Category Archives: Leadership

We Need More Organizers

Read this post and click the link on the Common Sense PR blog. The link highlights axioms of Fred Ross, Sr., and I haven’t read anything this good in a long, long time.

I appears as though what most of us are most impressed with are organizers, not leaders. Here are my favorite points from his list:

An organizer is not someone who leads but someone who gets behind people and pushes.

90% of organizing is follow-up.

Good organizers never give up – they get the opposition to do that.

To win the hearts and minds of people, forget the dry facts and statistics; tell them the stories that won you to the cause.

The only way to organize is to organize, not to sit around and jaw about it.

I dare you to read through the list and not find at least three points that hit home. Do us a favor and write your favorites in the comments below.

So What IS the State of the Union?

There’s something fundamentally wrong with any State of the Union address: the expectations for it are way, way off.

And it’s unfair to pinpoint only the President’s annual address. It’s as bad, or worse, with a corporate “state of the company” presentation. Annual meetings with stockholders can blow away the disappointments that are often produced in one of these speeches.

The problem with the expectations is this: the speaker (be it President, CEO, etc.) is expected to a) justify his strategy, and b) make the equivalent of New Year’s Resolutions. Just read this article from the Heath brothers in this month’s Fast Company magazine to see what resolutions will get you. The other problem is what the audience is expected to do. Mostly, clap. Nod. Smile. Shake hands. Mingle. In a phrase, make everyone feel like it’s all OK.

State of the UnionOf course, in the case of politics, those are the same people scrutinizing the President’s every move. They armchair quarterback, jockey for position and play the game to suit their own gain the most. We see Nancy Pelosi in the background yuck-monkeying it up for a person she’s clearly made known she really can’t stand at the end of the day, and definitely doesn’t agree with.

Again, this applies to business just the same. When times are good, the speaker is rolling. When times are bad, the speaker guesses at why that’s happened, and promises that there is a plan in place to combat it. Employees stand and applaud when the pauses prompt them, and stakeholders do the same, until they can split up into their little groups and discuss what they really think over cognac and cigars.

What we rarely get is a real state of things. Calling it like it is. Defining reality.

Which is why most companies/governments have a hard time moving forward – they can’t accurately describe where they’re at.

Similar posts on Brett’s Blog:

  1. Honesty and Politics Can Mix
  2. Intention is Powerless

Off Your Plate

Getting Things Off Your PlateIf you’re a marketer, you’ve got a lot of people counting on you.

Creative is always needing your input on their work. Financial analysts need you to ok their latest pricing models. Legal and Regulatory need you to send your wish list of claims. R&D needs you to narrow down their work. Customer Service needs you to point the way on just how to deal with certain customers.

And on and on.

Someone’s always counting on marketing because marketing is what sets the tone. Marketing writes the agenda for just about the rest of the company.

Which can present a problem. There’s nothing more you want than to move things forward. The issue is that, more times than not, the quagmire is you. On top of that, you’re normally not the person who actually executes what needs to happen, so you have to rely on others. Who in turn are first relying on you.

It’s only natural. You can only handle so many emails, so many meetings, so many phone calls, so many presentations. But nobody else really cares about that. What they want to know is what to do next.

So here’s the challenge: how can you quickly get things off your plate and onto someone else’s?

Isn’t that normally the issue? You have 8 hot items stuck because you simply haven’t had the bandwidth to concentrate on them for just a few minutes and move them along. So they just sit there, and sit there, and then you work late one night and blast them all out, only to find that it then shakes up your whole support team, cuz they don’t know exactly what and when to do next.

What if you took 30 minutes a day to get things “off your plate” and into the hands of someone who can move it forward. Treat it almost like a race, replying quickly to emails, returning calls and writing directional briefs for a solid 30 minutes. It puts the ball back in the court of the players (rather than with you, the coach) so that something can actually get done.

Lately, I’ve been doing it first thing in the morning, before I make my breakfast shake in the office, before I open my calendar, before all that stuff. My problem is doing it when I feel like I don’t have 30 minutes to burn. But then it hit me, if each item takes an hour for the “player” to complete, and I have on average 5 items to get off my plate at any given time, then that 30 minutes quickly becomes 5 hours worth productivity. So it makes sense.

Don’t overlook or underestimate the importance of your constant guidance in a project. You’re the marketer. You’re the one responsible for getting your product to market, and no one is going to completely share your paradigm and sense of urgency. Your team is dependent on you for those things. You’ve got to remind them, and you’ve got to get them what they need to get it done.

You’ve got to get things off your plate.

Related posts on Brett’s Blog:

  1. Thinking Outside the List
  2. Move the Box

You Have To Solve Problems

We all have our complaints about our jobs.

This process takes too long; I’m always the last one to know anything around here; No one knows what they’re doing up there; Why do we have 3 different logoes; Management never shares their vision with us. Blah, blah, blah.

Work is hard. And crazy. And it’s pretty much universal, even though we always seem to think that our company is the only one this insane. Trust me, having started a new job about 4 months ago, I can tell you there are idiots everywhere.

And there are problems everywhere.

In fact, the whole reason a business is in business is to solve problems. The whole reason people pay your company money is to solve a problem. The whole reason you’ve been hired is to solve problems in a specific area. The people that are most respected in your office are the ones who solve problems.

So stop being so surprised that there are problems where you work. All the glory, the money, the promotions, the kudos and the fun go to the person who can solve the problems.

The Secret to Business Success: Go pick a problem and solve it. Then repeat.

Intention is Powerless

I heard my dear friend Rick Loy state a quote a few nights ago at the Roaring Lambs banquet that is, ironically, quite powerful:

We all know that intention is powerless.

Thankfully, Rick has also written a post on the same topic, so enjoy.

I’m guilty of banking too much on intention. My gut tells me that, if you asked around, the people I work with and interact with would probably tell you I’m a driver, a “get-it-done” guy. But in my heart, I know I rarely complete 25% of what I intend to do, or even what I verbalize I will do (ask my wife). Like Yoda said to Luke, “There is no try. Do, or do not.” Which means I’m still a long way from becoming a Jedi.

Much like a faith without works is dead, so intention without action dies just as easily.

Leadership and Christianity?

I was shocked today to find so many posts under the WordPress tag “Leadership” that also dealt with Christianity, the church and spiritual issues. It’s encouraging, really. But not expected.

I have no  real observations, other than this: Are churches today preaching more about leadership in life? Or is this simply a ripple from the more motivational sermons that seem common in today’s churches? And is it a good or bad thing? Or are Christians simply starving for earthly leadership to the point that it’s often on their mind?

p.s. The posts under this tag could easily change within an hour, so just trust me that a lot of it was spiritual in content.

Thinking Outside the List

Just being busy doesn’t make you productive.

Just being productive doesn’t make you effective.

Just being effective doesn’t make you successful.

Just being successful doesn’t make you a leader.

Too many people think erroneously somewhere in the midst of the misconceptions listed above. Success requires leadership, but it does not produce leadership. Leadership requires vision, persistence and influence, among other things.

As I ran around like crazy today, trying to wrap one thing up after another, I suddenly realized I was more interested in crossing things off my list than I was producing exceptional products and services. And I almost missed some bigs things because of it.

Crossing things off a list and never straying has never been a celebrated characteristic of a leader.  

We all get in “get-it-done” mode. As a marketer, it is sometimes required. But there is no one that should care about producing the exceptional, the remarkable, the unbelievable more than you. And that takes leadership (vision, persistence and influence). Don’t skip that – the people you work with are counting on you to demand excellence, whether they act like it or not.

As a marketer, you must think outside the list.

Be Your Own Consultant

Here’s a fact: no matter how great an idea, we can all get a little overwhelmed, whipped or both with the implementation of our strategies.  Regardless of how much you enjoy your work, the little details to pull of your great ideas will get to you eventually, at least from time to time.

And it’s in this spirit of human nature that we often let the little troubles of what we have to do sideline the meaningful things that we know we should do.

In other words, if you weren’t the person who actually had to implement your own ideas, you’d probably have some really great ones out there.

Instead, we too often settle for mediocrity.

So here’s a solution: Be your own consultant.

In the office, consultants often get a bad rap because they come in, give their opinions and advice, and then let everyone else actually implement it. As jealous and/or frustrated as the regular employees get about it, the consultants are actually doing what they’re hired to do. Consultants are hired to help clarify what the normal employees need to do. They bring perspective.

Now, if you can do that with yourself, and somehow turn off your operational mind on why the great ideas you come up with won’t work, or your project management persona that demands an extensive timeline with weeks and weeks of contigencies, then you might actually get somewhere.

Go ahead – hire yourself as a consultant. If you were a consultant for someone in your position, what would you suggest they do? Map it out for them.

Then, when that’s over, go do it. It’s a lot better than letting someone else tell you what to do, and it’s a great way of nipping your tried and true excuses in the bud.

A Fancy Name for Failures

Pioneer is just a fancy name for failure.

Other synonyms are trailblazer, innovator, groundbreaker, leader.

I know what you’re thinking: “Pioneers are celebrated. They are heroes. They are successful.”

But there’s no way you move forward into uncharted territories without making mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Really big mistakes. In other words, failures.

But the difference in a pioneer and a true failure is that the pioneer addresses the mistake, then moves on. A failure let’s a mistake stop them in their tracks, and accepts it as unsolvable.

Some of us face things that have never been done before. At least specific enough to our situation. It may be a completely new product idea. Or maybe a break from your company’s traditional way of doing business. And when that happens, you have no reference point, because you’re the first. You’re the pioneer. And when you’re the pioneer, you have to plan for unforeseen challenges, mistakes and failures.

An expedition with Lewis & Clark was filled with carnage. Hiking to the North Pole guarantees a bout with frostbite. Safaris are characterized by encounters with lions, killer bees, snakes or all of the above.

And if you’re a pioneer, you’ll experience plenty of stuff you didn’t see coming. Shipping costs are 15% higher than expected. The Chinese New Year screws up your timeline. Product testing unveils a major flaw.

But if you plan for it, accept it, address it, fix it and move on, that’s when you’ll be a real pioneer.

Progress vs. Inertia

Does a day go by at your office that you’re not reminded of the system, or process, or procedure, or protocol? Yes, they’re all important, but they also have one thing in common:

Their very nature is to create ruts and habits.

Say what you will, but ruts and habits don’t often produce new ideas. Tom says it much more eloquently in his post than I can. Especially these quotes:

 “The reason men oppose progress is not that they hate progress, but that they love inertia.” – Elbert Hubbard

“My point is simply this: the main enemy of ideas is not fear of change, but love of the way things are right now. Discomfort be damned.”