When it comes to leadership, one size most certainly doesn’t fit all. Some individuals are ruthless, opinionated and impulsive. Others are mild-mannered, diplomatic and sensitive. The most effective leaders often seek a middle ground, using a combination of techniques depending on their circumstances.
Gary Vaynerchuk undoubtedly has employed multiple strategies and approaches in his lucrative entrepreneurial career. But it’s clear that confidence or decisiveness has never been one of his issues. Get past his swagger and affinity for self-promotion and you’ll find someone who’s passionate about succeeding in life.
Vaynerchuk’s fourth book, #AskGaryVee, a print version of his popular YouTube series, The #AskGaryVee Show, is loaded with Vaynerchuk’s takes on social media, brand marketing and business development. Vaynerchuk covers a lot of ground, though he makes one thing perfectly clear: there is no substitute for hard work – or “hustle” – one of his favorite terms. If the other guy is working around the clock, then brew a giant pot of strong coffee and forget about sleep. You get the impression that’s Vaynerchuk’s greatest discovery would be a 25th hour.
If you’ve just had your car’s brakes repaired, you’re confident that you’ll stop before the locomotive comes rumbling through the railroad crossing. If you pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, you assume the medicine will treat a specific ailment. If your girlfriend accepts your marriage proposal, you believe that you can proceed with wedding plans.
Pretend the Dalai Lama has applied for an important managerial spot in your organization. You quickly scan his resume. Hmmm, no business degree – not even a formal education. Moves around a lot. Never held a real job. No verifiable income or assets.
Heck, the Dalai Lama wouldn’t appear to qualify for even an entry level position, yet people around the globe benefit from his wise counsel and admire his philosophical approach to life. While seemingly the polar opposite of the prototypical, hard-charging corporate executive, the Dalai Lama in fact promotes values and expectations that every workplace should emulate.
When it comes to transforming your organization, good intentions will only get you to the starting line. The “whys” and “whats” of change management are significant, of course, but turning theory into practice requires direction. Therein lies the critical difference between Vlatka Hlupic’s The Management Shift and other books that promise to retool and revitalize your culture. Hlupic, a professor at the University of Westminster and founder and CEO of London’s Drucker Society, provides the “hows,” so you can enhance performance and sustain success.
Like many other business experts, Hlupic agrees that the top-down management paradigm is about as practical as a BlackBerry. While it may work for select organizations, the trend toward innovation, collaboration and inclusiveness is undeniable. Hlupic suggests that if you want to remain competitive and profitable, you better empower your people and unleash their creativity and enthusiasm. Hlupic, an in-demand speaker and consultant, spent some time with getAbstract explaining the essence of The Management Shift.
“Look, kid,” the big boss says from behind a solid oak desk, smoke billowing from his pungent cigar as his triple chin spills over the Windsor knot in his tie. “I know ya’ got some talent. Come work for me. I’ll give you a nice salary and good benefits. Maybe someday you’ll have your own office.”
The young man accepts the offer – with the tacit understanding that he’ll spend the next 20 years plowing forward with his head down, obeying orders without so much as a whimper. The employer-employee relationship was pretty simple in the old days – and undoubtedly still exists. But it’s a flawed and outdated managerial style. Working folks are looking for more than financial rewards and even job security – they desperately want to matter.
If you’ve delighted in Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles or any of Pixar’s other animated films, then you recognize the studio’s trademark creative genius. But you don’t win numerous Academy Awards and generate billions of dollars in ticket and video sales by happenstance. You need gifted employees, keen business acumen and, above all, an inspirational leader who understands and can execute your organization’s vision.
Ed Catmull, co-founder and president of Pixar Animation Studios, is credited with revolutionizing the animated film industry and establishing Pixar as the gold standard. He’s known as a dynamic, insightful and humble man who relishes the challenge of melding diverse interests into a unified, cohesive unit.
Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc., details Pixar’s remarkable achievements and provides profound insight into Catmull’s managerial philosophy and methodology. Though he’s a strong, decisive CEO, Catmull is a far cry from the old-time stereotypical executive bully who rules with an iron fist and swears by his infallibility. Quite to the contrary, Catmull wears his vulnerability as a badge of honor and sees inestimable value in admitting to mistakes and misjudgments. In fact, one of his core principals focuses on uncovering “unseen problems” and attempting to ensure that they are not repeated.
“We will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view,” explains Catmull. “We work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable (and) we marshal all of our energies to solve (them).”
Brian Souza is the New York Times bestselling author of The Weekly Coaching Conversation, as well as the critically acclaimed Become Who You Were Born To Be. Today, the founder and president of ProductivityDrivers, is a much sought after keynote speaker, and a highly acclaimed thought leader whose work has been featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines around the world including The European Business Review, Fast Company, and Success Magazine.
Indeed, Brian’s achievements and accolades are highly impressive and they become even more so when you realize that he juggles them while remaining a loyal husband to his childhood sweetheart, and doting father to his two young daughters. And that makes us love him all the more.
With The Weekly Coaching Conversation about to be rereleased in hard back, along with Brian launching a brand new website to complement and build on concepts addressed in the book, we figured the timing was perfect to sit down and catch up.
getAbstract: Your book was an instant New York Times bestseller, and is one of getAbstract’s top 10 most downloaded summaries. Why do you think it’s resonating so well with so many people around the world?
Brian Souza: I believe it’s because the message is new – it’s different – it’s easy to understand, simple to apply, and best of all, it works.
getAbstract: What do you see as the key differentiators?
Brian Souza: I think mainly because it’s fun to read. My goal wasn’t just to educate; I wanted to entertain. Secondly, it’s a quick read – you could easily complete it on a short, two hour flight. Plus it’s packed with tons of actionable takeaways.
While the notion of curiosity has been around since man first discovered fire (or perhaps, since Eve bit the apple), I have been seeing more and more articles focused around this concept and how important it is to have a curious workforce, led by even more curious leaders. While the talents and skills organizations look for change frequently over time, curiosity reigns supreme since it is a staple quality.
Why is a culture of curiosity important for an organization?
Have you ever met someone and immediately thought, “Wow, that person has charisma”? Perhaps you’ve followed that thought up with an “I wish I could command a room like that”. The question of charisma being innate vs. learned is almost as old as the chicken/egg question. For a long time, experts ‘proved’ that charismatic leaders were born, not made.
Companies are always searching for those ‘charismatic’ leaders – the Steve Jobs that was born ready to take their profits to the Promised Land by inspiring and mobilizing employees and fostering customer followership. Today, more and more experts are realizing that this trait can be learned and developed. Read the rest of this entry »
Twitter can be a valuable tool for gathering up-to-the-minute collective intelligence and ideas from experts, leaders and conceptualizers. Indeed, the social media platform has changed enormously how we collect and collate information by directly connecting us to the innovators and industry leaders of our day. Our personal commentary on news, insights and trends is thereby not only reliable but immediate and efficient. One of Twitter’s leading benefits, over any other social media platform currently available to us, is that it enables us to network with, and learn from, others.
“Business leaders who truly embrace the concept of sharing and helping are worth following,” says Peter Shankman, who is globally recognized for his alternative thinking regarding marketing and social media, and features on our list of top 10 business leaders to follow. “They’re few and far between,” he continues, “but the ones who understand that there’s tremendous benefit in sharing their knowledge, not only for the good of all mankind, but financially- and revenue-wise as well…they’re the smart ones; they’re the ones worth following and retweeting.”
With this in mind, we identified the top 10 business leaders to follow on Twitter. We considered their influence in society or industry, the quality of their tweets, how frequently they tweet and how willing they are to engage with their network. So without further ado, here are our picks: Read the rest of this entry »
Marc Worth is often billed as being an Internet pioneer. After founding WGSN, the now celebrated trend forecasting website of product development tools for the fashion industry in 1997, he sold it to Emap for a cool £142mn in 2005. Since then Worth has invested in a couple of start-ups, attempted to resurrect cult seventies label, Ossie Clark, and—since 2011—has been working on his design inspiration service, Stylus.com, which is aimed specifically at the hospitality industries.
We were fortunate enough to be granted a tête-à-tête with Worth to ask him about his successes, failures and advice for trailblazing entrepreneurs.
MW: It sounds simple but I woke up one day with an idea. My brother, Julian, and I had a company, Heatseal, which made labels, badges, t-shirts etc. Because of this, we had 10+ graphic designers on staff who were churning out artwork non-stop. However, business had been crap that summer and we had to cut costs in order to maximize the value of what we were doing and I thought that maybe there was something we could do with the designs we were creating… Could we, perhaps, create a website whereby people could download and buy the rights to the artwork? Believe it or not, this very elementary idea was the catalyst for what became WGSN. Of course, we soon realized that this initial concept was not enough but, about three or four months later, we had a product that went far beyond being a graphic library. Instead, it boasted shop window directories, trend boards and so much more. It took us between six and nine months to go to market but we were launched by August 1998, with a product that is not dissimilar to what WGSN is now.
Having spent 25 years in the fashion industry already, Julian and I knew what it needed and wanted. Timing was on our side, we rode the crest of the Internet wave and we had a firm belief in our assessed interest and the industry’s need for it.
MW: Between 1998 and 1999 Julian and I invested a lot of our own money into WGSN but we still had Heatseal. The positive of that was that we still drew an income, the flip was having a weight to carry when—by now—we were so heavily focused on—and invested in—WGSN. So between 1999 and 2000 we sought to raise a lot of money from Venture Capitalists and, in just over nine months, we had generated £20mn from interested investors in exchange for one third of the business. As a consequence we were able to give up Heatseal (which we sold to management) because the future of WGSN now seemed pretty secure.
However, by 2003 the money had almost run out and at that point, now looking back, we took some enormous risks, remortgaging our homes for the second time and so forth. In short, we put everything on the line. We reassured ourselves saying the timing was right… And, thank goodness, we were right. Pretty soon after that, the sales increased and the overheads decreased (from £1.2mn to £750k), thereby making us profitable and “out the woods.” Within six months we became cash positive and in 2004 we were able to buy our investors out for 30p on the pound. We were fortunate; we became very successful very quickly. By 2005 we were made an offer we couldn’t refuse and sold WGSN. But that was part of our plan—we always saw WGSN as a means to an end; in fact our 1997 business plan even states our ambition to sell for £100mn in two years. It took us a bit longer, but we also got quite a bit more than that £100mn. And, in truth, Julian and I had taken WGSN to a certain level, beyond which it required a larger organization to run it. We were also very blessed that we were able to walk out the door the day we sold it. Typically, there is a two-year earn out but in this case neither party wanted it. Thankfully.
MW: My top pieces of advice would be (1) It is essential to look at your competitive landscape. For us, there were already so many businesses in the fashion and eCommerce space, even back in 1998, so we had to establish how we were going to differentiate and stand out from all the others competing for the same money. (2) Leave fundraising as long as you can until you can show traction. Ideas that are pre-revenue wind up giving too much of their business away as they try to raise funds. (3) Choose people who know your space—both its information and its industry. You don’t just want people who will look at the numbers but will understand why your product is important for the market. (4) Make sure you have a market looking for a product, rather than a product looking for a market. If it’s the latter, don’t even bother.
Judith R. King is one of the most prominent and respected names on the New York PR circuit. As the charismatic owner of King + Company, Judith is known for her abundance of enthusiasm, which comes bundled up with her high-energy persona; together, these are unquestionably at the core of her charm. These qualities, alongside her commitment to delivering stellar results for her clients—of course—are undoubtedly at the core of Judith’s success.
Over the course of her career, Judith’s ingenuity and passion for crafting bespoke branding, PR, and social messages have earned her the respect and custom of star players in the non-profit arena (with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Susan G. Komen For the Cure and The Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign among them), as well as consumer brands including household names like Rodale, DreamWorks Classics, Marquis Jet, Ritz-Carlton Club, and David Barton Gym.
When she’s not busy crafting slogans, conceptualizing ad campaigns or writing top-notch marketing materials, Judith travels the country giving media training to CEOs, celebrities and prominent figures who are facing the public eye.
A couple of weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to grab five minutes to sit down with Judith for a quick tête-a-tête during which we picked her brain, learned about her career track, and discovered a little about what makes her tick.
JK: I was working at Dan Klores as a writing and ideas consultant—or a freelance writer—call it what you will. One evening, I was driving somewhere with my parents and my mother turned to me and asked “Judith, do you believe being charming is a career? Because, quite frankly, your father and I do not.” She then continued her diatribe during which she advised me to use all my gifts as well as the abundance of interpersonal relationships I had generated in order to get my career on track. And that is what I did—I started a small PR firm. Of course that makes it sound so simple but, really, simply using my contacts and my friendships, I did it! And I have since grown it into a company that grosses a revenue in excess of $3mn a year.
I got the best advice from my good friends Ian Schraeger and David Barton: you must always look to the word ‘modern’ as the most important concept there is. Meaning, STAY RELEVANT.
To this, I would also add the following advice:
1. Nothing is ever wrong or boring when you have the right ideas—you can never saturate the market enough with good ideas—they’re what keep your company fresh and your clients impressed.
2. Nimbleness is not as important as constantly innovating. You see, PR victories have very short shelf lives so you must always be thinking on your feet. It is essential that you remain engaged with your client and the world around you because you can always learn more. And I have to tell you, I don’t want to ever wake up thinking “I know enough.”
3. Nobody is indispensable but everyone is important, including yourself. Make the people around you feel that and believe it. It’s infectious. Seriously, I wish more people in my position understood that, as a leader, you can’t just command—you have to commend. I believe it’s because of my attitude that my team knows that, while I am the boss and I expect a lot from them, I want their success as much as my own. I can honestly say that for this reason I’ve never come into the office in a bad mood… ever. It’s not fair for bosses to put their own negativity on the people who are just there to do their best for them. At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to be kind than unkind; so bring your life to work but don’t make work your life. I believe that it’s essential for both our success and our wellbeing that we all come to work as fully engaged human beings, approaching each new day with a love for it.
4. And last, but not least: Be fearless but not destructive.
What makes a business book so exceptional that it becomes a classic? Is its popularity alone or how many times people mention it in their conversation? Is it how it impacted the way we do business? Or is it because it has become such a reference that other authors use it as a pillar to build and develop their own theory. Since there are many great business books which already stood the test of time, picking only 10 books for our list isn’t an easy task, so forgive us if your favorite business book didn’t make the cut.
The inspirational author Og Mandino, a former World War II US Army fighter pilot and insurance salesman, overcame alcoholism, wrote 19 books and headed Success Magazine. The Greatest Salesman in the World is a story about an ancient merchant and his 10 mystical scrolls, each bearing a spiritual precept that is applicable to sales success. The author’s works have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.
This book is a collection of tips for people who wish to start businesses, or even, as author Guy Kawasaki claims, other sorts of projects, including nonprofit organizations. Kawasaki got his start in marketing at Apple Computer and went on to found several high tech businesses. He currently runs the venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures.
This book presents the results of a research project that authors Tom Peters and Robert Waterman conducted from 1979 to 1980. They investigated the qualities common to the best-run companies in America. After selecting a sample of 43 companies from six major industries, they examined the firms’ practices closely. Although they did this study more than 20 years ago, their results provide a model of eight core principles for excellence that are still true for companies today.
From 1996 to 2006, Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson interviewed more than 200 “enduringly successful people,” seeking their personal insights as a follow-up to Porras’ bestselling book Built to Last. The authors began each interview with an open-ended question designed to provoke an unstructured conversation about the meaning of success. The authors drew from these highly personalized revelations to extrapolate the qualities that high achievers share, particularly a driving desire to have meaningful impact.
Sun Tzu was ancient China’s most renowned general. His classic text on strategy survived through the centuries and is still as applicable to war, politics and economics today as it was when Sun Tzu first drafted it. Many translations of Sun Tzu’s manuscript are available, but this one is both attractive and focused. General Tao Hanzhang supplements the actual text with his commentary. Sun Tzu has inspired countless generations of writers and businessmen including best –selling author Richard Greene who wrote “The 48 Laws of Power” and “The 33 Strategies of War”
Doug McMillon, the newly appointed chief executive of global megastore Wal-Mart, recently met with the company’s top execs, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. We’re not sure exactly what the meeting entailed, but we do know that it ended with a surprising assignment from McMillon: they were all told to read The Everything Store, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s book that depicts the rise of the company’s early days where it was run out of a garage, to its current standing as a leading global retailer.
It might seem strange, but in The Everything Store, Bezos reveals that the Wal-Mart business model was something he frequently referred to when developing a plan of attack for growing his online retailor. So McMillon’s thoughts? For a company that has seen five consecutive negative quarters of sales in the U.S., the executive team had to come up with a different strategy; why not learn from someone that successfully learned from their own company so many years ago?
In a manner of speaking, they had to look back to Amazon’s earlier days and, instead of thinking for the next (literally) big thing—i.e. expanding the company’s megastore presence—the real solution may actually be to think on a smaller scale…dial it back, so to speak. They need to look into developing convenience stores, modest-sized grocery stores and even freestanding liquor stores.
The company also readjusted its pricing schematics for its online sales. Whereas in the past, it maintained its low prices guarantee, it was decided to keep that limited to the brick and mortar stores, while the website would take on the Amazon model, with prices that fluctuate based on the market competition.
It’s a smart move on Wal-Mart’s part to make it a priority to study its competitors in the wake of slowing sales and the need to come up with a solution, and a practice we feel all business professionals should be on top of. If you want to check out The Everything Store and see why it is such a compelling read, you can find a summary of the book here.
How many of your clients and prospects are focusing strategies around their corporate brand? I’m betting no matter what the number is, it grew from last year. And it’ll grow even more in the coming years. In fact, the 2014 CEO Challenge report I shared a few months ago showed an upward trend in CEOs focusing efforts and strategies on corporate branding, not just to attract customers but to also attract top, desirable talent.
So What is the Recipe for Creating a “Simply Irresistible” Workplace?
Can you guess what some of the top “Simply Irresistible” workplaces are? If you guessed companies such as Google, Amazon and Zappos, give yourself a pat on the back. Leaders in those companies have mastered instilling purpose and passion into their workforce. They inspire, lead with kindness and invest in their people. Camaraderie, work-life balance and opportunities for growth are all part of the recipe for creating a “Simply Irresistible” company.
“Simply Irresistible” companies provide:
• Meaningful work
• Good management
• Flexibility and inclusion
• Growth opportunity
• Trust in leadership