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How to Navigate a Crisis in 3 Courageous Steps

This article is for leaders who seek an edge in navigating a personal or organizational crisis.

dogstuckinhammock

You’re either on top of events or events are on top of you.
– Pat Riley

A good warrior must always assess his present position, evaluate his losses and assets, and move forward.
– Tim O’Shea

Shit happens.

When you’re in a crisis, there are three things you can do to get out of it. These three things will not only create distance from the current crisis; they’ll make you stronger and more resilient, as well as help you avoid a similar crisis in the future.

These three steps aren’t easy. They take great courage. But they work for just about any type of crisis: financial hardship, poor health or disease, a deteriorating relationship, or a business failure.

Follow these three steps whenever you’re feeling stuck, afraid, or trapped by circumstances and you’ll break through to greater freedom, perspective, and new opportunities – usually much faster than you could have imagined. The three steps are:

  1. Stick to your strengths and core values
  2. Do what you’ve been resisting doing
  3. Trust and follow one expert or method until the crisis has passed

HG Wells said, “The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” Putting these three elements into practice will transform your crisis of today into something you can laugh at in the near future.

Stick to Your Strengths and Core Values

If you’re in a crisis, chances are that you stopped playing to your strengths or stopped living by the real values in your heart some time ago. Is this true for you? If so, then this crisis is your wake-up call.

Now is the time to get back into your strengths and double-down on your core values. Say “no” to everything that’s not in your wheel house. Say […]

By |2021-05-18T02:05:54-07:00May 16th, 2013|

How to Be a Genius

Last week, I was invited to speak to a group of college students at the Next Generation Summit at UCSB. I knew that most of them were probably under extreme pressure from their parents, peers, and society to go forth and “get a fricking job,” so I thought it would be fun (and helpful) to tell them the exact opposite: “Don’t get a job. Get in your Genius Zone!”

My core message is that everyone is a genius at something. If you don’t know what that is, and if you want a life with greater success, meaning, and happiness, then your mission is to go forth and find that “thing.” Once you’ve found it, then you must sacrifice to design everything in your life around it.

When someone hears this message for the first time, the typical reaction is, “OK, but what am I a genius at?” I answer this question in the talk with a simple formula: Talents + Purpose = Genius and then I give several examples of college students living this formula right now who are showing up as geniuses within their niche and making a positive impact on the world.

I, too, benefitted from giving this talk. My personal key takeaway is that there are committed and talented people in every generation. While the media often portrays “Millenials” as a spoiled, over-parented, unaware, and texting- and Ritalin-addicted bunch, I found this group to be incredibly insightful, passionate, engaged, and sincerely committed – not just to having a job, but to making a real difference. It was inspiring and reaffirming that humans are indeed very cool beings.

How about you? What do you think of the talk?

By |2021-05-18T06:41:14-07:00May 14th, 2013|

What’s the Common Ingredient for Team Success in Surgery, Banking, Software, Airlines, and Basketball?

This article is for leaders who are seeking an edge in maximizing the talents and performance of their teams.
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Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success (a must read book!), recently published a great LinkedIn article called “What’s the Common Ingredient for Team Success in Surgery, Banking, Software, Airlines, and Basketball?” I want to share it with you, along with my comments, because it’s a great illustration that success has more to do with the surrounding environment (i.e., vision and values, structure, process, and team) than with individual talent.

To get important work done, most leaders organize people into teams. They believe that when people collaborate toward a common goal, great things can happen. Yet in reality, the whole is often much less than the sum of the parts.

Many teams fail because they lack the requisite experience. If you want to perform a successful cardiac surgery, you need to bring in surgeons who have mastered the techniques. If your aim is to make good stock recommendations to investors, it would be wise to hire analysts with a long track record of star performance. If your goal is to produce high-quality software, land an airplane safely, or win basketball games, you’d be smart to rely on people who have done it before. As Jim Collins put it, we need to get the right people on the bus. But what if work experience is overrated?

How many times have you interviewed in the past year looking for “past experience” as one of the primary drivers of job fit? This is a fallacy, which I’ve written about before in “What Warren Buffet Can Teach You About Hiring”, that needs to end. Yesterday. And here’s where this gets interesting:

In a brilliant study, […]

By |2021-05-18T02:07:29-07:00May 7th, 2013|

A Scathing Portrait of the Innovator Leadership Style at AMD

When a Big Innovator is CEO, this leads to an up-and-down ride.Ars Technica published a great article this week “The rise and fall of AMD: How an underdog stuck it to Intel.”

The article follows the rise and fall of AMD over the years in its attempt to wrest a market leadership position from Intel (a war it was never able to win) and gives many anecdotes about the leadership style of the company founder and CEO Jerry Sanders. I want to share this article because it’s a good read and because it captures the essence of how a company behaves when a Big Innovator is at the helm.

As you might know if you’re familiar with my work, the Innovator style is one of four management styles that we all possess to some degree. You can read more about these styles (Producer, Stabilizer, Innovator, and Unifier) in Part II of my book Organizational Physics: The Science of Growing a Business.

Our best Innovator qualities are our ability to anticipate change and to be imaginative, charismatic, and inventive. Without the Innovator force, we would have no ability to adapt to changes in our environment and we would quickly become irrelevant or extinct.

When the Innovator force is really high, we call it a “Big Innovator” or “Big I.” The Big I shows up in some predictable and telling ways, and this description of Sanders is a perfect example:

On June 10, 2000, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) wanted to party—and party big. The company’s CEO, Jerry Sanders, arranged to rent out the entire San Jose Arena (now called the HP Pavilion) and then paid big bucks to bring in Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, the husband-and-wife […]

By |2021-05-18T02:08:07-07:00April 25th, 2013|

The Lean Startup Goes Mainstream: Here’s What You Need to Know

Entrepreneurial guru Steve Blank (awesome systems thinker) has an article coming out on the cover of Harvard Business Review this month: “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything.”

I really appreciate the framework of the Lean Startup approach and I’m a big fan of the movement. One thing I notice that’s missing from it is a discussion on the lifecycle stages of the customers that the lean startup should be targeting/getting feedback from. Here’s what I mean:

The Product Lifecycle goes like this: Pilot it, Nail it, Scale it, Milk it, Kill it.

The Market Lifecycle of customer types goes like this: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority/Laggards.

In order to navigate from the temporary organization of a startup, find the business model, and scale it, the disruptive entrepreneur should seek to align this sequence of steps together. I.e., Pilot it for Innovator Customers. Nail it for Early Adopters. Scale it for the Early Majority, and Milk it for the Late Majority/Laggards like this:

Align the product and market lifecycles with the execution lifecycle (not shown). Align the product and market lifecycles with the execution lifecycle (not shown).


Put another way, you DON’T want to be Piloting a project for a Late Majority/Laggard clients or misaligning the other stages. Why not? Because those Late Majority/Laggard clients are old and stable. They are outstanding at telling the entrepreneur what the market needs now (or 5 years ago) but tend to be incapable of identifying where it’s going to be 5 years from now. To find that out, you have to go to the fringe — those Innovator and Early Adopter Clients that aren’t currently served by the status quo. That’s where the true disruption lies.

Late Majority/Laggard clients also have a vested interest […]

By |2021-05-18T02:09:10-07:00April 16th, 2013|

A Beautiful Portrait of a Unifier Leader

Pacific Lutheran football coach Frosty Westering in his office in Tacoma, Wash. in 2001. (AP Images) Pacific Lutheran football coach Frosty Westering in his office in Tacoma, Wash. in 2001. (AP Images)

I came across a phenomenal obituary written for Frosty Westering by Chuck Culpepper at Sports on Earth today.

Frosty was the football coach for the Division III Pacific Lutheran football team and he was remarkable. He coached for over 32 seasons without a losing record in any. He never mentioned playoffs or titles to his players but won four national championships and four runner-up finishes on two levels. He died on Friday at age 85 surrounded by a loving family.

Tears welled up in my eyes and my throat got caught when I read it. I want to share this story about Frosty for that reason alone. But I also want to share it because it’s a wonderful portrait of a strong Unifier leadership style in action.

The Unifier style is one of four management style dimensions that we all possess to one degree or another. You can read more about these styles: Producer, Stabilizer, Innovator, and Unifier in Part II of my book Organizational Physics: The Science of Growing a Business.

Our best Unifier qualities are our ability to create rapport, understand and motivate others, build cohesive teams, and create sound organizational cultures based on caring, empathy, and loyalty. Without the Unifier force, we would have no ability to respond to change efficiently because the organization couldn’t act as a whole.

Let’s see how the Unifier force shows up in coach Frosty’s leadership style so that you can learn to recognize it, develop it, and manage it in your own life and work:

His players implored […]

By |2021-05-18T02:09:40-07:00April 16th, 2013|

How to Think About Your Health & Diet

I lost 35 pounds and several sizes in three months. I didn’t do it by dieting. I did it by changing the way I eat. There’s a difference.

What led me to this was thinking about my health in a whole new way. After trying to navigate large amounts of conflicting nutritional information and trying on new diets over the years (many of you can relate), I had an insight based on the Organizational Physics principles I teach every day.

I took the Universal Success Formula from Chapter 1 of my book Organizational Physics: The Science of Growing a Business and made a slight modification to the terms. The original formula looks like this:

The Universal Success Formula explains why any system in the universe will fail or succeed. The Universal Success Formula explains why any system will fail or succeed.

If you’re new to the Universal Success Formula, all you need to know is that any system is acted upon by entropy and will eventually fail unless new energy is added to the system. Once you decrease entropy, the energy available for integration and success increases.

For example, imagine that you have a friend in the hospital. He can’t go out in the world and be successful (high integration) because most of his available energy has to go towards healing his illness (entropy). Once he recovers, entropy will be lower and he’ll have more energy to re-integrate into the world and thrive.

Applying the same concepts to health and diet, the Universal Success Formula can be worded like this:

Health is a function of vitality over entropy. Health is a function of vitality over entropy.

Think of your health […]

By |2021-05-18T02:11:19-07:00April 12th, 2013|

What’s Wrong with the Golden Circle?

Simon Sinek is the author of Start with Why and the creator of concept he calls “The Golden Circle.” The Ted Talk he gave on the topic is incredibly popular, almost 10 million views as I write this.

The concept of the Golden Circle is simple. It looks like this:

Sinek's Golden Circle hits on some core truths and is almost right. Sinek’s Golden Circle hits on some core truths and is almost right.

Sinek purports that great organizations seem to create their foundation by first addressing Why they exist, then How they go about their mission, and then finally, What they do. 

Let me say first that I really appreciate what Sinek is doing — inspiring leaders to think about the soulful calling of their organizations and to rally others to a bigger cause beyond just selling widgets. And he does a masterful job of calling out that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and that it’s critical to attract customers who believe what you believe. Awesome.

However, the truth is that great organizations build their core ideology by first defining and reinforcing Who they serve and the customer problem or need that they solve in the marketplace. Then they address and reinforce Why they exist, then How they go about their mission, and finally What they do.

So a modified more accurate Golden Circle should really be drawn like this:

Great organizations really begin with Who they serve, then Why, How, and What. Great organizations really begin with Who they serve, then Why, How, and What.

How do I know? Two reasons:

1) A business doesn’t exist […]

By |2021-05-18T02:12:12-07:00April 1st, 2013|

The Forgotten Formula of Performance Management

The right formula is pretty damn valuable. Especially for Krabby Patties. The right formula is pretty damn valuable. Especially for Krabby Patties. Way back in 1936, the founder of social psychology, Kurt Lewin, came up with a formula to explain individual behavior. I’m going to share it with you…but don’t go running off because it looks complicated. It’s not.

B = f(P,E)

It means this: An individual’s Behavior is a function of that Person’s personality, capabilities, training, experience, etc. and his/her existing Environment.

Makes sense, right?

So what’s the problem? The problem is that most management thinking today seems to have totally forgotten the critical importance of the surrounding environment when it comes to performance management.

Businesses measure and invest tons of money in individual training and skill development. They study and implement crafty new performance incentive programs. They run personality profile tests — all that crap.

But what great organizations do differently compared to the rest is they give equal attention to the inner structure, processes, and core ideology (i.e., the environment) of the organization itself.

The truth is that each of us is governed by the environment in which we live and work. If the surrounding environment is designed well, then a C player is going to look and perform like a B+ player. And if the surrounding environment and opportunity is top-notch, then A players are going to flock to that organization to apply their talents. The corollary is that if the surrounding environment is designed poorly, then even A players are going to show up like C players.

Let me give two examples to drive this point home. One from a famous and controversial study at Stanford and the other from the NFL.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

By |2021-05-18T02:12:40-07:00April 1st, 2013|

Who Moved My Cheese and the Four Forces

Truth is truth at any age. This article is for managers who want a better grasp of personality styles and how to quickly read and understand them in themselves and others.

I read Who Moved My Cheese for Kids to my 9-year-old son recently. It’s a fun little book, based on the eponymous bestseller, about four characters who live in a ‘maze’ and look for ‘cheese’ to nourish them and make them happy. You probably know how the story goes already (it was a bestseller) but if not, or you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick synopsis:

Two of the characters are mice named Sniff and Scurry and two are little people – beings the size of mice who look and act a lot like people. Their names are Hem and Haw. The ‘cheese’ is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it’s a good job, a loving relationship, money, possessions, health, or peace of mind. The ‘maze’ is where you look for what you want – the organization you work in, or the family or community you live in.

In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change. Eventually, one of the little people deals with it successfully, and writes what he has learned from his experience on the maze walls. When you come to see the handwriting on the wall you can discover for yourself how to deal with change, so that you enjoy less stress and more success (however you define it) in your work and life.

There’s a lot of truth in the book and I thought it would be fun to relate the four characters to the four PSIU forces of Organizational Physics. That way, the next time you’re managing a Hem, […]

By |2021-05-18T02:13:13-07:00April 1st, 2013|

How to Give an Order

Because every time you issue an order to someone you deplete your reserve of authority and you also deplete their reserve of power. Every time you issue an order to someone, you deplete your reserve of authority and you also deplete their reserve of power. How should you give an order to your subordinates? It’s pretty easy actually. Don’t.

Instead of thinking that your leadership role means having power over others, think instead of having power with others. Put another way, the order shouldn’t be given by you to them but should come from a shared awareness of the situation itself.

For example, let’s say that you just got word that your company is about to lose a big deal in NYC. You’re the CEO and you’ve called a meeting with the VP of Sales.

The VP of Sales comes into your office and you bark out an order, “Get on a plane to NYC and save that deal. Go!!”

Fast? Yes. Effective? No.

Why isn’t that effective? Because every time you issue an order to someone, you deplete your reserve of authority and you also deplete their reserve of power. Let me explain.

Authority is the authorized right to say “yes” and “no” to something. Clearly, a boss has more authority than their subordinates. But like an artesian well with a fixed amount of water, each time the boss draws upon his or her authority, they take some water from the well. If they keep being “bossy” and playing the authority card, that well will soon run dry and they won’t have any authority left at all.

For example, I have authority over my kids. But if I were to over-play the authority card and issue orders like, “Clean up […]

By |2021-05-18T02:14:11-07:00March 31st, 2013|

Don’t Measure Your Wrists for Golden Handcuffs

Don't measure yourself for golden handcuffs or you might just get stuck wearing them. Don’t measure yourself for golden handcuffs or you might just get stuck wearing them. A Little Book of f-laws is a free collection of 13 common sins of management by management consultants Ackoff, Addison, and Bibb.

One f-law in particular stands out for me as something that’s all too true. It’s about the tendency to measure and focus on the wrong things because they are easy to track.

Instead, what we should focus on — in business and in life — is identifying what it is that we truly do want, even if it’s hard to measure.

In a society that seems to excel at measuring and celebrating empty accomplishments, it’s a great f-law to keep top of mind:

“Managers who don’t know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure.

For example, those who want a high quality of work life but don’t know how to measure it, often settle for wanting a high standard of living because they can measure it. The tragedy is that they come to believe that quality of life and standard of living are the same thing. The fact is that further increases to an already high standard of living often reduce quality of life.

Unfortunately and similarly, the (unmeasurable) quality of products or services is taken to be proportional to their (measurable) price. The price of a product or service, however, is usually proportional to the cost of producing it, not to its quality; and this cost tends to be proportional to the relative incompetence of the organization that produces it.

Like economists, managers place no value on work they do not pay for because […]

By |2021-05-18T02:15:19-07:00March 28th, 2013|

Apple: Where the Money Goes in One Awesome Chart

applewherethemoneygoes
Data is for Q4 2012. See Asmyco.com for source and notes.

Two things that I love about this chart:

  1. First, it’s just a great visual representation. All data should be so beautiful.
  2. It reflects how Apple truly is an ecosystem company. Note that even though the revenue of hardware sales dwarfs the combined sales of digital services (i.e., music, apps, and software sales which are still huge in their own right), it is these digital services that extend the Apple ecosystem and make it large and vibrant. And of course, the larger and more vibrant the ecosystem, the more value it creates.

You can see the same “ecosystem economics” in another great brand — Amazon. Both Amazon and Apple are in the business of getting customers into their ecosystem by creating value to customers, and then consistently reducing the friction for new transactions to occur.

Once you buy a Kindle, or sign up for Amazon Prime, there’s very low friction for you to make future purchases (i.e, it’s easy for Amazon to extract new energy in the form of money, brand clout, and capabilities from its surrounding ecosystem). And just like a Lion prefers hunting grounds with lots of Antelope, the more digital services each brand offers, the more consumers desire to be a part of that ecosystem.

Keep this concept in the front of your mind when you’re scaling your own business — think in terms of creating ecosystem economics around a core value proposition where there’s low transaction friction and high customer engagement over time. Don’t be a product company. Be a systems company.

By |2021-05-18T02:16:31-07:00March 26th, 2013|

Greening the Deserts: Systems Thinking for Climate Change and Business Growth

“It’s possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems.”
– John D. Liu

“Green Gold” is a film documentary about how farming cultures in Africa, Asia, and South America are reclaiming once fertile land from the desert. I’m inspired to share it for three very important reasons:

It’s a great synopsis of systems thinking in action. Small changes have big repercussions. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction… even continents away. And every part of the global system is interconnected and interdependent with the rest. Once you set up the ecosystem the right way, it organically grows, prospers, and flourishes over time. In the words of an expert interviewed in the film, “The world gets more and more complicated all the time, but the solutions to fix the world’s ecosystems remains relatively simple.” The same thing is true for your business growth. If it seems complicated, the solutions are simple. Be a systems thinker, eliminate entropy, apply the right force of change, know what steps to take next. Design your system or business so that it can scale organically…even without your direct involvement.

It’s a wonderful example of an individual leveraging his strengths and passions to solve a big problem in the world. The filmaker, John D. Liu, is one of the world’s foremost experts on ecosystem reconstruction. But guess what? By background, he’s just a contract documentary filmmaker. John has no formal training in ecology, biology, farming, or permaculture. He stumbled across a solution to the complex global problem of desertification. Seeing solutions that work and inspired to take action, he learned what he needed to learn while leveraging his talents of filmmaking and curiosity. This is a very powerful example of Your Genius Zone in action.

It inspires positive, concrete action in the face of accelerating […]

By |2021-05-18T02:17:24-07:00March 26th, 2013|
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