FOCUS: Introducing a Summer Reading Sampler!

Summer Reading

Ah….summer reading!

I frequent the Conversation Agent blog published by Valeria Maltoni regularly, and take away more food for thought than I get from any other blog. She recently posted an article containing a Summer reading list. Heading into the last full month of summer (although here in the Pacific Northwest it actually feels like the first full month, as the summer to date has been rather cool and moist….), I felt this was a great idea and opportunity to bring to light a number of works I have or am reading and the ways they have enhanced by thoughts and are enriching who I am and making my business more worthwhile.

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FOCUS: Can You Measure the Hard Things?

English: Red button.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all want things to be easy. And it’s not just business, American or Western Society that defaults to easy. While I still worked at Microsoft, one of my managers got our entire team “Easy Buttons.” You pressed the Big Red Button and a voice said, “That Was Easy!”
If only….
We have a few things working against us:

  • The problems and challenges we face today (business, societal and personal) are complex with no simple answers. The kind of effort required to tackle them can’t be splintered into micro-moments of attention (better known as “multi-tasking”…). We need big blocks of time, and lots of them, to work through these things.
  • Our culture prizes Fast, Immediate, Responsive, 24/7/365 over taking the time to gain the ability to learn hard things more quickly and produce at an elite level (so we move past “good enough” to “WOW!”).
  • The difficulty of measuring the complex over the simple (an example – “audience engagement” versus a Facebook page “Like”).
  • The tendency to answer a simpler question when confronted with a difficult one (more on that shortly…).
 As business owners and entrepreneurs, what does this mean?

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Is there Anything Simple About Simplicity?

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Easy” is a temptation.

I work with many clients who take the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach to their digital and social media marketing, because “How hard could it be? It’s just Facebook??!” Besides, they each have a business to run, customers to satisfy and entice, meetings to attend and maybe even employees to work with.

After spending time with each of them to discern their business and marketing goals, I begin to walk them through some of the opportunities and challenges they face and the different ways to optimize and engage, based on the goals and resources available. As we begin to dig into the strategy and planning, each of these business people begin to see the advantages of “doing it right” and where their current process might be falling short, hurting their business.

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Is Your Tribe Remarkable, Unfocused or Mainstream?

Which Tribe do you belong to?

That seems to be an over-riding, occasionally unsaid, concern in our society. Conservative or Liberal? Religious or Agnostic? One percent or ninety-nine percent? Blue collar or white-collar? Introvert or extrovert? College Graduate? Technical? Gender? Race? We have innumerable ways of identifying, classifying and limiting the understanding of ourselves and those around us.  Labels and categories carry assumptions and expectations, whether they’re true or not. And how much of this relies upon context? It’s something that has challenged our species for all time and it doesn’t seem to be getting better….

That’s a pretty broad brush with which to start a conversation.

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What are the Secrets to Being a Remarkable Leader?

Who’s your leader?

I have been fascinated for years by leaders and leadership. This has come about for a few different reasons.

As I have moved from the military to academic, then corporate and now entrepreneurial environments, I have experienced a huge spectrum of leaders and leadership styles (or lack thereof…), and have benefited from the journey. Whether I have worked for the best or the worst, I have learned a lot.  Reading about leaders and how they work with their teams and interact with people has been very interesting too. I always enjoy the more comprehensive view into their lives and who they actually were, the god and the bad. that comforts me as a human being, knowing that those who have been placed in these places of leadership suffered from flawed personalities and persevered.

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WANTED: Simple, Direct and Terrific Vision, Mission and Goals!

It’s enough to drive you nuts…

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am working through the vision and goals for my business networking chapter. Having arrived at a pretty good idea of how these are different, I run across a number of online discussions about the difference between the vision and the mission.

Sigh….so, I can either ignore this or continue my research and discover if there is anything here that will help me and my team come up with something that will truly help our group.  I’m always up for learning more, so here we go!

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What is the Remarkable Power of a Daring Vision?

I’ve been thinking a lot about vision and goals lately. As the incoming president of my business networking chapter, I’ve been meeting with the outgoing leaders, my leadership team, our regional leadership, and other strong leaders and leadership coaches within the organization, as well as talking with other leaders (not to mention the guidance and advice available from so many in books and online….). I keep pulling back, looking for simplicity and clarity….an awareness of the possible while casting my thoughts wider to “Why?” and larger destinations and possibilities.

The idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals is pretty well known. As a review, S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific – Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you’re going to do.
  • Measurable – Goals should be measurable. In this way you have tangible evidence that you’ve accomplished them. These can include the Big Goal measurement as well as measured milestones.
  • Achievable – Goals should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough that you can actually achieve them.
  • Results-focused (or Relevant) – Goals should measure outcomes, not activities.
  • Time-bound – Goals should be linked to a time-frame of some kind that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the desired end-state. Keep in mind the Achievable aspect of the goal when setting the time-frame, of course.

Vision is a different kind of animal. Very different. Setting a goal for monthly sales or post engagement on Facebook for the quarter is not a vision. When building goals we tend to look at the recent past as a starting point and build on that (or, if starting something new, look at a similar process, product or business, try to extrapolate an “oranges to tangerines” comparison…not exact, but close enough…). Creating an effective vision means freeing myself from my existing reality and think broadly of possibilities and destinations. This is not “pie-in-the-sky” dreaming, but a deep look at an ideal future. Several writers I have come across lately use Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I Have A Dream” speech as an example of visionary leadership. While his goals within that speech included a number of the steps that would be needed to make headway toward the vision, the vision was So Much Bigger. He described exactly what the American scene would look like when the full impact of his goals were felt and implemented. One famous section is:

“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

In your mind’s eye you can see what that looks like! It is so much more grand that the end points of a number of goals.

Goals may be ambitious by themselves. A big one mentioned by another writer was when President John F. Kennedy committed the country to placing a man on the moon and returning him by the end of the 1960s. Huge Goal! But what came after? Other than getting there and back again, what else was there? Hence the problem of coming up with a compelling vision for further space travel and exploration (although a number of futurists, respected scientists and writers try). There is, at present, no strong, heart-stirring vision for exploration and travel that we can, as a society, turn to and say, “That’s it! Let’s go!”

Apply this exercise to your business. When you sat down and created your business plan, you undoubtedly created goals, milestones, and outlined some measurable processes to reach those goals. But, speaking to your vision, why are you actually in business? What does your community, your industry, your world look like as a result of you having created this business, provided what you provide to your customers, and spent so much time and so many resources on its success?

Is your vision a “shining city on a hill”? You can make it so.