Executive and Business Coach at Change Agent
Years ago I worked for a well-known consumer products company on an under-performing product category. I was young and I was new to the industry. I had a fresh perspective, and I was able to innovate the way the company marketed their products. As a result, sales doubled in 2 years which was quite impressive for a low-tech category. Although the strategies I developed were impactful and I had a big budget to play with, I often ran into resistance for change when selling the business plan to some of the stakeholders. I felt like I had to drag them along with me.
Many years later I volunteered to raise money for a professional midwifery school in Mexico. I started with very few contacts but eventually I helped raise local funding to reduce the school’s dependency on international organizations. During the process I met some movers and shakers. The school administrators, who had struggled for years to find local partners, were scratching their heads. How was someone without any living or working experience in Mexico able to make these connections? I, too, was a little baffled why these influential people would talk to a volunteer who came to ask them for money. I would tell people that I had an angel on my shoulder. I was probably doing something right but I was not very clear what it was.
VP Marketing at Beyond Just a Vision
A compelling vision brings a group of individuals together to focus on a common purpose. But creating a sense of community in your company is a stronger motivator for personal employee engagement.
Humans crave community. Loneliness and isolation are avoided in our society in numerous ways, and can be seen in the latest trend in social media. Technology seeks to harness “always on” to deliver “always in-touch” community. John Donne’s insight that “No man is an island” is excellent leadership thinking.
When building a company, a vision drives direction. Community gives the journey purpose and energy. Knowing that the team is pulling in a single direction while caring for and striving to bring the best out of each member.
I recently left a technology company after ten years, where we achieved this sense of community. The people cared for the success of the company and for each other. As a result, individuals and departments showed a strong willingness to help each other. Politics were minimal, and voluntary turnover was near zero. The company grew from product concept to quarterly revenues in excess of $30M with an attitude of team community.
Founder at The Infusion Group LLC
Raleigh-Durham North Carolina Area
We have one life to run the best race set before us. Our potential to achieve is intended for us to first learn what our own best race is by understanding the key talents, strengths, motivation, passion, and creativity that live within us. How we fuse all of these intangible attributes into becoming worthy outcomes we desire from this life is an art. When we infuse this potential and partner with others who care deeply about what matters, life becomes more meaningful and the outcomes are even more remarkable for everyone.
Whose race are we running?
Is it your race or mine or are we racing our own race, together? As leaders, when we deny ourselves the benefit of reflection becoming aware of our actions and the impact they have on others, if we’re not careful, we may find ourselves slipping into the trap of racing someone else’s race, the boss’s race, a competitor’s race, that’s the way we’ve always done it race and in the end we lose a real sense of our beings. Eventually our workplaces lose something unique too. Through reflection we find the freedom to show up as we truly are and no longer are reactionary to issues. The safe space of reflection that we extend to ourselves and others helps us to discern what is realistically within our control and what lies on the fringes.
The past few weeks have been an interesting experience and a lesson in terms of “what good does not look like” in the wonderful world of customer service. Here is the situation. I am in the midst of trying to move some retirement $ around and have been doing so for the better part of 3 weeks. Lets be more specific. I want to do business with this particular company and they will not call me back.
After the first week of zero contact with a human being, I went to their website and found a local person in my area and figured that I would contact them. Guess what? It has been the same exact experience (ground hog day). I called him approximately six times and emailed him on four other occasions. For some odd reason, I cannot convince this “sales person” to contact me. At this point, I am frustrated and shocked so this actually turns into more of a research project. I call his office and ask to speak to him and of course he is unavailable and I am told to leave him a voice mail message. Here we go again. I am getting somewhere now though; at least I know that he is alive. I will take a small win at this point.
Senior VP and GM US Operations at Canyon Pharmaceuticals
Recently one of my most productive team members resigned. It’s not the first time this has happened in my 2.5 years of running the company, but this one came kinda out of the blue. Of course I had to ask myself–was I to blame? Did I fail to cast a vision for the future of the company that inspired confidence and commitment? I am passionate and confident about the future of my company, but this is a risky business–how do I instill confidence in my team while still being true to the enormity of the task ahead?
Enter Winston Churchill, a virtual mentor of mine. He took over the Prime Minister spot from Chamberlain and was faced immediately with the invasion of Belgium and Holland and the subsequent defeat of the French (the next time you feel like the Universe is piling on, remember this!) But somehow, despite the gravity of the situation, Winston managed to strengthen the resolve and will of the British people to resist the Nazi invasion and garnered the support of FDR while never shrinking from telling the unvarnished truth. As you can probably tell from my writing, I don’t have command of the English language quite like Churchill, but I do admire his ability to craft a version of the truth that is at once authentic and yet still full of hope for a bright future.
Alan Axelrod in his book on Churchill says “An ideal leader manages the reality in which the company operates.” Say what? Sounds a bit “Wizard Behind the Curtain” or Truman Show-ish, doesn’t it? But clearly there is something to this beyond “fake it ’till you make it.”
I certainly am no stranger to the concepts in The Secret and The Law of Attraction and have spoken openly about my belief that thoughts are things and what you think is who you will become (also quotes attributed to Buddha as it turns out). But all those concepts are about managing my own reality, my thoughts. How on earth can I manage the reality of the entire enterprise?
Then it hit me–it all starts with my thoughts and my reality–to paraphrase Buddha, “A man who conquers himself is the greatest of all warriors.” So at the end of the day, I have to manage my own reality, since that is all I ever have control over anyway. And let’s face it, one of the things we admire among effective executives of all stripes is self-control. They don’t get excited, or even visibly angry–they just get stuff done! Great lesson for me –self-control coupled with integrity of thought and action is what is needed to manage my reality and subsequently the reality of the enterprise. I can do that (granted, not perfectly, but I can do it). How are you managing the reality of your organization? Are your people optimistic? Do they feel comfortable taking risks? What is it that you can change in your leadership to create the kind of reality you need to create to be successful?
Owner at CRM Insights
I’m a pre-baby boomer, i.e., I was born just before the end of the War, not after. Until I was ten I lived in a three-story courtyard building in Chicago. The Fuller Brush Man would come around knocking on doors. Every few months the knife sharpener would drive his horse-drawn wagon down the alley calling out his presence. Peddlers setup their suitcase on a folding stand on the street corner. We had a party line and the phone itself was a box with a slot for a nickel. Drop in a nickel and the operator would ask “Number please.” My parents owned a women’s and children’s clothing store. Salesmen came to the store with merchandise samples and my mother would pick what she wanted to carry. Selling by phone was not an efficient option.
Executive and Business Coach at Change Agent
I first came across the term, “the power of one”, when I was reading the book“Influencer”. The authors mentioned an experiment in the 60’s designed to help researchers understand why so many people followed the Nazi’s lead to massacre millions of Jews. The participants in the research were told that they had to give shock treatment to someone in another room and continue to increase the intensity of the shock treatment until it reached the highest level. Although many participants were uncomfortable about the study, as many as 65% of them felt compelled to follow the instructions. In a follow-up study, the scientists found that if just one person went ahead and turned up the shock treatment, then the number of participants after him who actually went through with the administration of shock treatment jumped from 65% to 90%. On the other hand, if one person spoke up and refused to follow through, the percentage of participants after him who administered the shock treatment dropped to 10%. What a difference one person can make! One person managed to change the tide or the compliance pattern. That is the power of one!
President at Think Like A Black Belt
My elevator speech goes like this:
“I’m Jim Bouchard- I teach people how to Think Like a Black Belt; and I’m the best looking bald man in this room! If you want to know more about what I do I’ll meet you right after this meeting.”
Inevitably people come up and ask me, “So- what the heck do you actually do?” Once in a while someone challenges my assertion about being the best looking bald man in the room!
Now the fun starts. I simply ask, “What do you think about when you hear the words ‘Black Belt?’” Now that’s not a rhetorical question; take a few minutes right now…what do you think about when you hear those words? The iconic symbolism of the Black Belt is now part of our culture- nearly everyone has some idea about what Black Belt is supposed to embody. The great minds at Six Sigma in fact borrowed the whole theme of Black Belt and martial arts ranking to symbolize what it takes to create a culture of quality, excellence and efficiency.
President at Aniden Interactive
“So, why do I want to do this?” I remember asking myself this precise question when the request from Sean to contribute to the Executive Club blog was first discussed. My immediate reaction was to question the real motivation behind why blogs exist, why companies spend time on them and equally important, why people read them. More directly, why would I want / need / desire to devote time on this particular group buried within LinkedIn? I will admit my interpretation of most blogs seems to be narcissistic at best and do little more than provide a stage for an anticipated audience which may not exist.
The only thing worse than writing a blog and having no one to read it could be equaled by one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes of an entrepreneur opening an ethnic restaurant in Manhattan and no one eating! No Babu! No Babu!
Vice President of Customer Support-Employer Solutions at Sage Software, Inc.
Empowered teams, self-managed work teams, project teams … the list could go on forever. Over the years the trend in teamwork theories seems to have changed as often as the seasons. No matter the gimmick, successful teams have two major characteristics – a common goal and management commitment. Success in teams that have these attributes can easily be measured in their productivity increases.
Team creation presents a challenge for leadership because there are so many ways to segment a group into teams. While some would say it is useful to focus only on products, job titles, or work shifts, most have found this does very little for increasing productivity. Consider varying the experience and knowledge levels of the individuals and focusing the team on one common goal. This will produce exciting team dynamics and allow participants to focus on the goal, not on just their specific knowledge base. When you measure the difference between individual and team success, teams are always overwhelmingly more productive. The key is selecting members that complement each other in personality, skill, experience, and others.