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Culture Beats Strategy

Even when Apple consisted of just the two Steve’s (Jobs & Wozniak) they knew the kind of culture they wanted to create and it influenced everything they did from the people they hired, the advertising campaigns they ran and the products they created. Their culture paved the way for their pass success and it continues to influence and fuel Apple’s current growth and success. It’s why the leaders at Apple are famous for saying Culture Beats Strategy.

Of course strategy is important. You have to have the right strategy to be successful but ultimately it is your culture that will determine if your strategy is successful.

I’ve witnessed the power of culture first hand and the impact it has on the performance of sports teams, schools, hospitals, and businesses such as Hendrick BMW.

Turns out the same culture that fuels NASCAR champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon also helps sell more cars.

When I visited Hendrick BMW in Charlotte to speak to their company I could tell they were different the minute I walked in the door. The receptionist and first person you meet is clearly the CEO of the company–Chief Energy Officer—and she dispenses smiles and positive energy to all who enter.

As you look around the showroom you notice that all the employees are wearing uniforms with classy blue shirts and the Hendrick logo on them. You get a sense that this is a professional group and unified team. You can also feel the energy in the showroom just as you can feel the energy when (more…)

10 Traits of Effective Leaders

As a leader, you already know how to identify each of your team member’s strongest skills and assets. Because you don’t expect each person on the team to excel in every area, you also know that it’s important to create a diverse group of people who balance and complement one another. Similarly, leaders have their own unique skills and specializations. Effective leaders often possess the following ten traits.

1. Focused
To lead a team to success, leaders must possess an extraordinary amount of focus. It’s important to eliminate distractions from the work area and to hone in on the key issues at hand. While leaders are often pulled in numerous directions simultaneously, they must be able to retain clear minds and focus on the things that matter.

2. Passionate
It’s possible to teach someone to be a leader, but truly effective leaders are already passionate about what they do. Your enthusiasm and level of commitment can inspire your team members and motivate them to do better work. Modeling the attitude you want each person to have is one of the most effective ways to lead your team toward a successful destination.

3. Assertive
As a leader, you have requirements for your team and goals that must be fulfilled. When team members (more…)

How Transformational Leaders Can Understand What Matters Most and Measure It

You need to know your “squats”…

Answer this question: If you were able to focus the attention and efforts of everyone on your team on one set of goals that would drive significant results for your company, what would you use as the one metric to measure progress? How would you know you were on the right track? What would be the rallying cry for your team?

Transformational leaders need a focused metric for progress: What are the “squats” for your organization?

A colleague who runs a large financial services company figured it out. He visited with the head athletic trainer of the Houston Texans and posed that same question, “What is the acid test for fitness?” The answer came back as a single word, “Squats.” The athletic trainer said, “If a player can squat twice his body weight, I know that the other aspects of training (cardio fitness, drills, discipline) are all in line.”

Seasoned leaders like that come to understand which measures reveal the most powerful indications of progress and health.

I believe that the same approach works for business. Transformational leaders—the ones who can make the biggest impact on forward momentum—know what to look for and know how to focus their colleagues on what matters most. They know the secret of the “squat” for their business—that single metric that proves they’re (more…)

Humbled by Sins of Omission: by Patrick Lencioni

Humility is one of those qualities that every leader says they admire, but few want to experience.

Think about it. Ask any group of leaders if humility is important, and almost every one of them will nod their heads and tell you that the world needs more humble leaders in every field, from business to politics to, well, everywhere. Ask that same group if they would like an opportunity to be humbled, and virtually every one of them will decline.

But I suppose it’s hard to blame them. After all, being humbled is, by definition, always uncomfortable and often painful. No one enjoys seeking out discomfort and pain. And yet there is no getting around the importance of experiencing those difficult moments in life when we are reminded that we are more fallible, broken and human than we’d like to think we are.

One of the best opportunities that I’ve found for being humbled is in my role as a parent. Some people might think I’m referring to the unglamorous work of changing diapers, cleaning up spilled milk and picking up dirty clothes. While those are certainly humbling experiences, I find that the most profound instances of parental humility occur for me when I am disciplining my children. Or more accurately, when I’m criticizing their behavior.

See, when I’m (more…)

Why Being a “Presentologist” Will Determine Your Future Success

Predicting the future is easy. Predicting it accurately is the hard part. That’s why I recommend a “presentologist” approach.

Regardless of whether times are Up, Down, or Sideways, we too easily get off track when we chase success as a futurist. So rather than focusing on what might happen, focus on what you can do now to ensure you’ll be successful regardless of what happens. Rather than trying to predict the future, prepare for it.

You can prepare for it in a number of ways, but one of the most important is through learning. And while we might approach each day as a presentologist, we can still learn in the future tense. That’s not easy, because there’s so much out there to learn and a limited amount of time each day in which to learn it. What we choose to learn is critical, because the successful person isn’t the one who learns the most stuff the best — it’s the person who learns the most important stuff the fastest.

When you consider all the options for what to learn today that will prepare you for tomorrow, start by looking at the options with three pieces of glass — a mirror, a telescope, and magnifying glass.

  • Look in the mirror. Be honest with yourself about your skills, talents, goals, strengths, weaknesses, time, et al.
  • Look into the telescope. What can you see in the distance that’s coming your way? How will marriage or a new child shape your future? How will life change as an empty-nester? What changes seem likely (if not 100 percent predictable) within your industry, your company, or your career?
  • Look into the magnifying glass. What’s happening at the gritty level of now? What do you need to learn to succeed today, tomorrow, this week, this month?

Wisely investing your learning time will provide the leverage you need to succeed in the present and in the future.

This post is by Mark Sanborn, the author of the new release Up, Down, or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times Are Good, Bad, or In Between. You can download a sample chapter at Order now from Amazon.

Five Keys to Legendary Leadership

Leadership — genuine, influential, effective leadership — is a subtle thing. It’s not something that readily reduces to a cookie-cutter recipe or paint-by-numbers formula. We all know that. That’s why there have been a thousand good books on leadership, and will be a thousand more. But for all we describe it and study it, it still seems elusive — which is why it so often surprises us when a truly great leader appears in our midst.

Why so elusive? In part, because great leadership is shot through with contradiction.

A great leader is selfless — and has a healthy ego. A great leader is by definition unitary, singular, unique — and somehow inspires thousands to emulate him or her. Great leaders have their heads in the clouds and their toes firmly in the dirt.

Here are five descriptions of what great leaders do, what we call “Five Keys to Legendary Leadership.” The first four are all essential — and are completely contradicted by the fifth. Yet somehow, the first four don’t seem to work without the fifth.

They are the four fingers and thumb of leadership.

Finger #1: Hold the Vision
Building a business takes skill, work, and capital resources. But those are details. More than anything else, building a business—really, building anything—is an act of faith. Because you’re creating something out of nothing. You are moving into the future on invisible wires, without a net.

It’s easy to say, “Hold a vision.” The hard part isn’t the vision. Anyone can come up with a vision. The hard part is the holding.
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3 Common Mistakes Leaders Make (And How to Avoid Them)

Taking over a new leadership role can be a pretty exciting moment in any executive’s career. It can also be one of the most dangerous. Research conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership shows that up to 40 percent of newly promoted managers and executives are no longer in their roles within 18 months of a promotion.

What goes wrong? In surveys and focus groups with thousands of executives, researchers at Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business identified some common reasons why new leaders can run off the rails. Some of the top derailers are:

  • Ineffective communications skills
  • Weak relationships
  • Failure to clarify expectations

Fortunately, there are three simple things that new leaders can do to increase the odds of success. The successful executives that I interviewed for The Next Level recommend that newly promoted leaders do these things in their first month on the new job:
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Create a Culture of Greatness

“To build a winning a team and a successful organization you must create a culture of greatness.”

It’s the most important thing a leader can do because culture drives behavior, behavior drives habits and habits create results. In the words of leaders at Apple, “Culture beats strategy all day long.”

When you create a culture of greatness you create a collective mindset in your organization that expects great things to happen—even during challenging times. You expect your people to be their best, you make it a priority to coach them to be their best and most of all you create a work environment that allows them to be their best.
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