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LEADERSHIP – A “THINK-LESS” APPROACH

Leadership - Think Less

This is going to sound crazy, but…when making leadership decisions, it is often best to minimize the use of your brain. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, let’s take a quiz. Answer all questions instinctively and truthfully.

1.) A relatively new employee wants to take vacation during a time that is not in the best interest of the business or its customers. However, this individual’s family has already paid for the vacation and it is the only chance that she will have this year for the vacation with her entire family. If you deny her request, she is likely to resign. What do you do?

A) Provided you can cover her work, make an exception and let her go. She is in an important job, and her resigning is worse than being out for a week.

B) Deny the request for vacation, as it is well known that there is a no vacation policy at the time she is requesting it.

C) Tell her to make up an excuse, such as a family wedding, for why she is out so you can justify letting her go.

2.) You issue a challenge to your team to have all open positions filled by the end of the year, as having zero open positions in January is critical to your success. Furthermore, your boss is evaluating you based on your ability to accomplish this goal. In late December, you are conducting a final interview on a candidate that has made it through a very rigorous 9-step process with your team. During your interview, you spot a couple of potential red flags with the candidate. What do you do?

A) Reject this candidate, thereby missing your objective of being fully staffed by the end of the year, upsetting the hiring managers that put the candidate forward, and disappointing your boss.

B) Make a short-term decision for the sake of meeting your immediate business objectives of having a fully staffed team and deal with the issue during a time when there is less business risk for carrying open positions.

C) Ignore the red flags you sensed, as those that interviewed the candidate before you would have caught them if there was something to be seriously concerned about.

3.) You are at an annual awards banquet wherein you award performance for the previous year. It was an exceptionally tough year, but there are lots of awards to hand out; however, none of the senior leaders on your team achieved goal…but one clearly outperformed all other senior leaders. What do you do?

A) Pick the person that performed the best on the team and award that person with a top performer award, as that truly is the top performer on your team.

B) Do not present an award to anyone on your senior leadership team, and risk upsetting and potentially losing the individual that clearly performed the best.

C) Award the person who performed best on your team during the awards banquet, but acknowledge that he/she did not actually achieve goal for the year.

4.) You are in a senior leadership position managing a large team in a large organization laden with bureaucracy, process, and policies, and you are asked to complete a major task that will distract your entire leadership team during the busiest, most critical time of the year. This is your first year in the job, and every single person before you has been able to get this task done during this same timeframe. What do you do?

A) Comply with the request to complete the task during the historical time frame, as that’s clearly the way it has always been done. You do not want your name to be the only one on the list for not getting it done.

B) Submit a formal request for changing the task during future years, register your discontent with the timing, and just get it done this year as requested.

C) Make the decision not to complete the task in the given timeframe, and instead elect to complete it later in the year when the timing makes more sense…and assume all professional risk associated with this decision.

How did you do? Here are my answers – 1) B. 2) A. 3) B. 4) C.

These are hard questions to answer, especially when emotion is involved. As leaders, we confront similar situations every single day. If we overthink them, we will undoubtedly make mistakes.

Let me be clear about something – When I suggest to think less, I’m talking leadership, not business strategy. Basic leadership decisions should not be very academic in nature. Most leadership mistakes occur when the brain (or emotion) is given primary governance, rather than strong leadership principles. Here’s my hypothesis – principled leadership reduces the amount of brain needed to make day-to-day leadership decisions, as your core leadership principles inform and govern most decisions; consequently, your brain is less likely to “talk you into” bad ones.

“But wait! I use my brain all the time and it doesn’t talk me into bad decisions!” Perhaps, but I’d wager you are making mistakes on the most basic of leadership decisions if you are relying on your brain, rather than strong core leadership principles.

Here are my core principles – they govern 90% or more of all leadership decisions I make…and they are especially useful when making the tough ones.

1.) Achieving Goals/Driving Results. Above all else, most jobs are about results. There are all sorts of things that can distract from achieving results, and we must be vigilant about keeping all distractions out of the way. I used this one to make the decision on #1 and #4 (above).

2.) Rewarding Top Performance. I hold rewarding of top performers very dear, and only top performers. I will not compromise on this core value. I used this one to make my decision on #1 and #3 (above).

3.) Never Settle On Talent. Of all of my core leadership principles, this is easily the most critical. Whether it is a hiring decision or a tough firing decision, I will never settle for anything less than excellence when it comes to talent. Ever. Many people lack discipline on this principle…and they do so to their inevitable demise. I used this one to make my decision on #2 (above).

There you have it – my core leadership principles. Without these guiding principles, I would have undoubtedly made different decisions on the four scenarios at the beginning of this post. By the way – they were all real decisions I faced within the last year.

Given that we do not lead in a vacuum, it is critical that your team is aligned on whatever set of core leadership principles make the most sense for you and your business. Take a full day with your team (offsite, if possible) to discuss and establish your own, as you have to be very deliberate about such things to achieve consensus…and, ultimately, success as a leadership team.

Please respond with the core leadership principles that you hold most dear; I’d love to see them.

Lead. Courageously.

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WHO WANTS THE STATUS QUO?

Leadership and the Status Quo

A sales leader (Chad) on my team recently shared with me a quote from his college basketball coach – “There is no such thing as status quo; you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse.”

Chad’s words hit me like a ton of bricks, as they apply to everything from personal growth and development to business process to product strategy. Change, growth, development, and improvement wait for no one. If you stay the same, the rest of the world will continue to improve around you. Hence, you will actually be getting worse…not staying the same.

Think of it like this:

 Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 12.05.54 PM

As you can see, a status quo strategy results in a significant competitive gap. In fact, after considering this idea further, it is prudent to view the above in a slightly different way.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 12.10.03 PM

I am sure you noticed the change in orientation of the lines, but did you also notice the change made to the Y Axis label? Unless you have a specific business reason and plan in place for addressing the competitive (and revenue) gap resulting from status quo, you better rethink any and all status quo strategies before it’s too late.

Perhaps what I am saying here seems painfully obvious, but here’s the catch – most organizations do not even know they are employing a status quo strategy. In fact, my money says that you can think of plenty of areas in your organization that substantiate this assertion.

We typically fall into the status quo mindset by accident as our natural human instinct to protect all that we hold dear kicks in. As we become increasingly comfortable with our surroundings, we tend to hold them more and more precious. In other words, we are, at our core, creatures of habit. We are naturally seduced by keeping things the same…even when they are in obvious need of transformation.

Why on earth would we accept the status quo? Here are a few reasons:

We get used to it. Think about the dent in your car that becomes virtually invisible to you once it’s been there for a while, or the repair that needs to be done on your home. We get used to these things that are in obvious need of repair because they become familiar to us. It is far more work to actually fix than it is to just ignore it. This is our natural coping mechanism, which very often works against us.

Change is frightening. As humans, we are wired to seek out and embrace familiarity. We learn this as babies, as our mother’s familiar touch soothes and comforts us. Even years later, familiar smells and surroundings take us back to a place of comfort. Stepping out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar is often an unnatural, uncomfortable act, so we tend to avoid it.

Risk. Businesses are chock-full of people who are mostly interested in minimizing risks, not taking them. In fact, the forces of risk mitigation are so strong in most organizations that new ideas for innovation often get shut down before they ever have a chance to fully develop. The status quo represents safety and certainty, while changes to it represent risk and uncertainty. Hence, change and innovation are often avoided until the pain gets so intense that change is the only viable option. Unfortunately, this is far too often too late.

I am basically saying that accepting the status quo is a normal human condition, and that we are actually wired this way. Does that mean that we should just accept this way of thinking and move on because it is normal? Absolutely not! After all, who wants to be normal?

A friend and mentor of mine taught me that talent, culture, and strategy (in that order) represent the recipe for success in business. As it turns out, the same three principles (in the same exact order) are your best bet for eradicating the status quo from your organization.

Upgrade your talent. Attracting new talent into the organization is the fastest way to bring about swift and meaningful change. Strike a balance between promoting within and attracting talented people with new ideas/perspectives from the outside. Rarely is change brought about so quickly as when new leaders join an organization, as they are free from the aforementioned reasons that lead to status quo thinking.

Change your culture. As leaders, we are directly accountable for the culture of our teams/organizations. If your organization is not actively and aggressively pursuing change, you must first look in the mirror. Are you truly making change a cultural priority, or do you personally accept the status quo? Healthy cultures that embrace change and push the business envelope are hard to create, and even harder to maintain.

Change your strategy. Once you have the right talent and the right culture, be certain that your business strategy is one that drives constant change and innovation. If you are not directly driving change in your business via your vision and strategic direction, the forces of status quo will bare down on you like a pack of hungry wolves. Free your team from the business-as-usual shackles by setting strategic priorities to innovate and blaze new and interesting trails.

“Let’s just maintain the status quo for now.” If you speak these words in today’s world of fast and dramatic change, they may very well be your last.

Lead. Courageously.

Follow me on Twitter @doughughes3

WE ARE ALL HI-PO’S

High Pos

High (adj) – Exceeding the common degree or measure.

Potential (adj) – Capable of being or becoming.

In the professional world, we frequently refer to top performers with significant upward mobility as “Hi-Po’s” (short for high potentials). Today’s post is fueled by the reality that every one of us has the ability to be a Hi-Po – in our lives and in our careers.

One might fall into the self-limiting way of thinking that only certain people, who have certain pedigrees and/or family networks, are Hi-Po’s. This could not be farther from the truth. While every single one of us will not actually achieve greatness, we all have the potential to.

Allow me to use an example: Brian Kibby.

Stats

Age – 47

Occupation – President, McGraw-Hill Higher Education

Record – Stellar

Education – Western Illinois University (far from Ivy League)

Got His Start – Private, United States Army

Family Background – Humble beginnings

Brian’s background is average. However, his achievements thus far in life are nothing short of spectacular. Why? Because Brian dreams big for himself, and he dedicates himself to excellence.

I was recently reading a Forbes column by one of the most renowned leadership experts in the world, and I happened upon a list of ten leaders who are CEO-ready. Guess whose name I found on this list? Brian Kibby’s.

Most people have never had their name mentioned in Forbes, much less with a picture in a column proclaiming they are one of ten CEO-ready leaders.

Congratulations, Brian, on achieving greatness thus far, with even more greatness to come. More importantly, thank you for inspiring greatness in countless others, and for reminding us that we can all be Hi-Po’s…provided we are willing to work for it.

Lead. Courageously.

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THE 4L’S: DOES YOUR TEAM HAVE THEM?

Leadership | Learning | Laughter | Love

The idea for this article took root as I prepared a keynote to welcome a class of approximately 80 new salespeople to my team. This was a big opportunity, as it would set the stage for the week together at new rep training, as well as influence every rep’s future experience with the team. As I prepared for my keynote the day before, I started by thinking of words our team holds as culturally important. Four words immediately came to mind – leadership, learning, laughter, and love.

Later that night at dinner, my friend Matt asked me what I was going to speak about the next morning. I eagerly responded, “The 4Ls! – Leadership, Learning, Laughter, and Love!” Matt, who is a corporate tax attorney, just stared at me as if waiting for me to laugh at my own joke. Once he realized I was not joking, he counseled me to quickly go to work on a speech that was more business-like and less “kumbaya.”  Unshaken, I chose not to follow Matt’s advice.

Leadership – Leadership has much more to do with behaviors and attitudes than it does with title or position. I often see people defer all leadership responsibility to those in positions of authority, which is an excellent way to ensure that their team never performs optimally… and that they never personally get promoted to a position of authority. The very best teams embrace a culture of leadership, from every single person on the team… regardless of rank or position. So why doesn’t every team and every organization pursue a culture of leadership? There are many reasons, not the least of which is because it’s hard, and it requires constant energy, effort, and attention. An ongoing and fervent commitment is the only way to achieve a true culture of leadership.

Courageous Leadership Challenge – When was the last time you set aside time to discuss leadership, culture, and other non task-oriented topics with your team? This kind of leadership development is free – the only cost is a bit of time and energy.

Learning – Continuous learning is absolutely critical for long-term success. The moment you stop learning, obsolescence will hunt you down with a vengeance. The key to a winning team is ensuring that learning is a cultural priority. This means creating time and space for it, supporting it (financially and otherwise), and placing a direct and continuous focus on it at every opportunity. Learning as a team is an investment – in every single person on the team, as well as the team as a whole. Like all investments, it’s never too late to start.

Courageous Leadership Challenge – When was the last time you required your team to read a book, take a class together, or participate in some other form of professional development activity… as a team? It is far too easy to let this slip on the priority list, which is why so few teams actually embrace a culture of learning and professional development. Those that do will be rewarded handsomely.

Laughter – While this may sound funny (pun intended), laughter is a key indicator of a healthy, thriving culture. Every single high-performing team in the world will perform even better if they have fun together while doing it. Furthermore, as a leader, one of the worst decisions you can make is to take yourself too seriously. Don’t get me wrong – you should take your work, results, leadership, and a whole host of other things very seriously… but avoid taking yourself too seriously. People gravitate to those who are authentic and fun – it’s human nature.

Courageous Leadership Challenge – Look around your team. Do you see people truly having fun? Are you putting as much energy into creating a fun and exciting culture as you should be? Remember – long-term satisfaction at work is much more about connectedness and engagement than a paycheck. As a side benefit, fun and laughter makes for healthier people. It has been said that a good belly laugh adds significant time to your life. If that’s the case, I’m going to live a long, long time!

Love – This is where my friend, the tax attorney, really raised an eyebrow. “Love? Really?” What I mean by this is simple – you have to love what you do in order to reach your full potential. Whether you are working at a Q-Tip factory or saving lives every day, seek out ways to find purpose and passion for what you do, and share that purpose and passion with your team.

Think about it – could you imagine all of the people who would have ear infections if it weren’t for Q-Tips? Talk about impact! People use Q-Tips every single day!

Loving what you do is often more about your own internal perspective than it is the job itself, which means that you can start loving what you do any time you want to. The important thing is that you find something you love, pour yourself into it, and then reap the rewards of purposeful work.

Courageous Leadership Challenge – When was the last time you authentically inspired those around you about the work that they do? I am the Chief Sales Officer of the world’s premiere Learning Technology Company, and I love the fact that lives, communities, and ultimately the world are changed every single day as a direct result of what we do… and I share this enthusiasm publicly every chance I get.

So there you have it – the 4Ls. The most rewarding part of giving this keynote was that the rookie rep class came up with a brand for themselves at the end of the week – L4. Very cool.

This article is dedicated to all the corporate tax attorneys of the world.

Lead. Courageously.

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5 KEYS TO A WINNING OFFENSE

Keys to a Winning Offense

On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens squared off against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, considered by many to be one of the greatest sporting events in the world. In football, it is sometimes said that the best offense is a good defense. The theory here is simple – if you prevent your opponent from scoring, your team only needs to score once to win the game. In business, however, the opposite is true. The best offense is a great offense… period.

In business, it’s not as simple as scoring the most points. Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s really about growth. For example, you could score one more point than your competition in a sales year and technically “win” the game against them. However, your investors are looking for much more than that. Your investors are looking for growth. If you only score one more point than your competition, you are simply not growing. The key to growth is a high-powered offense that basically obviates the need to play defense at all. Let’s face it – if you are playing defense, you are losing.

The 5 Keys To A Winning Offense

Talent – As the great John Wooden often said, the team with the best players almost always wins. This is true, but there is an “almost” in this statement for a reason. Even the best players will not win if you do not support them with spirit and motivation, a great culture, sound strategy, and focus.

Spirit and Motivation – The spirit and motivation of both you and your team is arguably the most important aspect of a winning offense. History is rich with stories of otherwise outmatched armies that rose to the occasion and defeated larger, better equipped forces because they were highly motivated and believed in their cause. As a leader, the spirit and motivation of your team is your direct responsibility, so look in the mirror if morale is low. A demotivated and/or demoralized team is destined to lose. The key to spirit and motivation is an authentic belief that you can win, and this has to permeate the entire team.

Culture – Culture is a choice, and it is a direct reflection of the leaders in the organization. Every team has a culture, and it is guaranteed to be one of two things: good or bad. If you choose to be an uninspired leader who does little to create culture in your organization because “that’s just not your thing,” you are dooming yourself and your team. Culture is the glue that holds your team together, which is especially important during the most challenging times. Courageous Leaders work hard to create (and nourish) culture… every single day, as part of every single decision.

Strategy – Offensive strategy is critical. Great offenses are explosive, well executed, and hard for your competition to defend against. Consider San Francisco and the highly touted pistol offense they ran in Sunday’s Super Bowl. The key to this offense is that it is innovative, and it gives the quarterback the option to adjust on the fly, choosing from a variety of weapons. The intended result – a disoriented Baltimore defense that, despite knowing San Francisco will be running this offense, will have a very hard time defending against it. While San Francisco did not execute well on this offense in the first half, great execution in the second half brought them to within three points of an historic comeback. Lesson: you cannot wait until the second half to get your offense firing on all cylinders… it has to be flawless from the first play. I see this all the time in business: the offense ends up being great, but it wasn’t great from the start.

Focus – Even with all of the above in place, the best teams in business will lose without focus. Teams can have the best talent, highest motivation, a great culture, and a great strategy, but it will all fall apart without focus and commitment to the things that matter in the here and now – planning, organizing, and executing flawlessly. The “here and now” is the hardest part, as even top performers get distracted by things that are very important, but not for the game they are playing at this moment in time. Short-term focus must prevail when the game is on the line, which often means dialing back on longer-term thinking. For without winning today, there may be no long-term.

As leaders, getting the offensive mix right is critical to success. That’s because the complexity of the “real-world” and day-to-day obstacles (as well as other people in the organization) work to distract us from a pure focus on the fundamentals of doing what’s right to ensure our teams win. Whether you agree with my offensive mix or you have a better version of your own, stand strong as a Courageous Leader and let nothing pull you away from flawless execution of your offense.

Courageous Leadership Challenge – engage below and add at least one thing that you think I missed in my offensive mix.

Lead. Courageously.

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LEADERSHIP AND POLICY – THE NO POLICY POLICY

Leadership and Policies

“My policy is to have no policies.” – Abraham Lincoln

I recently saw the film “Lincoln” (excellent, by the way), and was once again reminded that there is much we can learn from Honest Abe, not the least of which is his perspective on policies. Policies have a way of squeezing out judgment, creativity, thought, and all sorts of other things that are required for success in life and business.

To be clear, I fully grasp the reality that some policies are needed. For example, policies against discrimination, harassment, and all things illegal/unethical are of paramount importance. These policies are more like laws, as they govern fundamental behaviors and human interaction. I’m not arguing against these types of policies. I am, however, arguing against policies that obviate the use of good business judgment.

First, let’s consider the origin of the word “policy.”

Policy ultimately stems from the Greek word “polis,” which means “city” or “body of citizens.” Citizens are governed by “politicians,” who dictate “policy,” which is enforced by “police.”  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to work anywhere that feels like politicians are dictating policy governed by the “policy police.” Unfortunately, I am describing most companies!

Simply put, excess policy stifles creativity, original thought, and judgment. I prefer guidelines to policies, as the latter tends to disengage otherwise useful brains.

Policies vs. Guidelines

The best way to deal with the notion of abandoning policies is to instead issue guidelines, and ensure that your team fully appreciates the difference between the two.

Policies are hard and fast rules, never to be broken. If you don’t think that policies are interpreted this way by your organization, you are severely out of touch. Policy-laden organizations tend to produce automatons. Think: anytime you go to the DMV to get your license renewed, or worse yet…when you need something that deviates even the slightest bit from protocol. This is when the blood pressure tends to rise. Policies achieve compliance (rather than commitment), often to the detriment of the business.

Guidelines, accompanied by real empowerment to make good decisions, achieve commitment (rather than compliance)…to doing what’s right, rather than doing things right. Guidelines are best practices and roadmaps for how to deal with familiar situations, but they are not hard and fast rules. For many leaders, this is a scary notion. How do you get people to do what they’re supposed to without hard and fast rules? Easy – you hire the right people, and then inspire and empower them to gain their commitment to doing what’s right on behalf of the business and its customers. The payoff for this is huge!

Get Courageous

It is quite natural for businesses to over-adopt policies as they grow, as there are plenty of reasons to take this path (and plenty of people who LOVE to author policy). The issue is that policies become a brick wall for too many people, with no way over or around. Nowhere are policies more dangerous than when they get in the way of moving swiftly, doing the right thing, and (especially) meeting your customers’ needs.  If you take nothing else from this post, take the following three Courageous Leadership tips:

1 – Challenge every rule and policy you encounter. This doesn’t mean all rules have to change, but understand that rules and policies tend to become obsolete as the business environment changes. When you find a rule that needs to be broken, break it publicly for all to see!

2 – Ask people why they are making certain decisions. This is a simple test. If the answer even slightly resembles, “because that’s what I was told to do,” or, “because that’s policy,” you have some work to do. The answer to this question should always resemble this – “because I felt it was the best decision for our business and our customers.”

3 – Listen to your gut. What I mean by this is simple – we all have experience, instincts, and judgment. We typically feel it in our gut when we make suboptimal decisions based on policy. When you have this feeling, abide by it, rather than policy. If you are leading people, empower them to do the same.

Remember this – courageous leaders never hide behind policy. Not Lincoln, not Grant, not me, and hopefully not you. If you catch yourself or your team making business decisions based on policy alone, you have a serious problem on your hands. The best leaders empower their teams to use good business judgment to make good decisions – for the business, and especially for their customers.

Lead. Courageously.

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3 STEPS TO THAT NEXT BIG PROMOTION

I interview hundreds of people each year, and one of the most common questions I get is, “how did you get to where you are?”  My response is always the same.  It comes down to three very simple (not easy) things: record of achievement, the desire to do more, and the aptitude to do more.  Let’s examine each one a bit closer.

Record of Achievement – As the great John Wooden said, the team with the best players almost always wins.  Truth – the best leaders relentlessly focus on attracting the absolute best players.  Past performance is the most reliable indication of future performance, so your record of achievement is everything in business.  If you work in an organization that promotes those without a record of achievement, consider going to work for an organization that takes this seriously.  Provided you are a winner, you deserve to be on a winning team.

Tip – Your record of achievement is the most valuable asset you own, and it can never be taken from you.  Focus on building a real record in every position you occupy, as this gives you confidence and credibility when you do get that next promotion.  Be patient and resist the urge to seek promotions too quickly, as your record and your experience are often the only things you can take with you into your next job.

Desire – Quite a large number of highly successful professionals are content with the position they hold, and they are uninterested and/or unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to assume the next level of leadership.  And let me be clear – sacrifice is always necessary.  Always.  Before raising your hand for that next promotion, be very honest with yourself about why you want it.  Is it just for money?  If so, don’t do it.  Only take the next step if you really want it, as it will require long-term sacrifice…long after you’ve stopped noticing that extra money in your paycheck.

Tip – The best way to communicate true desire to take on a promotion in the future is to demonstrate leadership and seek out opportunities to contribute more in your current position.  Always demonstrate a positive, constructive attitude, and be a substantive contributor at every opportunity.  Raise your hand to solve a problem or lead an initiative now!  If you wait to show desire by raising your hand for the promotion, you’re way too late.

Aptitude – Honestly assessing your own aptitude can be tough, as we are rarely prepared to openly admit to ourselves that we need more experience…or worse yet, that we simply don’t have the “goods” to take on a certain role.  If a hiring manager tells you that you are not ready for a specific job or promotion, don’t take that as a negative. Take it as an opportunity to learn and grow as fast as possible.  I’ve been “passed over” for multiple positions, only to find myself in even more senior positions before I knew it.  The grace with which you handle not getting a promotion is nearly as important as how you handle actually getting it, as it is a clear sign of your maturity.

Tip – Attitude, leadership, and maturity are three of the most important aptitude criteria you will be evaluated on when seeking a promotion.  Here’s the secret – you’re being evaluated on these every single day, so you cannot afford to wait until you are seeking a promotion to demonstrate them. Combined with a real record of achievement and the desire to do more, demonstrating these attributes will land you in a bigger job before you know it.

Landing promotions is hard and often very competitive.  Maximize your odds (and your overall professional success) by following the three step plan – build a winning record in every job, demonstrate your desire to do more through your actions, and demonstrate your aptitude to do more through your behaviors.

Good luck!  Write to me with good news about your promotions!

Lead. Courageously.

Doug's Signature

SURE! WHY NOT?

A great friend, mentor, and one of the best leaders I know is a role model in inspiring action. His name is Brian Kibby. He approves investments faster than anyone I know (often on the spot), he leaps into action as soon as he sees opportunity, and he keeps his team moving much faster than most in the world of business.

What’s Brian’s secret? He comes from a place of “Sure! Why not?” In other words – he is looking for reasons to act, rather than reasons not to act. Is this risky? It’s not nearly as risky as not acting this way, lest your competitors and your customers will literally pass you by.

Too often, when we do not have 100.00000000% of the information that we could theoretically get our hands on, we put off decisions that present even the most microscopic amounts of risk. We “thoughtfully” delay decisions in the spirit of doing even more research and analysis, when all that we really need to make the call is readily available – guts and instincts. To no surprise, we often end up making the same decisions days, weeks, or even months later…only to have slowed our teams down and wasted the most precious of resources – time.

If you think this does not apply to you, it does. We all hesitate…all the time.

The most common of hesitations occurs when new ideas and suggestions of trying something completely different arise. We are naturally wired to resist and ask countless questions before trying something new. But the best (and most motivational) approach is to ask just a couple of questions…and then surprise the person with a simple response – “Sure! Why not?”

Try my “Sure! Why not?” recipe the next time you are presented with a new idea:

  1. Ask a series of questions to develop your understanding of the idea, but ask them in the spirit of looking for reasons to approve action.  Try this – “Wow!  This sounds really interesting.  Let me make sure I fully understand.”
  2. Add at least one idea of your own to make the original idea even better.  Try this – “Yes, and we could even do…!”
  3. Say, “Sure! Why not?”
  4. Reward their courage by challenging them to quickly (within one week) formalize a plan for your review, to including funding, timeline, anticipated revenue/savings, etc.
  5. Provided the proposal makes sense, approve it and challenge the person or team to take full ownership of driving the idea forward with your full support.

Embrace “Sure! Why Not?” and you’ll be surprised at not only what you see in the form of innovation, but by the overall sense of excitement and entrepreneurial spirit you quickly build in your organization.

Repeat after me…

Sure! Why not?

Sure! Why not?

Sure! Why not?

Now – go looking for ideas and use these three simple words as often as possible.  Your team, your customers, and, ultimately, your shareholders will thank you for it.

Lead. Courageously.

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