Saturday, November 5, 2011

Re-Branding An ICON

With the passing of Steve Jobs the questions about Apple’s future started almost immediately.  What will happen to the company?  Who is going to take over the helm?  Will the company still be the leader in innovative technologies?   Well, time will tell.

I really believe Apple would have been better off if Steve Jobs had shared the stage with others in his organization.  Apple is inextricably tied to Steve and only time will tell if the cables can be severed to introduce a new a vibrant company or will the competition take a bite out of Apple’s market share.

When the new CEO, Tim Cook introduced the new IPhone 4 S, he received a lukewarm reception.  How do you follow a legend?  All inspiration and creativity was in the mind of Steve Jobs.  Yes, he led a team of the best and brightest, but we only saw the results of his thinking.

Steve Jobs was Apple’s brand.  His signature black turtleneck sweater and jeans represented his brand.  The apple was the logo, but Steve the brand.  Now that Steve is gone, my question is, is the brand gone?   After Steve Jobs died many around the world celebrated his life and honored him by wearing a black turtleneck and jeans.

Steve Jobs leadership will, in my opinion, be defined by what the company is in 5-10 years.  Is the company still the leader in innovation and creativity or will it be second rate?

Only time will tell...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Tale of Two Brothers

This is the story of two brothers, one very industrious and committed to his studies and achieving his dream of being a successful business man.  Let’s call him William.  Ever since William was able to push a lawn mower, he worked.  He mowed lawns during the summer and on the weekends during the school year.   He had a newspaper route and each morning he would wake very early, get dressed for school, and before going to school he would deliver his papers.  He studied hard and worked hard.  His hard work paid off in making him a straight “A” student, and he saved enough money to start a small janitorial company.  William ran his company while attending college, but upon graduation he pursued his dream of working on Wall Street, where after years of laboring he started a small consulting company that he grew into one of the most successful companies on Wall Street.  As a result of his success Williams was able to channel much of his earning into charitable organizations, where he helped the poor and the hungry.  William wanted to make his mark on society and to make a positive impact on the world!

The other brother, Richard, was content to sit at home, playing video games and hanging out with his friends.  He had no drive or initiative.  William tried unsuccessfully to get his brother to work with him, but Richard thought sleep and video games were his occupation.  You see, William and Richard came from a very well-to-do family and Richard relied on the support of his parents to take care of him.  He had a big nice room with all of the modern technology and comforts a young man could want.   After all he was their son, he felt entitled to everything he wanted to make him happy.  He thought it would be foolish to go to work for minimum wage, when he had everything he thought he needed and wanted being provided by his parents.  In fact he would laugh at William for getting up early and working late, when all he needed to do was let their parents know what he wanted and it would be provided.  Richard continued to live with his parents until well into his forties.  With no marketable skills or desire to work, Richard was destined to always be supported by his parents and living at home.

There are so many people today, like William who just want the opportunity to work.  They want an opportunity to make a difference in their community. They will do whatever it takes to provide for their family.  
However, there are many like Richard who are content just waiting for that check in the mail.  They have no problem taking free money and services.  They act out of hopelessness.  With little or no drive, they will always expect to be cared for.  William never gave up on his brother, but he believed that in order for Richard to achieve any level of success, he would have to want it bad enough to work hard and long to achieve independence and self-reliance.  Unfortunately, he did not want it.

If you are out of work, have you lost your drive or are you passionate about finding the opportunities out there, or making some opportunities of your own?  Whether mowing lawns or tossing newspapers, hard work and perseverance will prevail.   Don’t give up the fight, you have what it takes to achieve greatness!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Change in Schedule

In order to complete the first draft of my book, I will need to modify my blogging schedule to once a month.  I thought I would be able to write two blogs, a book and run three companies, but I hit a wall.  I guess what Clint Eastwood said in his movie, Magnum Force, is true, "a man has got to know his limitations."  Well, I have hit my limit.

Please look for my next blog post October 2, 2011.  I hope you will stay with me as I take on the challenge of writing what I hope to be an inspiring work.

Have a Powerful Day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Picked Up In The Rain

I love this story:

One night about 11:30 p.m., an older black woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm.  Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.  Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s.  The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxi.  She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Several days went by and there was a knock at the man’s door.  To his surprise, a giant console color television was delivered to his home.  A special note was attached.  It read:  Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits.  Then you came along.  Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away.  God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.

Mrs. Nat King Cole

We all have times when life rains down on us, drenching our spirits.  We all have had times when we feel overwhelmed and all alone to deal with the cares of this life.  The man who came to Mrs. Cole’s aid was filled with compassion and overlooked her color.  He saw a person in need.  He did not know who she was and therefore was not looking for a reward.  He was willing to be inconvenienced.  He stopped. He did what was right.  He served.

What a lesson for us as leaders, how to lead with compassion and a willingness to serve others in need.  As a leader, be aware of opportunities to serve, and be willing to be inconvenienced.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Leadership Is Not Just About Position, But Being In Position

Recently, I spoke at a high school in Oakland. I have to admit, before I arrived at the school I had images of a dirty and unkempt campus. As I parked my car in front of the school I prepared myself for the odor of musty hallways and the trash being strewn around the school grounds and hallways.

I was so wrong. The school was immaculate! As I walked through the corridors I started to think about the person(s) responsible for maintaining the school’s interiors. As I walked to the classroom where I was to speak there she was, this striking middle-aged woman at the bottom of the stairs, working away. I just had to tell her what a wonderful job she was doing. As I approached her she greeted me with a smile. This was the smile of a person who enjoys her work and takes pride in it.

I expressed to her that she was doing an incredible job! She smiled and thanked me for the compliment. I have to tell you that I believe she would do a great job no matter if she received acknowledgement for her work or not.

I shared my thoughts with the Assistant Principal. She stated that her work ethic was not only appreciated by the teachers, but all of the students.

In my mind, she is not just a custodian, but a leader. She demonstrated hard work, conscientiousness, commitment, and a dedication to being the best she could be. She is modeling a type of leadership that all of us could learn from.

Leadership is not just about position, but being in position to impact others.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Drive Miss Daisy, But Not While Drunk

Over the past few months sports figures and actors have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).  How many times are these undisciplined individuals going to be allowed to drive under the influence before someone else is killed?  Last year, one well known television actor killed the passenger riding with him while he was driving intoxicated.  He said he was sorry, but it did not bring his passenger back to the family left grieving.

It sickens me when I hear these selfish people stand up in front of the media to say they are sorry, only to see them arrested again for the same offense.  When will we as a nation start to take drinking and driving seriously?

While researching for this post I was amazed to see that there are several websites devoted to celebrity DUI arrests: and

In team sports they often speak of leadership as pertaining to the one who is most vocal or who is one of the best athletes.  Many times it does not matter what kind of leader they are off the field, as long as they produce on the field.  Team captains who are arrested for DUIs are given a pass because they know how to run with a football or shoot balls through a hoop with regularity.  Depending on the severity of the offense, they are still considered leaders.

A few years back there was a well-known baseball manager arrested for DUI while passed out at a stop light.  Guess what!  No suspension or termination.  NO real accountability.  Heck, I don’t think he missed a game.

I am not sure what needs to happen before we as a nation take drinking and driving seriously, but our leaders must take a stand and increase the punishment for individuals who intentionally get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated.

Recently, former NFL player, Bubba Smith passed away.  Although he will be remembered for his play on the field, he will also be remembered for passing on thousands of dollars he made from beer commercials.  Bubba stated that he knew how many kids were looking up to him and his endorsement of beer drinking could have a significant impact on their impressionable lives.

That’s leadership!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taking From The Top or Receiving From The Bottom

We have all heard of the CEO’s on Wall Street who, in spite of their companies’ poor performance, have taken huge bonuses.  The sad thing is, in some cases they immediately turned around and laid off hundreds of workers.  Even when a company performs at a high level, the leaders at the top should always look to reward all of the employees who have contributed to the company’s success.

How does a leader justify taking millions in bonuses while cutting salaries and staff.  I am not saying that there’s anything wrong with the leadership being paid handsome bonus packages, but they should be commensurate with performance.

I have a friend that is a CEO of a company that had achieved a significant increase in the company’s profits.  As a result, his team had a bonus pool of cash that he needed to distribute.  He had to decide whether to take his bonus off the top and distribute the balance to his team or to distribute the team’s bonuses first and receive what was left from the bottom.  For him the choice was easy, he received what was left from the bottom of the pool.  He said if it had not been for his team, his company could not have performed so well.

I was impressed by his decision in light of the fact that there are so many CEO’s who take from the top.

Leaders who receive from the bottom are those who recognize that they are standing on the shoulders of the people who make them successful.

If you are a leader are you taking from the top?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Characteristics of Humility

A friend of mine had a business meeting with a client.  He later shared with me his surprise when the CEO offered him a cup of coffee and then proceeded to pour and serve it to him.  He said, “The CEO poured me a cup of coffee!  Not his assistant, but the CEO!”

My friend was so surprised, because too often a trait that is consistently missing in today’s leaders is HUMILITY. 

Leaders must be willing to get out of themselves and look at the whole instead of the part.  We need leaders who can encourage people with enthusiasm, confidence and most importantly, humility.
But what does a humble leader look like?
  • Does not consider himself/herself above certain tasks
  • Acknowledges when someone has a better idea
  • Admits when they are wrong
  • Willing to serve someone else, even if they are a subordinate
  • Understands that it is not about their needs and wants
  • Quickly gives credit where credit is due
Can you name one leader in the public eye that has demonstrated humility?


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Do People Lie?

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.  ~Mark Twain

I love old television shows from the 60s’.  Last weekend I was watching one of my favorite TV shows of all time, “The Rifleman” staring Chuck Connors.   In many of the episodes they often end with some sort of lesson or moral of the story.

In the episode I watched last week the story dealt with lying and some of the reasons why people lie.  
The title character Lucas McCain uncovered four reasons why people lie:
  • To protect someone’s feelings
  • To avoid punishment
  • For financial gain
  • To protect status

Over the past several weeks we have heard from politicians on both sides of the aisle give their version of who and what is holding up the extension of the debt ceiling or what would happen if it is not raised.

During the debates I have heard the word “lie” on numerous occasions.  As a result, the American people are left to determine who is lying.   My question is why do the people who represent us feel so comfortable lying to us?  Remember when a lie was a lie?  Now when a person is caught in a lie all they have to say is that they “misspoke” and voila! They’re off the hook. 

Why are they lying? 
I know the answer is not because we “ can’t handle the Truth”. I believe there are two main reasons why they lie:

Financial gain.
  Many of our senators and congressman know that during and especially after their careers are over they can command big dollars on the speaking circuit and from writing books.  Some even go on to careers with big corporations with whom they have developed relationships during their political career.  In most cases it is to divert big dollars to their respective districts for various projects like the “bridge to nowhere.”

Protect their status.
  If they want to maintain their position in Washington, some feel they have to lie in order to protect their status as a Senator or Congressman.  This status also involves holding onto their power.  Telling the truth can potentially place their position at risk, as many times they are challenged by the “Status Quo.”

No matter what the reasons are for lying, they often have a significant impact on the lives of the people being lied to.  The hurt, pain, bitterness, anger and frustration that lies can generate can turn a country on its head. 
Our leaders must be held accountable for the lies they tell and the breach of trust.

The truth is absolute and it can be known. 
It is not relative, the truth is the truth and we must demand it from our leaders, regardless of whether they have an R or D after their name.

Question everything!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Murdochs' Fallout and Falldown

As the storm created by the hacking of cell phones by individuals working for News of the World starts to wane, there are many lessons to be learned.   Rupert Murdoch and his son spent all last week engaged in damage control, issuing an apology to the family of a murder victim, the news community and the world.

The decision of some of the management staff working for Murdoch’s news organization not only forced the resignation of several of his deputies, but it cost his News Corp Empire billions in lost value.  My question to those involved, was it worth it?  In their quest to jockey for position to grab the next big headline and story, they were willing to engage in the most unethical and immoral behavior by conducting illegal eavesdropping.

Why did the deputies and others in Murdoch’s organization believe it was, first of all, right, and second, that they would get away with hacking murdered victim’s cell phones and those of celebrities and even 911 victims. 
Was it the state of our modern culture or was it the pressure to drive revenue?

Since the story broke, we find out that there were many others who may have been involved. 
The resignation of Britain's most senior police officer reveals another casualty of the scandal.

The culture of many companies is one of doing whatever is necessary to make money. 
Although walking the tightrope between unethical and ethical behavior has gone on for some time, tough economic times reveal the underlying character of a person and even a company.

What is more concerning than anything to me is the fact that when the news broke, and the leadership was questioned, they downplayed the situation. 
It was only when more scrutiny and pressure was applied that they finally started to cooperate.

As the fallout continues and the Murdochs’ fall from grace works itself out through hearings and the courts, be aware that the next big scandal is right around the corner.  How do I know? 
The hunger for power and money has an insatiable appetite and men and women will do most anything to feed it.

Why is doing the right thing so difficult?  Being fair and honest in business dealings seems to be old fashioned. 
When things get tough do you struggle to do what’s right?

Do you compromise your values and beliefs?  If you do, be sure your sins will find you out. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Working In Silos

I cannot believe how many organizations are misaligned in their direction and focus.  Over the past several weeks I have been meeting with employees and owners of companies where they are suffering from continued underperformance.

As I ask certain questions, I quickly find out that there is no alignment between the top, middle and bottom of the organization.  The vision and mission of the company have been lost even though they are displayed prominently on the office wall and proudly on the company’s website.

This lack of alignment and collaboration has lead to many of their employees working in proverbial silos.   As you can see in the photo, silos are individual compartments--although in close proximity to one another, they are separate.  Now, in farming, silos perform a specific function, but in business, silos can be detrimental to maintaining a team environment.

Departments, along with their employees, who work in silos, are not connected to the whole.  They do their work and only their work.  They’re not concerned so much with what the other departments are doing, only about their department and how it performs. Individuals can also work in silos; they too can find themselves only concerned about their own job and couldn’t care less how anyone else is doing.  The danger here is that even if one department meets the goals of its department and the others fail, then the entire company fails.  Departments, as to function, must be kept separate, but the focus and reason for the company’s existence must ever be in full view.

It is the job of the leader to make sure silos are not constructed, either departmentally or individually, and where they exist it’s the leader’s job to tear them down.  How?  By making sure everyone in the organization understands that if the company is going to meet its goals and deliver for its customers, they are all interdependent upon each other.

Tear down those silos and build a team focused on collaborative efforts and you will see a dramatic turnaround in your organization.  Simply put, it’s called working together.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Wisdom of Investing in Your People

At a leadership conference I attended years ago, the keynote speaker was a very successful sales and marketing expert.  He told us the story of how he lost some really good sales people, because he spent the majority of his time coaching underperformers.

He shared with us that he spent 80% of his time and attention managing underperforming sales people.  After spending considerable resources on coaching, training, and workshops, the ROI was the same poor results.  Meanwhile his high performing sales people felt underappreciated and over burdened with having to take up the slack.

The truth of the matter was he knew he could count on his high performing sales team to keep performing at a high level, so he did not spend much time with them.   The result was several of his top sales people left the organization.   The reason?  Feeling underappreciated and letting underperforming team members get by with lackluster results.

As the dynamics of his team changed, he had to change how he led his team.  He realized that he needed to nurture, acknowledge, coach and listen to his top performers.
The underperformers were given a certain timeframe to improve their performance, and if they did not, they would be separated from the company.

After a time of realigning his team, the overall results took a dramatic upswing.  The entire team was focused and energized.
While reflecting on the actions he took to turn the team around he distilled them down to the following key actions:

  • Hire good people.  No short cuts, hire smart and slow.
  • Set the right expectations, they need to know what to do each day they come to work.
  • Challenge and coach every team members to be better.
  • Separate from the company individuals who do not accept coaching and continue to underperform.

The wise and effective leader invests consistently in their people to help them to grow, develop and achieve their goals.  While the underperformers will either “get it” or self-select out of the company.

Making wise decisions regarding your staff is essential not only to employee engagement, but to the profitability of the company.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Don't Care If You Can Play Golf

Recently, President Obama and Speaker Boehner played golf to show everyone they could get along.  They probably had a beer after their round.  

My question is this:  I know they can play golf, but can they move the country forward? As a result of their golf event is the world is a better place? Can they now agree on either raising or lowering the debt ceiling?  How about developing and implementing a comprehensive Medicare, immigration and energy policy?
The answer is a big fat NO!  Recently, the Republicans asked for a meeting with the President and their request was declined.  Why?  There is no real good reason for denying the meeting.  The American people want their elected officials to stop playing politics with their lives.

With all of the turmoil in the Middle East and a horrible economic climate here at home, every effort should be taken to come to a meeting of the minds to extricate us out of this mess.

A true leader must be willing to look at an issue and move to bring it to resolution.  It is not about political power or personalities or who is right.  It’s about doing what is best for all Americans, the rich, the middle class and the poor.  There is a balance.  I do not believe there has to be an either/or situation.
We must find a solution to our ever-growing debt.  Continuing to play the blame game and calling each other names like little children will not enhance the lives of the American people or move us to reducing our debt, nor will it get us out of the various costly skirmishes we are involved in around the world.

Our elected leaders may be able to play golf together, and repeatedly kick the can down the road, but are not so good at moving the country forward and out of the mess we are in.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Buried Treasure

With unemployment in California continuing to hover around 12%, there are many individuals who struggle to find work.  There is a buried treasure of approximately 70 to 80 of these individuals who meet each week at a synagogue in Walnut Creek at an organization called Experience Unlimited, (   It is a professional job search network of extraordinarily talented people.  This is a 100% volunteer organization of people committed to help each other find employment.  They do this by bringing talented professionals and inspirational speakers to speak to them about how to remain positive during their job search as well as giving tips on how to energize their job search.
The venue where the meeting takes place charges a monthly rental fee for the use of the facilities. The rental fee is paid by the members who attend the weekly meetings.  At a recent meeting the president of the chapter, put out a request for donations.  What happened next totally blew me away!  Without any hesitation members stood up and went to the back of the room and began to drop one dollar bills in the basket.  You may say BIG deal!  I will tell you, yes, it is.  Remember, these individuals are all out of work and funds are short.
It is amazing how many skilled and experienced professionals are out of work these days.  In this same group there was a need to bring internet connectivity to the room.  Several members consisting of Project Managers, IT Administrators and other technology professionals worked together to outline a plan and executed it flawlessly to bring the internet to the space.
If you want to find buried treasure, look no further than Experience Unlimited. Seeing men and women leading by serving, while actively pursuing their next employment opportunity is truly inspirational.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Returned Phone Call -- A Lost Art

Why don’t people return phone calls anymore? Is it because the person who left the message is not important enough, is long winded, is a complainer, or is it that you’re on the phone so much you don’t want to be on the phone any more than you have to?

I don’t know how many times I have called someone and left a message for them to call me and never received a reply.  Do you know how disrespectful that is? 
I cannot verify the statement, but a friend of mine stated that Warren Buffet said he would not buy a company if the CEO would not return his call. 

Opportunities are lost every day because someone did not return a call.

My main reason for writing this post is to express my appreciation to a friend of mine who is a CEO, published author, world traveler, and sits on the board of several companies.  This man is extremely busy, yet when I call him or send him an email, without fail he will reply within 24 hours.  He does not just do it for me, but anyone who leaves him a message.

When I spoke to him about it he said, “It’s extremely poor manners not to return a phone call.”  With everyone having cell phones these days there is no real good reason for someone not to return a call. 
Some have made not returning a call a bad habit.

How many times have you had someone tell you they will call you, only to have them break their promise? 
Not returning a phone call, or not keeping a promise to call, can ruin both personal and business relationships. It’s just plain rude.

In a prior company I was responsible for hundreds of employees at all levels of the company.  One of my strengths was returning phone calls.  My commitment to every employee was to return their call within 24 hours of receiving it.  My reputation depended on me keeping that promise.  Many times while on the road I would check my messages and return calls sometimes to the employee’s home at 7 or 8pm.  They would always express their appreciation for returning their call. 
If I forgot to return a call I would feel just horrible and apologize profusely.

If you are one who does not return phone calls, think how it makes you feel when someone doesn’t return yours.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Taking Responsibility Is More Than Just Saying It

Unless you are living under a rock, you have heard the story about New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner’s fall from grace.  With the release of certain provocative photos of him which he had sent from his Twitter account, Congressman Weiner has been hit by the media, and both the Republican and Democratic parties.  First, he denied the photos were of him, however with the threat of the release of additional photos, he finally came clean.

“…and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23 NIV

“For there is nothing hidden that shall not be disclosed, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come out into the open.”  Luke 8:17 AMP

When Anthony Weiner says he has taken responsibility for his actions, I am not sure he has.  Taking responsibility is more than just saying it.  When one takes responsibility, especially for a wrong action on their part, they should also be willing to be held accountable.

In Congressman Weiner’s case, I believe that if he really wanted to take responsibility, he would resign.  However, he has steadfastly said that he is not going to resign even though members of his own party are calling for his resignation.  This is what is wrong with some of our leaders today—they say one thing, but do another.   They think they are above it all and that rules and laws don’t apply to them.  There is this belief that because of their position and power they can do and say almost anything they want.  It is all about them. As a result, the public continues to be very cynical when it comes to politicians. 

With this latest failure of one of our elected officials (there will be others) , it is clear that many people do not have any real understanding of what it means to be responsible. Responsibility means you are willing to be held accountable for your actions.

I believe we must demand more of our leaders, not perfection, but sound ethical behavior from leaders  who live by an uncompromising set of standards.  Is that too much to ask of the men and women that we trust to run our country?  If it is, we are indeed in trouble.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Does a company have a responsibility to be compassionate?

In this critical time in our country’s history, many companies are finding themselves having to make tough choices if they are going to survive this economy.  Most times the choices involve reducing costs.  This is a code word for laying off employees.  It is amazing how many companies seemingly accomplish this task without a lot of compassion.  With the stroke of a pen thousands of people’s lives are changed forever.  Some never recover from the loss.  The result can be the loss of a home, car, or deferred dreams.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that sometimes it is necessary to reduce staff and cut back on other expenses in order to ensure the survival of a company.  My question is why do so many companies make this decision and carry it out with such a lack of compassion?  I have a friend whose wife worked for a Bay Area company that called all of their field staff into the office.  As each of them arrived at the corporate office they were greeted by their supervisor who took the keys to their company vehicle handed them their last check and gave them cash for the waiting taxi that took them home.  How cold is that?

There has to be a better way.  When I was laid off from my company, not only did they give me warning, but they also explained the reasons why the decision was made.  Obviously anytime you are laid off it doesn't feel good, but when a company is cognizant of the effect that the decision will have on the employee and take steps to mitigate the shock, it goes a long way to maintaining the person’s dignity.

As a leader I think it is critical to stay in front of your business and to take steps to minimize the need for layoffs.  What do I mean?  With the exception of external forces beyond the company’s   control, there are steps the company can take to mitigate the necessity for layoffs.   Proper business forecasting, staying lean, and understanding your market can help. In addition, growth should be very strategic and personnel hired only when capacity dictates.  I hear of so many companies who experience explosive growth and hire a lot of personnel.  In short order someone gets the idea of improving efficiency which results in the loss of jobs.  Efficiency is required for a business to deliver consistent services and products to the customer, but more thought should be given beforehand to implementing streamlined processes and hiring based on anticipated need.

Leaders have a responsibility not only to their shareholders and boards, but to the people they lead.  I think you can take care of both if leaders get out of short-term thinking and look to the long-term benefits of all those they lead.  Building a compassionate and caring company culture is achievable if the right person is at the helm.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Be the leader others want to follow

There is no shortage of examples of poor leadership. Who hasn’t had a boss who invoked feelings of disrespect? A good leader is someone who energizes, inspires, motivates, and unites, while producing positive results. Here are 12 keys to being a leader others want to follow:

·         Give more than you expect others to give.
·         Set the example.
·         Remember it is not about you, but about the team.
·         Combine optimism and perseverance.
·         Express appreciation and give credit where credit is due.
·         Check your ego at the door.
·         Show respect for the people around you.
·         Be a source of inspiration.
·         Stress cooperation, not competition.
·         Maintain a sense of humor.
·         Be a teacher, coach and mentor.
·         Hold yourself and others accountable.

If you do not have a boss, teacher, father, or mother with any of these characteristics, then let it begin with you.  You can be the leader you want to see in others.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lighting The Way

With all of the negativity and violence experienced in the lives of many young inner city men, I have found an illustration of hope.  About 3 years ago I met two young men, Madison and Alexander who were involved in the real estate market and the network marketing industry.  Later I was introduced to Omar. They were very successful, which allowed them to work for themselves full-time.  I was impressed and encouraged by their commitment to take care of their families and their determination to make a positive impact on society.  They are three of the most fearless and creative young men I know.

Madison, Alexander, and Omar are leaders that are making a difference in the lives of their families, friends and in their respective businesses.  It encourages me to see these men who are actively engaged in building a better life for themselves and helping others along the way.  None of them asks for a hand out, but through focus, diligence, creativity, and integrity they are positively impacting lives.

They have collaborated and worked hard to open a music production studio, graphic design and entrepreneurial development businesses.  They support each other in their respective enterprises and want the best for each other.  This is not a competition where they want the other to fail.  They genuinely want the best for each other through the exchange of ideas on how to make each other’s business successful.

I see a bright future for these men of inspiration and courage.  I cannot wait to see where they land in their ultimate destination.  I know that they will achieve their goals and dreams and will be great examples for other young men and women to follow.  I am so proud of them!

Life is about choices and the choices they have made clearly will change their lives forever.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Leadership Toolkit

While working for a large construction company, one of my responsibilities was managing a large fleet of vehicles.  As part of our fleet operations we had a vehicle safety program, which mandated that each vehicle in the fleet be outfitted with a toolkit.  This kit had just about everything the driver would need to handle emergencies and to keep the vehicle running smoothly.  With this kit in the back of the vehicle, the driver could travel with complete confidence, knowing that if necessary they had  the tools and supplies necessary to help them get to their destination.

Just like the toolkit in our vehicles, every leader needs to possess the right tools  in their toolkit if they are going to succeed in their role as a leader and help their team arrive safely at its destination.  These essentials are critical to the formation of their philosophy and how they develop and lead people.  Below is a brief inventory list of what the leader needs to have in his/her toolkit:

"Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment."
Baltasar Gracian

"If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it."
William Arthur Ward

P O S I T I V E   A T T I T U D E
"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."
Helen Keller

"Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking."
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 “Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find a way.”
Abraham Lincoln

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."
Thomas Jefferson

 “The men who build the future are those who know that greater things are yet to come, and that they themselves will help bring them about. Their minds are illuminated by the blazing sun of home. They never stop to doubt. They haven’t time.”
Melvin J. Evans

 "The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability."
Fred A. Manske, Jr.

 “An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity, a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.”
Sir Winston Churchill

 "We deceive ourselves when we fancy that only weakness needs support. Strength needs it far more."
Madame Swetchine

After reading the above list, what other tools can you add to your toolkit?  Do you have any missing tools?  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Real Leadership Qualities

This past week the Republicans started the first in a series of debates.  After the debate a focus group was held to get the opinions of people participating in the group.  They were asked what they liked or disliked about each candidate?  The one word that consistently came out was leadership and leadership qualities.  The people of this country are thirsting for real leadership.  The American people are looking for men and women who will say what they are going to do and do what they say.  Real leadership involves several key ingredients:

A Leadership Philosophy

A leader must lead with a clear vision, create a vivid picture of where to go, as well as a have a firm grasp on what success looks like and how to achieve it.  The leader must communicate clearly, passionately, honestly and often. 

A Set of Operating Principles

A good leader must have the discipline to work toward his or her vision single-mindedly, as well as to direct his or her actions and those of the team toward the goal. Action is the mark of a leader. A leader does not suffer “analysis paralysis” but is always doing something in pursuit of the vision, and inspiring others to do the same.

Integrity is the integration of outward actions and inner values. A person of integrity is the same on the outside and on the inside. Integrity is who you are even when no one is around. 

Dedication means spending whatever time or energy is necessary to accomplish the task at hand. A leader inspires dedication by example, doing whatever it takes to complete the next step toward the vision. By setting an excellent example, leaders can show followers that there are no nine-to-five jobs on the 9+ team, only opportunities to achieve something great, together.

Fairness means dealing with others consistently and justly. A leader must check all the facts and hear everyone out before passing judgment. A leader must avoid jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information. When people feel they that are being treated fairly, they are more apt to be loyal and dedicated employees.

Humility. Leaders with humility recognize that they are no better or worse than other members of the team. A humble leader tries to elevate everyone.

Openness means being able to listen to new ideas, even if they do not conform to the usual way of thinking. Openness builds mutual respect and trust between leaders and followers, and it also keeps the team well supplied with new ideas that can further its vision.

Acknowledging Contributions means giving credit where it is due. A magnanimous leader ensures that credit for successes is spread as widely as possible throughout the company. On the other hand, a good leader takes personal responsibility for failures.  My philosophy has always been my team will get the credit when we succeed and I will take the blame when we fail. 

sense of humor is important to relieving tension as well as to bring calm to hostile situations.  Effective leaders know how to use humor to energize followers.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a few traits I believe are important in a leader.  As we move closer to the next Presidential election, what key traits are most important to you in a candidate?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Overcoming the Odds

I have written in the past about the plight of young black men whose lives have been cut short due to violence and a lack of hope for the future.  Today however, I want to share a success story, a story about a young man who possessed an inner fire that allowed him to overcome the many challenges of growing up in Oakland, CA.

His name is Mr. Wade.  I met Mr. Wade over two years ago at a company in Pleasanton, CA.  (I call him Mr. Wade because I have the utmost respect for him.)  Through the leadership of his teacher, Ms. Dixon, an opportunity was presented to allow students to visit this company and shadow its employees during their work day.  During this event I had the opportunity to speak with the students about their hopes and dreams.  I quickly noticed the energy emanating from one young man above all others, Mr. Wade.  He possessed a passion for life, a positive attitude and a vision of his future that set him apart.  I am not suggesting that he was better than every other student, but that his spirit was undeniable.  Believe me that‘s a quality that is rare these days.  My son Jordan and my daughter Ashtyn possess this quality, but that’s another post.

In spite of the neighborhood he grew up in, and the fact that he had to work extremely hard to resist many temptations, he has accomplished a rare feat for a young black man in today’s world.  He was accepted by, and is now attending university at Cal State Berkeley!

This accomplishment serves as a beacon of hope for others who have a dream of attending college. Recently, I found out that he is also mentoring other students.

If the black community has any hope for redirecting the negative path that it is on, it will take young men like Mr. Wade to lead the effort.  I am so proud to have met him and I know that he will make a significant contribution to his community and the world!  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Sisters

Some say nothing good comes out of Oakland, CA.  With all of the news of murder and crime, the city has taken a black eye from the media.  I am here to tell you that Oakland has produced many good people who have made significant contributions.   I can name three, Denise, Dana and Leslie, my Three Sisters. 

These three strong women, raised by an equally strong mother, have worked hard to overcome many challenges in their lives.  Whether working their way through college or overcoming barriers caused by simply being women, they possess fortitude that has led to many significant accomplishments.   Denise is an budget analyst, Dana an educator and Leslie a Registered Nurse.   All of them are leaders in their professions and highly respected.
What makes them special is that they serve their community, church and family in a way that elevates the lives of the people they touch.  As their brother, I am so proud of what they have been able to accomplish personally and professionally.

It is very easy to look outside your own family for examples of leadership, I am fortunate not to have to look any further than my Three Sisters.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rock Solid Leaders vs. Wannabe Leaders

The communication style of leaders helps us distinguish rock solid leaders from the wannabe leaders.  Over the past two weeks, we have seen wannabe leaders on both sides of the political aisle.  We have been hearing a lot from leaders who care more about speaking in sound bites and spinning an argument rather than resolving issues and achieving consensus on an issue. 

Who and where are the rock solid leaders we need to extricate our country out of the morass of out-of-control spending and debt? 

When facing a problem, the great leader says, “Let's find out,” while the wannabe says “I have the answer, you just need to acknowledge it.”  We need rock solid leaders, not wannabes.  But what is the difference between a rock solid leader and a wannabe? 
  • Rock solid leaders listen more than they talk, while wannabe leaders can’t wait until you stop talking so they can say what they want to say.
  • Rock solid leaders know their strengths and weaknesses, while wannabe leaders are afraid to acknowledge their weaknesses.
  • Rock solid leaders place the needs of the organization and the people they lead first, while wannabe leaders are concerned more about what’s in it for them.
  • Rock solid leaders are accountable for their decisions, wannabe leaders look to place the blame on others.
Obviously, the above list is not comprehensive; you may have your own definition and list of distinctions between the two.  The main point here is that we need rock solid leaders who are willing to listen more than they speak and who are willing to be held accountable for their actions and the decisions they make.

How do you define a rock solid leader?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Change Leadership

Change is in the air, all over the world change is happening both good and bad.  The whole Middle East is in the process of change.  Our country is changing both culturally and economically.  Change will happen; how we deal with the change is the question.

y kids hate math.  Although they have gotten pretty good grades it has not been without considerable effort. My wife deserves big kudos for helping them through their most challenging math, Algebra and Geometry.   The other day my wife and I were having a conversation about my son when he was in Jr. High and how he had such a terrible time with math.  He would get through with all of his other homework and then approach the big angry giant called Algebra.  He was afraid to approach the giant alone, he looked at me, but I said, “Don’t look at me, he scares me too!”  But like all mothers do when their children are faced with scary things, she went into action and helped our son slay the giant.  She convinced him that he had all of the tools necessary to get the job done.  It was about facing his giant.

The key was changing his attitude.  His willingness to change how he approached math made all of the difference.

Why is it so hard for people to change?  Some do not see change as necessary. Why do I need to change?  My son would say, "Why do I need Algebra? I am never going to use it!”  Some do not want to change because all they see is hard work.  Some might say, “If it is not broken why fix it?  Why do you want to upset the apple cart?”  To be clear, change is hard and it takes commitment to see it through.

As a leader it is essential that when change is necessary, a sense of urgency is created to explain why change is needed.  Caution:  when delivering the message you will need to believe it as well.  You cannot expect for people to change just because you said so.  You will need to be all in.

Once change is in process, in order for it to last you will need to anchor the change through ongoing evaluation and re-enforcement of the change you have implemented.

Change is complicated and in some cases it takes years to be fully integrated.  As a result, strong and consistent leadership will be required if it is to be successful and sustainable.

Have you ever had to lead a change effort and if so was it lasting or did it quickly fade back into business as usual?  
If it did not last, why do you think it failed to stick?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Uninformed and Out of Touch

A corporate newsletter goes out from the CEO to the workforce, touting the greatness of the company and how it is the market leader.  It talks about revenues being up and expenses being down and the bright future of the company.  If you are working for this company what do you do with the newsletter?  If you are truly working for a great organization you probably share it with your family with a sense of pride.  However, if you are one of the 33% of employees who hate their job and are actively looking for a new one, you probably chuck it in the trash.

Many leaders are so out of touch they think everything is hunky dory.  CEOs and other top executives often do not know what is going on at the ground level of their companies.  One of my favorite television series is Undercover Boss.  The premise of the series is that a top executive goes undercover in his/her own company to see what is really going on in the organization.  Many times it is an eye opening experience.  On one episode a CEO stated in front of his employees, “I thought sitting behind a desk in Michigan I had the right to say we take care of our people, I have learned firsthand that the people take care of this company.”

Unfortunately, I believe there are too many top executives who could care less about how the people in their organization feel about their company or its leadership as long as they are meeting the company’s goals.  Little do they know, there are good employees at risk of quitting or are suffering in silence.
I recently read an article that stated:
  • 1/3 of the employees are looking for new jobs.
  • Many employees are suffering from low morale.
  • Employees are dealing with unrealistic expectations placed on them by their companies.
  • Employees are asked to do more with less and for less.
With the costs associated with the acquisition of new employees, companies need to pay more attention to the overall satisfaction of their people.  
If you are a leader in your company and you are looking for ways to improve the overall morale of your employees, consider the following:
  • Where feasible, conduct consistent one-on-one meetings with your employees at least monthly.  This check-in lets them know you care about them.  (Important note: let them set the agenda). 
  • Set realistic expectations.  Ask for their feedback on what is expected of them.  If this is not done, you will find out pretty quickly whether they are aligned on what you expect.
  • Allow them to utilize their strengths.  If not, they end up performing tasks because they must if they want to work, but they hate it.
  • Supply them with the tools they need to get their job done.
  • Work with your employees to establish goals, both personal and professional, and metrics to help them measure their progress.  Good employees want to know that what they do matters to the company.
  • Reward people for performance and hold them accountable for not meeting their commitments.  Rewards are more than just money.  Find out what motivates your employees and, as appropriate, reward accordingly.
Complacent leadership can dramatically impact the profitability and sustainability of your company because it may lead to the loss of great employees.

When you neglect your A+ employees, all you are left with is a bunch of uninspired and unhappy people; however, showing your employees how much you care about their growth and development will result with a highly charged, innovative and committed workforce.

What are you doing as a leader to maintain the morale of the people you lead?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Who Will Step Up?

Our nation is in deep trouble when it comes to leadership.  On both sides of the aisle there’s a void of real leadership.  Ongoing issues like unemployment, social security, the budget deficit, Medicare, and the various wars in which we are engaged, represent critical challenges that require strong and decisive leadership.  Unfortunately, all we get from Washington is finger pointing and placing the blame on the other party.  As a result, all over the country there is this boiling caldron of frustration, anger, hate and mistrust that has led to numerous protests.

The decisions our leaders have made over time are now changing the very foundation of our country.  It appears that all they are concerned about is maintaining their power, and many are willing to deceive and spin the truth to keep what they believe is theirs.  How long will we sit back and watch this happen?

Who will step up to be the leader to bring stability to our country?  This nation is ripe and ready for authentic leadership to emerge.  However, I believe it will not come from any one person.  It will come from each and every one of us taking a stand and demanding that our voices be heard.

It’s amazing how Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have impacted so much change, not only in our country, but in the world.  One person challenges the status quo and others pick up on it and it then goes viral.  All of us must be willing to challenge our leaders and hold them accountable for their decisions and to keep their promises.

We must demand that our leaders look out not for individual interests, but the interests of all Americans.  We are all in this together.  Regardless of what party you are affiliated with, Democrat or Republican we are all breathing the same air.  The sun shines and the rain falls on each of us.  The last time I checked, both Democrats and Republicans are facing the same challenges of unemployment, high taxes, and fighting for our freedom.

Who of us will be willing to take a stand and be counted?  Complaining and sitting idly by while our economy and the future of the next generation continues deteriorate, will not get it done.  Write your congressman, blog, volunteer, lead.  You may say that I am one person, what can I do?  You have the power to make a difference.

If we continue to wait for our so called leaders to make the changes necessary to lift up this nation to its former greatness, we are going to be waiting for a long time.

It is up to all of us to do our part. The time is now!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Leadership Philosophy

On December 31, 2010 I wrote a post about developing a leadership philosophy.

In that post I said that I was working on developing my leadership philosophy.  My leadership philosophy is very simple and I am willing to be held accountable to the people I lead in the words I wrote and I believe. Well true to my word here it is:

Tony Friday’s Leadership Philosophy

I have developed this philosophy to help guide me as a leader. I will work to consistently live out these principles.  I expect you to hold me accountable when I fall short. I am committed to helping you to grow, develop and realize your potential both personally and professionally.

Operating Principles

1.       Set the example—What I expect of you, I will expect from myself.  I will not ask you to do anything I would not do.  I expect you to set a positive example for others.
 2.      Coaching for Success—When you need me I will be there for you.  I will not give you the answers, but I will help you through the thinking process.  You have the solutions.
3.       Treat each other like you want to be treated—I will treat you with fairness and respect.  I expect that you do the same to those you work with and lead.
4.       Accountability—I expect you to do what you say.  You can count on me to do the same.  If you are in danger of not delivering on a promise you have made, please let me know as soon as you know.  We can then work together on finding a mutually beneficial solution.
5.       Listen— I do not have all of the answers; I will actively listen to your ideas and your point of view.  We will work together to make our company better.
6.       Communication—I will provide regular feedback that is direct and constructive relative to your needs and the needs of the company.  I want you to do the same for me.
7.       Operating with Candor—I will be candid, not critical in my communication with you.  If you feel my comments are critical, please let me know.
 8.      Shared Risk—We are in this together.  I will not engage in the blame game and I expect the same from you.
 9.       Excellence—I will create a team where we pursue excellence, (not perfection).  I expect you to do your very best every day.  I will not tolerate sloppy work.
10.     Positive Attitude—I will bring a positive attitude every day and I expect you to do the same. Challenges will come, but with the right attitude we can overcome them all. 
11.     Celebrate Wins—We will celebrate our wins, no matter how small.  Little victories are the stepping stones to great accomplishments.  Every day we will play like winners!

Here are a few things that I will not stand for (my hot buttons):
        Disrespecting your teammates
        Sloppy work

My commitment to you:

I will give you my very best every day.  I will continue to learn and grow as a leader. We will have fun!


Now it’s your turn.  I challenge you to write your leadership philosophy.  It does not have to relate solely to business, it can be your philosophy on how you lead in your home or in your community.  Whatever your philosophy is, be willing to be held accountable for who you say you are as a leader.

I hope you accept the challenge, it will differentiate you from the millions of leaders who are winging it and are not willing to be transparent to the people they lead.