Business and Leadership

You can’t put a price on shared passion

A colleague recently shared this Simon Sinek video, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, with me and it’s worth sharing with you. It’s not new, but is a thought-provoking piece about how truly inspired, innovative companies like Apple are driven not by what they do, or even how they do it, but by their vision of WHY they do it. (It’s long, but you can watch about the first 3-4 minutes and get the gist.)

This, I suspect, is one reason why an increasing number of folks are starting their own thing. Because not just outstanding companies but also outstanding individuals are driven by “Why”.

I highly recommend that any leader that manages people also read this recent article by Gini Dietrich, Money is Not a Motivator. The money quote (pun intended): “We want to see our work rewarded in ways more than just pay…what keeps us motivated, day after day to get up and go to work, is the feeling that we’re part of something.” A-men. I’ve talked to people who have trouble understanding this, but I believe for many of the best and brightest it is truly NOT about the money. Money is great, but not what drives us.

If you’re feeling discontented with your job, it may be because your “Why” is not the same as that of your organization or the people with whom you work. Meaning, you’re just not in it for the same reasons. Their passion, perhaps, doesn’t match yours, in direction, magnitude, or both.

Just over one year ago, I left Jigsaw, a company and a team with whom I shared a powerful bond, based in why we do what we do. I chased a shiny object that was dangled in front of my face. More money, yes. Partnership. More “power”, presumably. A new challenge, which is always appealing to self-motivated people. I don’t regret what I did. I met some great people and learned some important lessons.

What I learned, most of all, is that you just can’t put a price on shared passion. It’s hard to grasp that especially when you’re a young person in this business and don’t have many other professional experiences as frames of reference. When you find a place where you feel like you belong, you share the passion, your “Why” is the same, that in and of itself is invaluable.

Which is why I am going back to Jigsaw. See what I did there? I buried the lead. I got a second chance. I am enormously grateful and excited beyond belief to be going home.

What’s your “Why”? What drives you?

More thoughts on what a great leader is: A backup vocalist

Last week I posted on how Great leadership is a rare gift. It was one of those posts on which the comments make it so much better. I love and value what everyone said, but a few really get to the heart of what I think is a core issue for many leaders.

I love what Bob Fichtner said: Great leaders know when to get out of the way…they give their team the freedom to achieve the goal in their own way.

I love what Cindi Thomas said: Leadership requires a lack of ego.

I love what Tony Meister said: Some (leaders) had too much ego to admit they were wrong. This created a subtle backlash behind the scenes as the negative chatter slowly depleted their reputation and heart following among the team.

Heart following? What a concept! If you are a leader, ask yourself, do you have anything remotely resembling heart following among your team? This comes back to empathy, which is what I believe breeds true loyalty. Do you show that you care about them as people? Or do you treat them like mere “employees”? Big difference.

This morning, I tweeted about how I am looking for another rock star to join my rock star team. I followed up with clarification that by “rock star team, ” I truly do mean that THEY are the rock stars, not I. Jim Raffel, who is a great blogger and a good friend replied asking (with sarcasm noted) if I am just a roadie. Check out Jim’s blog – lots of great advice from a small biz CEO who tells it like it is.

Jim’s question was fantastic; it really made me think in a different way about what role, as a leader, I do play on my team. And, as someone who spent the better part of her teenage years running around Alpine Valley, an outdoor music theater, amidst musical mayhem (and sometimes adding to it), it is a metaphor to which I can deeply relate.

Sometimes I am, in fact, a roadie. I’m not much for climbing up into the rafters, but I have been known to go get my team Alterra soy honey lattes when I think they need it. I’m not above that at all. Whatever it takes to keep the show going.

Sometimes I am a tour manager and an agent. In other words, a facilitator. I arrange meetings and get the team gigs where they can demonstrate their greatness.

Most of the time, though, I am on backup vocals. I am in the meeting to support the work that we have put together as a team. Not to be the loudest voice in the room.

Being a leader doesn’t mean that you have always vocalize the fact that I AM THE LEADER. More often than not, you are there guiding, coaching, supporting with a firm direction but a soft hand. One that lets the team feel a sense of pride and ownership. Shared leadership. At the end of the day, being a leader requires being one of the team.

At least that’s my way. What’s yours?

Great leadership is a rare gift

I have been thinking about leadership quite a bit lately. After 20+ years in marketing, observing the collective experiences of me, my colleagues and friends, I am struck by how truly great leaders seem to be few and far between. I could easily count the ones I have known on one hand. If I had three fingers.

I have been accused from time to time of being a decent leader. Yet, believe me, I know I have a lot of room for improvement. Truly outstanding, inspiring leadership is DAMN HARD.

The hardest part, in my opinion, is finding it in yourself to rise above all of the myriad obstacles to optimism and inspiration, and somehow pass inspiration to those around you — even when you may not be overflowing with it yourself at a particular moment in time. Now THAT, if you can do it, is a skill worth talking about. If you can do that, you have my utmost respect. Period. Tell me who you are and how you do it. I would like to take you to lunch. Seriously.

But if, like me, you are working on this skill very hard, here, are just a few thoughts on truly great, inspiring leadership.

First and foremost, people will do as you do, no matter what you say. I am a huge believer in leading by example. If you work 9-5 like clockwork, don’t expect your team to burn the midnight oil in search of greatness, no matter how many times you tell them to. Like it or not, culture rolls downhill. And it rolls from the very top, not from the middle.

Listen to what your team tells you is going on. Not halfway — ALL IN. Really listen. They are closer to most situations than you are. Not listening and responding to their concerns is the fastest way to communicate to them that you a) don’t get it b) don’t care or c) do not appreciate what they are trying to accomplish or how hard they are working. Empathy is critical. And I don’t care if you are Mars or Venus; if you plan to lead a team, you need to genuinely give a damn about what your people are saying. If your team has no empathy with you, you have no team.

Do you understand and practice the simple power of “thank you”? For highly self-motivated people, a little bit of sincere appreciation for what they do for you day in and day out means a great deal and provides more fuel for their fire than any amount of making demands ever will. When was the last time you told your team “thank you”, like you REALLY mean it? I have had a couple of leaders who did this really well, and it was a gift. You know who you are – THANK YOU.

Great leadership, like social media, is mostly stuff we learned in kindergarten, but forget to do. Behave well. Listen. Show you care. So why is it so often overlooked? There is more to it, obviously: Vision. Strategy. Being tough when you need to be tough. But I believe that the basics of quality human interaction are just as important.

When @deziner and I were road tripping to Madison last week to speak on social media strategy, we talked about more than our impending visit to the Lazy Oaf Lounge (and the attached Urgent Care). We talked about what makes great leadership. And she has a fantastic metaphor in her video post: Leadership in times of trouble or tornadoes.

What would you add? How can leaders can go from good (or not so good) to great?

Photo credit: Dunechaser; Flickr Creative Commons

Seven tips for being a so-called change agent

ChangeAgntDavidKingAs someone who spent her late teens and twenties living in Wisconsin, California, Texas, South Carolina, Minnesota and New York, I’ve always been pretty able to adapt to change. Change excites me, in fact. Last week I started a new gig at a 42-year-old agency. Not surprisingly, not everyone is as welcoming of “the brave new world” of marketing as I may be, though there are definitely some major bright spots. I’m not alone in my passions, and that’s incredibly important.

Personally, in my sometimes idealistic little brain, I think an agency — any agency — should be filled with 100% individuals who have massive intellectual curiosity and embrace new ideas, new technologies, and new people. But that’s indeed idealistic and I try to brand myself as a realist. So, instead, I am – to use a friend’s terminology – cultivating a garden of patience. I am heeding my pre-gig horoscope which warned: “You will meet with resistance if you are too pushy and bold.” I don’t believe one can be too bold, per se, but one, especially this one, can be too pushy.

My new mantra: small victories. Someone fixing the broken link on the agency blog. New, more strategic content on the agency blog forthcoming. A few people agreeing to use Yammer to share news, articles, research between agency offices. While I might hope for more, being the change hog that I am, that’s not a bad first week. I’ll take it and I’ll happily come back for more.

It will be interesting to see if this degree of transparency – which I consider far from “radical” – raises any hackles. I should be clear, I am not representing that this agency is “broken” and I am the savior, by any stretch of the imagination. There were a lot of good things happening long before I came along. Before I was born, in fact, and I am no Spring chicken. But I will also transparently say that there is a need for people to breathe in new life from time to time, in any organization. And where is this more true than in an agency, where we are responsible for leading a wide variety of brands into said brave new world?

So from my first week, here are things I’ve become acutely aware that I will need to do to be an effective-and-not-annoying “new life breather”.

1. Cultivate patience. A bumper crop of it.

2. With patience comes persistence. Small victories every week over time will add up to big ones.

3. Have both “gentle” mode and “bold” mode. They each will have a time and a place.

4. Do your homework, always. The more “proof” you have for your positions, obviously, the more credibility you will establish for the next time you suggest a change.

5. Lead by example. This has always been a favorite and, in my opinion, is one of the most important strategies for any successful leader.

6. Identify and nurture your like-minded allies, the ones who can help you make things happen.

7. Be an energizer. This requires a “relentless focus on the positive”. In my new role, I am relentlessly working on this.

There, of course, are more. These are the ones that are top of mind for me right now. Tell me please, what are yours?

Photo credit: David King

How letting go can improve corporate culture

Bit2One of the themes in Mack Collier’s excellent Social South presentation, What Rockstars Can Teach You About Kicking Ass With Social Media, is finding ways to shift control to your fans. Mack gives great examples of this, like the Beastie Boys handing out video cameras at their concerts and letting their fans shoot concert videos. Contrast this to the “typical” approach of forbidding photography at concerts. Which is likely to inspire more passion?

Now, take that idea and translate it to WITHIN your organization. How can you better use your INTERNAL fans? I would wager some big bucks, that in most cases, there are people that work for you that are chomping at the bit to be empowered to make things better. What if instead of pulling back so hard on the reins, you simply engaged them in conversations about the direction of the company? What would happen? Here’s what would happen:

You would be more in touch with what’s really going on in your organization.

You would have more, better ideas.

You would have more loyal, passionate employees willing to go to any length to help you succeed.

You would have a stronger, more positive, energized culture.

Your customers would then feel your stronger, more positive, energized culture. They, too, would become more passionate, loyal, fans of yours, and more likely to spread the word. See? Could just turn a negative cycle into a positive one.

So ease up on the reigns, there, Hoss. Stop clinging so tightly to the illusion that you can control everything that you shut out your biggest fans, whether it’s internally, or externally. LEAD. Do so strongly. But collaboratively.

I am so not the smartest person in the room. (And neither are you)

I realized today that one of the biggest benefits of “Web 2.0″ is the breadth of incredible talent to which we are now exposed on a daily basis. It’s truly humbling. Humbling to watch people like @ambercadabra and @tommartin and @mackcollier and @edwardboches and countless others crank out incredibly smart, sincere thinking day in and day out. Humbling to talk to people like @augieray and @thelarch and countless others who know more about the web than I will ever know if I spend the rest of my life focused on  it. Humbling to meet new friends like @tamadear and @katjaib who bring such energy, life, and passion to each post, each day. And on and on. #followfriday – all of the above amazing people. 

This might surprise some people who have previously worked with me at agencies, but, I am hereby publicly proclaiming that I am far from the smartest person in the room. I’m still very confident in my abilities, but I see how far I have to go now, and I always will. Like me, you may at times think you’re pretty smart. And I’m sure you are. But always, ALWAYS remember that there is always more you can learn – no matter who you are, how your blog is ranked, how many followers you have, where you are speaking, etc. 

I also want to take a moment to sincerely thank all of you – not just the folks listed here but ALL of you who follow me, or take the time to read my so-far-incredibly-average blog that I am learning so much from, or have met with me – because you add so much value to my life. 

When I first started on Twitter, I saw a few – just a few – of the Social Media “Experts” copping such an attitude about themselves that it was a huge turnoff, and almost sent me running. If that is where you are, stick with it, it is well worth it. That said, I still get tired of the ‘tude sometimes, and I’m quite sure there are moments (hopefully not too many?) when I am guilty of the “holier than thou” syndrome myself. I’ve seen some Tweets that are so insanely self-centered and boastful that I wish to God I could post them without blowing up bridges. Hilarious stuff! “Did you see what so-and-so said about me?” Come on, seriously?!

What do you think about this? Do you see the arrogance that I see sometimes? Or has your experience been different? Who ARE the smartest people in the room that I should be following? 

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