The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

You can have boundless energy, a really hot product, great pricing, solid staff, and a top-of-the-line Lexus in the CEO parking space, and still go down in flames.

If you want to succeed (long-term) as a leader, as a business, as a consultant – really, as a person – then there’s one thing you absolutely need to have. One huge advantage. And it’s something that we can ALL acquire. Clear vision.

It can be a process getting to 20/20 clarity – sometimes, a lot of “doing” is what gets you to better “seeing” – but when you know who you are, what you want, what your core competencies are, what your differentiator(s) are, and how to express all that – you’re way ahead of the game.

I have pathetic uncorrected vision – my glasses have always been pretty thick (yes, I still have Lasik envy – maybe someday…). Without clear sight I won’t recognize obstacles, or see opportunities; I’ll just bump into stuff. Have you seen a lot of businesses that behave like that? I have. They’re not on a well-defined course because the destination isn’t clear, nor is the pathway to get there.

Success starts with clear vision at the top – leaders who know what rabbit trails to avoid because they can see the destination, and they have a reasonably clear roadmap.

For quite some time, Kodak had a well-defined place in the market, and a successful business model. But when digital began to upend the need for film, it soon became evident that this company did not have a clear vision of how to re-make itself, how to navigate in a rapidly-evolving world that was doing a complete market makeover. Or, as discussed in last week’s chat, there’s Yahoo. What’s their vision? Does anyone know?

On the other end of the size scale, I see someone newly-laid-off from a client company who has hung out his/her shingle as a consultant, without a single differentiating anything in the company message. “We just do the usual stuff, so hire us” might as well be the company motto.

Will Work For Food may get you a little cash flow for a while. But a far clearer understanding of what you will work for – and why – is the ultimate competitive advantage.

Join us tonight (May 22nd) at 8 pm ET as we discuss Clarity in Leadership during #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Be sure you give a good read to the prep post written by my talented co-host, Lisa Petrilli, Every Leader’s Achilles Heel (great image on the blog post, btw!). We look forward to an enlightening conversation during The Fastest Hour on the Internet.

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Seeing 20/20 in 3-D

>> LeadershipChat: Transitions (yes, we are winding down LeadershipChat after this month!)

LeadershipChat: Transitions

Markets change. Companies change. Circumstances change. And leaders transition in and out of their roles.

How is this handled? What are the upsides, the downsides, and the pitfalls of leadership transitions? That will be our topic of discussion for LeadershipChat this week.

In and of themselves, transitions are neither inherently good nor evil. They’re simply a fact of life. The reasons for them, and the way they are handled, make the difference between a positive and negative experience. Sudden transitions due to scandal or sub-par performance can rock the boat temporarily, but may lead to a better future in time. A well-planned and orchestrated succession of power is always the ideal, but even that doesn’t guarantee success. Let’s talk about the successes and failures we’ve seen, and the lessons learned.

—————

This topic of Transitions is timely for another reason. Lisa Petrilli and I launched LeadershipChat in October 2010, as a collaborative venture to build community, create discussion around leadership issues, and see how we could use the (then emerging) Twitter chat format to expand our networks. It has been a labor of love, and, by all accounts, a great success; the relationships spawned between members of the LeadershipChat community have been a source of wonder and joy.

However, in recent months, it has become clear to both of us that our professional lives are evolving in ways that make it impossible to continue hosting a weekly chat. Therefore, at the end of this month (May 2012), we’re going to wind down LeadershipChat. Lisa and I both began to wonder this year if LC had served its purpose. Over dinner in Chicago recently, we talked about how our decision to start up LC was conscious and purpose-full, and that at some point between, say, the next 8 minutes and 80 years, we were going to need to make a conscious decision about its continuance. Within 8 minutes of further discussion, we smiled knowingly at each other. It was time to retire LeadershipChat and move on to other endeavors.

So, after this week, there will be 2 more Tuesday night editions of LeadershipChat. The finale, on May 29th, we’ll call Graduation Day. We’ve chatted a lot, but as we all know, there’s a lot of “doing” ahead of us! We are grateful for the many who have supported this endeavor and participated so enthusiastically in LeadershipChat over the months. And I, in particular, am grateful for Lisa Petrilli, and the strong friendship we’ve established through this joint venture. A large amount of work behind the scenes has gone into orchestrating LeadershipChat, and I can’t imagine a more wonderful partner than Lisa (even though we’ve only seen each other IRL a total of 3 times!)

See you Tuesday night, May 15th at 8 pm ET, for The Fastest Hour on the Internet – LeadershipChat!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Chicago-style Leadership

>> I Went to SOBCon 2012 And All I Got Was…

Competition in Leadership

This morning, I was reading a thought-provoking article in Forbes, titled: Why Women are the Worst Kind of Bullies.

Sample paragraph:

Workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment and racial discrimination, found the same study. Girls are taught to be critical about each other from adolescence, and it’s particularly vicious among working women; from playing favourites to badmouthing colleagues.

Now I really can’t say one way or another whether gender is truly a measure of bullying intensity – I think anyone, male or female, who feels that a position of leadership is turf to be defended can develop pretty good skills at tearing others down.

Who among us has not been bullied at one point or another – or, worse, ripped someone else down who was perceived to be a threat? But also – who among us hasn’t competed for a position of influence and power?

Let’s face it – a big part of leadership is competitiveness, and we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. People compete. Leaders compete harder. Business is, in many respects, a competitive race.

So competition in leadership is here to stay. But where are the lines between personal striving to win, head-to-head competing, bullying, and harassment? That’s what we’ll discuss tonight during LeadershipChat (8 pm ET on Twitter – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat). And be sure to read my co-moderator’s post on the subject, The Only Way You Can Really Hurt Me (if you’re not yet acquainted with Lisa Petrilli, you really need to be!)

See you tonight, May 1st at 8 pm ET, for The Fastest Hour on the Internet – LeadershipChat!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Leaders and their Flagrant Fouls

>> (alt) Leadership

(alt) Leadership

For years, I’ve promoted the notion that there have to be better business structures than the status quo of traditional corporation. I don’t have a problem with capitalism or corporations per se – there has historically been a lot of value in those approaches and structures.

But note the key word there: historically.

Everything we see around us – every product, system, and approach – was designed for a past need. Does this mean we need to embrace all of these things for our present and our future? No. I don’t accept that.

I believe in high-quality, focused collaborative human networks as a superior way to unleash individual talent, find needed resources, refer targeted business, and grow professionals without the unnecessary superstructure of a hierarchical corporation (I call this approach the “co-operation”). I don’t just believe in it; in my business, I practice it.

Others are creating new alternatives, including this extremely interesting employee-ownership approach by John Lewis Partnership in the UK.

So, instead of a single-source view of leadership that involves scarcity, competition, and climbing a hierarchical ladder, we need to consider new approaches to business that will involve new (alt) leadership styles. What will they be?

That will be the subject of our discussion this coming Tuesday (April 24) during #LeadershipChat, 8 pm ET on Twitter. It is important that we not only question legacy approaches to leadership, but as Lisa Petrilli does here in her post, begin to prime the next generation with the tools to move forward based on new assumptions. See you on Tuesday night for The Fastest Hour on the Internet!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Leaders and their Flagrant Fouls

>> How to Gain Influence – the hard way

Leaders and Their Flagrant Fouls

It seems that hardly a week goes by, without another person in a leadership position being flagged for dishonorable behavior, and in many cases, tossed out of the game.

In recent days, it was Bobby Petrino, head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, who was dismissed in disgrace for…well, read about it here. He joins Brian Dunn, just-departed CEO of Best Buy who also allegedly engaged in dishonorable behavior, and a whole host of other former leaders, from business people to clergymen, from politicians to sports stars, who held positions of honor and influence – then imploded.

Like it or not, we expect our leaders to be examples of responsibility, morality, and self-control. Fraud, deceit, self-dealing, and disloyalty are not on the list of desirable attributes when we describe an effective leader. It’s no wonder so many people root for a guy like Tim Tebow. Leadership with morality and sincerity, at a professional level in sports? Who knew? And it’s a sad commentary that we become so jaded by the dishonorable figures we’ve seen paraded before us, that many are just waiting to pounce, certain that anyone who actually might be the real deal MUST be hiding dirt somewhere.

But Tim Tebow is not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Every player gets flagged for a hold here, an intentional grounding there, maybe a bit of pass interference from time to time. It’s human to make mistakes. But the flagrant stuff, such as actually targeting people for injury – that’s not a mere stumble. That’s a cause of shame and dishonor. Misusing funds, lying to superiors, committing perjury, patronizing prostitutes – these feel a lot more like a gross violation of trust and responsibility.

So, where do we draw the lines in business? What should be chalked up to human imperfection, as opposed to dishonorable behavior leading to “dismissal for cause”? Can trust in a leader be re-built? Join us in a discussion of this topic – Leadership Honor and Dishonor – on Tuesday night, April 17th (8 pm ET) on Twitter during #LeadershipChat. And be sure to read my co-host Lisa Petrilli’s prep blog post, The Power of Leading with Honor and Self-Empowerment. See you on Tuesday night for The Fastest Hour on the Internet!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> How to Gain Influence – the hard way

Becoming a Small-Business Engineer

Pop the hood of any company and you’re looking at an engine – a power source that drives the business forward. When it comes to leading businesses in a networked world, perhaps it’s time to re-think what constitutes the most efficient and powerful engine.

That’s what we’ll be talking about Tuesday, April 10th as we welcome small-business expert and entrepreneur John Jantsch as our guest host for LeadershipChat (8 pm ET every Tuesday night on Twitter). John is the author of the well-respected Duct Tape Marketing blog, a top on-line resource for small businesses.

So, how should we view the engine of business in a digitally networked world? And how do we become better “engineers”?

One aspect that takes on heightened importance is referrals. John’s most recent book, The Referral Engine, is devoted to this topic. An enlightened leader will be sure to structure his/her company to maximize the power of networks in order to generate referrals (note: this subject is near and dear to my heart, as my primary business is a trusted-referral network). But what does it mean to be “refer-able”? John will share some insights during the chat, and we hope that you will share yours as well!

We’ll also talk about priority management – be sure to read the prep blog post on this topic (Why Leading on Purpose Must be Your Priority) by my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli.

Creating an opportunity network –  a business-expanding human web which will open new doors – is a vital way that an entrepreneur or small business leader can more rapidly create sustained growth. This requires a different kind of mentality in the leader, a different view of how to build a business. Join us as we explore this timely topic, at 8 pm ET (use the hashtag #LeadershipChat – you can use a Twitter client like TweetDeck or HootSuite, or just log into Tweetchat). By hanging out with the brilliant folks in the LeadershipChat community, you’ll be sure to expand your network as well!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> Four Questions for your Future

Does Your Business Need a Lieutenant Commander?

Having just finished the biography of Steve Jobs (by Walter Isaacson – HIGHLY recommended, by the way), I am struck with the amazing combination of vision, strategic thinking, and operational excellence that percolated inside that brilliant soul.

Alas, his people skills were famously lacking, which the book discusses quite honestly. But Jobs was not content with painting pretty pictures of the future. He was obsessed with execution – with making things happen, and happen with envelope-pushing excellence.

There aren’t many like Jobs, are there? And that’s why we’ll be discussing the problem of visionary leaders who have trouble executing during LeadershipChat tonight (8 pm ET on Twitter – use hashtag #LeadershipChat).

The man who currently runs Apple, Tim Cook, was hand-picked by Steve Jobs to be his successor. This was not some random choice out of the air – Cook had proven himself time and again as a great operations guy, including during the medical leaves of absence that Jobs was forced to take as he battled with cancer. It was crucial to the future of Apple that there be a lieutenant that could step in. Tim Cook was that guy.

So what about the leader who has vision, and perhaps solid strategic thinking, but lacks the ability to execute? Do you try to transform that person into someone they are not? I consider that a waste of time. If it’s not already in the DNA (as it was with Jobs), then the best bet is for that leader to have one or more lieutenants who will help operationalize the vision and execute the strategies.

If you’re Steve Jobs, you can afford the luxury of some hubris (even though you will step on plenty of toes with that attitude, as he certainly did!). But for the vast majority of us who lead in one capacity or another, what we really need more of is humility – the recognition that we’re good at X and maybe Y, but not so good at Z. Bring on someone for Z.

Some leaders feel that they must live up to a god complex, and do it all. That’s a sure path to a nervous breakdown (and eventual business trouble). Hire or develop a lieutenant(s). Let the reasons be transparent to all. It’s a lesson from the top that will have many beneficial ripple effects all throughout the organization.

Join us at 8 pm ET March 20 to discuss this topic – bring your ideas and your questions (and be sure to read the prep post, 5 Reasons Visionary Leaders may Fail to Execute, by my brilliant LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli). We look forward to welcoming you to the lively and diverse LeadershipChat community!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> How the Exit Door Can Improve Results

>> Cattle Disguised as People

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers