MVP Seminars Blogs

Leaders are often encouraged to “think outside the box.”  Leaders often encourage others to “think outside the box.”  Though thinking outside the box has value and calls for innovation and non- traditional ways, I suggest that strong leaders can be creative inside the box.  This article challenges leaders to consider something different when it comes to being creative. Common thinking suggests that great creativity comes when one has no restrictions upon his or her ability or imagination.  Common thinking suggests that great creativity comes when one is free from following rules or guidelines.  However, could the opposite be true?  Playing within set boundaries and winning the game or beating the competition calls for more creativity than playing with no rules! Professional musicians and athletes serve as examples of those who use creativity while having to play by the rules.  The following used great creativity while at the same time stayed “in bounds”: The Gershwin Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Eumir Deodato, Rare Earth, Muhammad Ali, Fran Tarkenton, Michael Jordan and currently Johnny Manziel.  All of these folks were highly creative, but never went “outside the box.”  They all used their creativity within the boundaries of their specific areas of activity! Staying in the box calls for greater creativity than does going outside of it!  Good leaders are creative. Good leaders know how to be creative even when they have to play by the rules.  What do you think?
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How to Hit Your Leadership Recharge Button

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”?—?Teddy Roosevelt

An insightful experiment in learning retention was conducted at Wipro’s tech-support call center.

As reported in the Nov 2015 Harvard Business Review, Why Organizations Don’t Learn, Wipro invited new hires during their sixth through their sixteenth days in training to do something a little different.

This global IT consulting firm had each trainee spend the last 15 minutes of their day reflecting and writing about what they had learned that day. The company also created a control group, who just kept on working for the last 15 minutes with any journaling.

Guess what happened?

Trainees who reflected each day performed more than 20% better, on average, than those in the control group on their final training exam.

Is this a coincidence?

Not at all! Learning through self-reflection is one of the most important skills of being an effective leader.

As you hit the ground running to tackle all of your leadership challenges in 2016, my invitation is to pause and reflect?—?now and on a regular basis throughout the year. Regular reflection positions us to minimize the trouble or lack of learning we cause ourselves. Make sure that you are not the one standing in your own way.

But what should you focus on while you pause and think about the day? How can you best hit your leadership recharge button? What can you do on a regular basis to help you show up as the kind of leader you know you can be? For starters, focus on the positive!

Martin Seligman, who is the father of positive psychology, in his book,Flourish, suggests a key exercise to maximize the power of reflection called Practicing What Went Right.

The exercise has three simple steps:

Step 1: Start by writing 3 things that went right last week.

You can focus on all aspects of your life or just what happened at work.

For example you could say:

  • I had a successful crucial conversation with a colleague
  • I completed our budget on time
  • I included data in my presentation that really connected with my audience

Step 2: Identify what habit or behavior you did to cause those things to go right?

For example:

  • I created a written plan for my crucial conversation and minimized the drama
  • I scheduled a meeting where all decision makers were present to expedite the budgeting process
  • I blocked the first 30 min of each day to prepare and research for my presentation.

Step 3: Answer the following questions:

  • How can I make something like that happen again?
  • What habit do I need to put in place or cultivate more of?

Some examples could include:

  • I chose to check the story I was telling myself and focus just on the facts
  • I decided to not wait for permission but to be proactive
  • I allowed myself to not respond to email or texts for 30 minutes

Next, do the same exercise but on what has gone right thus far today.

Identify what habit or behavior helped those things go right and what you can do to help those things happen again.

“Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”?—?Charles Dickens

We are often very good at focusing on what is going wrong or what is missing in our life. Flip the perspective and catch yourself (and others!) doing something right!

Your level of happiness will increase, your leadership strengths will shine, and your higher level of gratitude will be contagious.

As you strengthen your leadership this year, choose to reflect, choose to learn, and choose to lead better!

Recharge your leadership with gratitude and you will bring more joy to yourself and to those you lead. Happy 2016!

To assist you with your leadership success and reflection in 2016, we have created a complimentary set of self reflection worksheets for you.

It’s easy to print and will help you easily complete the 3 step exercise described above! Click here to download the FREE worksheet.

Note: This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

About Daniel

Daniel Stewart a Leadership, Talent, and Change Consultant at Stewart Leadership.

He thrives in supporting top performing companies manage and retain exceptional talent, and coach the leaders of tomorrow.

About Stewart Leadership

Stewart Leadership is a talent management and leadership development consulting, coaching, and training company building leaders in start-ups to the Fortune 500. Click here to contact us and discover how we could partner with you.

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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Having provided color commentary for ten years with Joe Ammerman at WJCP radio, we have witnessed the local high school football team secure a winning season for the first time since 1997. As of today, the team’s won/loss record is 6-2 with one regular season game to play. This is only the fourth team since 1970 that has experienced winning more games than it lost. This is (kind of) Coach “Z’s” first year. Coach “Z” feels a sense of accomplishment. The community and athletic director are pleased. In a way this is Coach “Z’s” first year as head coach. What I mean is that seven or eight years ago “Z” was the head coach. Things then were not comfortable or pleasing. After several seasons, “Z” resigned as coach but stayed on as a teacher at the school. At the end of last season the school found itself in search of a new head coach. The decision was made to put “Z” back in action. He was given a second chance to inspire. He was given a second chance to instruct. He was given a second chance to lead. And like many in athletics, some time off gave him new confidence, wisdom, and insights. “Z” took the second chance given him and is leading his team to what is in our county a rare season.  Go Panthers! Second chance leadership: is there someone you know who deserves one? Is there someone in your organization who would do a great job if given a second chance? Maybe you are one who has been given and second chance and are grateful for it. Second chance leaders are not washed up has beens; Lou Holtz, Rich Brooks and Coach “Z” are fine examples. I too have been given a second chance at leading. And I am much more effective the second time around. Don’t be afraid to give second chances. You may need to swallow some pride or deal with some negative emotions. But you may be surprised how effective a leader can be when given that second chance.
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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Having been raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky, though not a consumer, I do know a little about the process of making bourbon. Though it must be made of at least 51% corn mash and must be stored in charred oak barrels, the process that leads to the end product can take anywhere from three years to twenty! Depending on the distiller’s desire for taste, the influence of the mash and the charred oak barrels is a process that may take a long time. The first two installments of The Basics of a Leader’s Influence focused on a leader’s presence and power. This final installment seeks to help us understand the leader’s influence on others is a process. In order for you to see the result(s) of your influence as a leader, be prepared to wait. Why? Influencing people is a process. Few things in life come immediately or quickly and a leader’s influence is no exception. It may be weeks, months or even years before you celebrate the fruit of your labor. Thought patterns and lifestyles of people do not change quickly. So, in order to see the result(s) of your influence as a leader, be like a master distiller; be aware of the process; be willing and prepared to wait.
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There are management policies and procedures that were established to make it easier for support groups to do their jobs WITHOUT CONSIDERING if those groups will help maximize the performance of production departments (operations and maintenance). I believe in keeping things simple IF a simple approach maximizes a company's potential for success. If a simple process makes it easier for a support group (procurement, warehouse, accounting, marketing, etc.) but makes it HARDER for operations or maintenance to do their jobs and/or causes production to be lower and total cost to be higher, we should be questioning our real goal. For example, a simpler vendor selection process (mostly price based) may make it possible to nearly automate vendor selection for an operating supply, but the cheapest operating supply may cause quality issues that cause equipment damage, downtime events and production losses that far exceed the amount that was saved by selecting the cheapest product. Operations and maintenance are left to deal with the aftermath of this purchasing decision and must report lower production and higher costs. Their production bonuses may be negatively affected, but procurement may be rewarded for keeping spending low. In this scenario, the company "traded" potential profit (millions of dollars in some cases) for a simpler vendor selection process. Was it worth it? NO! Does this happen a lot? YES Why haven't we stopped doing this years ago? Because the dollars that "could have been made but weren't " (i.e., the value of potential profit that was lost) is not calculated or reported. No one is aware of or accountable for this loss, so it goes unnoticed, even though is causes a lower net profit on the general ledger. For those processes tied directly to the efficiency and effectiveness of the production value stream, it is more important to use administrative processes that enhance value stream performance, contribute to value stream optimization, and help drive stock price up. Administrative processes that are not linked to value creation at the touch point with production will not do that
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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels It takes less than one minute and thirty seconds. Since the 1930s thousands of people have seen it take place. Senators, movie stars and sports celebrities have witnessed it. I have never seen it, though I would like to. I have heard about it for years. It is the “March of the Ducks” at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Everyday at 11a.m. the five Mallard ducks march from their top-floor suite to the elevator, then from the elevator to the lobby fountain where they spend the day swimming in the fountain waters. Then at 5p.m. the reverse is done as the ducks march their way back to the elevator. In the beautiful Bluegrass state where I was born and raised, it was common to hear the phrase, “You better get your ducks in a row.” The meaning of course is to get organized; make a plan; get in line; set priorities; get serious and quit goofing off. Getting your ducks in a row is a priority for great leadership. Great leaders have a plan, are organized and set priorities. If you do these three in partnership with a clear vision, you are on your way to being an effective leader. If you ever have the chance to see the “March of the Ducks,” call or write and tell me about it!
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Change is hard for many employees, especially if they have gotten used to a certain way of thinking only to find out that they have to think a certain other way. Working with your employees in a way that is both inclusive and transparent can help ease the resistance you are bound to encounter. Need some guidance? The following tips can help as you move your organization through change: 1.  Communicate your vision so that others will be inspired to join. Speak in terms of results and the steps to getting there. Paint the big picture before you hone in on the numerous changes the ideal big picture requires. 2.  Learn to let go. Identify what is in your control to change and know how to let go of things you can’t control. 3.  Identify energy vampires and energy igniters. You’ll need a lot of “oomph” to lead a group through change. Energy is infectious, so surround yourself with energy and tap into its sources. Avoid the vampires and make time for the igniter. 4.  Inform others and communicate the change. Give relevant information at the right time in order to empower people and help them feel secure. In the absence of information, rumors begin. 5.  Listen, listen, listen. Listen with your ears, eyes, mind and heart. Understand other people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. Listen to people’s concerns without judging. 6.  Respond. People react to change differently based on their experiences and who they are. When you here a concern, address it. When you sense a fear, speak to it. Respond in a helpful way to reactions to change by focusing on people’s needs and concerns. 7.  Acknowledge people’s feelings. Make it safe to for your employees to express themselves. 8.  Nurture yourself and others. Change can carry an unconscious stress on your body--don’t forget about it. Find outlets to give your mind and body a break. Find out what other people need to be nurtured. Don’t be afraid to ask about their needs. 9.  Help your employees find the support they need. This could be a once-a-week support group during lunch or seeking help through the employee assistance program. 10. Be patient. Change takes time and can try your patience. Recognize it can take a long time for the dust of change to settle, and be patient with the process and the people who are affected by it. Your demonstrated patience will give security and confidence to those around you.
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THE BASICS OF A LEADER’S INFLUENCE-PART 2 © 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Every leader influences someone; some for good and some for bad. A noble leader works to make sure his or her influence is positive and helps others grow personally and professionally. Never underestimate the reach of your influence. Your leadership not only influences lives today, it has the potential to reach lives in the next generation. This is the second installment of three in the series on the basics of leadership. The last time we considered the leader’s “presence.” Today we will consider the leader’s “power.” Part of a leader’s power is due to his or her presence among the people. This is not necessarily the type of power that comes from a thundering voice from far away. Nor does it come from the leadership myth of the magic, all powerful man. It is not power to be abused or used for selfish conceited reasons. This power is the power to influence others in a positive way. It is the power that encourages in such a way that it empowers those who follow. It is the power that keeps the train moving forward. Remember, water at 211 degrees is only languishing liquid; but when it reaches 212 degrees, it produces enough power to drive a locomotive while pulling a train a mile long. Your influence is powerful. When used properly, it not only keeps the people in the organization moving forward; it increases the value of your leadership.  
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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Lawn mower leadership! What in the world could that be? The idea of lawn mower leadership comes from my days as sales manager at a John Deere store. At that time John Deere manufactured a series of commercial front mowers call the “F” series. There was the F525, F725, F735, F935 and the larger F1145 and F1445. Some were available with gasoline engines only. Some were available with gasoline or diesel engines and some where available with diesel only. The unique feature of these mowers was the rear wheels were designed to swivel in such a way that they followed the exact track as the front wheels. Therefore, when turning, the rear end of the unit never swung beyond the width of the front wheels. The benefit for the purchaser was the back of the unit never rammed into buildings, fences or flower beds. This design gave birth to the sales and marketing phrase, “The tail follows the trail.” Now that you know about the F Series commercial mowers, what is the connection between them and leadership? Good leadership makes a path so clear that followers have no trouble when turns or curves must be navigated. Good leadership lays down such a definitive trail that followers never swerve off the path because like the rear wheels of the F Series, they are following the exact trail of the leader.  Lawn mower leadership calls you and me to provide the type of inspirational leadership that without question allows the tail to follow the trail. I would count it an honor to help you and your people. Please let me know how I may be of assistance.
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Sometimes it is worthwhile to step back, look at how business has been conducted over the years, look at the far future horizon and think about how to change the conduct of business now so that the value being created for all in that future time is as great as possible. This article suggests a wide-angle lense approach to creating that future. It also says narrow-minded, short term and inward-focused business conduct should be abandoned - even though some good value has been created over the years. It is yesterday's best "paradigm," and we offer the best future way of thinking and behaving - the new "paradigm." This article also offers a comment about how some leading thinkers are currently addressing value creation. The way they are advising the local and global business world, while indeed understandable, is prolonging this yesterday's "paradigm" problem. The "paradigm" problem is that profit - the more the better - has been taught and accepted by most as the primary or only purpose of business.  The late Professor Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago, and others, presented this idea in the 1960s. Professor Friedman himself presented it famously in the New York Times in September, 1970 and continued to preach it up to the turn of the century. This profit fixation has been taught in business schools and, even though companies and some globally known CEOs say that profit as a purpose is dumb, their behavior says just the opposite.  And, the investment banking and Wall Street community largely still clings to this profit-focused "paradigm" flaw. Profit-Focused Paradigm Flaw? Precisely. Even in these times of concepts like sustainability, conscious capitalism, creating shared value and other proposals, bringing value to other primary stakeholders (customers of course, and employees, suppliers, communities where the business is and the general public interest) is still used as means to an end – the end of creating value only for shareholders. As long as boards and leaders use outward and long term focus as instrumental, they will fail the shareholders (and the organization’s other primary stakeholder groups) over the long run, by fostering creation of less value than the companies have the potential to create. What Is The Answer? The answer is to adopt a mindset (a new paradigm) that is: a. Dominantly long term, (board room to boiler room), b. Primary stakeholder-focused (customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities in which the companies have a presence and the general public interest), and c. Value-optimizing for each primary stakeholder group, relative to each of the others. More detail about this essential 21st century dominant mindset can be found . Importantly here though, we can summarize: The highest nature of people, applied to their role as markets, is such that where and when they see companies conducting themselves in accordance with this new "paradigm," embracing the six or seven globally ubiquitous virtues people share (peoples from all around the world), treasuring the three or four universally possessed unalienable rights of people and fully acting out their fiduciary responsibilities toward each of their primary stakeholder groups (not just their shareholders), people (markets) will virtually always vote with their hearts, minds and feet and move toward, lean into and buy from such companies. Transformative Concepts, Seminal Concepts and Disruptive Concepts or Technologies. For a concept to be transformative or seminal - or disruptive - on any subject or area of life in which an existing paradigm has been not only dominant but almost idolized for so long, it must break away from the core of the old paradigm – in this case profit-centrism and short-termism – and present an actionable and entirely new paradigm.  We do that here. To understand it fully, to flesh out the summary above please go to the two most recent posts (October 20, 2014 and July 15, 2014) at the blog site link above.  All companies and organizations, including governments, that do change, embrace and make this new paradigm their own will no longer fall short (sub-optimize) but rather will optimize. And, the long term result will include, as an outcome, creation of the highest level of wealth over the long run – for society and themselves. This is what Adam Smith was trying to teach 250 years ago. Very few have made him proud since, but this new paradigm in action would make him proud. This note has not discussed the string of “my bads” of the last 20 plus years, like the 2007-’08 great recession, the Enron behavior, etc., because we need not. Rather, we offer the going forward mindset that will make the likelihood of such “my bads” go toward zero in the future. Agree or disagree? Call us and we can wrestle it to the ground :-).
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