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Vulnerable Dog

Strength Through Vulnerability

When it comes to thinking about great leaders, I’ve been conditioned to immediately zero in on characteristics that reflect a strong personality– traits like confidence, decisiveness, vision, and fortitude. But are these “strong” traits enough to be successful today?

 

There are countless leaders across industries that match this description of strength – from Steve Jobs to Jack Welch to George Patton to Vince Lombardi, and Mark Zuckerburg. There’s no emotional coddling coming from this group – only an expectation of greatness and drive.

 

But over the course of the last few years, these strong personality leadership traits have started to feel incomplete. Command and control leadership has fallen out of favor amongst the creative class. In the creative space, intrinsic motivation reins supreme, making one thing crystal clear: Modern leadership demands more than traditional traits of strength.

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Grandmother

Lead With Purpose. Lead Like a Grandmother.

Managers don’t want to know about your personal life. It’s a best practice for managers to not learn much about their employee’s personal life so that it does not interfere with professional decisions.

 

What a load of garbage.

 

When I was a young engineer, my manager shared this piece of advice with me while communicating how the head of the office ran things. At the time, it made a lot of sense to me in a classic engineering way: professional decisions should be professional; if you don’t know about personal situations, you can’t be biased by these situations.

 

There’s logic in this thinking, but no truth. You see, managing a team isn’t a linear job – even if us engineers sometimes like to think that way because it’s easier – and better yet, justifiable. The truth is the circuitous and unpredictable path of knowing the people on your team, their motivations, and their personal goals makes it much easier to create a situation that works well for everyone involved.

 

This isn’t to say that as entrepreneurs we need to know details about our team’s weekends plans or we need to stay up to date on team dating travails – but understanding the entirety of what makes people tick matters. As evidenced by the cell phone we carry with us everywhere, a clean separation between work time and personal time is a casualty of the post-industrial era. The inseparable state of work and play complicates leadership, and requires a new approach to successfully managing a team.

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Stadium Energy

Change Your Business With a Meaningful Hello and Goodbye Each Day

Without question, the worst part of my otherwise amazing business school experience was being immersed in the anxious negative energy created from being one of the five hundred Type A MBA students going through interview season together. I have vivid memories walking through the beautiful Winter Garden at Chicago Booth (pictured at left) and feeling overwhelmed by the high-stress energy of my classmates throughout recruiting season. Just from walking into the Winter Garden, where my classmates often gathered, I immediately felt the anxiety in the air. Even before I could observe body language or converse with any of my friends, the nervous energy and uncertainty was pumping through my veins.

 

Now, contrast this anxious energy with the energy you feel walking into a stadium on the day of the big game. Again, unaided by conversations or body language, we immediately feel the positive and energy and excitement that’s around us. The energy that surrounds us – positive or negative – has a tremendous impact on how we behave. Our bodies are wired to respond differently based on the energy we’re surrounded by. Positive energy begets positive action and negative energy gives our brains the green light to allow negative thoughts to creep into our minds. Sometimes we consciously feel this energy, but mostly we gather our cues subconsciously.

 

What if we could change the energy we’re surrounded by? What if we could make the energy our entire team was living and breathing more positive and more conducive to collaboration? What if we were simply too positive to be negative? How would that impact our productivity?

 

As is often the case, there’s good news and bad news.

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Athlete Moving

Stop Being a Wantrepreneur. Start Being an Entrepreneur.

The difference between entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs is simple: wantrepreneurs pursue inspiration and entrepreneurs create inertia. And believe me…the power of inertia is stronger than the power of inspiration.

There are countless websites dedicated to inspirational quotes. We subscribe to daily inspiration emails. We pay $6.99 for a card with an inspiring line. Co-working spaces spend thousands of dollars to paint inspirational quotes on walls.

 

Ever wonder why we love inspiration so much? We love inspiration because it delivers a short-term feeling of connection to our work and makes us believe we’re inching closer to being the person we want to be. In other words, inspiration makes us feel warm & fuzzy inside.

 

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Founders in Startup Office

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Startup Founder Communication

Leadership is communication and effective communication is always a challenge, even in the most ideal environments. So what does that mean for communication for the time-starved, high-stakes, high-failure world of startups? It means everything – especially for founders.

When you think of early-sate startups, think college roommates. Close living quarters and a general lack of maturity lead college roommates to fight; poor communication (of course, binge drinking probably didn’t help) often ends college friendships. The shared desks, tight quarters, and crazy hours of startups make communication scarcely different for start-ups. If you have any chance of growing to become a successful company, you better have strong founder communication.

 

Start-ups, like any type of relationship, require different communication strategies over time. A first date requires an entirely different skillset than what’s needed to maintain a healthy and productive marriage. To be successful in your startup, you’re got to nail communication in every step in the journey. If you don’t get it right when the only employees at your business are the founders – you won’t get a second date…and you certainly won’t get to successfully manage a team.

 

Many founders, especially young founders and first-time founders, exclusively focus on their product & customers at the expense of giving thought to team communication. Poor founder communication leads to wasted time, decisions revisited over & over, and a dysfunctional culture that’s tough to overcome. Accelerators and incubators around the country are littered with failed start-ups thanks to poor communication.

 

In my years in the start-up world, I’ve seen a few recurring behaviors and patterns that predict successful communication versus startups that stall out after that first date. Here’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

 

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Hiring

One Simple Strategy To Hire Proven Winners

Keep it Simple Stupid. It is a beautiful approach − so long as you don’t complicate things.

 

Let’s go back to the fundamentals of business: the team is the single most important part of your business and there’s two parts to having a world-class team:

  1. Hire great talent
  2. Create an amazing environment for the team to grow and thrive

 

Establishing and maintaining the right environment for your team is an ongoing process, but you only hire someone once. Let’s get it right. You can drastically increase your odds of success by doing one simple thing in the interview process, yet very few take the initiative to get this right. Invest the time and reap the rewards.

 

Ready to transform your hiring process and maximize your odds of success? Here’s the one thing you must do as part of the interview process:

 

Have the candidate complete an activity that mirrors what they will do on the job

Look at their resume – read what they have done.

Ask them questions – listen to what they have done.

Stalk them online – see (perhaps quite colorfully) what they have done.

No matter what you do or what type of questions you choose to ask or not ask – have the courage to ask the candidate to do something during the interview.

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