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!

___________

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!

——————

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.

——————

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!

——————

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

—-

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!

——————

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!

——————

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.

——————

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 153 other followers