Three Books to Help You Build a Powerful Business

As a business owner, you most likely have a lot of expertise, experience, and vision that you rely on each day to build, develop, and grow your business. But no one has all the answers. And in a quickly changing society, it’s critical to keep your mind open to new ideas, approaches, and strategies to stay relevant and successfully meet challenges. Below are three books that have made a serious impact and helped business owners and leaders re-imagine and reach new heights in the past decade.

 

Measure What Matters

By John Doerr

In this book, venture capitalist John Doerr breaks down a revolutionary tactic to business management through the practice of goal setting using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). In the book, he illustrates the power of using Objectives (which define the goal), and Key Results (which define the actionable steps needed to achieve the goal), through a broad range of case studies, each with its own success story defined by the implementation of OKRs.

As you read this book, you’ll see how OKRs create clarity throughout an entire company, from entry-level workers to CEOs, and help leaders make the tough decisions necessary to enable growth. Whatever industry you fall under, Measure What Matters can help you create clarity within your organization and develop a sure path towards growth.

 

The CEO’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream

By Dave Chase

In his book, Dave Chase breaks down the misconception that controlling health benefits spending is out of employers’ hands by demonstrating how public and private employers have successfully reduced their spending. In the book, he challenges employers to re-think the reason behind offering employee benefits in the first place, shifting the groundwork, goals, and measurements of success in a way that illuminates the true value of employee benefits.

This book does a wonderful job of breaking down the facts, uncovering the reality behind the challenges the health insurance industry poses to employers, and explaining how real-life organizations have come out on top and been able to reduce their spending by 20% or more. He challenges employers to re-think their approach, uncovering how they hold themselves back while offering solutions and strategies to help them improve their situation. Any employer, CFO, CEO, or HR leader interested in getting the upper hand on their benefits spending would be wise to give this book a thorough read.

 

The Go-Giver

By Bob Burg and John David Mann

The Go-Giver is celebrated in the business world for upending the widely held belief that to succeed, you have to be selfish. Burg and Mann tell a story illustrating how, when you act in service to others, you build a relationship based on trust and gratitude. The book explores how these relationships have a value and strength that surpasses the fiber of relationships built on self-interest.

While this may seem obvious, it’s incredible how often professionals unintentionally steer themselves into relationships based on self-interest, undercutting their potential by depriving them of one of the most powerful resources: a network of relationships based in gratitude, respect, and service to one another. Their story offers thoughtful and provoking insights into how changing your philosophy around building relationships can enrich and enhance your personal life, career, and business.

Get to reading!

Although it can be challenging to find time in your day to read, it is well worth the effort. By opening your mind to new ideas that challenge your way of thinking, leading, and building relationships, you create a significant opportunity for you (and your business) to grow. Plus, now you don’t have to come up with your next book to read! We’ve done it for you. So pick one up, curl up in bed, or sip your morning coffee, and get to reading—or should we say growing!

 

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility, and great responsibility calls for regular reflection upon who you are as a leader and how you are growing.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that we are heading in the right direction regarding empowering our people, making progress towards our vision, and creating a sustainable legacy over the long term.

Asking meaningful questions that bring you discomfort and get to the heart of what it means to be a leader can show you how well you measure up and highlight areas where your attention is needed.

Is the ‘Why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?

Change is inevitable. Processes, plans, priorities, and even those on your team will change or evolve. Your Why/Purpose is what drives you to emotionally do what you do. It’s the rock upon which everything is built, and it drives every decision you make in the organization, which is why it’s important to consistently reflect on it.

Start by asking, “Is the ‘why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?” If your ‘why’ has shifted, then you may have strayed from your values or mission. If that’s the case, ask yourself what strategies you can create to ensure a successful re-alignment, so your purpose continues to drive your organization. If you want to inspire people to get behind your purpose and vision, they need to believe in what you believe in.

How am I developing as a leader?

There are no perfect leaders, so if you think you have it all figured out and that you’re at the pinnacle level of leadership, then it’s time to reflect on how you’re developing. Leaders who remain agile and curious and who value continuous development are best able to adapt to the most significant and most unexpected challenges.

Reflect on how you’re developing. If your list is limited, contemplate how you can seek opportunities to grow and develop your skills as a leader in your organization.

Am I as accessible as I can be?

Take a moment to reflect on this question.

Did you think of physical availability? For example, perhaps, you considered yourself accessible because you have an “open-door policy” or a “virtual communication policy” if you’re remote. If so, it’s essential to differentiate physical availability and accessibility.

Accessibility goes beyond physical availability because it’s everything that happens the moment someone walks in your door and your accountability that follows. Now reflect on this question again and ask yourself:

  • Have I created an environment that encourages people to come to me in need?
  • Am I providing enough support?
  • Do I demonstrate genuine appreciation and gratitude for my team members?
  • Am I actively listening to others’ input? 
  • Do I consistently follow up with people?

For example, if you’re going to encourage your team to share their input and ideas because you one time read in an article that you should, ask yourself if you’re genuine. Especially in the case of leadership, actions speak louder than your words.

Have I been seeking enough feedback?

There are copious amounts of people who don’t seek feedback because it could bruise the ego or harm our self-confidence, but as the saying goes – no pain, no gain. One of the most courageous acts you can perform is to seek honest and constructive feedback on your performance as a leader. You can do this during team performance reviews or one-to-one employee check-ins.

Actively seek out suggestions on how you can improve and support your team. It’s critical to follow through and integrate feedback for it to make a meaningful impact. Take this feedback, reflect on it some more, and embrace how you can grow as a leader.

Self-reflection makes the best leaders

Just as leaders expect certain standards from their people, their position as a leader holds them to greater standards.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that you’re holding yourself to this standard and that you’re heading in the right direction.

Regardless of whether you’re in a leadership position or not, these questions can help you bolster your strengths and make any necessary improvements that will enhance your ability to be of greater service and benefit to yourself as well as others.

 

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Are You an Imperfect Leader?

Today’s employers are expected to be perfect and do everything right—from seeking innovative solutions to complex problems to having the charismatic presence necessary to rally a team around a shared vision of the future. But if leaders were perfect, then why is there a need for followers?

 

You cannot be all things to all people, especially in a world that’s constantly changing. Leadership is not about command and control anymore; it’s about collaboration and cultivating the actions of those in your organization. It’s time to take the rose-tinted glasses off and recognize your weaknesses as an opportunity for personal and organizational development.

 

So, what can you do? Embrace imperfection by identifying your leadership capabilities and building a team that complements one another’s strengths and offsets another’s weaknesses.

 

Embrace imperfection

 

Rapidly changing economic, social, environmental, technological, and political forces make life difficult for employers as new decisions need to be made and executed. Still, no single person can stay on top of everything. If you try to be this perfect leader, you’ll instead be an exhausted one while damaging the organization in the process. The imperfect leader knows when to let go and delegate. They know their capabilities and have good judgment about working with others to build on their strengths and offset their limitations.

 

Identify your leadership capabilities

 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses by reflecting on the four leadership capabilities – sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing. Rarely, if ever, will someone be equally skilled in each capability because they span the intellectual and interpersonal, the rationale and intuitive, and the conceptual and creative capacities required in today’s business environment.

 

Sensemaking involves understanding and mapping the context in which a company and its people operate. A leader skilled in this area can quickly identify the complexities of a given situation and explain them to others.

 

Relating is the ability to build trusting relationships with others through inquiring (listening with intention and holding back judgment), acquiring (explaining how one reached their interpretations and conclusion without aggression or defensiveness), and connecting (establishing a network of allies who can help a leader accomplish goals).

 

Visioning is creating a compelling image of the future. It is a collaborative process that articulates what organizational members want to create together. Those strong in visioning will realize if other people aren’t buying into the vision. But they are persistent. They engage in dialogue about the reality they desire, inspire and motivate others, and use stories and metaphors to paint a vivid picture of what the vision will accomplish.

 

Inventing involves developing new ways to bring that vision to life. The most compelling ideas can lose their momentum if there is no inventing; however, inventors are creative executioners. They conceive, design, and use creativity to help people figure out new ways of working together on the shared vision.

 

Finding a leader who encapsulates each capability equally is rare, but these capabilities are interdependent. Therefore, it is critical to find others who can offset your weaknesses and complement your strengths.

 

Build a complementary environment

 

After identifying your unique leadership capabilities, search for others who can fill in the gaps and build a complementary environment. For example, if you’re a solid visionary but cannot turn your ideas into reality, find someone strong in inventing. Remember, if you get people that mirror yourself, you’ll experience Groupthink and a “bubble,” which is why it is crucial to foster a team with diverse capabilities, experience, values, and attitudes.

 

Embracing imperfection as a leader is not about strengthening your weaknesses; it’s about cultivating a diverse, collaborative, and complimentary organization. Have the confidence and humility to recognize unique talents and perspectives throughout the organization and help others flourish as they build on these strengths. 

 

It’s time to celebrate the imperfect, that is, the human—leader.

 

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Photo by Worachai Yosthamrong 

Wellness and Productivity: A Holistic Approach

For much of the country, winter can be a challenging time. Decreased light, more time spent indoors, the horrible experience of waking up in the dark and ending work in the dark—it can be tough. This winter may be especially challenging, with the pandemic forcing us into isolation and away from our favorite cozy coffee shops and bookstores.

As humans, our energy naturally ebbs and flows throughout our lives and throughout the seasons. This can be difficult for those of us with high expectations. We don’t like to accept that sometimes, we need sleep, time alone, or support. But these things are inevitable, pandemic or not, and fighting against them isn’t an effective use of our energy. We need to learn to roll with our energy cycles, not against them.

Here are four tips to help you stay on track with your goals while not falling out of tune with your needs.

Make short term commitments 

At the start of every week, make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Then break each item out into categories:

  • Start with “the one thing”—the task you commit to complete above all others.
  • Then, break it into time-intensive tasks that you know will take a while.
  • Next, think about your quick wins, the things you know you can get done quickly.
  • Finally, think about the items that can wait till later and put them in your backlog.

This will help you stay on top of the stuff that matters most while also keeping things from slipping through the cracks. It’ll provide you with a sense of accomplishment and enable you to make clear decisions around how you spend your time each day. In short, it’ll help your days stay clear of busywork and give you direction to aim your energy most effectively and efficiently.

Keep small promises

Each of us has different needs, challenges, and sticking points. Try making some small, easily accomplishable promises to yourself. Pick something that can have a high impact on your mood but doesn’t take too much time. A ten-minute walk in the middle of the day, for instance. Or fifteen minutes to journal in the morning before work.

Keeping small promises to yourself helps you gain a sense of control and emotional wellbeing. It will help you remove opportunities to berate yourself for not being perfect by providing you something to point to and say, “At least I did this for myself today.”

Redefine what productivity means

In our society, we often put more value on “productivity” than wellbeing. We get down on ourselves for not doing enough, working hard enough, or growing fast enough. But the reality is that like our energy, our productivity ebbs and flows over time. We may have times of intense growth followed by quieter, more restful periods. That’s normal.

However, we get into trouble when we place greater value on the “more productive” periods than the restful ones. If we measure our success against those times in our lives that we have been the most productive, we’ll always fall short of our expectations. Growth spurts and times of increased productivity are great, but they aren’t necessarily what leads to success.

Approach your life holistically

Allowing yourself the grace to move between these stages in your life and placing value on all of them is the key to both happiness and productivity. To have growth, you need to have rest. Remember, your success, whether it’s emotional, financial, or occupational, is your responsibility. Take the steps you need, big or small, to ensure you’re supporting yourself as you expand and contract within your life.

 

Photo by Alexandr Ivanov

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How to Get More Out of Every Conversation

The art of leading a productive and enlightening conversation is at the essence of success. Whether you’re conducting a job interview, talking to a client, or working with your team, you need the power to get as much out of every conversation as you can.

You need to inspire, to be purposeful and clear, to obtain and share quality information, and to connect on a human level—all of which needs to happen naturally and in as few words (of yours) as possible.

Here are a few key points you can apply to nearly every conversation you have, amplifying your impact, takeaway, and position.

Who’s at the center?

Leading a quality conversation doesn’t mean you become the focal point. Most of the time, if you position the other person at the center, you can make a greater impact. You can make the other person think you’re the most interesting person in the world, or they can leave the conversation feeling they are the most interesting person in the world.

Which would you prefer? Be honest with yourself.

While you might impress some people by espousing your thoughts, experiences, and opinions, it will do little to help you connect with and learn from them. This brings us to a critical point: setting your intention. If you want to lead a conversation where everyone goes away with your opinions and ideas swirling around in their heads, then sure, get on your soapbox and talk away.

BUT, if you intend to get information from someone while also connecting with them personally, then your focus should be on them.

Listening to hear, not to speak

Imagine a microphone: the only thing that comes out of it is what is said into it. Having a conversation with someone who spends their time waiting to speak is like becoming a microphone for the other person. It’s not fun. Or rewarding. Or engaging.

It’s just exasperating.

So how do you avoid being the person who only listens long enough to find an opportunity to speak? The first step is slowing down. Remind yourself why you are having the conversation. Ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to gain. Then ask yourself how you’re going to get there. I promise you, the answer isn’t by talking.

Learn how to ask questions

While you’ve known how to ask questions since you first learned to talk, it doesn’t mean you know how to ask the right questions.

Let’s look at two similar questions and see how they evoke wildly different responses:

  • Did you feel happy when you got the new job?
  • What was it like to get the new job?

One quick way to stop a conversation in its tracks is to ask leading or closed-ended questions. These are questions that push the response in a specific direction and simply require a yes or no answer.

What would you say if someone asked you the first question? Probably something like, “Yes, I did feel happy!” While that isn’t a bad answer, it doesn’t leave room for you to add anything else. The answer sits within the original question: “Happy,” prompting no additional thought or introspection

Now think about answering the second, open-ended question. There’s no obvious response. Your answer could go in many different directions, allowing richness and depth to develop within the discussion. Those are the types of questions you want to be asking if you’re looking for value.

Don’t resist the awkward pause

While no one loves to sit in silence, learning to do so comfortably can create something amazing. Think about the landscape of your conversation as a jumble of marbles on a mattress. You go from one marble to the next in a sometimes straight, sometimes meandering line. But there will always be marbles that don’t get picked up. 

Now, think about silence as a bowling ball put down in the center of the mattress. The ball’s weight creates a physical pull on the outlying marbles, coaxing them to roll into the dent left by the bowling ball and into the center of the conversation.

Give your conversation some intentional bowling balls. Make way for those stray thoughts or shy opinions to be pulled to the center and realized.

Move with purpose

As you practice leading conversations that produce real value, help you authentically connect, and make progress, take the time to reflect. After an especially frustrating or exciting conversation, stop and go over what made it successful or not. This process takes self-awareness, intention, and purpose. Take your time, work at it, and watch as each interaction you have becomes more valuable, impactful, and satisfying.

 

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