August 30, 2012

Political Lessons

The U.S. political chatter is heating up this week with the Republican Party taking the first swipe with their convention in Tampa and the topic of leadership returns to the forefront. Imagine if your direct report talked like those at the podium about generic promises to change vague issues with dynamic language that hold very little meaning.

Now think about your career or your business and imagine what it would be like to stand on your own record and your own ideas. If they work, take the credit. If they don’t, own the blame. That happens never in politics so let’s look at the real world for lessons.

Back to Reality

It’s easy to point to politicians and poke holes in their theories and fuzzy memories but how often does it happen in our everyday lives? Do you own it when you mess up? Do you avoid blaming others to take the focus away from you? Do you show compassion to those who make mistakes and collaborate with them for solutions?

How can we better work together and show leadership in solving issues, building companies, growing people and improving our world without blaming others for all the problems and taking credit for all the victories?

It's up to us to show our leadership through our actions.

Kneale Mann


August 27, 2012

Bringing Work to Life

We've all heard the phrase “leave it at the door” which is a warning that when you’re at work, you should focus on work. But we're human and we work with humans and we have lives and issues and sadness and joy and events and those aren’t easily shut off.

In just the last couple of months, I have known of a couple who finalized their divorce, someone who lost their spouse, a couple who had to say their final goodbyes to their beloved pet, someone who lost a parent, and three people who lost their job. It’s a bit tough to be a robot in those situations. Stuff happens to all of us in our lives so it's unrealistic to expect it won't seep into our work.

Life Imitates Life

Leadership is not daycare but we are not machines. To tell people to ignore their world isn’t realistic. Sure, we have to be mindful that deadlines need to be met, but the human condition can help our professional pursuits. Many claim a life/work balance is important but few act on it.

I was on a client call recently discussing the power of collaboration. I asked each person to outline one or two specific examples where it helped a project they worked on, then outline where it played out in their everyday lives. It showed the human side of high potential leaders and provided context to how each were wired and brought themselves (not just their work experience) to each relationship and project.

Free Your Mind

Allowing your team to bring life to work can open up possibilities. It can unlock their minds to include situations outside of their work environment. It can create free discussion and brainstorming that may help solve issues that are too close to the team because they’re trying to apply work related tactics. It can create a more malleable atmosphere which will be more enjoyable and efficient.

This can panic some leaders who are used to conformed enterprise where co-workers focus linearly on actual tasks within a confined agenda. Change is scary and it’s much easier to manage rather than guide people to work freely and use all of their human experience during work hours. This is not to suggest your company becomes a free-for-all but nothing in work or life needs to be zero-sum.

Sharing Your Life

Something I like to do is to check with people on their highlight of the week. It can be work related, family related, or life related. Give it a try and you'll notice a measurable shift in your company.

We all want to be loved, noticed, and appreciated. We have fear and dreams, hopes and plans. We all want to belong and feel purpose. We are them, you are me, they are us.  It's not as difficult as it may appear. And a small shift can create the positive growth you may have been seeking by reminding everyone to focus on their job.

What happens in life can help what happens at work.

Kneale Mann


August 26, 2012

One Giant Leap

The world is reflecting on the life of a quiet man who spent more than four decades reliving an event that will forever be on the list of human accomplishments.

Neil Armstrong lived 82 eventful years that could have gone unnoticed by most of us. But in July 1969 he was forever etched in history.

Armstrong was the first to admit it wasn’t his triumph but rather the accomplishment made by thousands of dedicated people who worked tirelessly for many years to make it happen. Leadership, ideas, and hard work continue to teach us to dream and push to create more small steps and giant leaps.

Kneale Mann


August 24, 2012

Getting Narrow

You may often hear others claim they’re good with people or they can increase the bottom line. Those are excellent attributes but need to be further defined and refined. For fear of being specific and potentially losing a deal, many will promise to help anyone who asks them and that can be a dangerous tactic.

Many of us have fallen victim of the plan of trying to have an offer with a wide scope. But if we say everyone is our target customer we can be in trouble. Some feel they don't want to limit their potential. But if we narrow our focus, we can become stronger in those areas we can help the most.

Cross Pollination

The retail space has gotten fuzzy over the last decade. You can buy groceries at your pharmacy and furniture in your electronics store. Widening the offer is watering down the focus and may appear to be working but is actually hurting many of the large companies attempting this strategy.

If you’ve ever been to a general store in a small town it’s like a different world. You can buy everything from candy to camping equipment. But if you looked at your business and more importantly how you grow your team, you probably wouldn’t think it wise to be too wide and hire generalists. Shifting into areas that get away from our strengths in order to grow revenue and market share can be tempting. Doing what we do well, more often, can be a wise tactic.

Do One Thing Well

My best friend ran a successful software consulting firm for 20 years that helped clients with one piece of accounting software. They were focused on one discipline and became one of the key firms in the world at what they did.

The temptation to expand was there but he and his partners stayed focused on what they did well, and did it even better. After selling the software company, he now owns a company in the cloud computing space. His focus is great reminder in my career and how I help my clients in their leadership journey.

Sometimes offering less can create a lot more.

Kneale Mann


August 21, 2012

What Creates Success?

It’s the age old question. Thousands of books have been published on the topic. Millions of opinions have been shared. Endless leadership models have been created and business professionals have been trying to solve it since the beginning of time.

Theories and sayings, adages and clichés, all point to the ways for us to find the success we seek. But what happens if we find it then lose our way?

Richard St. John is a researcher, author, speaker, teacher, and student of life and success. He was triumphant in many business pursuits but stumbled. That lesson caused him to step back and find out why. Hundreds of interviews later, he has been teaching his principles which are simple in their outline but require determination and a lifetime of focus to execute.

Kneale Mann

TED | Richard St. John

August 15, 2012

Compulsive Disclosure Disorder

There is an ailment, a condition if you will, that has captured the attention of the global medical and scientific communities. The origins trace back to our earliest ancestors but it appears to have accelerated rapidly in the last few decades. From afar, it may appear innocuous but could prove chronic and dangerous.

Those afflicted may not know it. Their actions seem innocent. Their need to belong, be validated, and connect becomes so strong, they are compelled to share every blemish, recipe, setback, mood, argument, road trip stop, victory, meal, and event in their lives whenever the urge strikes them. Some experts call it Compulsive Disclosure Disorder.

Not Limited to Online Use

CDD (and closely related TMI) can appear suddenly at meetings, on conference calls, and in boardrooms. In extreme cases, sufferers must share whenever and wherever they can. Although not severe, most of us have had the occasional slip up.

The path to recovery begins with curbing the need to share our exact thought at any given moment. Inside voices are permitted and often encouraged to remain inside. If you know someone with CDD, gently remind them that some details of their lives are okay to keep to themselves.

Let’s remain strong.

Kneale Mann


August 10, 2012

It Has to Go to Space!

One of the most watched videos online in the last few years is Louis CK on the old Conan O'Brien Show discussing the fact that we are the most technologically advanced era in history yet we’re miserable. Our collective impatience has gotten worse.

He covers wi-fi, ATMs, the miracle of human flight, and more. When using smartphones, we wonder why the signal is down or why it's taking so long to send a message. Louis says; “Give it a second! It has to go to space! What, the speed of light is no longer fast enough for you?” Been there? Done that?

C’mon Hurry Up!

His commentary points to a topic we discussed here recently. We have less patience than a three year waiting for her ice cream. We want it now, we want it to work, and we we may even look for a shortcut.

You see it with marketing campaigns that don’t garner instant results, new hires who aren’t up to speed in their first week, careers that aren’t moving as fast as we’d like, customers who don’t sign right away.

We're All The Same

I recently made a major purchase that took me three months to decide on. I’ve had prospects who have taken longer to get to a no or not right now. We want others to move fast, but we’re not always happy to reciprocate. Decades from now, we'll be complaining the newly invented gadget isn't working properly.

This isn't an era or technology issue. And it's often worse when you look to business culture and leadership. But we can learn to harness our impatience by managing realistic expectations before we begin and take breaks for perspective. We can have more open collaboration and look at how we can positively affect the situation rather than continuing to hope the situation morphs to our wishes.

Now if I could only get this stupid phone to work!

Kneale Mann


August 8, 2012

29 Ideas for Great Leaders

Maya Angelou reminds us that people may not remember what we did or said, but they will remember how we made them feel. Here are some of the many reminders when providing strong leadership.

They will notice if you’re not carrying your weight. This is a team effort. Listen. If you say who's boss, you've lost the room. Be helpful. Help them improve their strengths. Share victories. If you think your ideas are always best, you don’t need a team.

Lead don’t manage. Each person is motivated differently.

Make it fun. Don’t let job titles get in the way. Say thank-you. Collaboration beats confrontation. Do as you say. Flexibility will garner better results. Remember you’re only as good as your team. Be fair and consistent.

The culture begins with you. Laugh often. Show grace under pressure.

Give the same guidance as you want from others. Know you don’t need to make every decision. Be present. Devote half of your time to their development.

Avoid temptation to take all the credit. Remember no one wants a boss. Keep in mind that group reprimands are not successful. Never stop learning

Leadership may be the most demanding, enjoyable and satisfying work you will ever do. Have fun!

Kneale Mann


August 6, 2012

Delegating Your Busy

It’s been said more times than we can count that we’re busy. There are meetings and family commitments and chores and email and deadlines and calls and stress and projects and the list continues. We are busy people doing busy things keeping busy with our busy lives being busy.

Years ago, I worked with a wonderful mentor who compared the work we were doing in a larger city next to when he lived in a smaller larger urban area. He said; “Sure this is a busier place, but I’m not convinced people are getting any more done.”

Technology Tether

A colleague of mine reads email twice a week. If you want to get a hold of him, send a text and he’ll usually get back to you within a day or two. If it's urgent, call him. He says email is a waste of time. And when you think of how many of us keep our thumbs posed on smartphones, how much is helping our advancement or fulfilment?

It’s disheartening when I speak with people about their relationships at work. All too often, they are starving for interaction and guidance from leadership, yet the boss is always far too busy for that personal stuff.

This is Important

We check our phones at a baseball game or late Friday night at a house party. If you’re expecting an important call or you’re the person others need to contact should there be an actual emergency, that’s understandable. But I was answering email in the grocery line the other day. How ridiculous.

If we're simply doing it by rote and we don't need to do anything significant with our phone, perhaps we should turn it off and enhance relationships right beside us.

If we're too busy to be here, because we need to be there,
we might too busy to be anywhere.

Kneale Mann


August 2, 2012

Are You In Control?

We have choices to make every minute of our lives. And there is a growing suspicion that we should make them faster and more accurately. Time is money, we don’t have all day, the team is depending on it, and revenue will be affected.

Baba Shiv is the director of strategic marketing at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He has been studying behavior and neuroeconomics with a focus on motivation and emotion for many years.

Make Your Choice

Research has shown a counterintuitive fact about human nature which is sometimes having too much choice makes us less happy. Baba shares a personal story and some of his findings which measure why choice opens the door to doubt. He suggests that ceding control can often be the best strategy.

Some feel leadership is about being in charge and making the final call. But in a fully collaborative enterprise, responsibility can often be enhanced by allowing others drive choices. We may not want to be the one who makes all the decisions after all.

Kneale Mann

TED | Baba Shiv

August 1, 2012

Five Rings and a Month of Suggestions

It can be fun, serious, funny, or thought provoking, but daily on Twitter I post something that may brighten your day, cause you to pause, make you think, or give you a smile.

Since the London Olympics began on July 27th, you'll notice some silliness may have ensued in the last few days of the month and may continue through August 12th.

Here’s the list for July 2012

• Happy Birthday, Canada
• Two out of ten play mostly to their strengths. What about you?
Context is king
• Happy 236, USA
• Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions. Bo Bennett
Martin Streek - Three years and still doesn't seem real.
• At the end of the day, when all is said and done, we may need fewer clichés
• Never underestimate the power of quite time
• Build relationships not customers
Leadership doesn't appear on a business card
• Nose to the grindstone, best foot forward, shoulder to the wheel, drink plenty of fluids
• Stay curious
• Drop out of the Ain’t it Awful Club. Jack Canfield
• Take a break from the internet. It will be here when you get back
• Make the choice or something else will make it for you
• Let others have the spotlight today
• Take the victory
• Leadership starts from within
• How often do you listen to your gut?
• Never. Stop. Learning.
• Thank those who help you
• Independence needs a hand. Accept it with grace
• Meet five new people this week
• Growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership
• Stress can be a self-inflicted injury
Leadership is about helping others
• Are you giving your best?
• Remains the frontrunner in marathon napping
• Scored gold for sharp retorts
• Won silver in coverage viewing
• Stuck the couch dismount

If we give up, we may never know.

Kneale Mann

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