Chicago-style Leadership

Last week, with about 150 others, I attended the SOBCon conference in Chicago (this was my 3rd year). This gathering always provides thought-provoking gems, along with great opportunities to deepen relationships (here is my quick review of the 2012 gathering).

I thought I’d list out three discussion points for this week’s LeadershipChat based on things said in the Windy City at SOBCon.

1. “Relationships always trump results.” (from Gary Goldstein). Overall, I agree with this perspective – even if projects go awry, the relationships built are the biggest benefit in the long run. But, what about in leadership? Is this always the case; or sometimes, is it really all about the results?

2. “The act of leadership is fundamentally an act of love.” (from Steve Farber). Hmmmm…here’s what Steve means by this (link to podcast). What do you think?

3. “Having a clear purpose makes it easier to say, ‘No.'” (from Tim Sanders). One of the responsibilities – at times, burdens – of leadership, is decision-making. I agree with Tim that one of the most efficient ways to reach decisions is to be crystal-clear on overarching purpose. But that’s not always easy to maintain in the heat of the battle, yes?

Join us as we discuss these topics – just use the hashtag #LeadershipChat and jump right in (and if you were at SOBCon, we’d love to hear your perspectives on these points!)

See you tonight, May 8th at 8 pm ET, for The Fastest Hour on the Internet – LeadershipChat!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Leaders and their Flagrant Fouls

>> (alt) Leadership

I Went to SOBCon 2012 and All I Got Was…

Inspired. Again.

Encouraged. Again.

Deeper relationships. Again.

New perspective. Again.

Validated. Again.

A chance to brainstorm and dream and hug and laugh and figure stuff out with a bunch of smart, pay-it-forward entrepreneurs who don’t mind talking about things like purpose and failure and love.

If you were there, what did you get? Add your thoughts in the comments!

A few top-of-mind moments that impacted me most:

>>Tim Sanders (@SandersSays) talking about purpose in a way that helped me re-write my own mission statement (“My purpose is to help people and companies discover their identity and purpose, and to create new opportunities for people to thrive optimally in supportive networks.”)

>>Laura Fitton (@Pistachio) speaking so transparently about her near-death business experience with OneForty.

>>Steve Farber (@SteveFarber) recounting how making a personal contact opened up a whole new pinball effect of new opportunities in an unanticipated direction.

>>Brandie McCallum (@lttlewys) just being there so soon after a serious operation.

>>Les McKeown (@LesMcKeown) speaking. Doesn’t matter what he says. I want to download his accent (actually, his presentation was great fun!)

Some of the great folks I got to meet, or go much deeper with, this year included Phil Gerbyshak (he of the multi-colored glasses frames), Liz Marshall, Jeff Shuey, Sarah Robinson, Brian Moran (imagine what it was like with the latter four plus Carol Roth and me at one table – trouble!), Jesse Petersen, Xan Pearson, Kyle Akerman, Nick Kellet, Jane Boyd, Patrick Prothe (finally IRL – where’s my pager?), Aaron Biebert, Christian Gurney, and more that I can’t recall at the moment because of advancing age.

And, as always, it was wonderful to hang out with “old” pals like Sean McGinnis, Lisa Diomede, Anthony Iannarino, Cate Colgan, Becky McCray, Sheila Scarborough, Shashi Bellamkonda, Amber Cleveland, Molly Cantrell-Kraig, Marla Schulman, Justin Levy, Jeannie Walters, Darrell DeRochier, and many others – what a great crew.

This was my third SOBCon gathering in Chicago, and each time, it’s been like walking into a gold mine of great people full of energy and good will. Collaborations and friendships that have begun “in the room” at SOBCon endure, and grow, to this day. How did LeadershipChat begin? Through meeting Lisa Petrilli (@LisaPetrilli) two years ago at SOBCon.

Special thanks to Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie and Liz Strauss for putting on this labor of love each year. The Portland version is coming up later this year for those inclined to spend a few wonderful days of retreat in the great Northwest.

SOBCon is not merely a conference. It’s like family. If you’ve not had a chance to go – put it on your calendar!

(Ha! Just looked back on my blog from 2010 and realized I used the same title to review that year’s SOBCon! Here’s a few thoughts from 2011 as well).

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

>> Clarity, part 1: What’s Your Offering?

>> Clarity, part 2: Make Your Message Clear

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Stories

>> Clarity, part 4: Your Clarifying Analogy

Free Clarity Therapy in Chicago? Yes!

Last year, pre-SOBCon, I came out to Chicago early and had a chance to meet with several folks for free Clarity Therapy sessions(I called it Brand Therapy then). It was a delightful time and much closer relationships with at least 3 people developed as a result.

So, we’re going to do it again this year! (What is Clarity Therapy?)

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, I’m going to open up a few 90-minute slots to help people – free of charge – figure out their professional DNA and direction. This will take place at (or near) Hotel 71 in downtown Chicago.

Available times:

Thursday May 3: 9:30 am | 2:30 pm | 4 pm (sorry – all booked!)

Send me an e-mail (steve at connectionagent dot com) and let me know if you’d like to take advantage of this free offer, and what time(s) you would prefer. There are already two slots that are on the verge of being spoken for, so don’t hesitate!

(here’s a blog post from last week by Tom Martin describing why Clarity Therapy is important – even for a branding/marketing pro!)

DNA Interview: Sean McGinnis

I love sitting down with folks and finding out more about what makes them tick – their professional DNA.

Today’s Skype video interview is with my friend Sean McGinnis (@seanmcginnis on Twitter), principal of 312 Digital and well-known Chicago networker.

Sean’s mission is to help clients with Digital Customer Acquisition and Loyalty. Listen in as we chat for a few minutes… (please pardon the slight video pixelation…)

Need to gain understanding of your personal or company DNA? Contact me about Brand Therapy – you’re only a few hours away from clarity!

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Welcome! How May We Gouge You??

It was a rainy morning in Chicago. I had flown in early, taken the train downtown, and gotten pretty well soaked on the walk to the hotel – but, I was here. Ready for a great few days of networking and SOBCon.

I’d booked the conference hotel (Hotel 71) months ago for the duration of SOBCon but needed a place for one night, so I had gone on-line and reserved a room at a relatively nearby place, which will remain unnamed at the moment.

Dripping my way into the lobby at about 10 am local time, I was flabbergasted by the following exchange:

Tom: “We have a room ready for you, Mr Woodruff, but there will be a $35 early check-in fee.”

Me: ???????????????????????

OK, let me get this straight. A room is sitting there ready, I arrive early (terrible sin!) – and now you want to ding me for an extra $35? In 25 years of business travel, I’ve NEVER run into this gouging maneuver (have you? If so, enlighten me – please!)

This, after mentioning that, no, I don’t recall ever staying here before. What a nice welcome for a new guest!

I described this red carpet treatment on Twitter and apparently others agree with me.

I’ll try to communicate my displeasure privately and see where that goes, which is why I’m not mentioning the property by name at this point. But if you’re in the hospitality business, take away this lesson – when your first encounter with the customer is a grab deeper into their pocket – for no good reason – you’re really not likely to build repeat business.

Not. Likely. At. All.

ADDED BONUS: no e-mail address, no electronic message capability on website, and no Twitter! Free Wi-Fi, though….

UPDATE: I confirmed with a second desk person that this is indeed a policy of the small chain (though I think it is presented as a reserved red-eye early check-in on some document I see in the room here – I was a walk-up). That person gave me the name and e-mail address of the Customer Service Manager, whom I e-mailed, and who kindly got right back to me with an offer to waive the charge. That was (in my opinion) the right thing to do – and I respect the two desk personnel who actually did what they had to do – enforce policy (even if it was uncomfortable).

I will continue to leave the name of the hotel unmentioned and simply suggest that they forward this post up the chain of command so that an internal decision can be made about the wisdom of said policy.

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Hello Chicago: Free Brand Therapy!

Tomorrow (Wed April 27th) I unexpectedly have a free afternoon in Chicago. While I could thoroughly enjoy a lakeside walk and picture-taking safari, I’d actually rather get to know some of my contacts in Chicago better. So….

I’m offering three free Brand Therapy sessions (~60-90 minutes) for entrepreneurs/small business types who’d like to sit down, and not only get better acquainted, but also brainstorm your brand positioning. It’s something I love to do (read the comments in the linked post) and  if I can get to know some folks better and provide a little help – why not?

I’ll be in the vicinity of the Hotel 71 area.

Interested? E-mail me quickly and let me know (steve at connectionagent dot com).

Also, if anyone wants to get together for a quick dinner/tweetup meeting Wednesday evening – let’s pull it together!

- Steve

“I Went to SOBCon and All I Got Was…”

…a wonderful time with a lot of really fine people. Didn’t want nor need another t-shirt.

I’m going to depart from “Best Practices” and NOT follow the Official Post-Conference Re-Cap Blog Post Template ™. I’m a bit hypocritical that way. Instead, since my purpose for attending was primarily to deepen relationships, I’ll spend the bulk of this post talking about…people.

It’s my intent in 2010 to build deep, not wide; to get beyond 140 characters and really get to know fellow travelers on this network we’re building. SOBCon is a great venue for that – small (150 people), focused, and plenty of time for interaction. Having known Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker (the SOBCon king and queen) for quite some time, it was easy to conclude that the time would be well-spent at an event they were orchestrating.

So…the people.

Drew McLellan was one of the first bloggers I stumbled across years ago, when we both started blogging about the same time. Every interaction with him since has been high-quality and encouraging. There’s a relatively small handful of people I both like and deeply respect, and thoroughly trust as well. Drew is one of those.

It was through Drew that I first heard of Steve Farber, who spoke at SOBCon – first time I had the chance to meet him. And I cannot wait to spend more time with Steve. Not only is he a gifted speaker and author, he’s a nice guy. And funny. And transparent. You’ll want to consider buying his books on leadership – he talks about love and business in the same breath, and I deeply appreciate that perspective.

Lisa Petrilli. Only started interacting with her on-line a short time before the conference, and I’m profoundly thankful for the time we spent talking once we met in Chicago. Not only does she possess a tremendous business background, she has a very moving story to tell – this 100% Italian gal has a little imported Irish in her, due to a donated kidney. Lisa moved from relative stranger into my “inner circle” of confidants and collaborators in one weekend.

For a long time, I’ve interacted with Jon Swanson on-line, and simply could not wait to meet him. Turns out, not surprisingly, that he’s exactly what you see on-line. We have deep shared interest in how the spiritual intersects with real life, and what it means to communicate to a wide range of people. Jon may not suspect that he has been a “distant” mentor to me for many months, but he has. It was a joy to sit at the same table with him and exchange thoughts freely.

Speaking of the table, we managed to find ourselves at what became known as the “Trouble Table,” so dubbed mainly because of the presence of the delightful and free-spirited Becky McCray and Sheila Scarborough (with assists from Anthony Iannarino and Britt Raybould). We were – loud. Full of wisecracks. Loved every minute of it. Becky took this shot of Jon Swanson and me during a calmer moment…

Getting to Chicago the day before meant I could relax, take a walk, work out, and meet Joe Ruiz in the gym. We had a delightful 45-minute talk that could have gone on much longer. Looking forward to lots of future collaboration with that quality fellow from Richmond. Plus, he’s older than me. That feels good, being surrounded as we are by all these younger folks!

I fully expect to have a lot more interaction with Jonathan Fields, who led the panel I was on. Very smart guy. Ground-breaker and entrepreneur. And it was good to once again hang out the always-delightful Shannon Paul, whose 100-watt smile brightens any room, even a darkened speak-easy (that social event was very well-done, by the way).

There were several ladies that I hoped to finally meet face-to-face during the event (after a long on-line history of exchanging messages), and it was a true delight to have time with Jeannie Walters, Julie Roads, Lucretia Pruitt, and Wendy Piersall (aka eMom). All high-quality, real, thoughtful people – each of them creative and driven in their own ways.

The SOBCon event was preceded the evening beforehand by a Social Media Club Chicago tweetup, where, immediately upon walking in, I was introduced to the 300-volt Carol Roth. She had me in stitches every time we talked. Speaking of high-energy, finally meeting Phil Gerbyshak was enough to jolt anyone into full wakefulness. Ambulance companies ought to hire him to reverse cardiac arrest in patients! Fun guy.

The lovely Alli Worthington demonstrated that you can have 5 boys, and, like my wife, look absolutely fabulous in the process.

Time was WAY too short with Bill Rice, David Armano, Amber Naslund, Chris Garrett, Chris Brogan, Geoff Livingston, Scott Stratten, Shashi Bellamkonda, Shelly Kramer, and others – would have liked to spend a couple hours each with these folks and many others, but there simply weren’t enough hours in the day.

Memorable moments: A riotous meal spent scheming a self-esteem-building GPS device; daily photo-taking Riverwalks to the shore of Lake Michigan; ad-hoc branding brainstorming for  Justin McCullough with Drew M, Steve F, and Phil G; unexpectedly seeing Eileen and Frieda from Siren Interactive at the SMC event (and, expectedly and finally, Sonny Gill!); and hanging out late one rainy evening at Hotel 71 “lounge” with a whole gang of lively attendees.

Chicago is a lovely city for a springtime event. Even if you cannot find a cup of coffee at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, you can wander along the beautiful Riverwalk and people-watch, take pictures, gawk at tall buildings, and watch the wind whip up Lake Michigan. I need moments of peace interspersed with “people-time”, and this venue was perfect – everything close by, including the ability to escape and think. I’ll be back…

P.S. I mentioned in the panel discussion my recovery from a nearly life-long struggle with depression. Here’s the backstory, written a few years back: Clearing Clouds.

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