Archive for 2011

Take the Lead!

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Betsy Myers’ new book, Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You, discusses key traits of today’s most effective leader and offers examples from her own experience.  A Presidential adviser to both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Myers illustrate her points with stories “from the Oval Office to the playground,” the latter being lessons from her experiences as a mom.

According to Myers, half the workers in the U.S. are disengaged because they don’t feel valued or supported. She says that to better manage today’s workforce, a leader needs to adopt these three essential behaviors:

  1. Become more conscious of people’s needs and how the leader interacts with employees
  2. Ask questions to collaborate with employees rather than expecting to have all the answers, as many leaders think they must
  3. Be aware that a leader creates feelings, either positive or negative

In an interview with ABC News, Myers points out that when employees “feel valued, supported, encouraged, acknowledged, and clear about what their job is,” they’re happy with their work. She says “we need to work together so everyone can win!”

Watch her interview on ABC News at


Thousands of executives, top-flight sales leaders and savvy marketers have learned—with Evelyn Clark’s help—how to identify, create and deliver messages that stick in audiences’ minds. An author, workshop/retreat leader and keynoter, she is a recognized expert and pioneer in organizational storytelling. Learn about her Corporate Storytelling® system and services, or buy her book, at

Lessons from Steve Jobs on Succession

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

A phenomenal visionary and innovator, Steve Jobs also demonstrated a lot of skill as a leader. One case in point is the thoughtful way he handled succession planning, an area many CEOs avoid, to their company’s disadvantage.

Information Week writer Robert Strohmeyer reported earlier this year that author Carmine Gallo, who followed Jobs’ career closely over the years and wrote two well-received books about him, identified the five key lessons to be learned Jobs’ succession planning:

  1. Focus on the customer, client, and user experience, above everything else
  2. Ensure that the culture of the company is held up as a higher value than a particular person’s leadership so that everyone realizes the company can succeed without certain individuals
  3. Control the core message and exemplify it (walk your talk)
  4. Be proactive about turning over the reins gradually so that people become accustomed to the new CEO before it’s time to leave
  5. Select your successor by evaluating the person’s ability to do the job rather than assessing whether the personality is similar to yours

What do you think is most important to remember when preparing to step down from a leadership role? Please offer your thoughts, ideally based on your experience.

Thousands of executives, top-flight sales leaders and savvy marketers have learned—with Evelyn Clark’s help—how to identify, create and deliver messages that stick in audiences’ minds. An author, workshop/retreat leader and keynoter, she is a recognized expert and pioneer in organizational storytelling. Learn about her Corporate Storytelling® system and services, or buy her book, at


Values Define the Culture, Tell the Story

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Ranked for several years as one of Fortune’s “Top 100 Companies to Work For” globally, NETAPP is a company that understands the importance of creating a corporate culture. As reported recently in Singapore’s Business Times recently, the company says its culture centers on a positive work environment with opportunities for growth for everyone who works there, including the leadership.

The five values that differentiate NETAPP from other organizations are:

  • attitude is contagious, i.e., a positive outlook generates good energy
  • candor is encouraged so that honesty is maintained
  • a positive approach attracts followers, e.g. recognizing individual successes within the company is more important than focusing on competitors
  • leaders should appreciate employees’ work and inspire them rather than simply manage operations
  • openness to change is essential in today’s ever-changing, innovative world

What are the core values of your organization? Is everyone familiar with them? And especially: Is everyone aware of the importance of conducting business accordingly?

Creating Inspirational Leaders in the Lab?

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

In an effort to understand what makes a leader inspirational, researchers are hoping to be able to identify areas of the brain that are different in those who are inspirational–and then to use neurofeedback to develop similar wiring in others in order to develop more charismatic leaders. So far, their research findings are promising.

As reported in the “Academy of Management Perspectives,” researchers have identified the area of the brain that helps form “socialized visionary communication,” which in turn helps followers to perceive a leader as inspirational or charismatic. What do you think about this? Is it reassuring to think that a person’s wiring can be manipulated this way? Or a bit frightening to realize how close we’re getting to the sci-fi scenarios described in Brave New World?




As Employee Engagement Goes, So Goes Retention

Friday, November 11th, 2011

In a recent post in Workforce Management entitled “Losing Lifeblood,” author Garry Kranz says many companies are feeling the effects of neglecting employee engagement as they’ve focused on the challenges of the extended recession. Often when employees disengage, they begin looking for other opportunities; this is especially true of top performers, who assume that they can (and usually do) find a company that will offer a more supportive environment and reward them appropriately.

Even if employees stick around, a drop in their level of engagement is commonly accompanied by a drop in productivity and commitment to customer service. Have you noticed these symptoms in your company? If so, what are you planning to do about it? You may want to launch a storytelling initiative. It’s a proven managment tool for reminding people of shared values and keeping them focused on the long-term vision.


How to Tell Employees Bad News

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

All you entrepreneurs out there–especially those in high tech–can imagine the panic of discovering that a giant company just released a product almost exactly like yours. Even worse, that industry-dominating giant is giving it away! Yes, that’s right: free!

How do you tell your employees the bad news, and how do you assure them you have a plan for staying in business and thriving, even though your product is on the market at a premium price point? As reported in Fast Company, James Siminoff, CEO of Unsubscribe, faced that reality when he was running his previous start-up, Phone Tag, a voicemail transcription service. When he learned Google had introduced a product nearly identical to his, Siminoff was ready. He knew such a situation might develop and had prepared for the worst.

First, he flooded the media with his core story: Google may be bigger but our product is better and our customers agree. He commanded attention by being outrageously outspoken to the point of profanity, realizing that the media loves wild behavior.  Second, he informed employees by sending out a group e-mail followed by conversations with each individual. Then he kept them focused on customer service, sales and close customer contact.

Initially Phone Tag lost about 25% of its business to the new service, but eventually the company won back 4/5 of them–and added 30% more new customers. About a year later Siminoff sold the company at a handsome profit and started his current start-up. He says in retrospect, he’s grateful for Google’s entry into the voice transcription market and wouldn’t change a thing about how he told his “bad news” story.

Read the whole story here:

Keep Your Story Simple!

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Simplicity is one the six qualities of a message that makes it sticky, according to Made to Stick authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Let’s look at two wildly different examples of reducing a message to its simplest form.

With a year still to go before the 2012 national election, the landscape already is cluttered with messages from the field of candidates for U.S. President. Only one has a simple message that has garnered a lot of attention: Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan for overhauling our tax system. Regardless of your political affiliation, you’d be hard pressed to think of a short, clear message that stands up to that for a simple, repetitive messages that cuts through the clutter.

The other is a short video of author Kurt Vonnegut explaining the “formula” for shaping a good story. It’s tongue-in-cheek, highly entertaining and brilliant! Take a look and tell us what you think:


Bill Gates Says Having Billions Is Strange

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

In the Q&A session following his lecture at the University of Washington on Thursday, Bill Gates told students that when he heard Intel’s founders had become billionaires, he thought, “wow, that must be strange…and it is.” He also added that being super-rich isn’t what it seems.

“Wealth beyond a certain level…really, it’s a responsibility.” One option is to leave everything to your heirs, he said, or else “be smart about giving it away.” The Seattle Times reported that Gates went on to explain “there’s meaningful freedom” in having millions but beyond that “I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger.”

He should know. Local legend says that Gates still loves the burgers at a popular drive-in next door to the office building where Microsoft was housed in the early years. And in his session at the UW, Gates referenced another favorite drive-in chain that recently smashed its own sales record (by more than 30 percent) at the grand opening of its sixth location.  Bill knows burgers!

Bill Gates Advice on Building Wealth

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Microsoft Founder Bill Gates advised computer-science and engineering students at the University of Washington yesterday to find something you’re “nuts about doing” rather than focusing on building wealth.

As reported in The Seattle Times today, Gates gave a long and thoughtful response to a student who said she grew up wanting to become the richest person in the world and asked his advice. Appearing as the “distinguished lecturer” at the Paul G. Allen Center, Gates said, “I didn’t start out with a dream of being super-rich…. Most people who have done well have sort of found something they’re nuts about doing. Then they figure out a system to hire their friends to do it with them. If it’s an area of great impact, then sometimes you get sort of (sic) financial independence.”

Stay tuned for more interesting comments from Gates’ appearance at the school where he developed his command of computer programming as a high school student by sneaking into the computer lab in the middle of the night.



Words to Take You From Ordinary to Extraordinary

Friday, October 7th, 2011

How can you take your business from ordinary to extraordinary? Dr. Frank Luntz, communication consultant and author of Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary,  says there are five phrases that help people succeed in every aspect of their lives. He articulated these when, in the process of conducting interviews for the book, he was asked to identify which five words or phrases mattered more than any others. Here’s what he came up with:

  • Imagine
  • I get it
  • No excuses
  • The simple truth
  • Let’s get to work

Dr. Luntz includes more than 100 powerful words in Win, along with his original goal for the book. He set out to gather the key life lessons gained by successful people in a wide variety of professions and “overlay” those with words that “help people maximize their daily achievements.” I imagine you get the concept, so there are no excuses now. The simple truth is, we all need to get to work!