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Leaders Look to the Future

If you are an iPhone or iPad user, you likely have strong feelings about the newest update to your device. Recently, Apple launched iOS 7, which brought a radically different look and feel to the iPhone and iPad.

Some of the changes were welcome, and made perfect sense. Some of them, however, seem puzzling. Even if you don’t own an Apple device, you have probably heard about the new “flat” design of this update. If you haven’t, you can see it here: http://www.apple.com/ios/design/

What is interesting is that this update was not really designed for the present. It was designed for the future. The brains at Apple realized that for the projects they want to create long term, this new flat design would be necessary. For example, flat and simple is the only way they could make an “iWatch,” an iPhone-like device for your wrist. Also, flat and simple design would be a necessity for an iCar product—a computerized device that might one day go in your car. The same is true for a possible iTV—a simple design would work better there.

So, Apple made a radical change not necessarily thinking of the payoff it would bring now, but thinking that it puts them in the best possible situation to move forward rapidly in the future.

As leaders, thinking about the future is a critical part of what we do. Managers live in the here and now, but leaders must be focused on bringing the future to bear. Just as Apple’s leaders made present changes that position them for their desired future, we as leaders sometimes need to make changes in the present that will equip us for the future.

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Interference?

If you are a fan of baseball, you’ve likely heard about the bizarre call that ended Game 3 of the World Series. Just when it looked like the Red Sox had clearly tagged a Cardinals’ base runner out at home plate, the umpire called him safe. You can watch the play here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WTq1s0aTvc

He was safe based on an interference call. Most people watching the game didn’t even know that rule existed in baseball. Almost no one would imagine that such a call could be the deciding factor in a World Series game. But there is a leadership lesson here:

Leaders do the right thing, even when it is hard.

There’s no question that the umpire made the right call. There’s no question that he knew he would be criticized forever for it. But he made it, and he made it without hesitation.

Doing the right thing is not always easy. Most of the time, it is the hardest thing to do. But it is what good leaders do, no matter what. And especially when the stakes are high.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Where is Your Volume Control?

Around our house, we’ve re-entered the baby phase. It has been a while since we were last in this phase, and I’d forgotten how many “things” come with having little ones around. Our living room has been taken over by toys and other little kid stuff.

One particular toy we have caught my attention the other day. It is one of these toys designed to make your baby smarter, so it has lots of blinking lights and sounds and music. The one thing that caught my attention the other morning though, was the volume control.

On this toy, there is a little button that is just for parents. It is not big and easy to manipulate, like all the other buttons. It is small and discreet, so kids might hardly notice it. But it is a volume control.

This feature of the toy is great, because it gives me, the stressed out parent, control over the obnoxious toy. The manufacturers know that their product could be annoying, and they’ve done something about it. By adding this small feature, they’ve given me and other parents a sense of control. We can make the product better on our own. They have given us enough power to be able to improve our experience with their product.

It’s brilliant, really. Because now I find myself looking at the other noise making toys in our house and wishing they had a volume control. If I buy new, noisy toys in the future, guess what I’ll be looking to see if they have? Volume controls.

As a marketing tool, it is counter-intuitive. They’ve acknowledged a weak spot in their product (“this product will slowly drive you crazy with all the noise and music”), and they’ve used that weak spot to give me a positive experience about their product, and make me want more of it. They’re honest about their weakness, and it has given me more respect for them and their work.

So what is your volume control? 

What is the area in your own leadership that you need to acknowledge as a potential problem? 

How can you turn that into a positive?

 

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

#hashtags

There’s a lot of buzz out there about hashtags. You might even say hashtags are a trending topic. Some of you may have no idea what a “hashtag” is. It is a bit of a difficult concept to explain, but basically a hashtag is a way of labeling your social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). For example, let’s imagine you are attending a conference and you want to connect with others who are at the conference. You could “tag” your posts with a hashtag (using the # symbol) that lets other users find it. Still confused? Click here).  In recent days, the hashtag has lost much of its usefulness, and has become a convenient and distracting and often annoying way to add a punchline to your posts.

I recently read an article on the history of the hashtag (#don’tjudgeme). One thing that struck me as fascinating was that the original creators of the hashtag had good intentions. On paper, hashtags serve a fairly useful purpose. Over time, when control is given to the masses, hashtags degenerate to the “lowest common denominator” usage, and lose much (if not all) of their appeal.

As leaders, this can be a lesson for us. In leadership, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to be culture shapers of our organizations. Whether we choose to utilize strong handed leadership, and control as much of our organizational culture as we can, or whether we choose “laissez-fire” style of leadership and allow others to have a hand in culture shaping, we face consequences. The story of the hashtag illustrates that when culture shaping is left to chance, the results are almost never desirable. As leaders, we need to be intentional (regardless of our strategy) about making choices that steer the culture in healthy and productive ways.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Vision + Passion = Success

One of Michelangelo’s best works, and perhaps one of the world’s most famous statues, is the statue of David that stands in Florence, Italy. Notably, it almost never came into being.

The piece was originally commissioned as a series of sculptures of Old Testament characters to decorate a cathedral in Florence. Another artist was chosen and given a huge chunk of marble to work with. He began to work, carving out some legs, and then was removed from the project. The piece of marble was given to anther artist, who never began work on it. It sat untouched for 25 years.

Finally, a 26 year old up and coming artist was given the unwieldy piece of marble. Within one month, he began carving.

When you think about it, that took a lot of guts. Here was a huge, incredibly costly piece of marble, and Michelangelo started carving on it right away. He apparently wasn’t worried about making a mistake that would have ruined his career before it even started.

What made the difference? Why was Michelangelo able to be successful with this odd piece of marble when no one else had? Two things: He had vision, and he had the passion to see it come to reality. Michelangelo has famously said this about the way he approached sculpting:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

As an artist, he begins with a clear vision. More than that, though, he had passion to see it become a reality. His vision was compelling enough that he threw himself into it. In the month between the time he was chosen and the time he started working, he made numerous sketches and small wax sculptures in preparation for the real thing. That demonstrates that he was not just an “inspired genius” but that he was passionate about his preparation as well as his execution.

Having a strong vision is important. But equally important is having the passion to see your vision come to reality. Knowing what you need to do to get from vision to reality is key.

What are you working on? What preparation steps do you need to throw yourself into?

What needs to happen now for your vision of the future to become a reality?

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Bright Spots

I recently re-read a book by the Heath brothers, Dan and Chip. If you haven’t read anything by them, you should. It’s high quality, easy reading.

In their book Switch, they talk about how to make changes. I’ve been rethinking one of the key ideas from that book, what they call Bright Spots.

The basic idea is this: When people are interested in making changes to their organization or to a certain process or to their life, they tend to focus on what is not working. Everyone’s natural inclination is to look at the problem areas and try to change those.

Instead, the Heath brothers argue, focus on bright spots. Find out where things are working well, and then seek to understand why they are working well.

Andy Stanley argues something similar. He says that if something you are doing is successful, you need to take time to evaluate it so you understand why. If we don’t understand why we have momentum, he says, we’ll quickly lose it.

For many of us, this is a paradigm shift. It is easy to see problems and rush to address them. It takes more discipline (and better leadership) to be able to look at bright spots and find ways to replicate them.

Where are your bright spots?

What is something you are doing well? Why is it working?

How can you multiply the success you have into other areas that are less successful?

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

When Are Leaders At Their Best?

The question above is posed by Bill Hybels in his book Courageous Leadership. If you haven’t ever read it, you should.

Hybels answers the question in a way that might surprise you. His answer is:

Leaders are at their best when they are developing other leaders.

He raises the point that “only leaders can develop other leaders…Teachers can’t do it. Administrators can’t do it. Mercy-gifted folks can’t do it. Only leaders can multiply the leadership impact by raising up additional leaders.”

So if you’ve been gifted as a leader, you have not only your God-given gifts, but you have someone in your past who spotted your potential and gave you opportunities or encouragement towards developing your gifting.

As leaders, each of us needs to be pursuing others who are future leaders. Hybels describes three steps:

  1. Identifying emerging leaders
  2. Investing in the development of emerging leaders
  3. Entrusting responsibility to emerging leaders (read what John Maxwell says about this step here)

It is the same steps Jesus modeled with the disciples, as he identified, trained, and finally deployed them to change the world.

So, the question now is: Are you at your best? 

Who in your sphere of influence needs to be invested in?

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Uncategorized