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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Focus on Performance

by Mike Myatt

Focus on PerformanceI'm going old-school with today's message - it's going to be direct, and to the point... focus on performance. One of my pet peeves is the voluminous amount of management speak and self-help propaganda currently in circulation designed to codify a lack of performance. I'm an individual that believes in clear and direct communication, so I'll spare you the rhetoric and just do what I do best... cut to the chase. Put simply, the formula for success, what truly differentiates you, is that you either PERFORM or your don't.

The text that follows is not going to nurture you, nor will it serve as a disingenuous pat on the back. I'm not going to tell you what a nice person you are, but I am going to ask you to lose the excuses, rationalizations, justifications, platitudes, theories, and spin and just get the job done. This message is about zeroing-in on the main difference between the impact players and the wannabes... it's called delivering a certainty of execution. Don't give me excuses... give me results.

See if this rings true... have you ever noticed that it seems to be those soothsayers who can wax eloquent in the planning stages, that always just seem to fall flat on their face when it comes to the implementation? Again, in an effort to keep it simple, don't tell me; show me! A great strategy that cannot be executed is not a great strategy at all... it is a failed strategy. Let me put it this way... It's pretty darn hard to look smart if you cannot deliver the goods.

Think of any successful leader and you'll find they consistently get the job done. They accomplish the mission; they find a way to win; they execute. Sadly, all it really takes to stand out in today's business world is to follow through on your commitments. It doesn't matter where you went to school, how smart you are, what your title is, or any number of other considerations. If you want to succeed, learn to honor your commitments and execute.

The best advice I can give you is to immediately cease and desist from majoring in minors, learn to harness your passion, leverage your resources, be disciplined in your approach, and always focus on performance. Contrasted with an earlier statement above, it's hard to appear as anything other than smart when you are a master of execution and performance. Few things speak to a leader's ability like consistently putting points on the scoreboard.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Are you too smart for your own good?

Intellect... an Asset or Liability?


by Mike Myatt

Are you too smart for your own good?My question is this: Is your intellect an asset or liability?

All one has to do is watch a very bright person defend their position to understand what I'm driving at with today's post. Observing intelligent people lecture, spin, posture, position, cajole, rationalize, or justify their beliefs in order to "get the win" is often times entertaining, but it can also be exceedingly frustrating. I've come across more than a few self-proclaimed "intelligent" people who believe that their intellectual acuity is far superior to the discernment ability of their peers and co-workers. Not only are these intellectual giants wrong, but sadly, by the time they awaken to a state of reality it is already too late. In today's post I'll share the keys to leveraging your intellectual assets as opposed to having your intelligence serve as a barrier to your success.

When a person begins to believe their own smoke, they have placed themselves on a very slippery slope. I am a big believer that there is truth in the statement that "a person can be too smart for their own good." How many times have you witnessed a very bright person fail to solve a problem that a younger, less experienced, and perhaps even a less intelligent person solved with seemingly little effort? While raw intelligence is a valuable commodity, in-and-of-itself, and to the exclusion of other traits and characteristics, the sole reliance on IQ can be a barrier to professional growth and maturity.

Is your intellect standing in the way of your success? Are you so enamored with how smart you are that you can't get anything done? Consider this... Is it more important to be right, or to achieve the right outcome? I tend to respect those who can lead others to the proper outcome as opposed to those who excoriate others just to prove they're right. If your certitude overshadows your wisdom, you may want to dial it back a notch.

By nature of what I do for a living I tend to work with very bright people. It has been my observation that hyper-intelligent people can tend to think themselves into trouble and out of opportunities with great ease... Whenever I find myself discussing issues of intellect, ego, leadership etc., I'm always reminded of the cartoon which reads: "Rule number one: the boss is always right. Rule number two: When in doubt refer to rule number one." If you find yourself rationalizing or justifying positions based solely upon intellectual reasoning without regard to practical realities, timing, or other contextual considerations, you may be too smart for your own good. Just as a lack of belief in gravity won't prevent you from tripping, simply believing a particular opinion or theory to be fact doesn't mean you're right.

Often times the problem with intelligent people lies simply in the fact that they have come to enjoy being right. Bright people can quickly find themselves in the position of confusing ego with intellect, and can sometimes defend ideas to the death rather than admit they're wrong. This confusion of ego and intellect often stems from bright people successfully arguing wrong positions over time such that they've built their persona around being right, and will therefore defend their perfect record of invented righteousness to the death. Smart people often fall into the trap of preferring to be right even if it's based in delusion.

So how do you know when you've crossed over to the dark-side and can't tell the difference between fact and fiction? The following items will help you discern whether or not you are using your intellect properly or whether you've just simply bought-off on your own propaganda:

  1. Consistent Conflict

    • Do you find yourself in a perpetual state of debate? Do you find yourself thinking "why am I the only one that gets it?" Is it more important for you to be right than to arrive at the correct resolution to an issue, problem or opportunity? Are you known as a bitter, pessimistic or negative person? If any of these issues describe situations that hit too close to home then you may want to take a step back and do some self-evaluation.

  2. Exclusivity vs. Inclusivity

    • Do you use your intelligence to intimidate and stifle others or to encourage, inspire and motivate others? Do you wonder why you can't seem to retain tier one talent or why you lose key clients? If your brilliance is polarizing as opposed to serving as a magnet which attracts, then how smart are you really?

  3. True Success

    • If an independent third party came into your business and interviewed your peers and subordinates alike, what would that feedback look like? Do others see you as successful, or are you merely a legend in your own mind? What I think of myself is not nearly as important as what my family, friends, clients, and co-workers think of me. If those you surround yourself with don't hold you in high regard, then you have no reason to.

The bottom line is this... the gift of intellect is an asset to be thankful for, and put to good and productive use. It is not an excuse to be lazy, arrogant, mean-spirited or delusional. Don't let your intellect stand in your way, but rather use it as an asset to develop those around you to their full potential thereby increasing your chances for long-term success.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

35 Critical Thinking Strategies

by Mike Myatt

35 Critical Thinking StrategiesCritical thinking skills are not a luxury for senior executives - they're a survival skill. In today's hi-tech business world we have become reliant on any number of available business tools to help us achieve better results and to perform at higher levels. We attend classes, workshops, webcasts, conferences etc., and we read books on how to master everything from the newest software application to the latest management theory. We seem to have an insatiable thirst for anything that will provide us with a perceived competitive advantage, yet we often ignore the one tool which can provide an unequaled return on investment if developed to even a fraction of its potential... the human mind. In today's post I'll examine the virtually unlimited benefits of becoming a better critical thinker.

Most professionals intellectually understand that learning is a life-long endeavor, but the reality is that many executives and entrepreneurs invest very little in the development of the human mind once they have finished their formal education. Given that the human mind is without question the greatest and most powerful tool we possess, and that we all have free and equal access to it, I find it odd that it is also the most underdeveloped tool for many professionals. It has been my experience that business people tend to overestimate their intellectual ability, and as a result, they often fail to make investments in endeavors of intellectual development.

Developing sound critical thinking skills are a requirement for CEOs and entrepreneurs. Being both quick of mind, and intelligent in approach to your mental analyses of a given situation simply results in fewer mistakes in judgment. The external perception with regard to a person who possesses excellent critical thinking skills is often that they have great wisdom and discernment. Critical thinking skills while related to intelligence, are not one in the same. A great critical thinker may or may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but they will have a disciplined, fluid approach in thinking things through that often gives them the appearance of being a genius. Strong mental acuity is a competitive advantage not to be taken lightly.

Paul, Binker, Jensen, and Kreklau (1990) developed a list of 35 dimensions of critical thought. While the following list can get a bit academic, if implemented consistently, these tactics will help you better navigate the complexities of the business world:


Affective Strategies
  1. Thinking independently
  2. Developing insight into egocentricity or sociocentricity
  3. Exercising fair-mindedness
  4. Exploring thoughts underlying feelings and feelings underlying thoughts
  5. Developing intellectual humility and suspending judgment
  6. Developing intellectual courage
  7. Developing intellectual good faith or integrity
  8. Developing intellectual perseverance
  9. Developing confidence in reason

Cognitive Strategies - Macro-Abilities
  1. Refining generalizations and avoiding oversimplifications
  2. Comparing analogous situations: transferring insights to new contexts
  3. Developing one's perspective: creating or exploring beliefs, arguments, or theories
  4. Clarifying issues, conclusions, or beliefs
  5. Clarifying and analyzing the meanings of words or phrases
  6. Developing criteria for evaluation: clarifying values and standards
  7. Evaluating the credibility of sources of information
  8. Questioning deeply: raising and pursuing root or significant questions
  9. Analyzing or evaluating arguments, interpretations, beliefs, or theories
  10. Generating or assessing solutions
  11. Analyzing or evaluating actions or policies
  12. Reading critically: clarifying or critiquing texts
  13. Listening critically: the art of silent dialogue
  14. Making interdisciplinary connections
  15. Practicing Socratic discussion: clarifying and questioning beliefs, theories, or perspectives
  16. Reasoning dialogically: comparing perspectives, interpretations, or theories
  17. Reasoning dialectically: evaluating perspectives, interpretations, or theories

Cognitive Strategies - Micro-Skills
  1. Comparing and contrasting ideals with actual practice
  2. thinking precisely about thinking: using critical vocabulary
  3. noting significant similarities and differences
  4. Examining or evaluating assumptions
  5. Distinguishing relevant from irrelevant facts
  6. Making plausible inferences, predictions, or interpretations
  7. Evaluating evidence and alleged facts
  8. Recognizing contradictions
  9. Exploring implications and consequences

If you want to do everything possible to ensure your success as a C-level executive or entrepreneur, don't rest upon your laurels, but rather continue to make investments in your personal and professional development. Good luck and good thinking!


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Social Media Demystified

by Mike Myatt

Social Media DemystifiedIf you find all the noise around social media to be confusing, rest assured that you're not alone. If you're among the group of active users who no longer find it confusing, but still haven't hit your stride, you're also in good company. Blogging since 2002, being actively involved in digital marketing since the early 90's, and being online since the days of the ARPANET I have a bit of history with most things digital. What's interesting to me is that with every major advancement in the web comes a mixed bag of apathy, over exuberance, confusion, chicanery and even outright skulduggery that makes life much more complicated than it needs to be. In today's post I'll bust a few myths, reveal an evil secret or two, and share with you what you need to know in order to be successful with social media...


Understanding the Context

Let me cut right to the chase - business is fluid. Successful businesses adapt to market innovations and thrive, while those that fail to make iterative leaps fall by the wayside. With each major advancement in technology, communications, or business practice we find ourselves yet again at this all too familiar precipice. If you adapted to desktop computers, fax machines, cell phones and the Internet, then I suggest you need to view social media as the next progression on the continuim of advancement. When markets make a major move, you either move with them or get run over by them.


What the Soothsayers Want You to Believe

Have you ever noticed that profiteers seem to congregate around the complex, or at least what they can alter to appear as complex? Anytime new advances can be spun into something bewildering or beguiling there are fortunes to be won and lost. Regrettably, there seem to be legions of social media 'experts' who take great delight in unnecessarily complicating something that is really not complex at all. Allow me to let you in on an evil little secret - social media is really quite simple.

While I'm not going to deny that social media brings with it new tools, platforms and communication channels, I vehemently object to the premise that you need to morph into an uber geek or communications savant to learn to use them and to reap their many benefits. Spare me the complex charts & diagrams, and the trite commentary from the latest guru. What's needed is less smoke and mirrors and more common sense. As you'll see below, social media is nothing more than leveraging technology and resources to communicate with meaningful constituencies in meaningful ways - How could that possibly be a bad thing?


The Evil Secret Revealed

The simple reality is that social media has way more to do with common sense than it does with rocket science. Let me make this as simple as I can... social media simply provides you with tools and channels that allow you to extend your reach and better engage those with whom you wish to communicate. What's so complicated and confusing about tools that put you right where you've always wanted to be, and perhaps more importantly, right where you need to be?

Forget all the buzzwords and acronyms, social media is about meeting your constituencies where they are - in a setting of their choosing, and communicating with them on their terms. Social Media affords you an exceptional opportunity to listen, gather intelligence, build trust, engender confidence and credibility, publish valuable content and have meaningful dialog in ways that were once thought to be impossible. Social Media doesn't make things more complex, rather it reduces things down to the ultimate level of simplicity. It's really this simple... if it's not a priority for you to efficiently and effectively engage with your stakeholders, then you need to reevaluate your priorities.


The Key to Success

Success or failure in social media is nothing more than making a simple set of good choices. You must choose to get off the sideline and into the game, then you must choose to endure the learning curve, and finally you must choose to deploy the needed resources to be successful. Let me be very clear here - as the CEO or entrepreneur, YOU and not your legal counsel, marketing director, ad agency or PR firm must make this choice. Don't allow yourself to be dissuaded by conventional thinking, flimsy logic or uninformed opinions.

If you believe the hype, social media will immediately solve all your problems and require no time, energy or effort on your part. I'm always amazed at those who think all they have to do is launch a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, put up a Twitter page and open a Facebook account and all their business problems will be solved. If you buy into this line of thinking my guess is that it won't be the first time you've fallen prey to a failed initiative around the latest trend.

I always love the excuse "I don't have time for social media." Really? What are you so busy doing that you don't have time to build better relationships with precisely those individuals and groups who can help you achieve your goals and objectives? Social Media is no different than anything else in life in that you get out of it what you put into it. No effort yields no results, part-time efforts yield part-time results, and exceptional efforts lead to exceptional results.

Yes - social media will require an investment of time and resources. That said, prudent investments into social media serve as a force multiplier catalyzing both leverage and velocity simply not available via other mediums, platforms and channels. My advice is simple. Stop rationalizing and justifying doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, stop whining & complaining and get in the game - do the right thing.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Unwritten Rules of Communication

by Mike Myatt

The Unwritten Rules of CommunicationIt is simply impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. I hope you noticed that the previous sentence didn't refer to being a great talker - big difference. The key to becoming a skillful communicator is rarely found in what has been taught in the world of academia. From our earliest days in the classroom we are trained to focus on annunciation, vocabulary, presence, delivery, grammar, syntax and the like. In other words, we are taught to focus on ourselves. While I don't mean to belittle these things as they're important to learn, it's the more subtle elements of communication that are rarely taught in the classroom (the elements that focus on others) that leaders desperately need to learn. It is the ability to develop a keen external awareness that separates the truly great communicators from those who muddle through their interactions with others. In today's post I'll share a few of the communication traits, that if used consistently, will help you achieve better results in the workplace.

I don't believe it comes as any great surprise that most leaders spend the overwhelming majority of their time each day in some type of an interpersonal situation. I also don't believe it comes as a great shock to find that a large number of organizational problems occur as a result of poor communications. It is precisely this paradox that underscores the need for leaders to focus on becoming great communicators. Effective communication is an essential component of professional success whether it is at the interpersonal, intergroup, intragroup, organizational, or external level. While developing an understanding of great communication skills is easier than one might think, being able to appropriately draw upon said skills when the chips are down is not always as easy as one might hope for.

Skills acquired and/or knowledge gained are only valuable to the extent that they can be practically applied when called for. It has been my experience that the number one thing that great communicators have in common is that they possess a heightened sense of situational and contextual awareness. The best communicators are great listeners and observers. Great communicators can read a person/group by sensing the moods, dynamics, attitudes, values and concerns of those being communicated with. Not only do they read they environment well, but they possess the uncanny ability to adapt their messaging to said environment without missing a beat. The message is not about the messenger; it has nothing to do with messenger; it is however 100% about meeting the needs and the expectations of those you're communicating with.

So how do you know when your skills have matured to the point that you've become an excellent communicator? The answer is that you'll have reached the point where your interactions with others consistently use the following ten principles:
  1. Speak not with a forked tongue: In most cases people just won't open up those they don't trust. When people have a sense that a leader is worthy of their trust they will invest time and take risks in ways they would not if their leader had a reputation built upon poor character or lack of integrity. While you can attempt to demand trust it rarely works. Trust is best created by earning it with right acting, thinking, and decisioning. Keep in mind that people will forgive many things where trust exists, but will rarely forgive anything where trust is absent.

  2. Get personal: There is great truth in the axiom that states: "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Classic business theory tells leaders to stay at arms length. I say stay at arms length if you want to remain in the dark receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth. If you don't develop meaningful relationships with people you'll never know what's really on their mind until it's too late to do anything about it.

  3. Get specific: Specificity is better than Ambiguity 11 times out of 10: Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is in today's marketplace. It is critical that you know how to cut to the chase and hit the high points, and that you expect the same from others. Without understanding the value of brevity and clarity it is unlikely that you’ll ever be afforded the opportunity to get to the granular level as people will tune you out long before you ever get there. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.

  4. Focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways: The best communicators develop the ability to get the information they need while leaving the other party feeling as if they got more out of the conversation than you did. While you can accomplish this by being disingenuous, that is not the goal. When you truly focus more on what you leave behind than what you take away you will have accomplished the goal. Even though this may seem counter-intuitive, by intensely focusing on the other party's wants, needs & desires, you'll learn far more than you ever would by focusing on your agenda.

  5. Have an open mind: I've often said that the rigidity of a closed mind is the single greatest limiting factor of new opportunities. In my opinion a leader takes their game to a whole new level the minute they willingly seek out those who hold dissenting opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what's on their mind. I'm always amazed at how many people are truly fearful of opposing views as opposed to being genuinely curious and interested. Open dialogs with those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. Remember that it's not the opinion that matters, but rather the willingness to discuss it with an open mind.

  6. Shut-up and listen: Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes that you understand that the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach that point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand that knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator.

  7. Replace ego with empathy: I have long advised leaders not to let their ego write checks that their talent can't cash. When candor is communicated with empathy & caring and not the prideful arrogance of an over inflated ego good things begin to happen. Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade propped-up by a very fragile ego. Understanding the this communication principle is what helps turn anger into respect and doubt into trust.

  8. Read between the lines: Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader that comes to mind... you'll find that they are very adept at reading between the lines. They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know that there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by filibustering. In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what's on their mind that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. Keep your eyes & ears open and your mouth shut and you'll be amazed at how your level or organizational awareness is raised.

  9. When you speak, know what you're talking about: Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don't possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Most successful people have little interest in listening to those individuals that cannot add value to a situation or topic, but force themselves into a conversation just to hear themselves speak. The fake it until you make it days have long sense passed, and for most people I know fast and slick equals not credible. You've all heard the saying "it's not what you say, but how you say it that matters," and while there is surely an element of truth in that statement, I'm here to tell you that it matters very much what you say. Good communicators address both the "what" and "how" aspects of messaging so that they don't fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.

  10. Speak to groups as individuals: Leaders don't always have the luxury of speaking to individuals in an intimate setting. Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 1,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if you were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual. Knowing how to work a room and establish credibility, trust and rapport are keys to successful interactions.

  • Bonus - Always have a Plan B: Another component of communications strategy that is rarely discussed is how to prevent a message from going bad, and what to do when does. It's called being prepared and developing a contingency plan. Again, you must keep in mind that for successful interactions to occur, your objective must be in alignment with those you are communicating with. If your expertise, empathy, clarity, etc. don't have the desired effect, which by the way is very rare, you need to be able to make an impact by changing things up on the fly. Use great questions, humor, stories, analogies, relevant data, and where needed, bold statements to help connect and engender the confidence and trust that it takes for people to want to engage. While it is sometimes necessary to "Shock and Awe" this tactic should be reserved as a last resort.

Don't assume that someone is ready to have a particular conversation with you just because you're ready to have the conversation with them. Spending time paving the way for a productive conversation is far better than coming off as the proverbial bull in a china shop. Furthermore, you cannot assume that anyone knows where you're coming from if you don't tell them. I never ceased to be amazed at how many people assume that everyone knows what they want to occur without ever finding it necessary to communicate their objective. If you fail to justify your message with knowledge, business logic, reason etc., you will find that said message will likely fall on deaf ears needing reinforcement or clarification afterward.

Bottom line... The leadership lesson here is that whenever you have a message to communicate (either directly, or indirectly through a third party) make sure that said message is true & correct, well reasoned, and substantiated by solid business logic that is specific, consistent, clear and accurate. Spending a little extra time on the front-end of the messaging curve will likely save you from considerable aggravation and brain damage on the back-end. Most importantly of all, keep in mind that communication is not about you, your opinions, your positions or your circumstances. It's about helping others by meeting their needs, understanding their concerns, and adding value to their world. Do these things and you'll drastically reduce the number of communications problems you'll experience moving forward.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Growth by Partnering

by Mike Myatt

Growth by PartneringIf corporate growth is what you seek, but you lack the patience to endure the slow pace of organic growth, and don't have the capital necessary to finance an acquisition binge, then you might want to consider the many benefits associated with partnering. While the concept of creating a strategic partnership is familiar to many, the reality is that few companies take advantage of them. Let me offer the initial disclaimer that the subject of today's post is a complex area that would require much more in depth coverage to do it justice. That said, in the text that follows I'll provide an overview of the many reasons why partnering should be included as a key component of your corporate growth strategy.


Acquisitions

Growth by acquisition in most cases constitutes a complex, capital intensive, and time consuming process. Furthermore the brain damage associated with an acquisition is just beginning when the deal closes. It is the difficulties associated with post acquisition integration that many companies often fail to consider. The merging of cultures, employees, technology, process etc., can cause what appears on paper to be the perfect acquisition to fall far short of expectations. Even in the case of an accretive acquisition, it can take far longer to reap the benefits than is often reflected in the initial projections.


Organic Growth

The predominant business risk associated with a reliance on pure organic growth is lost opportunity costs tied to a decrease in velocity of achieving business objectives. Many executives and entrepreneurs let their concerns about the certainty of execution, or loss of control associated with transferring responsibility to a third party keep them from pursuing strategies that accelerate growth. This type of antiquated thinking puts companies at a severe competitive disadvantage. Moreover, these concerns should not be an issue with the proper selection, operating structure, and management of a partner.


Partnering

Joint Ventures, strategic alliances, corporate partnering, licensing, royalty, revenue sharing, distribution agreements, and numerous other collaborative business arrangements provide an exceptional opportunity to catalyze growth. These types of ventures can rapidly meet corporate needs for key resources, generate more customers, attract capital, acquire needed expertise, expand product lines, open new markets, secure new facilities, access new distribution channels, increase production capacity, and offer a whole host of other additional benefits. The reality is that few organizations have everything they need, and the basic principle behind partnering is that no matter what the need, there is another entity somewhere that can fulfill any unmet need.

The obvious advantages to partnering as contrasted with either organic growth or growth by acquisition is the low financial and operational barriers to entry, combined with very rapid deployment capabilities. The need for speed is critical to evaluate when considering partnering as on option. Corporate partnering is very commonplace in industries experiencing rapid technology change. There is often a strong correlation between the rate and scope of change within a particular industry, and the amount of partnering that occurs within said industry.

Partnering is an extremely fluid and flexible business model. There is no preferred methodology to structure and organization as each relationship should be engineered based upon its own unique requirements. Sometimes corporate partners form a new jointly owned entity, while in other instances one partner may purchase an equity interest in the other partner. However by far the most common method of structuring and governing partnering relationships is by written contract. The presence of a governing document allows both parties to address such issues as non-competition and non-circumvention, use of brand guidelines, intellectual property considerations, performance requirements, indemnifications, and winding-up provisions among others.

As fond of partnering as I tend to be, it is certainly not without risk. Care needs to be given to the underlying motivations and business logic behind the implementation of partnering as a strategy to begin with. You must be careful not to create or strengthen a future competitor, or to become dependent upon a partner for mission critical initiatives. Businesses looking to co-venture need to exercise extreme diligence when selecting a partner as said partner will become an extension of your brand.

Regardless of the risks involved, or the form of partnering utilized, the business model has proven itself to be one of the preferred growth strategies of choice for companies desiring to maintain a competitive advantage. Good luck and good partnering...


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Leading Those Who Don't Want To Follow

by Mike Myatt

Leading Those Who Don't Want To FollowWhen you reach a fork in the road with those you lead, what do you do? Leading those inclined to follow is significantly less of a challenge than leading those who don't want to be led. Anyone who has ever been in a leadership position has had to deal with the inevitable tough relationship that causes more than its fair share of brain damage. At some point in time we've all been involved (directly or indirectly, willingly and unwillingly) in the coporate politics of turf-wars, empire building, silo-centric ignorance, title inflated ego and arrogance, and the list goes on...

Regardless of the politics in play, it is a leader's responsibility to effectively lead not only those that agree with their position, but they must also lead those that hold dissenting opinions.

There are always those who choose to oppose or undermine authority, but that in and of itself does not remove the obligation of a leader to fulfill his or her duty. While likeability is a great asset to possess as a leader, it is not essential. It is however essential that you command the respect of those you lead. Respect is earned by honoring commitments and doing the right thing regardless of opinion, sentiment, or influence. It is through right acts, good decisions, and honest communication that you earn respect and maintain rapport even with those who are not necessarily your greatest supporters.

A key point to consider when things don't seem to be going as smoothly as you would like is that different perspectives, competing agendas, and opposing positions can sometimes present the opportunity for growth and enlightenment. If differing opinions are looked at as an opportunity as opposed to a set-back then I believe positive steps can be taken. What I like to refer as "positional gaps" are best closed by listening to both sides, finding common ground and then letting the principle of doing the right thing guide the process. When you develop the skill to transform negative conflict into creative tension then you will begin to command respect even from those who don't agree with your positions.

It is absolutely possible to build very productive relationships with even the most adversarial of individuals. Regardless of a person's original intent, opinion or position, the key to closing a positional gap is simply a matter of finding common ground in order to establish rapport. Moreover, building rapport is easily achieved assuming your motivations for doing so are sincere. I have always found that rapport is quickly developed when you listen, care, and attempt to help people succeed. By way of contrast it is difficult to build rapport if you are driven by an agenda that is not in alignment with the other party.

While building and maintaining rapport with people with whom you disagree is certainly more challenging, many of the same rules expressed in my comments above still apply. I have found that often times conflict resolution simply just requires more intense focus on understanding the needs, wants and desires of the other party. If opposing views are worth the time and energy to debate, then they are worth a legitimate effort to gain alignment on perspective and resolution on position. However this will rarely happen if lines of communication do not remain open. Candid, effective communication is best maintained through a mutual respect and rapport.

In an attempt to resolve any conflict, the first step is to identify and isolate the specific areas of difference being debated. The sad fact is that many business people are absolutists in that they only see things in terms of rights and wrongs. Thinking in terms of "my way" is right and therefore "other ways" are wrong is the basis for polarizing any relationship, which quickly results in converting discussions into power struggles. However when a situation can be seen through the lens of difference, and a position is simply a matter of opinion not a totalitarian statement of fact, then cooperation and compromise is possible. Identifying and understanding differences allows people (regardless of title) to shift their position through compromise and negotiation while maintaining respect and rapport. The following perspectives if kept top of mind will help in identifying and bridging positional gaps:
  • Respect leads to acceptance.

  • Accepting a person where they are, creates an bond of trust.

  • Trust, leads to a willingness to be open to:

    • New opportunities

    • New collaborations

    • New strategies

    • New ideas

    • New products

    While I like to think that I have earned the respect of the majority of those I have led over the years, I am not so naive to think that that all have liked or supported my positions. That being said, I have nonetheless had to lead them as well. I have been able to accomplish this by adhering to the following principles:

    1. Hit conflict head-on. You can only resolve problems by proactively seeking to do so.

    2. Always attempt to understand others motivations prior to weighing-in on an issue.

    3. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow-through on your commitments.

    4. Never be swayed by consensus, rather be guided by doing the right thing.

    5. Know that no person is universally right or universally liked, and become at peace with that.

    6. Regardless of whether or not perspectives and opinions differ, a position of respect must be adhered to and maintained. Respect is at the core of building business relationships. It is the foundation that supports high performance teams, partnerships, superior and subordinate relationships, and peer-to-peer relationships. Respecting the right to differ while being productive is a concept that all successful executives and entrepreneurs master.

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    Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Six Steps of CEO Decision Making

by Mike Myatt

Six Steps of CEO Decision MakingYou cannot separate leadership from decision making, for like it or not, they are inexorably linked. Put simply, the outcome of a CEO's decisions can, and usually will, make or break them. Those CEOs who avoid making decisions solely for fear of making a bad decision, or conversely those that make decisions just for the sake of making a decision will likely not last long. The fact of the matter is that senior executives who rise to the C-suite do so largely based upon their ability to consistently make sound decisions. However while it may take years of solid decision making to reach the boardroom, it often times only takes one bad decision to fall from the ivory tower. As much as you may wish it wasn't so, as a CEO you're really only as good as your last decision.

"CEO Decision Making" is a skill set that needs to be developed like any other. As a person that works with leaders on a daily basis I can tell you with great certainty that all CEOs are not created equal when it comes to the competency of their decision making skills. Nothing will test your metal as CEO more than your ability to make decisions. I happen to be the type of person that would rather make the decision than have to live with someone else's decisions. In fact, I absolutely love to make decisions, and whether it is in my role in the business world, or my role as a husband and father, I want to be the one making the tough calls. That being said, nobody is immune to bad decision making. We have all made bad decisions whether we like to admit it or not. Show me someone who hasn't made a bad decision and I'll show you someone who is either not being honest, or someone who avoids decision making at all costs, which by the way, constitutes a bad decision.

For more than 25 years I have either served in the capacity of a principal owner, senior executive, or professional advisor, and have generally been well regarded for my decision making ability. However like everyone else, I have also made some regrettable decisions along the way. When I reflect back upon the poor decisions I've made, it's not that I wasn't capable of making the correct decision, but for whatever reason I failed to use sound decision making methodology. Gut instincts can only take you so far in life, and anyone who operates outside of a sound decision making framework will eventually fall prey to an act of oversight, misinformation, misunderstanding, manipulation, impulsivity or some other negative influencing factor.

The complexity of the current business landscape, combined with ever increasing expectations of performance, and the speed at which decisions must be made, are a potential recipe for disaster for today's executive unless a defined methodology for decision making is put into place. If you incorporate the following metrics into your decision making framework you will minimize the chances of making a bad decision:
  1. Perform a Situation Analysis: What is motivating the need for a decision? What would happen if no decision is made? Who will the decision impact (both directly and indirectly)? What data, analytics, research, or supporting information do you have to validate the inclinations driving your decision?

  2. Subject your Decision to Public Scrutiny: There are no private decisions. Sooner or later the details surrounding any decision will likely come out. If your decision were printed on the front page of the newspaper how would you feel? What would your family think of your decision? How would your shareholders and employees feel about your decision? Have you sought counsel and/or feedback before making your decision?

  3. Conduct a Cost/Benefit Analysis: Do the potential benefits derived from the decision justify the expected costs? What if the costs exceed projections, and the benefits fall short of projections?

  4. Assess the Risk/Reward Ratio: What are all the possible rewards, and when contrasted with all the potential risks are the odds in your favor, or are they stacked against you?

  5. Assess Whether it is the Right Thing To Do: Standing behind decisions that everyone supports doesn't particularly require a lot of chutzpah. On the other hand, standing behind what one believes is the right decision in the face of tremendous controversy is the stuff great leaders are made of. My wife has always told me that "you can't go wrong by going right," and as usual I find her advice to be spot on. Never compromise you value system, your character, or your integrity.

  6. Make The Decision: Perhaps most importantly you must have a bias toward action, and be willing to make the decision. Moreover as a CEO you must learn to make the best decision possible even if you possess an incomplete data set. Don't fall prey to analysis paralysis, but rather make the best decision possible with the information at hand using some of the methods mentioned above. Opportunities and not static, and the law of diminishing returns applies to most opportunities in that the longer you wait to seize the opportunity the smaller the return typically is. In fact, more likely is the case that the opportunity will completely evaporate if you wait too long to seize it.

If you develop the appropriate blend of a bias to action with an analytical approach to decision making your stock as CEO will surely rise. Good luck and good decision making...


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Great Leaders Leverage Great Messaging

by Mike Myatt

Great Leaders Leverage Great MessagingGreat leaders understand the power, influence, and leverage created by great messaging. Do you ever find yourself sitting back and marveling at those leaders who always seem to have the right thing to say? Contrast this with the feelings you have when you hear an awful sound-bite that makes a leader look either uninformed or unintelligent. The difference between the two aforementioned examples is that great leaders have mastered the art of finding the right message regardless of the medium, market, or constituency being addressed. In today's post I'll share some of the messaging secrets used by the best leaders...

So why is great messaging so important? In the business world, as a chief executive officer or entrepreneur, corporate messaging is the key to both your personal and professional positioning strategy. A leader's message has a direct impact on their personal and corporate brand equity, how they manage a crisis, marketing initiatives, investor relations, press and public relations, team building and employee engagement, and virtually any other mission critical area of chief executive responsibility.

The reality is that your messaging will often times have a greater impact on your career than your performance. I have witnessed on numerous occasions CEOs with average, or even sub-par performance histories fare well because they possessed great messaging skills. Let me be clear that I'm not talking about form over substance here. They simply understood how to message their shortcomings and flaws, while engendering confidence around their planning for corrective measures to critical spheres of influence. By contrast, I have also watched CEOs with excellent performance histories not do so well because they did not possess the messaging skills necessary to keep stakeholders engaged. Simply put, the savvy and sophistication of your messaging will have a direct impact on the sustainability of your tenure as a chief executive.

CEOs who become recognized as great leaders are prepared, articulate, consistent, and crisp in their messaging. They speak with authority, clarity, and certitude. Their messaging engenders confidence and serves to inspire and unify. Perhaps most importantly, a great leader's message is never in conflict with their values. They will not compromise their core beliefs simply to manipulate the outcome of a specific situation. They rest in the comfort that doing and saying the right things will ultimately put them in a favorable position, and if not, they are comfortable in assuming any negative consequences that may come as a result of right thinking and decisioning.

When it comes to the construction of messaging, I have found that people will tend to fall into one of the four following groups:
  1. The Medium "is" the Message: People that fall into this camp believe that the medium will do the work for them. They believe in the reach and power of the medium to overcome any flaws in the message. This view of messaging constitutes a numbers based approach where the business logic states that if you reach enough people with the message some acceptable percentage of the people reached will embrace the message.

  2. The Market "is" the Message: This view of messaging values the target audience above all else. The message is so targeted and nice specific that it is sometimes almost unintelligible to those who fall outside of the intended target market.

  3. The Message "is" the Message: This group believes that content is king. The emphasis here is that if the message is creative enough, or valuable enough, nothing else matters. This view of messaging is all about the teaser, the hook, the calls to action, the design, the concept, etc.

  4. The Messenger "is" the Message: This is the branded approach to messaging. If the person delivering the message has enough credibility and influence, nothing else matters. This iconic, ego-centric approach to messaging places a high premium on the spokesperson.

My view of the aforementioned four theories is that their sum total value is greater than their independent stand alone value. Other than in matters of character and principle, I don't tend to be an absolutist. Over the years, and especially in the genres of marketing, branding, positioning, and messaging, I believe a collaborative and cross-disciplined approach to be the key to success. While content can create credibility, credibility can also enhance the view of content. Furthermore, the best content or spokesperson in the world communicating to the wrong audience, with the wrong message, or through the wrong medium is likely to miss the mark. It takes a blending of approach to craft the right message and this will not happen when operating in a vacuum. Following are a few final thoughts for your consideration when crafting your message:
  1. It Must Be the Truth: The truth always comes out in the end. If your message won't pass public scrutiny over time, then you have the wrong message.

  2. Use a Multiple Medium Approach: Long gone are the days of one size fits all mediums. The best messaging campaigns take place across mediums creating multiple touch points to various constituencies and demographics.

  3. Know Your Talking Points: Don't allow the message to get lost in the medium. Remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. You must be consistent and convicted in your opinions and your positions. Be clear, concise and don't compromise on key points.

  4. Know Your Audience: All messages should be tailored to the audience being addressed. This does not mean you should compromise your position, rather it means your message needs to relevant, timely, and of significance. While your talking points need to remain the same, they also need to address the concerns and areas of interest of those being communicated to.

  5. Don't Forget Your Critics: The tendency is to believe that your audience is comprised of friends and allies. You need to assume that every message given will find its way into the hands of your worst critics, and furthermore, that they will attempt to use your message against you.

Good luck and good messaging...


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Seth Godin, Nobody is Indispensable

by Mike Myatt

Nobody is Indispensable - A Rebuttal to Seth GodinThere is no shortage of information circulating of late espousing the benefits of making yourself indispensable to your employer. While this mantra has clearly gained some traction, if not actually becoming quite popular, popular thinking does not necessarily equate to sound thinking. Let me be as clear as I can - nobody, and I mean nobody is indispensable. I don't care who you are, what role you play, or what your title is. If you perceive yourself to be indispensable, you are setting yourself up for a very rude awakening. Furthermore, anyone who by design sets out to orchestrate a situation to make themselves indispensable is not operating in good faith. In today's post I'm going to share my thoughts as to why the myth of becoming indispensable is very dangerous thinking to say the least...

A well managed company does not allow itself to become dependent upon the performance of any single individual. Those individuals who attempt to hoard knowledge, relationships, or resources to attain job security should not to be valued or viewed as indispensable, but should be admonished as ineffective and deemed a liability. Corporate talent that cannot be shared, duplicated, distributed, or leveraged is not nearly as valuable as talent that can.

So, where has all this recent self-indulgent, misguided thinking come from? I believe much of it stems from the self-help types that proliferate the concept of self-promotion for self-benefit over the concept of service above self. More distressing is that this concept was recently validated in Seth Godin's new book "Linchpin".

Let me begin by stating that I'm a Seth Godin fan. While I agree with him more often than not, I will from time-to-time find myself shaking my head wondering what in the heck could Seth possibly be thinking? In his recent book "Linchpin", Seth Godin puts forth some great concepts that we should all aspire to. I wholeheartedly agree that each of us should become the best we can be, that our work should become developed and refined to the point where it is viewed as art, and we are seen as the artist behind the masterpiece. So much of what you'll read in between the covers of "Linchpin" is as close to inspirational brilliance as you'll find in a business book, which is why it pains me to have to point out the critical flaw in "Linchpin" that regrettably overshadows the highlights - namely the concept of the linchpin itself.

Seth describes a linchpin as somebody in an organization who is indispensable - who simply cannot be replaced because their role is just far too unique and valuable. Making things worse, he then goes on to say how important it is for all of us to become indispensable, for not to be indispensable is tantamount to economic and career suicide. Encouraging somebody to make the most of their talents and abilities is quite laudable - encouraging them to become indispensable is validating a new level of self worship that I find quite troubling.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone who sets out to make themselves indispensable would be the one committing career suicide for two reasons:
  1. Anyone who is "perceived" as indispensable in their current role completely eliminates any possibility of promotion

  2. Any good leadership team who finds themselves dependant upon a linchpin will immediately move to mitigate the risk of finding themselves in such an untenable position

It is an organization's ability to collect and convert data into information, turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into an operating advantage that allows an enterprise to effectively address current needs as well as to strategically drive innovation and forward planning. This cannot happen if one person positions themselves as a linchpin. Put more simply, a corporation's employees must be able to acquire knowledge (learning), transfer knowledge (out of the head and into an information system), apply knowledge (from the information system into an actionable event), manage knowledge (execute with focus, timing and precision), and secure knowledge (keep it from evaporating or even worse from walking out the door to a competitor). Let's see if we can bring this issue a bit closer to home for some of you. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Have you ever had a disruption in business continuity because someone who possessed a wealth of experience and/or information retired, quit or was terminated?

  • Have you ever lost a deal or had a major operational problem because somewhere in your organization you found yourself dependent upon a single person's expertise and they dropped the ball?

  • Have you ever found yourself in the unenviable position of desiring to terminate an employee only to be held hostage by the fear of losing the knowledge that they possess?

While I could go on ad-nauseum with day-to-day operating examples of how a linchpin can adversely affect a business, I think I've probably dredged-up enough painful memories for now. As a CEO or entrepreneur, the fact that you would allow an employee to become indispensable to begin with means that at a minimum you have a lack of transparency and continuity in your organization, and more probably that you lack depth of talent and are weak in process and knowledge management.

How would you answer this question... Is your company talent poor and linchpin dependent, or talent rich or linchpin independent? From my perspective there is a monumental difference between real tier-one talent and a primadonna who thinks of themselves as indispensable. Employees who represent true tier-one talent see themselves as part of the team seeking to make those around them more successful. Contrast this with those primadonnas who are interested solely in their own success without regard to those around them. Any company that bestows a primadonna with recognition as somehow being indispensable, is a company about ready to experience a completely avoidable disaster.

If you want to eliminate unnecessary dependencies, don't allow any individual to create ultimate domain over anything that is considered key or mission critical. Instead create a culture that values transparency, knowledge management, mentoring, coaching, and process. By doing these things you will add both depth and breadth to your organization and increase the overall level of talent across the enterprise. Bottom line... encourage people to be a valuable part of the team, to maximize their contribution to others and the overall enterprise, but under no circumstances allow someone be become the proverbial cog in the wheel.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Social Media Expert or Wannabe?

by Mike Myatt

Social Media Expert or Wannabe?Determining whether someone is a social media expert or a just another wannabe can be a difficult task for the typical consumer. There is a tremendous amount of noise out there being created by a plethora of "consultants" professing expertise in what I refer to as the new social sciences: personal branding, social networking, social media marketing, etc. I just did a Google search for the term social media expert and had more than 96 million returned search results... give me a break. So my question is this: what constitutes a "social media expert," and how do you tell the posers from the players? Which of these professed miracle workers are true professionals, and which ones are simply attempting to gravy-train a rapidly growing market niche in pursuit of a quick buck?

Let me begin by dispelling a popular myth oft espoused online - It seems to be fashionable of late to state that there is no such thing as a social media expert. The thinking (albeit flawed thinking) of those who hold this opinion is that social media is so new, and so rapidly evolving, that there simply could not be any real experts.

My answer? Ridiculous... Every industry has experts regardless of maturity of life-cycle. In fact, many of the real innovators and experts are those early adopters doing the heavy lifting and the ground breaking. There are experts in every industry and at every stage of maturation. Some early experts mature as the industry grows, and others fall by the way side because they don't keep pace giving way to new generations of innovators building on what the first generation of experts created. The issue is not whether experts exist, as they most certainly do. The issue is finding them among the hordes of pretenders and wannabes.

I'm going to cut right to the chase and give you six things to beware of when attempting to discern the true professional advisers capable of delivering a certainty of execution, from the rogues and scoundrels simply looking to separate you from your money:
  1. Beware the Part-Time Expert: My father has an old saying that I've found to be very accurate over the years: "part-time efforts, yield part-time results." If the person seeking your business has a day job that constitutes something other than the services he or she is pitching, run for the hills. If your potential advisor is moonlighting then they really have no business asking for your business.

  2. Beware the Shoemaker without Shoes: Your position should be one of "don't tell me... show me." If your would-be social media guru cannot be found online, doesn't blog, tweet, or is invisible on the major social networking platforms you might want to rethink their qualifications. Important Caveat: the mere existence of a blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, Facebook account, or a Twitter page doesn't guarantee competence... any idiot can amass thousands of followers on Twitter just by following everybody and their brother, so look for someone who has amassed a quality list of followers, who has more people following them than they follow, and who actively engages with their followers.

  3. Beware the Expert without Clients: No referenceable clients equals zero credibility. It's one thing to show you their own work, but quite another to show you demonstrated success on behalf of paying and satisfied clients.

  4. Beware the Expert without Industry Recognition: If your so called expert isn't published, doesn't speak, lecture or teach, doesn't have a column, hasn't won any awards, etc., then they might not be a true expert.

  5. Beware the Expert too Aggressive in their Pursuit: There is a big difference between professional follow-up and desperation. Let me be blunt... most professionals at the top of their game haven't made a cold call in years. In fact, even in this down economy they typically have more business than they know what to do with. If your world-beater of a consultant is chasing you down like a hungry dog after the meat wagon then you may want to take pause.

  6. Beware of Bargain Basement Expertise: In most cases the reality is that you get what you pay for... True expertise doesn't come cheaply, but is well worth the investment. Few things in business will get you in as much trouble as not getting advice and counsel when needed, or worse yet, getting poor quality or incorrect advice. I would much rather pay an expert a larger fee for 30 minutes of their time and get what I need rather than pay someone $50 dollars an hour who is faking it until they can make it... Questionable advisors will take much longer to get from point A to point B (if they get there at all), and will likely cost you more money at the end of the day when contrasted with true professionals.

If you need help in integrating social media into your business I would recommend the following individuals (some you may know and some you may not) as they all pass the litmus test mentioned above. Those listed below are in no particular order of preference and you can rest assured they are not "info-product" sales people masquerading as social media professionals, but they are in fact the true subject matter experts who can get the job done:
  • Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) - Chris is smart, approachable, innovative, has a high degree of integrity, probably the hardest working man on the planet, and a heck of a nice guy. I've enjoyed every interaction I've had with Chris, and he has earned my trust and respect.

  • Mack Collier (@MackCollier) - I don't know Mack personally, but have enjoyed reading his candid and ever straight foward opinions online. Mack is well respected and his the loyalty of his followers more than speak to his capabilities.

  • Lee Odden (@LeeOdden) - I've known Lee for several years (before he was rich and famous). In fact, in a prior life as a corporate executive Lee was the consultant I chose to place on retainer. He is smart, seasoned and delivers on his promises.

  • Amy Martin (@DigitalRoyalty) - I guess the moniker Digital Royalty says it all... Amy represents some of the biggest names and fastest growning brands online. Nothing bodes as well for an agency as success, and Amy has plenty of pedigree in that department.

  • Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) - Ashton combines his celebrity status, a fascination with social media, and a disarming and ever inquistive intellect to head one of the fastest growing social media agencies on the web.

  • Liz Strauss (@lizstrauss) - Liz is well known for her approachability, friendliness and candor. She also happens to be one of the savviest bloggers and social media consultants online.

  • And if you're slumming @mikemyatt - nuff said...

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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Design Does Matter

by Mike Myatt

Design Does MatterSo, does design really matter? Let me make my position very clear... design absolutely matters. Whether it is aesthetic, functional, creative, process, innovative, intellectual, technical or applicational... design matters. While I have heard many a professional downplay the value of design, it has been my experience that most business people who espouse this opinion are commenting on something outside of their domain expertise in an attempt to justify a competing agenda or a position of ignorance. While this position may seem a bit harsh, it is nonetheless true. In today's blog post I'll examine why design matters.

What do you think when you experience poor design in your life? Are you likely to adopt a new software application that is poorly designed? When you are handed a business card that was printed at Kinko's are you impressed? Are you likely to read a piece of collateral material that is poorly designed? If a newly implemented business process has design flaws, will employees follow the process or circumvent it? Is poorly designed consumer packaging likely to attract your attention as you walk down the shopping isle? When it's time to purchase your next automobile would you give serious consideration to a poorly designed vehicle? I could go on ad nauseum with similar questions, but my guess is that you get my point...

Now let's examine the flip-side of the coin by looking at the positives associated with strong design. When you think of Apple you immediate think of a company that has built a strong brand around quality design. It started with the Mac, then came the iPod and now we're experiencing the impact of the iPhone. The iPod pioneered innovative design in the mp3 player vertical with great technical design, outstanding functional design, and is in a class by itself with regard to aesthetic design. Largely due to the iPod's strong integrated design qualities it is the dominant brand in its class, commands a pricing premium, and has developed an extremely loyal and satisfied customer base.

When you're evaluating vendors online, and you land on a poorly designed website, how long does it take you to click away from the poorly designed site in search of a better option? You can review virtually any industry, sector, vertical, or micro-vertical and when you examine the dominant brands you'll find quality design at their core. While there are exceptions to every rule, they are few and far between when it comes to design. If you try hard enough you can find an aberration in just about any rule, but it will simply be just that... an aberration.

Also worth noting is that there is certainly a difference between value engineering and arbitrary cost containment. The next time you hear someone question an investment into design solely for the purpose of reducing expenditures, I would suggest that you think long and hard before doing so, as few things in business produce the return on investment that a reputation for quality design can yield.

Think about the marketing and advertising campaigns that get your attention, the clothes you wear, the house you live in, the cars you drive, the cell phone you carry, or any number of other decisions you make and you'll find that design plays a key role in your decisioning... Design Matters!


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Exploiting the Competition for Innovation

by Mike Myatt

Exploiting the Competition for InnovationWhether you want to admit it or not, competition is part of your world, and likely a bigger part than you'd care to admit. Granted, exploiting the competition is not a novel concept. Even so, it is still very common to hear many executives adopt a competition neutral position. These executives simply don't believe competition to be a significant factor in the execution of their business plan.

While this may make for a nice sound bite, I don't buy it, and if they're truly honest with themselves, neither do they. In business you can either choose to deal with your competition (even if that means partnering with them), or you can opt to stand idly by and let the competition eat your lunch. In today's post I'll share my thoughts on the proper way to view your competition and how to identify competitive threats...

While some companies talk a good game with regard to competitive strategy, in my experience very few businesses actually address the issue in adequate fashion. I suppose much of my perspective on competition was formed during my days as a soldier and athlete. In the military we valued intelligence, studied our enemy's strengths and weaknesses, developed a battle plan around a solid strategy, and executed our tactical mission as if our lives depended on it - because they did.

Similarly, in my days as an athlete, our game plan each week was refined based upon the strengths and weaknesses of the team we were playing next. If we didn't study films and scouting reports, develop plays that would exploit match-ups, and execute our game plan we would lose... it was as simple as that. Dealing with competition in the business world is really no different than dealing with enemies on the battlefield or competitors on the athletic field... you either win or lose based upon your state of preparedness, desire and commitment.

How well do you know your competition? No, really... Not how well do you think you know your competition, but how well do you really understand them? Do you have a business intelligence platform? When was the last time you conducted a formal competitive study? Do your R&D and innovation programs evaluate the competitive landscape? Do your marketing, PR and branding initiatives exploit the competition? Do you stack-up as well as you think, or have you just adopted a position out of convenience?

The first step in developing a competitive strategy is to identify your current and potential threats, and then to prioritize said threats based upon perceived risk/reward and cost/benefit scenarios. The following list is clearly not exhaustive, but it is representative of the main competitive threats to a business. As the following list indicates, competition can come in the form of any one or combination of the following potential threats:
  1. Existing or potential direct and indirect competitors.

  2. Existing clients or end-users that could either become competition or strengthen your competitors if they have a change in loyalty.

  3. Current or former employees who could become competition.

  4. Vendors, suppliers or distributors that could become competition, or provide an edge to your competition.

  5. Competitive innovations in process, management, talent, pricing, efficiency, etc. that can cause disruption in the market.

  6. Strong changes in brand perception via news, PR, branding, litigation etc. can create changes in the competitive landscape.

  7. Competitive technology innovations that could adversely impact your business.

  8. Competitive mergers, acquisitions and roll-ups that could adversely impact your business.

  9. Political, legislative, regulatory, or compliance actions that could create a competitive imbalance in the market.

  10. Changes in general market dynamics that could create competitive changes in the market.

Once all areas of competitive risk have been identified and prioritized it will be much easier to develop a strategy for stacking the odds in your favor regardless of when, where, or how you encounter the competition.

The key to successfully exploiting competition over the long haul is linking your competitive strategy to the discipline of innovation and the mindset of custom centricity. A sustainable competitive advantage is not found by creating minor advantages in product features. Long-term competitive separation is created by innovating around the needs of your customers and clients with a focus on long-term value creation.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Importance of Employee Engagement

by Mike Myatt

Importance of Employee EngagementThe topic of "Employee Engagement" is something that many CEOs tend to struggle with. Long gone are the days where the executive leadership of a company can remain sequestered in their offices with an internal focus on hard metrics. Given the current economic climate, it takes far more than cost-cutting to survive. It is the CEO who understands the need for focus on the soft metrics of customer centricity and employee engagement that will create sustainable growth in revenue and brand equity. In today's post I'll examine the need to have a fully engaged work force...

Before you read any further, I want you to stop and ask yourself the following question: How many of your employees are truly passionate about your company, its values, its vision, its mission, and the role that they play within the organization? Don't fool yourself... Conduct a harsh, critical analysis and come up with a true head count of the passionate employees within your organization.

Your answer to the question above should be a very telling sign about the overall health of your business. Are people just showing-up and punching the clock to collect a paycheck, or are they personally consumed and committed to achieving the company vision? Are your employees corporate evangelists serving as a motivating force to be reckoned with, or do they gather in small groups to gripe and complain about all the things wrong with the company and its leadership?

The key to having an engaged workforce is to have a passionate workforce. And the simple truth of the matter is that no single person in the company can instill passion in the ranks like the CEO can. Despite the consensus recognition that employee engagement matters, the enormity of its impact on the company's bottom line and its capacity for innovation, still appears to be misunderstood by most CEOs. I rarely talk to a CEO that doesn't understand this principle in concept, but yet I rarely see chief executives who put theory into practice.

So it begs the question, why are CEOs listening but not taking action? The answer seems to be that CEOs continue to allocate considerable effort and resources toward engineering the corporate strategy, yet they seem to be unaware of what forces can prevent said strategy from being delivered successfully. Not surprisingly, employee engagement is often the critical missing factor.

As the CEO you must also become the chief engagement officer. Operating in a vacuum and being out of touch is never a good position to find yourself in as the CEO. I have consistently espoused the value of walking the floor, dropping in on meetings on an impromptu basis, taking employees of all ranks to lunch, and any number of other items that focus on raising your internal awareness and creating a passionate workforce.

It is your passionate employees that are the franchise talent (regardless of position) that you should be building around. If you can't get employees to see the light and become passionate about the company and their contribution, then seek to replace them as quickly as possible. Just as passion is a positive, contagious trait so are apathy and dissatisfaction. Passionate employees are productive, energized, committed and loyal assets. Apathetic employees quickly become disenfranchised liabilities that will hurt both productivity and morale. To drive home the point of how much I value passionate employees, I would take a moderately talented but passionate employee over a very talented but complacent employee eleven times out of ten.

Truly great companies are built around passionate employees. When you walk into a dynamic, thriving company you can sense the passion. You feel a certain buzz and fervor that pervades everything. Contrast this with a company that feels as if it has no pulse. If you've ever walked into an organization that feels like rigor-mortis has set in, you know what I'm referring to. In today's economy, the old saying that "the only thing worse than an employee who quits and leaves is the employee who quits and stays" has never been more accurate.

As a leader you need to understand that your employees not only want to be led, but they want to be led by a passionate leader. Ultimately employees want to be passionate about what they do; in fact, they'll go to the ends of earth and sacrifice tremendously if passionate about the endeavor. Think of the employees that started off with Gates and Allen at Microsoft, or those that worked with Phil Knight in his garage before Nike even had a name, or those employees that endured the early days with Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google. It was their passion and commitment that helped change the landscape of business, not their starting salaries.

To build an extraordinary company, you must light the fire in the bellies of your workforce. You must get them to feel passion about your organization and to connect with your vision. You must get your employees to engage. As the CEO, your ability to transfer your passion to your employees is the essence of being a great leader. So much so that if you can't accomplish this, you simply can't be a great leader. Think of any great leader, and while you'll find varying degrees of skill sets, intellect and ability, I challenge to name even one that did not have passion, as well as the ability to instill said passion in team members.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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