Greatness is about choices.

June 8th, 2012

Under the GR of GREAT on the cover of this month’s Inc. magazine, is a photo of  leadership expert and author Jim Collins. The interview inside by Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham is a juicy read and an outstanding summer-reading kick-off must for all entrepreneurs.

Collins talks about his most recent book “Great by Choice,” co-authored with Morten T. Hansen, that looks at the leadership concepts of companies that have performed 10 times over the industry average in spite of operating in rocky environments.

The interviewer’s questions draw out some awesome material. For example, Collins says great companies don’t have to be big, but they are characterized by three definite “outputs”: superior performance, distinctive impact and endurance. He weighs in on connectivity and networks, describes as “super rare” the ability to blend creative thinking with discipline, and maintains that success is about choices and decisions made, not about luck or circumstances.

Burlingham closes this excellent piece with the 25 questions Collins advises leaders systematically discuss with their teams in order to grow great companies.

(I realize this is my 100th post! How fitting that its about an expert who affirms the importance of focused thought and conscious choices in creating success, big or small.)


Do you know what you want?

June 1st, 2012

Successful people create their own opportunities by focusing on goals with an intensity that borders on obsession.”  – Napoleon Hill

I promise this is my last post this year that mentions commencement ceremonies. But I can’t help myself this week, because the day after I watched 700+ college grads toss their cardinal red mortarboards into the air on Andrus Field, I was reminded of a story that author Napoleon Hill told decades ago to make a point about the importance of having a plan.

According to Hill, the commencement speaker at a prestigious university asked members of the graduating class for a show of hands from those who had a definite plan for their lives. Only three hands were raised. At their 25-year class reunion, those three individuals had a combined net worth that exceeded that of the rest of the class. While success is not defined only by financial gain, Hill’s  point is that people who know what they want to be and do achieve far great levels of success than people who don’t.

Know what you want. Write down your chief aim, even if it’s on a cocktail napkin, like the founding plan for Southwest Airlines. Your focus on a burning desire is the best inspiration for action, no matter what your age or current position. Your future always starts right now. No, now. No, now.

The leadership benefits of “Do be do be do.”

May 25th, 2012

As I head to Connecticut today for my son’s graduation from college, I’m leaving behind my laptop. And I plan to keep my phone turned off as well. No emails, no social media no text messages. It’s a holiday weekend of celebration, and I’m going to put some focus on balancing all my my doing with some invigorating being.

I hope you can find time to disconnect from work occasionally this weekend, too. Enjoy picnics, barbeques, gardening or your kid’s soccer game without once having to check your wireless device. Give yourself time to rejuvenate by balancing all you do with some quality, restful being. That balance between doing and being can actually allow you to be more productive creatively and more fulfilled professionally.

Me with Dr. Goswami

As theoretical quantum physicist Amit Goswami puts it, doing means you’re converting possibility into actuality, and being means stepping back enough to tap the energy of your inner self. He says quantum leaps of insight come from not just do-do-do or be-be-be, but rather alternating do-be-do-be-do.

Take some time to just be this weekend. Go for balance and enjoy the holiday. Then ease into making a little disconnection from wireless part of your weekly routine. Saturdays, for example. Or weeknights after 7. If you need a reminder, just sing a few do be do be do’s.


A season of successes.

May 18th, 2012

Beverly Hillbilly Jed Clampett would reckon to commence something everyday. But for those who don’t use language like “cee-ment pond,” commencement is linked typically to the milestone of graduation.  And there’s a lot of that going around my circle of family and friends.

My gal-pal Ruth’s daughter graduates tomorrow from Boston University. Next Sunday I’ll be one proud and happy parent watching my son’s commencement ceremony at Wesleyan University. And the weekend after that my niece will receive her high school diploma in Austin, Texas. So it’s time to party! To celebrate academic accomplishments and feel excitement about a future filled with all they imagine for themselves.

Some mighty wisdom is shared in commencement speeches. There’s Steve Jobs’ address to the 2005 graduating class at Standford. Or the not-really-written-by-Kurt-Vonnegut “wear sunscreen” speech that went viral in May 1997.

But I have to confess that my three most memorable pieces of advice come from a favorite educator, the fictional Miss Frizzle, of Magic School Bus fame, who said “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”

Have fun class of 2012!


Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos

The better the listener, the better the leader.

May 11th, 2012

I’ve kept the same laminated note card on my desk for almost 20 years. I picked it up at a Steven R. Covey presentation called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” That’s also the title of the book he published in 1990 – one of the top five best business books of all time – and it’s the header on my little card listing the seven habits.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is Covey’s Habit 5. And it popped up in a great piece this week on’s MoneyWatch, titled “The Number One Skill,” by Mary Goodman and Rich Russakoff. But before you get to their list of six easy tips to help you go from poor listener to great listener, be prepared to answer which of the five bad listening habits you might be guilty of. (That first one is a killer.)

And then, when you’ve listened effectively, when you’re ready to respond thoughtfully and be understood, remember that the tone of your voice often communicates more accurately what you’re thinking than your words do.