Storm

$16-billion dollar weather disasters have affected the US this year, from January – October. And the year isn’t over. We all knew someone, or personally experienced these events – from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria to the more recent wildfires in California. These traumatic events have taken a physical and emotional toll on many.

Living in Florida, hurricane season is one we plan for and anticipate every year. But always with a wait and see mentality. This year may be quiet, with little impact to our homes, or it may be the year where we experience the storm of the century. Having just watched the unexpected impact of hurricane Harvey to our neighbors across the Gulf, here in Florida, we watched the path of hurricane Irma with great anxiety. In the days before hurricane Irma was scheduled to make landfall, Governor Scott called for a State of Emergency. The skies were blue, social and professional events went on as scheduled, but the environment was charged. Water became scarce in the stores. Group chats permeated social media. We all accessed the local news channels and apps with more frequency as we sought the most up-to-date information on the direction of the storm, and the potential impact to different regions of the state of Florida. Who would be impacted, how badly, and when? Read More…

The Quiet Price of Entrepreneurship

Read a selection of articles in most business publications and you will, undoubtedly, find more than a handful that explicitly or implicitly refer to entrepreneurs as stalwart heroes in some form or fashion. While there may be some level of “courage” (comfort with risk, ability to thrive in nebulous situations, ability to envision a future state that others can not, etc.) the overwhelming amount of content of this nature continues to reinforce a myth about entrepreneurs as mighty warriors who don’t blink in the face of danger. Adding further to this cycle, especially here in America, is our national culture of showcasing success and of loving a good underdog story.

Unfortunately, showcasing successful underdog entrepreneurs who have “made it” doesn’t really tell the full story. For every success there are multiple examples of failure- each one leaving indelible scars on those involved. For some, these failures may serve as the inspiration to try and try again while, for others, it may result in wounds that become insurmountable. Furthermore, even the entrepreneurs who do make it, in most cases, do so at the expense of many things in their lives, each adding stresses to them as individuals that are difficult to measure. Read More…

Why Articulating A Clear Vision Is Critical For Entrepreneurs?

A few years ago I used a phone app, called Shapr, to expand my social circles, to make new connections, learn new things and enjoy a conversation or two. I met aspiring artists and entrepreneurs who were looking to start a business or were already working on one. They shared their stories and inquired into pro-bono consulting to help them with building their ventures.

In many instances my initial question was, “Where do you want to go with this idea and what are you creating?” Oftentimes, my Shapr’s friends could not clearly respond and this, initially, left me somewhat confused. If I was confused from the start, how would their customers (or potential customers) react?

Compelling vision and mission statements have the ability to provide clarity and direction with regard to why a business exists, what purpose it serves and what value it brings to its stakeholders. Not being able to clearly articulate this can obviously make it difficult to get people on board with your ideas.  Read More…

Innovation, Tradition, And Striking The Balance

My son turns eleven today. We are all set to celebrate as we always do – our kids love the traditions that come with birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, college football, and too many other events to mention. The house is decorated exactly the same for every birthday. I’m told they love it that way. There will be a special dinner, as always.

All this tradition and consistency got me thinking. My children certainly love new things and surprises: new adventures, trips to unknown places, crazy experiences. And still, for a handful of personal milestones, they seem to want- to need- something familiar and dependable. Certainly, that is to be expected. New experiences bring excitement, anticipation of something unknown, and the possibility of “total awesomeness” (which, I have to imagine, is what the kids are saying nowadays.) Those traditions, the patterns sought out by their own brains, bring them a sense of stability, safety, and comfort. See my recent innovation webinar for more on this. Read More…