Trimming the Fat

According to the 2007 white paper “Ten Trends” Ten Trends: #9 Leadership for Longevity by the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs, CO, regular exercisers not only scored more favorably in peer evaluations than non-exercisers, but also outperformed non-exercisers in leadership categories (e.g. organization, authenticity, etc.).

CCL’s study adds to the onslaught of recent health-related research, highlighted by John J. Ratey, MD’s book “Spark” Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, a scholarly argument for mind-body dualism that would make Rousseau proud.

Several pioneering companies, to include Google, Caterpillar, Microsoft, and Yamaha Corp. of America have taken the hint, reducing the amount of available junk food and bringing in leaner options.

For an excellent overview, see the article “Hide the Doritos! Here Comes HR” in April 2008’s Business Week:Hide the Doritos! Here Comes HR

REFLECTIONS:

1. Are you what you eat? Could simple changes in diet and sleep habits increase productivity at work?

2. Try to understand the motivators behind why you may reach for junk food. Do you truly enjoy the taste, or is it simply a packaged, easily accessible, more convenient option?

ACTION:

Make 3 healthy weekday lunches each Sunday afternoon or evening (to eliminate excuses about not having time the night prior or morning of) and limit yourself to dining out 1-2 times per week.

Consider the aphorism “What goes in comes out,” both in terms of appearance and productivity.

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Everyone’s Got a Story to Tell

In Status Stories trendwatching.com posits that there is a shift away from traditional brand/storytelling marketing, in which a large company sends an overarching message to mass audiences, to “Status Stories,” in which companies help individual consumers tell their stories to each other, playing to the ego and need for uniqueness in a world of 6 billion people.

For examples, check out the following links:

Army \”Paths of Strength\”

AmEx: My Life. My Card.

Thirsty-Fish: What\’s Your Story?

McKinsey: Our People

REFLECTIONS

1. In a frenetic age of soundbites, “elevator pitches,” and drive through Starbucks, will consumers invest time to listen to the stories they are told? How will your company (a) attract attention (b) hold attention/generate interest (c) translate interest into action?

2. With everyone talking, can a competitive edge be gained by quietly listening?

ACTIONS

Invest in your consumers and shareholders (and therefore in your company) by listening to their stories.

Listen to the narrated–but unspoken–story within a story to gain competitive advantage.

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Web 2.0, SoJo, and Horatio Alger

One need not look far to see the growing impact of Web 2.0 Web 2.0 Spending Boom and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and the like. Already, these sites have become powerful mediums of self-expression, self-promotion, employer screening, and a host of other things. The Web presents seemingly unlimited opportunity for visionaries and trend-setters, where the skillful use of MySpace and blogs can turn even the likes of Tila Tequila A Shot at Love into a modern day Horatio Alger story. Of sorts.

To see several pioneering individuals and companies who are successfully molding Web 2.0 into mediums that change the way we receive, store, transmit, and process information, visit the following sites:

SoJo Pioneer (view “Meet Kevin Sites” tab for specific information on project scope)

Photobucket: (Re)weaving the Web

PodTech.net: Web 2.0 + Brand Storytelling

REFLECTIONS:

1. How can your business use the power of Web 2.0 to excel? Online blogs to promote an “inside look” at the organization? Resume submissions via YouTube?

2. What qualities will distinguish the “one-hit wonders” of Web 2.0 from companies that build a solid foundation/niche and stand the test of time?

3. How can your business break down the massive amounts of information (much of it irrelevant, incorrect, or potentially harmful) on the Web to find, process, and apply the gems that can revolutionize your field?

ACTION:

Brainstorm ways your company can use Web 2.0 technologies to advance its interests.

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The 80/20 Rule: Nature vs. Nurture?

Most of us have heard of the “80/20 Rule,” or Pareto Principle, which can be applied to almost any activity Using the 80/20 Rule to Simplify Life. As applied to workforce productivity, a central concern of leaders worldwide, the rule may be stated as follows: “20% of your employees will perform 80% of the work.”

This assertion begs the question: What is preventing the overwhelming majority of workers from performing at capability?

This question in turn provokes a variation of the infamous “Nature vs. Nurture” debate. Are 80% of workers inherently lazy and unproductive? There are certainly many days (Mondays, anyone?) when this pessimistic statement rings all too true. Taking a slightly more optimistic view of humanity, however, perhaps some employees have been temporarily “derailed” due to a variety of circumstances (micromanaging by superiors, personal concerns, etc.).

Take the example of a middle school student who is performing poorly in school. Frustrated, the teacher moves him to the back of the class. The student’s performance deteriorates further, and he enters a downward spiral. Perhaps the student is a troublemaker. Perhaps he is lazy. Perhaps he has a learning disorder. But what if I told you all the student needed to start with was a pair of glasses because his eyesight was poor?

This situation is analogous to what often happens in the workforce. Often, when an employee fails to “make the numbers,” an otherwise talented asset finds him/herself strangled by micromanaging, stressed by poor reviews and warnings from higher up, etc. and performs worse as a result.

The 80/20 rule as applied to leadership actually operates in reverse. A true leader is akin to a gardener, with his team/organization as the plant. 80% of the plant is good, and 20% may need to be trimmed from time to time. Instead of hacking apart the plant if it doesn’t grow, the effective leader is better off giving the plant a little more water and sunlight, relaxing, and letting the plant follow its natural inclination–to grow and flourish.

REFLECTIONS:

1. Does the 80/20 rule ring true in your office? If so, how are the 80% treated? Are the results you achieve in keeping with the way the majority (80%) of your team is treated? (Hint: if you feel your company is underperforming, the answer string is likely: Yes, Poor, Yes. Coincidence?)

2. Do you prefer to prune or nurture? Why? Which approach do you think will achieve greater long-term success?

3. When is it appropriate to “prune”?

ACTION: Focus on “creating space” for your team to achieve. New Generation Leadership

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The Honor System

According to the 2007 white paper “What’s Next?” published by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Colorado Springs, CO, only 8% of responding professionals believed “Ethical Decision Making” was an essential leadership skill of the future. And yet, several visionaries, from Radiohead to restaurant entrepreneurs, are making headlines by betting on personal ethics, creating systems in which consumers determine the value of the good or service purchased.

For specific examples, check out the following websites:

Radiohead Bypasses Labels/Piracy, Trusts Consumers

One World Everybody Eats

Terra Bite Lounge

Is such a social experiment profitable? To see the results of one such endeavor, read the following excerpt from the 2005 book Freakonomics, profiled in the New York Times: Bagel Man\’s Honor System

REFLECTIONS:

1. Are such seemingly extreme examples utopian and easily dismissible? Allow yourself to imagine a world that operated on the Honor System. What would it look like? What would be your role? The role of your company?

2. At their core, all human interactions–business, social, or personal–revolve around relationships. As social creatures, human beings form friendships, select partners, and do businesses with individuals whom we trust. What is your business doing to inspire trust in its consumer base? What more can you do?

3. Do most businesses treat customers as cohorts or culprits? What effect does this have on consumer psyche? On profit margins? How does your business treat customers?

ACTION: Consider the reciprocal implications of businesses actively demonstrating trust in their consumer base.

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