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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> How the Exit Door Can Improve Results

>> Cattle Disguised as People

You or Me – Who’s on First?

Our LeadershipChat topic this week opens up a very interesting, even somewhat deep question – can we truly put others first?

We talk a lot about being customer-centric and focused on others – our conversations about business and networking often bring out these idealistic themes. But are they realistic? Or are we only talking about yet another form of hypocritical manipulation?

(admit it: you’ve wondered this with all the high-falutin’ talk about putting others first – right?)

Well, let’s talk about it, plainly and practically. Because this touches on business strategy, sociology, philosophy – and stark realism.

First, I will pull all my cards out on the table for everyone to see – I believe that every person is driven, primarily, by self-interest. Even our noblest, most other-reaching actions have, woven around them, tendrils of our hard-wired self-love. And, I’m perfectly OK with that. Because it’s reality. *

If you adopt a philosophy and approach of being customer-centric and/or placing the spotlight on others, you are doing so with the idea that in some way, and at some point, it will benefit you. That is actually the foundation stone of a free and capitalistic society. When pursuing our self-interest is made most fruitful by providing value to others, we have the basis of a healthy and productive community.

A lot – maybe all? – of what you do right now in the business realm would vanish if you were assured that you would not get paid for it. Your self-interest (which includes providing for your dependents) dictates that you plant, and sow, in order to reap a harvest. No need to argue it – you may as well argue with the necessity of breathing.

And there is nothing wrong with this self-interest! Really – it’s OK.

Here’s the point – we’ll take one of two approaches, mindsets which determine how our self-interest manifests itself:

  1. Short-term/Grasping/Scarcity
  2. Long-term/Cultivating/Abundance

Both, ultimately, are driven by self-interest. But the first appears very much to be selfish. And we recoil from it.

Enlightened leaders don’t have some magical capacity to become lily-white, angel-hearted, selfless dispensers of pure, unconditional, 100-proof sacrificial love. We must leave that for the divine. To be “Go-Givers” (as this week’s #LeadershipChat guest host Bob Burg puts it), we must suspend (so to speak) our instantaneous self-gratification in order to support the development and success of others. This, in turn, will lead to our success (and the success of others). Pursuing abundance, and the good of others, brings the most good – including to ourselves.

(please read the prep post of my co-host, Lisa Petrilli, who gives a nice outline of Bob Burg’s “Go-Giver” thinking).

Feel free to join us for this lively discussion on Tuesday, March 13th at 8 pm ET. This weekly Twitter gathering is for any and all aspiring leaders, globally – and, in your self-interest, you are bound to meet some very interesting and thoughtful people with whom you can build your network! (oh, and if you haven’t ever seen the classic Abbott and Costello skit about Who’s on First? – click the picture above!)

* some will dispute this rather stark description. I simply suggest that you meditate deeply on an almost universally-accepted maxim: Love your neighbor as yourself!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> How the Exit Door Can Improve Results

>> Cattle Disguised as People

Leading Through a Stall

This week on LeadershipChat, we welcome guest author Steve McKee, who is going to lead us in a discussion about something most companies eventually go through – stalled growth.

Steve has recently written a book on that very subject (click cover to see on Amazon __>). Starting a fast-growing marketing agency from the ground up, then seeing it stall out after a few heady years, Steve experienced the phenomenon first-hand. And then his agency did some market research and found that non-linear growth patterns weren’t uncommon at all.

Uncomfortable, yes – but not uncommon!

Steve identifies 7 factors – three external, and four internal – that can lead to stalled growth (my co-host, Lisa Petrilli, lists them out in her blog post, titled How to Lead when Company Growth has Stalled). We’ll be talking about those during the Twitter chat tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 21, 8 pm ET – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat).

Encouragingly, Steve does not believe that stalled growth is the kiss of death. Here’s a money quote from the first chapter:

Hope to see at LeadershipChat tonight!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Role Your Own

>> Networking on Purpose

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Are You Having A Nice Conflict?

For a long while, I held off buying a much-desired iPad2 – I finally gave in over the Christmas holidays and bought one. I also held off on becoming an e-reader until that time – and now, I’m glad to say, I have finally read my first book cover-to-cover on a tablet! What can I say – sometimes I break with the past slowwwwly…

The book: Have A Nice Conflict, put out by Jossey-Bass. Disclosure: this group has also stepped up to be a sponsor for LeadershipChat last week, in our chat with Angela Maiers, and also this coming Tuesday, when the smart team of HANC thinkers will be our guest hosts.

The book is a relatively quick read. It is of the business parable genre, where a story unfolds with various fictional characters to explain and illustrate the themes. Now, business parables are not my favorite writing mode, but this one is reasonably well-written. It’s just a wee bit slow out of the blocks, but once you arrive on the stage with Mac and the Red, Green, and Blue lights – well, things start to really fall into place. I won’t say that the lights come on, because that would be a bad pun. So I won’t say it. But they do.

One big plus – toward the back of the book, once the parable is over, you get a nice overview of the academic foundations of the theory.

The thesis of Have A Nice Conflict – and a component of the SDI (Strength Deployment Inventory), which is a related assessment – is that we have different motivational “styles”, if you will, that come into play when we approach (or experience) conflict. After taking the SDI and reading the book, I can definitely affirm that there’s some solid stuff here (I’m a “Hub,” by the way, if you’re interested).

Conflict is a huge, somewhat hidden cost to businesses everywhere, and a major challenge for leaders. So we’re going to discuss it this coming Tuesday night (February 14th) on #LeadershipChat. Valentine’s Day is a great time to learn to avoid or manage conflict, right? :>}

Join me, my co-host Lisa Petrilli, the HANC team, and a bunch of other smarties worldwide at 8 pm ET for an enlightening Twitter chat. Just use the hashtag #LeadershipChat (you’ll also see the hashtag #NiceConflict because our guests are also our sponsors this coming week).

Also, be sure to follow LeadershipChat on Facebook!

Additional disclosure: Personal Strengths is a recommendation partner of mine. If you use their assessment/consulting services as a direct result of my personal business matchmaking recommendation, they gladly pay me a referral fee. I receive no affiliate payments for book sales.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Passion Matters

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Be Your Own Boss, Barefoot-style!

For quite some time, I’ve interacted with Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) on-line, and it’s our privilege to welcome Carrie this week as a guest host on LeadershipChat (did you know that LeadershipChat is now on Facebook? <—Join us there to extend the conversation!).

Carrie has recently released a book called, not surprisingly, The Barefoot Executive (Amazon link), and it’s a winner. Of course, part of the reason I loved this book so much is that we’re both on the same wavelength, desiring to see more people find professional fulfillment by starting a business and becoming their own boss.

Another thing that I appreciate about this book is its straightforward simplicity. The chapters are brief, to the point, and include practical examples (plus transcripts of video lessons that are also available on-line). Carrie has a cheerleader personality, and her encouragement shines through in the book, but there is also a very realistic, step-by-step approach being advocated. Nice combination.

My video review of The Barefoot Executive is below:

Carrie has plenty to share with us on Tuesday night, January 10 (8 pm ET) – just hop onto Twitter and follow the #LeadershipChat hashtag (hint: it’s easier when you use a chat client like Tweetchat.com). Join me,  my lovely and talented co-host Lisa Petrilli, and a whole host of smart and engaging people as we discuss the topic of Being Your Own Boss. Look forward to seeing you then!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Not All Business is Good Business

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

My Business Vision

My LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, has written a stirring and helpful blog post about gaining a vision for our personal and business lives (Three Steps to Create a Vision for 2012). And, this is our theme for the final #LeadershipChat of 2011 – Vision. Not goals, not resolution – but the inspiring picture of “what could be” that fuels purpose and feeds action.

I liked what Lisa wrote so much about the three steps that I decided, for my pre-chat blog post, to simply apply her principles and see if I could articulate my vision. Here goes:

I strive toward a future where talent and creativity are unleashed to produce remarkable lives and results. I see a workforce driven, not by time clocks and paychecks, but by the internal fires of desire and unique ability channeled into creating value for others.

I see a day dawning where trust networks of real people outstrip the legacy efficiencies of hierarchical corporations; where handshakes and proven character hold more sway than lawyers and regulations.

I long for the day when people choose their career direction because of inherent fit, and where the pathway to success is paved with character, responsibility, diligence, and readiness to provide value.

I look for a time when long-term commitment triumphs over the compromises of short-term thinking.

I am committed to kindling these fires by building networks and business models that are disruptive to the status quo of short-sighted inefficiency, liberating people of talent and ethical character to do their best work and live remarkable lives.

There’s the vision. It has taken shape over decades and is pretty well set in my mind and heart. When you’re in touch with your core beliefs and values (see this excellent post by John Jantsch), your vision begins to take shape.

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How does that look when you step forward to a mission statement? Something like this, I guess:

My mission is to be a Connection Agent.

I am connecting people and businesses with their true identity and message; with creative opportunities to grow and succeed; and with other people and resources to bring about increasing success.

I want to leave behind a network of people who are richer because of these connections, and who will follow that example by enriching others.

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And how does all that flow out into activity?

The manifestation, so far, is the creation of business referral networks; a self/brand awareness consulting practice (Clarity Therapy); and ongoing tribe-building (LeadershipChat is, in a very important respect, tribe-building). The first two are current sources of revenue; the latter is my long-term commitment to bring together people who want to revolutionize business and life through purposeful use of social networks.

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OK, so how about you? Can you take some time this week to go through a similar exercise? Perhaps invest an hour tonight (8 pm ET) on Twitter for #LeadershipChat in order to discuss Vision with some smart, like-minded folks as you look to a new year? Hope to see you there, and to see your vision spelled out in the coming days!

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Hire Steve Woodruff if your identity and message need clarity (Clarity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Social Business is Not Enough

>> Go With What You’ve Got

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Go With What You’ve Got (A 2011 Reflection)

I freely admit that, in some areas, I am denser than an iceberg made of iron. In a few key respects, my mind runs with Olympic sprinter speed and dexterity – but in other ways, I learn at a glacial pace, only after so many crashes against the wall that I look like Rocky’s sparring partner on a very bad day.

But this year, I may have finally begun to turn the corner on one thing that I’ve believed (in my head) for many years, but failed to fully embrace (in heart and practice). When building business, Go With What You’ve Got.

You see, I often tell others that you really want build a small, high-quality, close-knit network – a tribe  in Godin-speak – instead of expending all your energy in amassing numbers. I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve written along these lines, and in many respects, I’ve practiced it – but, when it came to my primary revenue-generating pharma network (Impactiviti), I harbored a secret addiction to going wide instead of deep. There’s nothing inherently wrong with widespread recognition and messaging – but then I kept looking at where the revenue was truly coming from. And lo and behold (no surprise to any of you quicker learners out there), revenue was coming from a handful of long-standing customers/advocates. All the mass reach in the world, while good for the long-term, wasn’t really the driver. It was taking care of the people who already believed in me, and who talked me up to others. I finally started pro-actively investing much more time digging deeper than going wider.

Duh.

This simple insight, finally burrowing its way from mind to heart, re-shaped some of my social networking practice as well in 2011. I’ve always invested in the idea of cultivating a close “inner circle” of quality people, but it was difficult to set aside the broad reach model in practice. Somehow, the only thing that gets the applause lines is big numbers. Yet, I already had a wonderful circle of friends with whom I could cultivate deeper bonds. Did I really need to pour a bunch of energy into Google+, or worry about an influencer score, or be concerned about blog readership statistics? Not that any of those things are bad in themselves (well, maybe Klout…right, Sam Fiorella?), but I don’t really “need” mass numbers. I can barely cultivate deepening relationships with the wonderful people I already know.

Huh.

Finally, this “go with what you’ve got” lesson came home to me in a very unexpected new business direction. As many of you know, I have been building, behind the scenes, toward a grand vision I’ve had for years of a trusted referral network for building new business (Connection Agency). Yet, the very week I made this initiative public, an entirely different avenue of new business potential dropped into my lap – something that I already had been doing but didn’t really understand could be a business in itself. Doing Brand Therapy with individuals and companies has turned out to be the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done – yet it came to the fore only because I had some unanticipated extra time in Chicago pre-SOBCon and decided to do some free “therapy” sessions with people. Now, this practice has become a growing revenue stream in its own right, while Connection Agency has been on the slower development track.

Turns out the keys to success in 2011 were under my nose the whole time. As Thomas Carlyle put it so many years ago, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Great advice for both business and leadership as we look ahead to 2012. What are the opportunities already at hand? What are you already bringing to the table? Who are the customers that make your business fly?

In fact, on Tuesday (Dec. 19th) at 8 pm ET on Twitter during LeadershipChat, we’ll be discussing our most important Leadership Lessons from 2011. Here’s one from my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli (My Most Life Opening Leadership Lesson of 2011). What’s yours? Feel free to write a blog post about it before, or after, the chat, and share your wisdom with other members of the community!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Business As Usual. The End?

Tonight, on LeadershipChat, we welcome Brian Solis, author of multiple books (including his latest, The End of Business as Usual). We’ll be covering some themes from that book, including the idea of an adaptive organization.

While you’re gearing your mind up for the chat, be sure to read my talented and lovely co-host Lisa Petrilli‘s blog post (The End of Business Leadership as Usual).

Brian is clearly a smart guy, and a very effective presence in social networks. And if you want to gain a clear statement of how businesses must go beyond business as usual, here’s a juicy passage (p. 13):

In other words – connected consumers are now driving the revolution. Adapt or die.

But Mr. Solis also tends to make my head swirl, as I’ve read his writings over the years. Why? Well, I’m kind of a practical, plain-spoken guy. Brian’s thought process tends to be at another plane – shall we call it the Solisphere? – and his loquacious use of industry jargon is unparalleled. What do I mean? Well, here’s an extract from the book (p. 34):

Whew! With language like that, my guess is that this book will likely find its biggest appeal among the digerati – although the concepts are important for everyone in business.

As a fun experiment, I decided I would go through each chapter, and seek to extract one (or two) pinnacle statements that summarize the thought of that section – then string them together into a brief narrative and see if it presents an accurate overview of the main themes of the book (in Brian’s own words). Here goes:

- This book will introduce you to the connected consumer, and how they search for, discover, and share information, and ultimately, make decisions. In many significant ways, they’re not at all the consumer you know (Introduction)

- How people are connecting is setting the foundation for a powerful distribution network that rivals the greatest of news and broadcast networks (chapter 1)

- The democratization of information is connecting everyone, not just Millennials, distributing influence and making the role of the consumer and its impact on business more important than ever before (chapter 2)

- The medium is no longer just the message. Now, the medium is the platform and people now represent both the medium and the message (chapter 3)

- Researchers believe that the lure of social networks and the gadgets that link us to one another are rewiring our brains to constantly switch tasks. In the process, we lose our ability to preserve attention and focus (chapter 4)

- Businesses and media networks looking to attract connected consumers must earn every click by providing contextually relevant information and deliberate value. This changes the game for content production and engagement strategies (chapter 5)

- Many early adopters are betting on the importance of the connected consumer, investing in the cultivation of communities in areas where they don’t necessarily control, but as participants earn the privilege to steer experiences and interaction (chapter 6)

- At the center of the transformation of the audience is the ability for individuals to capture a moment through text, video, audio, or still images and share them in real time to the hundreds or thousands of individuals in their social and interest graphs…this is the dawn of an audience with an audience with audiences (my favorite expression in the book – SW)  (chapter 7)

- On the train to enlightenment, an important stop is at the convergence of media and human networks…TV is a shared experience and the Web is often a personal activity that connects people through shared experiences (chapter 8 )

- By understanding the dynamics of social capital and its relationship to influence, organizations learn how to identify connected individuals who reach ideal communities and offer the ability to amplify reach, build relationships, and drive beneficial outcomes (chapter 9)

- Reviews and experiences from trusted peers, experts, and influencers form the foundation of the network. The information that flows into the stream from multiple networks sparks conversation and triggers clicks, while shaping perception and steering decisions in the process. Social customers are highly connected and trust networks are affecting outcomes with or without the businesses the affect (chapter 10)

- Connected consumers purchase in public, and as such, they influence the decisions of others through the public stream (chapter 11)

- Retailers are bringing experiences to the connected consumer from virtual dressing rooms to cash registers, letting them shop, share, and pay on their own terms (chapter 12)

- In these interactive online colonies, brands are not only created, brand stature and strength are co-created. The new social landscape is rich with emotion (chapter 13)

- The decision-making cycle is evolving away from a linear process to an elliptical cycle that publicizes touchpoints for brand connection  (chapter 14)

- Connected customers are not cogs in the business machine, but they play an instrumental role in the progress of progress, the adaptation of business, and as such, become part of a new era of customer-centric business mechanics…the roles of the social consumer require different aspects of recognition and engagement and will eventually demand the complete socialization of your business (chapter 15)

- The adaptive business will weave customers into its culture, development, process, and story…businesses must design products and services that create meaningful and shareable experiences (chapter 16)

- Customer-centricity begins with a culture of change…introducing purpose into the business model and operating under a veil of transparency, customers and businesses collaborate in something bigger than they are  (chapter 17)

- Control was never there, however – at best, businesses possessed the semblance of control. In a connected global society, customers are in control of the brand experience and it didn’t take new media to bestow this power on them. That’s the gift of free thought. Opinions are universal, and now the ability to share them with the masses and affect the impressions and decisions of others is equally democratic (chapter 18)

- The future of business starts with change and ends with change management. Customers represent only one side of the equation, however, and for the adaptive business, engaged and empowered employees represent the balance (chapter 19)

- Becoming an adaptive business is not the final stage of evolution…the next level for companies is to become a predictive business. The essence of evolution and the ability to outpace digital Darwinism lie in the ability to embrace change and illustrate the attributes of those models that improve opportunities for relevance and leadership (chapter 20)

So – there’s a very condensed taste of how Brian sees the future.  Every book tells a story. This is the story of how digital connections are changing business as usual. And what it may take to lead business in the midst of a revolution.

How do you see it? Is this just so much social network Kool-Aid, or a glimpse into a future moving inexorably upon and within us? Join us for a lively discussion on Twitter during #LeadershipChat tonight, December 13, at 8 pm ET.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

Probably my LEAST favorite social setting is a crowded, noisy, unstructured gathering. Such as a big cocktail party.

Speak before 1,000 people? No problem. Mill around in a crowd, flitting from person to person? I’ll do it if I must – like going to the dentist. My fondest hope in large gatherings is to find one or two like-minded souls, and a quiet corner in which to REALLY talk. The small-talk socializing to get to that point is pretty much a means to an end.

And that’s how I view Twitter chats, the on-line equivalent to cocktail parties.

In her recent e-book (The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership), my LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, describes how our friendship was deepened in just such a social setting. In fact, it was the meeting that week of two like-minded introverts that eventually led to the launch of LeadershipChat.

In the 14 months of co-leading LeadershipChats, I have come to realize that we, as participants, need to have a pretty modest expectation of the one-hour event itself. We’re dealing with the exchange of ideas in 140 characters (a real difficulty for semantics, qualifications, and complex ideas)! And, as in any cocktail party, there’s a lot of superficial chatter happening – even attempts to draw attention to oneself for the purpose of generating retweets. How human…

As for Lisa and me, our goals go way beyond the Tuesday 8-9 pm (ET) time slot. We want to create an environment where new connections are made, business (and personal) relationships are established, and ways of thinking (both old and new) are challenged and hashed out. A lot of that isn’t really going to happen, in-depth, during the hour. That’s where we’re mingling, kicking off dialogue, engaging in sidebars. The real valued outcome is the building of a community that rolls up its sleeves and collaborates during the other 167 hours of the week.

Or, as Kneale Mann often puts it toward the end of a chat, “now book a call with one or two people you’ve met here.” Right on.

Yes, I know that the sheer volume, and at times superficiality (@ZombieChatter BRILLIANT!! RT BillyBromide To lead, first you must live…) , of the tweetstream during a chat can be bothersome – just like it is in a cocktail party. But let’s keep our eye on the ball, and seek to encourage the development of a community of thinkers and doers.

To that end, I have one suggestion for LeadershipChat participants, that may further the dialogue and the learning. Just as Lisa and I write pre-chat posts giving our perspectives in the days before each chat, so I’d encourage any of you to write post-Tuesday-night posts on your blogs (or Facebook, or Google+…) that will expand on a point that is meaningful to you, or attack a deeper question, or express a disagreement with a guest host. Let’s move the dialogue to your sites, where there is more time to move into a quiet corner and really talk. Lisa and I love to comment on, and share, such LC-inspired posts.

Yes, I’m outside of my comfort zone every Tuesday from 8-9 pm. Even if it’s virtual, it’s a cocktail party. But when I consider the wonderful people I’ve had a chance to meet IRL this past year due to LeadershipChat, it’s worth the effort. Now, let’s all help the community reach its highest potential by going beyond the hour of chatter. Lead, by taking the discussion deeper!

P.S. please read Sam Fiorella’s comment below, and read the post he wrote on a very similar theme!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Life and Leadership as an Introvert

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

The Past and Future of Leadership

This week on Leadership Chat (Tuesday, December 6, 8 pm ET, hashtag #LeadershipChat on Twitter), we’ll be talking about The Future of Leadership. Co-moderator Lisa Petrilli and I are honored to welcome Ted Coine and Shawn Murphy as guests to help lead this on-the-threshold-of-a-new-year topic! (see Lisa’s prep post, What Leadership of the Future will Look Like)

When I think about this topic, I find two voices inside me, vying for expression – the Cynic, and the Idealist. I cannot suppress either one – so I’ll give voice to both of them!

When we are young, embarking out into the real/business world, we often breathe in the heady vapors of everything’s possible!!! Then, after some decades of being pinballed around through life, you realize that, in fact, lots of things don’t change – especially people. It’s a painful realization.

The battle-scarred, experienced traveler gains realism, wisdom, and – generally – more than a touch of cynicism.

So what will the future of leadership look like? Probably, a lot like the past. Because, people, we’re dealing with people – and from time immemorial, people have been driven by greed, ego, selfishness, short-term gain, cruelty, and a host of other unsavory motives. If you have read any history, and if you read any newspapers, you see that nothing much has changed in thousands of years. Sigh.

Or, maybe not. Let’s give rein to some optimism. While human nature remains fundamentally the same, our world of digital networked communications does tip the balance toward a new model of leadership, in some very important ways:

  • The network model of work is slowly displacing the pyramidal command-and-control model. It’s no longer necessary to climb the ladder and lose your soul along the way.
  • The wide-open digital disclosure of information exposes bad leadership practices to a global audience – it’s a lot harder to hide nowadays!
  • Causes and meaningful work are slowly emerging as an alternate model to fitting into someone else’s corporate machine to earn a paycheck.

In fact, new leaders are emerging – and we’re not limited to trying to turn some pre-existing corporate battleship. Opportunities abound in the digital economy for creating new work models, leading like-minded teams (irrespective of geography), and generating outsized influence. So, maybe the future of leadership will look different. Because…well, we’re in charge now. And we don’t have to cash in our ideals.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Life and Leadership as an Introvert

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Life and Leadership as an Introvert

I am an introvert. I’m not ashamed of that fact, nor do I feel somehow inferior to those who are more naturally outgoing. We introverts in the business world often do feel that way, don’t we? Well, that’s bunk!

As an introvert, I have some particular strengths that make me effective (and some weaknesses that need to be compensated for). Just like, you know, everyone else!

That’s why I welcomed Lisa Petrilli‘s venture to write about how introverts can succeed in business. Her just-published eBook, with the title The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership, is a real winner.

Early blog reviews and Amazon comments have been most positive. Many people realize that this is an under-discussed issue in our people development efforts, and Lisa provides an excellent format for dialogue around leadership development that accounts for our varying personality types (which equals diverse and valuable strengths).

Personally, I struggled for many years in my professional development, trying to force myself to fill roles that were a mismatch for my makeup. It took a long time and lots of experience to realize that my greatest value is as an analyst-strategist – right in the sweet spot of my tendency toward introversion. And, in the book, Lisa tells the story about how the two of us (both introverts) came to know one another much better in a noisy public setting much more tailored to extroverts!

We’ll be celebrating the launch of Lisa’s eBook at LeadershipChat this week (Tuesday night, 8 pm ET on Twitter – use hashtag #LeadershipChat), where effective leadership (introvert-style!) will be the topic of conversation.

The book is NOW AVAILABLE for purchase for just $7.99!  Use code “Launch” to receive a 30% discount all week long when you DOWNLOAD it at www.TheIntrovertsGuide.net (or, here’s the direct Amazon link). It includes a special bonus section for extroverts on how to successfully lead introverts!

Oh, and Lisa? Congratulations. You know how proud I am of you, and what a pleasure it has been to collaborate with you these past 18 months. Thank you for this labor of love. I hope you sell a million of them…!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> The Privilege of Leadership

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Out with Klout. In with Cannoli!

This post begins with Klout, and why (as of today) I’ve opted-out.

It ends with Cannoli.

One is more delicious than the other. Just saying.

My pal Sam Fiorella and I have had lots of tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth over the months about Klout, but the fact is, I agree with his reasoning here where he explains why he has pitched Klout overboard.

In brief, here’s why I’ve done the same:

1. I believe it is an artificial and inaccurate measure of true influence,

2. It reinforces behavior based on (apparent) reach rather than (real) depth,

3. It has no value to me, business or otherwise.

Instead of issuing Klout +K points to people, I prefer real network-building – like shared meals, shared laughs, shared life, and fruitful collaboration. Algorithms do not portray the type of influence that matters to me. And if you want to look at someone, first and foremost, through a Klout lens – well, we’re probably not going to get along anyway.

During #LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights, we have a habit of talking about cannoli – maybe it’s because a bunch of the participants are of Italian extraction, but I think it’s because a cannoli is simply, extravagantly, wonderful. We’ve even joked about awarding +K(annoli) points.

But forget the K – cannoli is all about the C. So, I’m just going to award people who mean a lot to me a nice, big, extravagant +C. Including an appropriate image, like this:

(btw, “cannoli” is the plural form – what you see above is a cannolo)

Meeting over a plate of cannoli (real or virtual) may not get you Klout perks, but I guarantee the benefits (and calories) are far greater!

Oh – and if you want to award someone the +Cannoli picture above, just copy-paste: http://bit.ly/Cannolo  Let’s #OccupyCannoli!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Maxim-izing Your Leadership

>> A Warning from (Un)Happy Valley

Maxim-izing Your Leadership

There are some books that you pick up, and you realize after 5 pages that it’s going to be a sacrificial labor of love to get through it.

Others, you sense immediately that your brainwaves are in sync with the author.

So it was (the latter) when I began reading One Piece of Paper by Mike Figliuolo (our guest host on LeadershipChat this week). Mike is the founder of thoughtLeaders and a prolific blogger on leadership topics.

Instead of giving a traditional book review (overview), I thought I’d share some immediate outputs. Mike begins the book by encouraging readers to identify their leadership maxims. Here is how he defines this foundational concept (p. 7):

A maxim by definition is a principle or rule of conduct…it is a short, personally meaningful, and easily explained statement that reflects one of your beliefs about leadership…your maxims will become your leadership conscience…maxims must be emotionally meaningful, so you need to delve into your personal experiences to find those phrases, images, and stories that stir you to your core.

Now, I will tell you that anyone that talks about distilled, clear, foundational principles is immediately my friend! Mike’s thesis is that an effective leader must define these personal maxims, and possess them top-of-mind so that they can guide behaviors (for you and your team) in the day-to-day process of leading.

Eschewing the use of buzzwords to define one’s purpose (note: another way to be my friend!), Mike writes that you must “find your passion and turn it into a leadership maxim by crafting a phrase or drawing on an image that evokes fulfillment and satisfaction.” His personal example: light bulbs – creating that moment of understanding in others. As he put it, “turning light bulbs on for people is why I am excited to go to work every day.”

At this point in the book, I decided to see if I could come up with something pithy and meaningful that pretty much was the reason to get up every day. And for me, it boils to down to three words:

Distill – Define – Connect

That is my passion, my maxim of purpose. Help others by distilling a mass of information, defining the core need or message, and connecting to the best resources. These verbs are, in fact, the foundational activities of my consulting practice. I’m a Connection Agent.

Now, there’s a whole lot more valuable stuff in this book, but this is your starting line. I’d encourage you to take 5-10 minutes, with one piece of paper, and just begin there – can you express the core motivators that drive you? Mike gives (p. 37) four helpful questions to get you rolling:

- Why do you get out of bed every morning?

- Why are you excited to go to work?

- When people ask you what you love to do, what is your response?

- What do you tell people you are really great at doing?

Come up with  your maxim (or at least start!), and share your results with us as we interact with Mike during #LeadershipChat on Twitter, Tuesday November 15th, 8 pm ET. And be sure to read the blog post of my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli, with her take on Mike’s book (How to Discover and Live your Leadership Philosophy). We’re looking forward to another lively discussion at the LeadershipChat table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Follow Your Lead? WIIFM??

>> Feeling Like a Leader

“Follow Your Lead? What’s In It For Me??”

We all know the expression (where did it come from, anyway? Anybody know??) – “Let’s not go there!”

If a topic for potential discussion touches a painfully raw nerve, we’d just as soon bypass that destination. Don’t go there! Why? Because we see only pain, no gain.

To “go there,” we need a compelling WWIFM (What’s In It For Me). And it’s the same with leadership of others. People will follow a leader – if the destination looks like gain that will outweigh any anticipated pain.

I hate to go all non-idealistic on you, but my buy-in to any vision and direction is correlated to my sense, my agreement, that the goal, and the leader, are aligned with my best interests.

However skillfully we paint the picture and seek to rally support, if those that are to follow us don’t want to “go there,” we’re not going to lead them there.

Now, if know me, you know I’m an idealist. And I firmly believe that people operate best when they are involved in a cause, a mission, much bigger than themselves. But I also know that, whatever the cause – however grand and sweeping and even sacrificial it may be – the engine that will drive a group of people to follow is alignment of interests that includes a clear WIIFM.

So – how do we get others to follow our lead? Bluntly put, it’s sales – not slimy, sleazy, lying sales, but selling nonetheless. It’s selling the vision – AND selling the benefits to the customer. If you’re a leader, you’re in sales – simple as that.

What was Steve Jobs of Apple, if not a consummate salesperson? He had to sell his entire organization on his vision of supremely great user experience – and, when it was time to step down, he also had to achieve buy-in that the next leader would carry on the vision. No small task!

Take everything my LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli wrote in her prep post for our discussion this week (Leadership Advice – Getting Others to Follow Your Lead). Package together Vision, Trust, Communication, and Energy, and what do you have? Effective selling (the kind that exists with integrity).

What do you think? How do you enable others to follow you? Join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat (#LeadershipChat on Twitter) at 8 pm ET Tuesday night, November 8th as we tackle this topic. You’ll find a group of warm, smart, and motivated friends who will welcome you to our weekly chat at the leadership table!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> Choose Your Lane

Feeling Like a Leader

Ben Kenobi: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.

Luke Skywalker: You mean it controls your actions?

Ben Kenobi: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

As the wise Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi described the Force in Star Wars, so I would describe the leader’s relationship to his/her feelings – which is the topic of #LeadershipChat on Twitter this week.

Having and displaying emotions – and passions – is not necessarily a sign of joining the Dark Side. In fact, it’s just humanity. The key to effective leadership in relationship to emotions, however, is neither total suppression nor unfettered expression – it’s self-control (I do not have issues with the “c”-word, but if you do, substitute self-management – same meaning in this context).

At the risk of sounding like the semi-stoic Yankee that I am (my LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, provides the hand-waving Italian side of the equation!), I believe that it is important for any leader to have a strong filter through which “feelings” are passed before making their way out through our face, vocal cords, and actions. A red-faced, profanity-spewing, coffee mug-throwing “leader” is going to quickly find a following of cowed and fearful yes-men – or, just as likely, a place on the unemployment line.

It’s easy, however, to think of self-control as only on the side of throttling feeling. For some us (hand raised), it is actually a matter of learning to release passion and feeling. We don’t talk or think about that much, do we? It’s possible to have such a firm hand on all expression of emotion that people-motivation is lost due to cool detachment.

I still remember the heated rebuke from a boss in a factory where I worked one summer, when I pulled a stunt that I thought was funny (he seemed to have a different opinion). There was appropriate and highly motivating anger expressed. I didn’t need a clinical explanation of the undesirability of my actions. I needed a kick you-know-where, delivered with feeling. Lesson learned.

I would not want to follow a passion-less leader. Nor would I want to hitch my wagon to someone who is emotionally unstable or out-of-control. Both of those extremes raise red flags. Give me someone passionate about a worthy cause or goal, and able to express the range of human emotion appropriately (without all kinds of shrapnel-induced collateral damage from emotional excess). More accurately, give me someone growing in the practice of self-control, because we’re all in process.

Join us tonight as we discuss the Leader and Feelings – we have a special guest joining us, the @LeadershipFreak himself, Dan Rockwell! Here’s is Dan’s prep post (Control your Feelings – Don’t Express Them); and to further get your wheels turning, here is what Lisa Petrilli has written (Should Leaders Bring Feelings and Passion to Work?)

You DO want to join us for LeadershipChat at 8 pm ET. Search your feelings – you know it to be true!

And, in fact, to increase your feelings of motivation – we’ll be giving away 7 mobile device carrying cases, courtesy of the fine folks at CaseSMPL. Three are iPad/tablet size, one is thin-laptop size, and three are handheld size. High quality and versatile (I use mine regularly – see also Drew McLellan’s glowing review). If Obi-Wan or even Darth Vader were to have a mobile case for devices connected to the Force, undoubtedly this would be the choice!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> ROI in Context of Business Value

Esprit de Corps

In preparation for this week’s LeadershipChat (8 pm ET Tuesday on Twitter – use hasthtag #LeadershipChat), I read, as did my co-host Lisa Petrilli, the book Get It On by Keni Thomas (who will be our guest host/author this week – thanks, Keni!)

Keni served with the U.S. Army Rangers during the famous Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia, and now has a burgeoning career as a country singer. This book is about the leadership lessons learned during his time in the military.

Lisa has written a superb summary of the book on her blog – I’d urge you to read it to get the overview of leadership lessons.

The book is an engaging first-person account of what happened on that day of chaos and combat, and much of its value lies in telling the very personal stories of the men involved in the operation. Dedication and leadership in the midst of the “fog of war” is not some abstraction – this book gives names, backgrounds, specific actions, and the very personal impact of courage on the battlefield.

Underneath all of the specific lessons of leadership, I was left with one pervasive theme fueling all the courageous actions of that day: esprit de corps.

You lead, you fight, you sacrifice, you risk – for your brothers in arms, and for the mission. No surrender, no turning back, no man left behind.

My son is a Marine. He’ll moan and groan with the best of them about the inefficiencies and snafus of the military, but if he’s put in a hot zone with his buddies, I have no doubt that he’ll have their back – and they’ll have his. Esprit de corps.

It’s in the culture of the military, especially its elite units. It’s not an optional add-on. It’s the fuel that drives the organization, and the mission, forward.

And, today, that leaves me scratching my head. How can we replicate this in non-military life? How can this powerful force be a foundation stone of leadership in education, and business – let alone government?

How many companies and organizations have this kind of unity of purpose? Not in theory, but in reality?

I don’t know. Somehow I don’t think a few training programs on leadership, and some team-building exercises, are going to cut it. Let’s discuss during LeadershipChat on Tuesday night, and maybe Keni (and you!) can give us some insight.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Dynamite Presentations: Start Here

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

LeadershipChat Plus One

After a few months of planning, it was one year ago this week that Lisa Petrilli and I hosted the inaugural #LeadershipChat on Twitter.

What a wild ride it has been!

We’ve had very lively discussions about male and female roles, courage, work/life balance, loyalty, fear, promotions, lessons from the military…and we’ve enjoyed the contributions of stellar guest hosts and authors like Stephen Denny, Guy Kawasaki, Ann Handley, Steve Farber, and many others.

For Lisa and me, the most rewarding aspect of LeadershipChat has been the community that gathers each Tuesday night; it was our vision to create a climate similar to a Tuscan dinner table, where friends would gather for friendly discussions over wine and good food (we do sometimes open up the chat with pictures of cannoli just to gain a virtual bit of dessert atmosphere!) What has come of it all has been a bunch of real-life friendships, meetings, and collaborations – and that’s just the point. LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights is an introduction to community.

What has been the most rewarding aspect for you? It only seems right, on this first anniversary, to pass the microphone to our valued friends and give you the opportunity to talk about how you’ve benefited from the LeadershipChat community – and how you’d like to grow even more in the year ahead.

So, here’s what we’re asking for this week. Instead of focusing on prep blog posts that Lisa and I write, we’re inviting YOU to write a post (could be on your blog, or Facebook, or Google+ – wherever. Even in the comments below if you’re not a blogger!) expressing what you’re learned and enjoyed from LC this past year, and what you’d like to discuss in the coming year.

This is your chance to tell others – and us – why LeadershipChat has value to you!

We’ll link to your posts on the LeadershipChat.net site, and your thoughts will be the substance of the our conversation on Tuesday, October 11th. Please write your thoughts right now – while you’re thinking about it – and forward the link to Steve (steve at connectionagent dot com) so it will be included on the site for all to see.

Finally, a big THANK YOU to all who have made this community such an encouraging success. In twelve months, we’ve made a good start together. What will the next year of sharing leadership-life bring? Let’s talk about it this Tuesday night at 8 pm ET!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Leading Virtually Really

This week on #LeadershipChat, we are honored to welcome Ann Handley, who is the Queen Of All Content over at MarketingProfs (OK, I made that title up, but really – doesn’t it fit?)

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization, and Ann has been involved for years in helping lead this widely-distributed group as it puts out a steady flow of solid content, organizes and runs conferences, services member needs, etc. It’s quite a challenge.

My co-host and co-founder of LeadershipChat Lisa Petrilli has a wonderful interview of Ann (Ann Handley’s Secrets to Successfully Leading Virtual Teams) where you can gain more particular insights.

In talking with Ann about this topic, what strikes me is this thought: Leading People Virtually is Leading People Really.

Whether you’re contained in an office, fully virtual, or in a hybrid environment, you’re leading people. The basic, foundational principles remain the same – communication, accountability, shared goals and purpose, clear lines of responsibility. And, with our maturing technology tools (on-line project management, video Skype, social media) it is more likely that we will increasingly grow comfortable with leading virtual teams – because we’ll have to.

Let’s face it – the old template of geographically-defined work places is going away for many areas of industry, especially the knowledge industry. Leading virtually is going to become, in many respects, the new normal. And it’s good to know that the core things that have always mattered in leadership carry right over – because people are people.

Ann has a lot more experience than most at this, and yet it boils down some very sensible themes. Although one aspect – leadership styles – should make for a very interesting part of the chat. Do you think introverts make better virtual leaders?

Join us Tuesday night at 8 pm ET as we explore this fascinating topic. You’ll find a smart, engaged group of growing leaders who want to share ideas and learn from others (including you!).

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Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled: Ann Handley!

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“Hey, Boss, You Need Some Help…”

One thing is certain – you work with someone who could become a better boss (even if self-employed, like me!).

But what if your boss is really lacking in leadership skills, to the point where it’s becoming a serious detriment to the business, and negatively impacting those whom he/she is leading?

If you’ve worked at a few different companies, you’ve probably run into this situation. And it will be our topic of discussion tonight (Sept. 13) on LeadershipChat (please join us on Twitter at 8 pm ET – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat).

I’ve been there, and it can be a real conundrum. You want to see the company be healthy, and you want the best for your co-workers – including your boss – but it can be risky to go out on a limb and try to address issues with someone else. Here are a few words of advice:

1. Recognize that, by and large, people do not fundamentally change all that much. Are you dealing with a small habit here (a tendency to sneer when talking to people), or a major character flaw (an explosive temper)? Realizing that someone in a subordinate relationship will typically have the least sway, is it realistic to think that your words can make a difference? If you’ve seen a willingness to listen and think in your boss, some level of humility, then you stand a much better chance of success than if the person is arrogant and dismissive.

2. Do you have a pre-existing relationship of trust and transparency with your boss? If so, there’s a far better chance that you can privately and convincingly address the issue(s) at hand.

3. Speak in private, in a non-volatile setting. Lunch at a restaurant may be a good suggestion, because it is away from the office, and it gives time to digest and discuss the issue before facing the next work task. Also, you’re less likely to be screamed at in a public setting!

4. Affirm what is good, and demonstrate how flaws typically are an over-extension of a particular strength. For instance, an anger problem may be framed as an undesirable outgrowth of genuine business passion. It’s easier for your boss to save face before you, and before the mirror, when the flaw is positioned this way (note: this principle carries in many areas of life, does it not??)

5. Bring up very concrete situations – preferably quite recent – and explain the effect that occurred. To say to a boss, “you’re too indecisive,” isn’t going to be received as well as saying, “I have noted a tendency toward indecisiveness and here is how it impacted this sales situation last week – we may well lose that sale because I could not give the client a definitive answer on Wednesday when they asked for it.”

6. Explain how a certain characteristic or behavior makes you/other people feel. Often people are oblivious to the downstream effects. However, if you can show that your boss’ tendency to deliver cutting remarks when someone makes a mistake “freezes” employees from giving valuable input, it may help you boss connect the dots (“Hmmm…I’ve been wondering why no-one volunteers ideas in our brainstorming sessions…”)

7. Affirm your own commitment to the company’s good, and that of your boss. It’s easy for someone on the receiving end of correction to feel like they’ve lost face, and destroyed their influence. Let him/her know that you’re out on a limb bringing this up because you’re committed.

8. Continuously build an opportunity network as your contingency plan. It’s a lot easier to do the right thing when you know you have dozens of great people who have your back. Should you need to start looking for a new position, because the situation with a boss is intolerable, that is not the time to start networking – that’s the time to activate the network you’ve been building for years to help you find your next opportunity.

Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s take in her post, Five Suggestion for When Your Boss Needs Leadership Help. Add Lisa’s five to my eight, and you’ll have 13, before we even begin getting more suggestions during the chat from all the great people who attend!

So, please join us at 8 pm ET Tuesday nights for LeadershipChat on Twitter. You’ll find a very smart and highly-motivated group of professionals who want to bring humanity and reality to leadership!

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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

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