How to win an argument every time (according to science)

Ever feel you’re fighting a losing battle at work?

Compromise and empathy are valuable assets, but sometimes you need to outright get your point across if progress is to be made. Laboring on under a false understanding can just create more trouble down the line – and nobody learns anything if their misconceptions are never challenged.

Sometimes, however, even if you do make a stand for the truth – be it a better technique, a business insight, or an interpersonal issue – you can walk away from the encounter feeling crushed and defeated. Losing an argument when you know that you’re right feels even worse than not speaking up at all.

So how can you make sure that your voice is heard, your points are understood, and your case is won? Well, like so many aspects of workplace life, you can go by instinct – or you can learn some proven techniques.

There are three stages to winning an argument the smart way:

  1. engagement,
  2. expression, and
  3. agreement.

You need to engage your opponent, because coming at them in an all-out attack will just raise their defenses before you’ve even made your point. Don’t frame the argument as an conflict, but rather a discussion. Quite aside from the fact that you might actually be wrong and/or learn something from listening, asking your opponent to explain their side first can foster a rapport, so they are more likely to trust you when it’s time to make your own points. Instead of countering their arguments, begin by asking open questions – especially if you spot a loose thread in their logic. Often their argument will fall apart in their own hands.

Back up this period of listening by repeating back what you’ve understood. This proves you weren’t just pretending to listen – and can also help loosen those threads a little further. And maintain friendly eye contact, but don’t force a smile. False smiles betray themselves, jeopardizing the trust you’ve built.

So now you’re leading the discussion on your terms, it’s time to express your side of things. But first, let’s skip back in time for a moment: you need to make sure you’ve researched your argument! Just as you can easily expose the flaws in your opponent’s poorly-thought-out logic, it is likely that you think you know your own logic better than you do (this is known as ‘illusion of explanatory depth’). Everybody is right until they are proved wrong.

Illustrate your points with visuals and back them up with evidence and supporting arguments from other people – particularly those who are noted in the relevant field. Unless your opponent is a troll or a contrarian, this will strengthen your argument by demonstrating that your mutual peers agree with you. Speak quietly, and soften potential aggression by using ‘could it be’ and ‘might we say’-type phrases, and little cues for agreement such as ‘isn’t it?’ and ‘wouldn’t you say…’. This reduces the impression that you are an opponent to be defeated, and instead promotes an atmosphere of doubt, discussion, and rational progress.

Just as you flattered your opponent into engaging with you, you can finish them off – er, secure their agreement, that is – by working with their point of view rather than getting hung up on your own case. One way to do this is to find a particularly silly area of their logic and to develop it to an absurd extreme. This is a great strategy when your opponent is clearly trapped in their own logic, and hasn’t considered the real world implications of their claims. You probably already know this technique: when your kindergarten teacher asked you, ‘if Billy told you to jump off a cliff, would you do that, too?’, your ‘Billy told me to snap the pencil’ argument dissolved in an instant.

And if total destruction of your opponent is not your over-arching intention, you can swing them over to your way of thinking by entertaining the common ground between your arguments. In a business scenario, chances are you want the same results – but are divided over the best way of getting there. Highlighting the elements that you are agreed upon can help pave the way from their high castle to yours.

Indisputable victory in an argument is not always the healthiest way forward, but if you want to sway things in your favor or to correct dangerous misconceptions, it can help to have a few debating tools on hand to do so. Check out this infographic for some additional tips – and don’t be afraid to be wrong, because it’s only by acknowledging our flaws that we can move past them.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans. 

Image: Pexels

The importance of human relationships in the modern world

I spend a large chunk of my daily life attached to technology. I wake up courtesy of the alarm on my phone and as I turn it off I am greeted by the notifications that have reached me overnight. Fantastic, one of my friends on Instagram has posted for the first time in a while. Swipe that notification away. Oh, good, two of my favourite shoe stores have given me a special 15% discount on their fall selection. Delete, delete. I put my phone down and have a fleeting recollection of my clash with a ferocious lion in my dream last night. I try to delve into my memory to find the remnants of my battle, but all I find are two cheap pairs of shoes. Before the day has even begun technology has penetrated its way into my conscious thought. I would imagine that many of you find a similar beginning to the day, perhaps with less lions, but likely with the same bombardment of trivial information.

That’s the cost of living in the modern world. Even if you try to cut down on screen time, most of you will find that your job requires you to spend many hours looking at a screen. Your appointments, communications, and the general organisation of your daily life are likely delegated to you by a small rectangular beacon of information. Technology makes life convenient and efficient. China, through Alibaba innovations, is the poster boy for the integration of technology into everyday life. Alibaba promotions show the ‘ideal’ daily life in which an individual uses their phone for every aspect of their day – getting from place to place with Didi Chuxing, reading news from Youku Tudou, shopping on one of their numerous online marketplaces, and so on. The growth of virtual reality makes this even more invasive. Online stores are being designed to replicate the interior of real stores, giving the feeling of walking around browsing products. Whether this level of assimilation reaches the Western world is yet to be seen, but unless there is significant pushback it appears that the impact of technology on everyday life will continue to grow.

This growing reliance on technology makes real human relationships even more important. Perhaps much of your interaction with a client or work associate happens through text or calls, with a rare face to face meeting along the way. A positive interaction with a client can lead to increased trust and bonding, thus taking the relationship to a new level. A client will often prefer working with an individual with whom they have good rapport, even if that person is less technically adept than the competition. Learning skills to make the most of face to face interactions is therefore paramount in the work climate of today.

Firstly, you should go into business meetings feeling relaxed and confident. In the lead up to a meeting try to remove any expectations that you may have set upon yourself. View every client interaction as an opportunity for success, but placing too much weight on that opportunity can cause anxiety. Nervousness can cause you to speak too quickly, fidget, lose concentration, sweat profusely, and leave an overall impression with the client that you are disorganised or even untrustworthy. You will personally have to test what works to quell your nerves. You could develop a pre-meeting routine that gets you in a confident mindset, or have a few pre-planned questions to fall back on in case you get caught up on your words.

Once in the meeting, begin with a firm handshake, an abundance of eye contact, and an upright body position. Whilst conversing consciously make an effort to slow down your speech to articulate yourself clearly. Mimic the client’s body language and mannerisms to create a subconscious bond. While this may feel wooden at first, these techniques should all become natural with some practice. However, if it continues to feel unnatural, drop it. The most important aspect of your interaction is that you truly listen. You don’t want to miss a subtle change in tone or choice of wording because you were too busy trying to cross your legs at the same time as the client.

Once you have overcome any issues of nervousness and mastered a few key techniques to boost your confidence, interactions should feel more genuine. That is the key to striking a positive business relationship. Yes, a firm handshake and upright body position may subtly influence a client’s opinion of you, but the true success of your meeting will come from human connection. Don’t try to refocus the meeting on business issues if the topic wanders, feel free to talk about fishing or dogs for twenty minutes if that’s where the conversation leads. The true purpose of the meeting should be to feel like you’ve developed a stronger relationship with the individual across the table.

Now that technology has permeated our everyday life, these client interactions have become fewer and farther between. As a result, to be successful in maintaining business relationships, you must nail down the impression you make in these meetings. Ultimately, the impression you give will not come from your body language, level of eye contact, or firmness of handshake, but from the bond you make with another human being.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

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How to build your emotional intelligence and look out for those around you

There are few responsibilities we have at work that won’t be handed over to computers and automatons in the decades to come, but one skill that will never be fully devolved to the robots is emotional intelligence.

Every encounter you have at work is defined by the emotional intelligence of those involved. Even when you work by yourself, the way you respond to challenges and set-backs is defined by your so-called ‘EQ’.

So while Silicon Valley boffins work away at ‘affective computing’, a form of artificial intelligence that will augment our own use of empathy, insight, and self-control. Ultimately, you remain responsible for your own interpersonal relationships and how you manage your emotions.

If it’s an area of your game – and, indeed, your very existence – that you’ve neglected, it could be time to pay a little closer attention to your emotional intelligence. Maintaining high levels of EQ can help make your workplace a more pleasant, creative, productive place to be, as well as reducing your personal stress levels and enabling you to identify, work towards, and achieve your fundamental ambitions.

Get to know your own emotional universe a little better, and you will come to understand how those around you function, too. Hold regular meetings with yourself, and take good minutes. Ask yourself not how you’ve performed today, but how you’ve felt, and how you’ve reacted to issues that have arisen. If your instinct has been to hide from, shout at, or bury problems as they’ve emerged, you can probably consider yourself in need of a thorough emotional overhaul.

Find a quiet moment and a pencil and paper and try to trace back your flawed reactions to their basic underlying causes. Did you hide because you feel inadequate? Shout because you felt out of control? Bury a task because you felt swamped by your workload? The good news is: these are symptoms of underlying problems that can be addressed in positive ways.

Feelings of inadequacy cause some of the worst reactions in human beings. We lash out or hide away because we’re afraid of being found out. But these are not solutions that will help next time those feelings rear their ugly head.

Instead, use feelings of inadequacy as an opportunity to address potential areas of improvement. Turn a task that frightens you into a learning experience, or into a chance to collaborate with a like-minded soul. Figure out how you can turn mistakes or weaknesses into strengths – for example, by using gaps in your understanding as a prompt to ask ‘childlike’ questions about the way that things are done, and to expose potential areas of improvement.

When you know yourself better, and feel more confident dealing with your emotions, you will be better equipped to understand and facilitate the emotions of others. When you deal with a colleague or customer who responds in a way you didn’t expect, try to put yourself in their shoes. What have they already been through today? How has your part in the interaction derailed their expectations? Are they acting in a way that suggests they could be feeling stressed, out of their depth, betrayed?

When this is the case, it is time to look both ways. Help your colleague along with similar EQ tools to those that you’ve been developing. If your employee feels inadequate, turn their tough task into a training opportunity. If they’re red in the face and ready to explode, suggest everyone takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And look at yourself: have you said something aggressive or defensive to provoke them because of your own emotional state?

Well, the computers have got it easy compared to us. But actually, a few mindfulness techniques and a concerted effort to take the time to improve your levels of empathy and self-knowledge, can put you in control sooner than you’d think. Check out this new visual guide for some great ideas on how to do so.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

Image: Pexels

How to give negative feedback to your employees

Positivity has become something of a cult the past few years. Like political correctness and the ‘#gratitude’ craze, it comes from a good place – but is meaningless if performed by rote, rather than discovered through respect and mindfulness.

Negativity is by no means a healthy attitude, but point-by-point identifying of negative trends within an atmosphere of constructive support can help to identify means of improvement that might be overlooked by those wary to dwell on failure or mistakes. If you have an employee who is underperforming or plain out of line, restricting yourself to positive discourse can severely limit your ability to address and rectify the problem. But how can you deliver negative feedback without overstepping the mark?

You can take some of the burden off your shoulders by opening a feedback session with a period of self-review. Giving your employee a voice will make them less likely to feel victimized by the remainder of the session. They may already be aware of the issue you want to confront, or they may unearth the issue or the reasons behind it when given free reign to talk about their performance. Heck, they might even confess to something you hadn’t picked up on!

It’s likely their self-review will not be in sync with your own opinion, but listen to their side of the story, and use questions rather than statements to try to get a better understanding where they’re coming from. Be prepared to change your opinion or your plan of action in response to what you learn. Hopefully, your air of dignified humility will rub off on your troubled colleague.

That said, you should enter the room with a plan – even if it might end up changing. Have specific examples of their mistakes available, and relate them to concrete work issues and statistics rather than on personality traits. Don’t fall back on the classic positive-negative-positive pattern unless you really have something positive to say. The idea of sandwiching negative feedback between positive comments is well-known today, and you will lose trust if you are not completely sincere in all your points.

Finish up your feedback with some direct modes of action. Targets, behaviors and techniques are all more powerful – and trackable – than “be better” or “work harder”. And before you go, ask for feedback on your feedback. Make sure that the reasons for your criticism have been understood, that your employee knows the path forward, and that they think you’ve been fair. This way you can leave them feeling empowered, make sure you’re not missing anything, and build on your feedback technique for next time.

These approaches are all most effective in a workplace that has a healthy feedback culture. Holding regular review sessions is a great way to check in with your staff and keep the dialogue open. If they understand that negative – but constructive – feedback is part and parcel of the workplace, and they are accustomed to giving and receiving it, the process will be much smoother when a serious problem arises.

Your first such meeting can be dedicated to sharing the art of feedback. In a healthy company, not only is nobody afraid to speak up, but each employee recognizes the value of their ideas and opinions on everyone else and the business as a whole. It can take a while for this atmosphere to flourish, so don’t rush it – start slowly, and build the process over the first few weeks. Hopefully your crew will come to value the empowerment that comes with shared responsibility, and to feel accountable to the team and not just the boss. Let them know the rules and make sure it’s a safe place for people to be honest about negative trends or incidents from which the group can learn. Arguments might occur, especially at first, but these can be healthy too – rather than stamping them out, try instead to arbitrate and help your colleagues to figure things out between them. This can truly strengthen your squad.

This new guide provides clear steps to establishing that culture of feedback, and ideas on how to handle those difficult moments when backhanded compliments are no longer cutting it and negative feedback is called for. Learn these ideas well, and your experience of negative feedback is likely to produce positive results.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

Image: Pexels

Why Reducing Stress Stabilises Your Profits

As a small business consultant, I see the impact that stress has on people’s lives up close. Many times it is a good thing as it forces the business owner to adapt and excel so that his business thrives. Excelling, however, is contingent on the business owner knowing how to harness small doses of stress and manage its effects.

Unfortunately, for far too many people stress both consumes them and paralyses their decision-making abilities so that their health deteriorates and their business suffers as their short-term profits evaporate.

Elevated stress levels over time can lead to myriad health issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity, sleep problems, and headaches. Work relationships with employees, clients, and suppliers can also suffer as unmanaged stress can cause the owner to make more mistakes, become irritable, lack focus, and perhaps even resort to medications to lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Unmanaged stress can impact profits. The American Institute of Stress in 2014 estimated that around $300 billion is lost each year in America due to stress related absenteeism and health costs. While in the UK, the Labour Force Survey found that 11.7 million days were lost in 2015/16 due to stress.

As an owner’s ability to perform suffers due to stress, the management of the business can deteriorate. Client work will not get the attention that it deserves, staff will leave to find a less volatile work environment, and competitors will start to gain an edge. Diminishing business performance will undoubtedly cause the owner to become even more stressed, leading to further poor decision making. It will only be a matter of time before the overall business declines because its foundation, the owner, is unstable.

So, what is the small business owner to do?

  1. Remember to keep things in perspective. While the success or failure of your business endeavours are largely dependent on your efforts, there are many things outside your control, such as the economy, regulatory change, and political decisions.
  2. Focus your efforts on the task at hand. Evidence suggests that multi-tasking does not work. It only leads to ineffectiveness and inefficiencies. Just think how dangerous it is to text and drive at the same time; it is illegal, not just inadvisable, as you are repeatedly shifting your focus from the road to the phone. You cannot do multiple tasks at once and expect to do them all at the same high level of performance. Constantly switching your focus as you move between tasks drains your mental reserves.
  3. Schedule your activities to achieve control over your day. There is a reason why militaries and schools are highly regimented, and that is because routine is the best way to achieve results. If you want to have less stress, you need to have more planning, which should encourage you to schedule your activities, track the time taken to complete these activities and then follow up on them to see how it could be done better in the future.
  4. Document processes and repetitive tasks, whether they are back office or client facing. Thanks to technological advancements, this is now very cost effective with companies like Process Street or SweetProcess specialising in standardising operating procedures. Every successful business is bigger than any staff member, even the owner. Therefore, by documenting work process and key areas of organisational knowledge this will allow a new person to step in and with minimal training pick up where the last person left off. If everything is in the owner’s head, or in the heads of employees, you are putting your business in a very precarious position.

As you can see, having high levels of stress for indefinite periods of time and having no way to manage this will have a negative effect on your health and overall business performance. Managing stress is vastly more important than chasing profits because most small businesses are an extension of their owner and an owner can’t just take six months off on stress leave and have other people cover for him. A healthy owner equals a healthy business and a higher chance of converting profiits into a long term sustainable future.

Benard Chedid is a small business consultant based in Sydney, Australia. His aim is to help small businesses professionalise by filling in the missing gaps that are holding them back, whether marketing or administration, sales or bookkeeping.

Image: Flickr

How to stay productive when facing a deadline

Most of us work pretty hard to ensure an even schedule throughout the working week: five or more days of calm, measured – if industrious – productivity. Yet most people will also recognize the simple truth that, from time to time, work tends to get bunched up together. Whether it’s a fast-approaching deadline, a backlog of tasks, or an upturn in the market, everyone has to face up to striving onwards in the face of fatigue every once in a while.

It’s a common characteristic of the way we work, so it makes sense to be prepared for these tiring periods in advance. That way, when it’s two hours past your normal leaving time and there’s still no sign of getting home for the evening, you’ll be able to power through without producing substandard work. And the best way you can maintain your energy over days like this is to make sure you’re looking out for yourself from minute one.

This is achieved by creating a prioritized schedule. List down each task and sub-task that you need to complete, and figure out an order than enables you to get the most urgent and most difficult stuff done first – before your brain starts to slow down! Beginning with smaller tasks (if they happen to be important ones) can also be useful if you are a natural procrastinator: that way, the first leap is much easier to take.

Your schedule should allow for regular breaks. It can be a tough discipline, on a busy day, to force yourself to rest. That’s why it is very helpful to use an app such as Break Timer to remind you when each hour comes around. Taking even a 30 second break can improve your productivity by 13% – so it is worth doing, even if your logical mind reckons that working straight through will get more done.

These breaks should not be seen as an opportunity to catch up with your online life. Emails are a legitimate part of work, but they can take over the rest of your day if you allow them. Instead, mark a specific part of your schedule for dealing with messages, switch your notifications off, and keep your phone hidden from view as even the sight of this temptation can be distracting.

Instead, consider using your break to do some stretches. Stretching can boost the flow of oxygen to your brain, and keep your limbs supple – ideal when you’re working a long, mind- and derriere-numbing day at the office. If you’re short of room, there are plenty of exercises you can do without leaving your desk. A good one is to lean forward and pull each of your legs up and back towards your chest for around 30 seconds at a time.

If coffee is your fuel, you might be interested to hear about Dave Asprey’s so-called ‘bulletproof coffee’. The self-styled biohacker reckons that adding two tablespoons of unsalted butter to your cup of Joe can help to achieve mental clarity when you’re up against it. At the very least, it provides a curious alternative on a long day at work when the kettle is your only friend!

If that sounds a bit hardcore, you can at least use your coffee break as an excuse for a change of scene. Instead of returning to your trusty kettle, try moving your operation to a nearby coffee shop for an hour or so. A fresh environment can improve your creativity and concentration: it could be just what you need when your willpower is diminishing.

Drink nothing but coffee all day, however, and you’ll soon find yourself dehydrated and underperforming. If coffee is a useful tool, plain old water is a vital ingredient for success. Allow yourself to dehydrate, and you’ll feel a lot more tired a lot more quickly. Keep track of how much water you’re drinking all day long, and that way you can pre-empt disaster by topping yourself up before you start to get low.

There are plenty of less intuitive tricks you can try to help keep your energy up when you’ve been at it all day. Working while standing up can put you in a better mood and boost your brain power, according to experts. Listening to new music can keep your environment feeling fresh and your brain active – just don’t play it too loud! And working near a window can help you absorb daylight and fresh air, which should keep you feeling more awake than being sequestered away in a dusky corner.

Finally, don’t neglect the power of peppermint. A splash of this essential oil on your wrists, or kept open on your desk, can be great for your levels of awareness. And it’s probably a heck of a lot healthier than coffee and butter!

So keep these tips in mind ahead of your next deadline push or all-nighter. If you work together with your mind and your body, it is amazing what you can achieve. These tips have been gathered into a handy new infographic so you can refer back to them whenever you need that extra boost – because sometimes, our schedule is boss and we have to find a way to get things done.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

Image: Pexels

Leadership Lessons: How to Reinvent Yourself as a Leader

leadership-lessons-how-to-reinvent-yourself-as-a-leader

This is a guest post from Caryn Walsh.

Being a good leader has never been easy. Not everybody can learn how to carry the expectations, demands, and ambitions of a company on a single pair of shoulders. You need to know when to be tough and have a willingness to make the difficult decisions, but it isn’t all about grit and determination. It isn’t all about power and wielding your authority.

This is one of the most important lessons for modern leaders, because the business world has changed. Employees have a lot more power now than they ever did. They want to feel personally invested in the companies that they work for and they want their contribution to be recognised. But, most of all, they want to feel happy at work. If you can give them this, you’ll have their trust and respect.

At Pure Magic Business, we work with people who are finding it hard to be good leaders. The first thing that we teach them is that there’s always time to turn it around. No matter how many mistakes you might have made in the past, you can flip the script and start again.

It’s Okay to Be Humble

The idea that managers and executives have to be untouchable is outdated and it fosters an ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude within the workplace. If you wouldn’t feel happy taking orders from somebody who looks down on you, don’t expect your employees to be. A good leader knows that power isn’t always visible. It is about taking care of the people that you’re responsible for, even when the job doesn’t directly benefit your own image.

Your Ideas Might Not Be the Best

For a business to thrive, it will need to adopt the most promising ideas in order to make smart goals and effective plans. Leaders who fear ideas better than their own only serve to stifle the organisation’s potential. Leaders need to cast the creative net wide and listen to their employees. Some will have great feedback and wonderful ideas that can improve, develop, and enhance the company. Many minds working in harmony are always more constructive than a single, lone voice. Plus, inviting workers to contribute encourages them to get emotionally invested in the future of the company.

Gossip and Drama Are Not For You

Being a leader isn’t always a positive experience. The very act of having more power than others and being in a position to tell them what to do can foster resentment. This is common in people who find it hard to deal with figures of authority. The most positive and constructive response is to treat them with as much kindness and fairness as possible so that they understand that you’re not a threat. What you must not do is engage in any kind of gossip, drama, or sniping. Rise above and lead by example. There are leadership courses that can help you learn how to combat negative behaviour within the workplace.

You Know That Success Is a Journey

And finally, a great leader is a person who’s never truly content with where they are and what they’ve achieved. They know that there’s always another ceiling to push through and a bigger challenge to tackle. Crucially, some of these challenges will be to do with their own leadership style. As businesses and corporate cultures change, so too must leaders if they want to adapt and survive. So, don’t be afraid of self-appraisal, because it will ensure that you stay relevant, valuable, and perfect for the job.

For the past 25 years, Caryn Walsh has consulted to countless organisations in Australia and overseas in areas of leadership and team development. At the helm of Pure Magic Business, Caryn leads an impressive team who focus on ‘Growing People and Transforming Organisations’ in the corporate, community and education sectors.

(Image Source: Entrepreneur.com)

Learn How To Avoid The Five Most Common Mistakes Made By Leaders And Managers

Learn How To Avoid The Five Most Common Mistakes Made By Leaders And Managers

If you have recently been placed in a leadership or managerial position in your company, then you may need to change the way you approach work each day.

The five most common mistakes discussed below are made by those in management in virtually every sector of the business world.

Learning how to avoid them can help your team to thrive!

1. Goals – A team without goals is a huge problem. Some managers, especially those that are new to the role, make the assumption that everyone knows what to do rather than providing guidance regarding assignments and priorities.

2. Poor focus – Even those who have set goals do not always focus on what’s important. Rather than acknowledging progress and creating positive results, these managers get caught up in the details and busyness of urgent everyday tasks.

Rather than micromanaging your team, monitor their progress on a schedule, ensuring that they are moving forward as needed. Running around the office looking busy all of the time is not the same as accomplishing the desired results.

3. Hiring and firing – It is important to have a strong team capable of handling the tasks assigned to them.

In a rush to have sufficient manpower, some managers make the mistake of hiring people too quickly and are slow to let them go, even when it is apparent that they are not capable of fulfilling their role.

These poor practices can harm the morale of the team and make it even more difficult to get the job done.

Make sure that you consider candidates carefully before hiring. Not only do applicants need to have the necessary skills and abilities, but they also need to have the right combination of personality, flexibility and dedication.

It is better to have an open position than to expect your team to carry someone who is not a good fit for the job.

Likewise, delaying firing an employee can lead to frustration and your team may believe that you are too soft. Although it can be difficult to let someone go, you should not keep someone on the payroll just because you are uncomfortable with confrontation. You will be doing the employee and your company a favor by ending things quickly. Firmly but politely explain to the person why she is being let go, and give some positive feedback concerning the areas where she excelled.

4. Morale – No matter the size and type of organization that you are leading, good morale is essential.

Some managers believe that they need to rule with an iron fist, forcing employees to mold into some preconceived idea of what a “perfect employee” looks like.

Instead, you need to keep an eye on morale and take steps to boost it when necessary. This may be through encouraging stories or giving praise to team members for their contributions. In fact, some leaders make it a point during conferences to find something positive and honest to say about each person and the value they contribute to the team.

5. Poor boundaries – Whether standoffish or being a buddy, both strategies are doomed to fail for leaders. If those under you are not comfortable approaching you with questions, your company can lose valuable resources down the line because of mistakes. And, while you should be approachable, you should not perceive yourself as an equal, nor should they. While you can socialize and joke with the team, you should maintain a degree of separation. Otherwise, you may have a difficult time reprimanding someone and some employees may take advantage of your friendly nature.

You can embrace the challenges that come with your new role as manager or leader and have a strong team as a result. Avoid the five most common mistakes and continue to learn from mentors and others about the methods, tools and tricks for becoming a respected and successful leader.

Jeremy Johnson is a real estate enthusiast and has written content for dozens of real estate and related sites around the world. RealEstateCompanies.info is a side project he maintains because of his interest in real estate.

Australia Is An Innovation Laggard (Nigel Lake, Part 10 of 10)

Australia, The Innovation Laggards

(Source: Flickr)

This is the tenth instalment of my conversation with Nigel Lake, CEO of Pottinger, a global corporate advisory firm based in Sydney, Australia. Nigel is the author of The Long Term Starts Tomorrow, a must have book “for any manager, leader or Minister.” The Hon Mike Baird MP, Premier of NSW

Tom: There has been a lot of support given to entrepreneurs in the UK in the last few years which seems very promising. Do you think that Australia is perhaps falling behind in that area?

Nigel LakeNigel Lake: Australia is 11 hours ahead of GMT, and about 10 years behind at least.

It is not a question of “is Australia falling behind?” Australia is massively behind.

I moved [to Australia] in 2003 and was amazed by the almost complete lack of online anything. Wind the clock forward and the online businesses of the big companies are still terrible. So there has been an amazing lack of innovation.

[Pottinger is] quite plugged into the entrepreneurial universe here through the universities, through some of the people who have invested in those companies, and through the incubators and so forth. We have put a fair amount of time into trying to support the evolution of that whole ecosystem because we think it’s amazingly important.

[Australia has] a political environment where there is a significant disaffection with science in general. There is a real love of things which are steeped in the past. There is a great unwillingness on the part of business here to embrace things which are new.

The poster child for success is Atlassian, the tech company, which sold its product in 10 or 15 countries to dozens of large companies before an Australian company would buy any of its products.

They are based in Sydney and had a fantastic platform for making your own wiki. They had a similar platform for managing agile software development programs, which is now used in many large companies around the world. Australian companies were at the end of the queue, despite the fact that the company is actually based in Australia.

Tom: So it sounds like there may be a cultural issue that Australia needs to overcome. I know that after finishing university a lot of the smartest people either leave Australia or take plum jobs in the established order of things. There appears to be a missing segment of the economy which exists in the UK and the U.S. And that is, young people trying to change things and create new businesses.

Nigel Lake: You just need to look at the university world. In most countries around the world, university students are pretty radical and protest about everything all the time. I have never heard an Australian student protest about anything apart from whether the temperature of their cappuccino is quite right.

There is an endemic acceptance of the status quo as being nice and comfortable and really quite reasonable, which to a significant degree it is. But you don’t have a change the world mentality, and people who want to change the world, as you said, they just get on a plane and they go somewhere else where they feel more welcome.

The only way you can change Australia is by changing its leaders. And that is about political leadership and business leadership. It’s an absolutely massive endeavour to attempt to do that. The challenge is that the political leadership comes out of the party system, which is breaking down in Australia as it is in the UK, but it is hard to see where that inspirational change the world leader will come from in Australia.

Lee Kuan Yew – Statesman or Autocrat?

Lee Kuan YewWE were saddened to learn of the passing of Lee Kuan Yew last Monday. Harry is recognised as the founding father of modern Singapore and, from the time he was sworn in as Prime Minister in 1959, played a central role in building the fledgling city state into an Asian Tiger economy.

Having spent a week in Singapore in late 2013 with an Oxford classmate and his family, your author witnessed firsthand the level of respect and admiration that many Singaporeans feel for Lee Kuan Yew.

Under his stewardship Singapore’s GDP enjoyed a meteoric rise from less than US$450 per capita to more than US$55,000, lifting Singapore from third world to first in a single generation. Singapore was once a small colonial fishing village with limited natural resources and today its economy is the envy of the world.

In show of support to our Singaporean friends we posted some articles on Facebook and lamented the passing of a great man. To our surprise, one of our friends in London tersely responded “I guess we’ll just gloss over the fact he was an autocrat as long as the economy did well.”

A slightly unfriendly comment, we thought, given that Lee Kuan Yew had just recently passed away. However, over the course of last week it became increasingly clear that many people in the West hold mixed or unfavourable views of the way in which Lee Kuan Yew ran Singapore.

With Singapore suffering race riots in 1964, and being forced to leave Malaysia in 1965, Lee maintained stability by curtailing certain civil liberties: quotas on public housing to ensure racial integration, restrictions on inflammatory speech to limit racial tensions, and harsh penalties for lawbreaking extending even so far as to place a ban on chewing gum. His People’s Action Party maintained a continuous and firm grip on power, in part thanks to Lee’s strong arm tactics which included imprisoning political opponents and launching defamation suits to pacify the media.

On the one hand, Lee championed racial equality and instituted policies that helped income levels rise by two orders of magnitude; a remarkable achievement which roused the interest of China and many other governments who sent research teams to study Singapore as a model economy.

On the other hand, Lee used draconian laws and sometimes ruthless tactics to maintain a firm grip on power largely unopposed. Lee may have been a statesman, but he appears to have been an autocrat too.

How can we reconcile these two contrasting views of Lee Kuan Yew? And do we even need to? Is it a problem if Lee was both a statesman and an autocrat?

Well, depending on how you look at it, potentially yes.

A key part of the problem seems to be that Lee’s economic success has been used by less scrupulous authoritarian regimes (Russia for example) in order to legitimise their strongman politics.  These regimes have used Lee as a central character in a slightly troubling counter narrative that conflicts with the Western ideal of liberal democracy; a form of government that protects the rights of the individual and supports fair elections, freedom of the press, separation of powers and the rule of law.

We will leave it for others to discuss at length the political ramifications of Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy. However, given his success in building Singapore’s economy, it might pay for us to consider his approach.  What lessons can business leaders learn from the life of Lee Kuan Yew?

There are many things that could be said, but we want to highlight just three leadership lessons that jump out at us.

  1. Focus on others: Lee saw the opportunity to build Singapore as the chance of a lifetime. It appears to have been his constant focus. While many autocrats and democratically elected leaders pursue power for its own sake, and are largely self-regarding and self-serving, Lee’s thoughts appear to have been always on Singapore. He believed in something larger than himself.
  2. Work hard: Different leaders have different ideas about how to pursue prosperity, for example Russia appears to quite enjoy annexing land. A key factor which distinguished Lee’s leadership was his belief in the need for hard work and self-reliance. He believed that everyone should be afforded an equal opportunity to do well regardless of the person’s race or religion.
  3. Think long term but be pragmatic: Lee had a long term vision for Singapore and combined this with a pragmatic approach to solving problems and getting things done. He had a clear understanding of the geostrategic landscape and an ability to communicate with and gain the cooperation of more powerful players like America and China. He looked internationally to find solutions that could be applied in Singapore, and took active steps to recruit Singapore’s best and brightest students to work for his government.

Below is a letter which expresses British PM David Cameron’s sentiments on the passing of Lee Kuan Yew:

Letter from 10 Downing Street

(Image sources: Flickr and Straits Times)

On the boundary

On the boundary

(Source: Flickr)

Failure can be painful but it tends to mark the boundary between what’s proven and what’s possible, between your comfort zone and your potential.

Failure is feedback, an opportunity to learn and grow stronger.

Keep pushing.

Management vs Leadership

Management requires smooth process, leadership requires clear vision

Management vs Leadership

Management is about running systems, processes, and people.

Leadership is about taking action, and inspiring others to do so. Having a vision, and the ability to influence and motivate others to sail towards it.

Your team needs both.

If you have no managers, then key details, tasks and deadlines are likely to be missed.

No leader, and your team becomes a ship without a rudder. You are likely to become lost at sea.

Oxford Inspires 2014

Oxford Inspires

For those of you planning to be in the UK in March, we would like to share with you details of an exciting event being hosted at Oxford’s Said Business School.

Oxford Inspires is an entrepreneurial conference taking place on the 8th and 9th of March this year. The event is hosted by Oxford Entrepreneurs, the largest student-run entrepreneurship body in the world, and brings together leading entrepreneurs to educate and inspire budding entrepreneurs based in Oxford, London, and beyond.

The speaker list for this year can only be described as impressive, and we are informed that full details will be up on the website shortly. For a look at last years line up, and more information about the conference, visit the website.

You may also want to check out the Facebook Group where the dynamic Ridhi Kantelal and team will be posting information about the upcoming launch party, VIP opportunities and other exciting developments.

Tickets to the conference are now available. If you are interested, or know someone who might be, share this post or buy your ticket now to avoid disappointment.

19 Inspirational Quotes from Nelson Mandela

What can we learn from the life of such a man?

Nelson Mandela

NELSON Mandela passed away last Thursday at the age of 95. He was a man amongst men who fought and won the battle against Apartheid in South Africa.

As the world continues to mourn his loss and reminds itself of Mandela’s heroic leadership and contribution to peace and equality in South Africa, it is worth pausing to reflect on what we can learn from the life of such a man.

What can we learn from Madiba?

For one thing, he is a symbol of hope. A light in dark times. A reminder that it is possible to change the world for the better.

He opposed Apartheid – a system of segregation which curtailed the rights and freedoms of black South Africans. For having the audacity to fight for equality, he served 27 years in prison. He was ultimately released and elected to be the first black President of South Africa in 1994. Apartheid defeated, he had lived to see his vision fulfilled.

Mandela changed the world.

And, so can you.

19 Inspirational Quotes from Nelson Mandela

While his life-long perseverance is perhaps his most inspirational lesson, we can also learn from his numerous words of wisdom.

Below we set out 19 inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela that capture the wisdom of his thinking and can help to guide us in our own efforts to change the world for the better.

On achieving success

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

On being a leader

“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”

On conquering fear

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. In letting our own light shine, we give people permission to shine. Who are you, not to be brilliant, fabulous and talented? You are a child of God, and playing small does not serve the world. As we are liberated from our fears, our presence automatically liberates others. And so I choose today to live big. My successes and mistakes teach me that the lessons are here to take us beyond our self imposed limits, so that we may be the best persons we can imagine.”

On gaining freedom

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

On positive living

“Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

On changing the world

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

Mercedes Leads the Race to Build Autonomous Cars

Look mum, no hands! Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive has driven itself 125km through Germany without driver intervention

MERCEDES-BENZ has demonstrated its capabilities with self-driving technology and provided a glimpse of the future by successfully driving its prototype S-Class from Mannheim to Pforzheim without driver intervention.

Mercedes has successfully tested autonomous vehicles before. For example, in 1995 its autonomous S-Class successfully completed a trip from Munich to Copenhagen and back.

The new S500 Intelligent Drive is the latest iteration of self-driving technology, and the most advanced fully autonomous vehicle ever produced by Mercedes. What’s more, most of the  technology in the concept car is already in the current S-Class. The future is not far away!

With a hat-tip to history, the test drive followed the same route that Bertha Benz (wife of founder Karl Benz) followed in 1888 when she demonstrated the long distance potential of the world’s first car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

3 Lessons from Steve Jobs

Believe that the dots will connect down the road, love what you do, and remember that you are going to die

STEVE JOBS was one of the world’s great visionaries, entrepreneurs and businessmen.

On October 5th 2011, he departed.

People knew that he was sick, but nobody expected him to leave so soon. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was busy working on an urgent assignment, and dropped everything. I immediately started writing a farewell tribute, and I held back the tears as I wrote.

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news?

Steve and I never met in person. So, why did his death evoke such a response?

Steve was famous. It is normal to feel sad when famous people die.  However, this explanation does not capture the outpouring of grief or the sense of loss that many people felt that day.

Steve was a visionary. He understood how technology was evolving, and how the new technology could be used to create super amazing products to delight his customers.

Steve was a perfectionist. Malcolm Gladwell argued in his New Yorker article that this was Steve’s real genius.  Steve saw things that kind of worked and then relentlessly tweaked them until they were perfect.

Most of all, however, Steve was passionate. And, his passion for design changed our lives for the better. If you have ever used a Mac, an iPod, iPhone, or iPad, then you have been personally touched by Steve’s personality and his passion for incredible design. It is the passion that we miss.

We can learn a lot from such a man and, in his Stanford Commencement address, he leaves us with three lessons:

  1. Believe that the dots will connect down the road: this will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.
  2. Love what you do: set backs are inevitable. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.  And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years role on. So don’t settle.
  3. Remember that you are going to die: Nobody wants to die, even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. Death is the destination that we all share, nobody has ever escaped it. Death is very likely the very best invention of life, it clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, as they somehow already know what you truly want to become.

“Stay hungry stay foolish.”

The First 100 Days as a CEO

The approach a new CEO takes during their first 100 days can determine whether they succeed or fail

FIRST impressions count!  The approach that a new CEO takes during their first 100 days can largely determine whether they succeed or fail.  But how to get it right?  In an article in the second issue of the SVA Consulting Quarterly, six non-profit CEO’s – including Goodstart’s Julia Davison, Jonathan Crowston from The Centre for Eye Research, and Jan Owen from the Foundation for Young Australians – open up about how leaders can make the biggest impact and best impression during their first 100 days.

Here are five lessons from the article:

  1. Engage with the organisation before your first day: There are a range of ways to do this, for example, asking for papers from recent board meetings, polling staff about key issues, or shadowing the existing CEO before they step down;
  2. Gain visibility by meeting as many people as possible: CEOs will typically set out to meet board members, direct reports, other staff, external stakeholders, and people in other organisations working in the same industry;
  3. Clarify management and governance arrangements: For example, make sure that it is clear who has decision-making responsibility and what is the approved line of communication between the board and senior management;
  4. Understand the organisation’s finances: This includes understanding the organisation’s financial statements, how finances are administered, and what systems are in place for disclosure and control; and
  5. Assess the organisation’s strategic direction: Is the organisation performing well, or does it need a completely new strategy? Unless there’s a crisis, or you have prior knowledge or direction from the board, it is best to spend time assessing the organisation for more than the first 100 days before making any major strategic decisions.

For the full article: click here.

Kim Jong Il – farewell and good riddance

Too soon?

WHEN someone dies it is cruel to make jokes at their expense immediately thereafter.

However, not just any crackpot loony has the ability to single handedly plunge an entire nation into abject poverty.  Well done Kim!

Kim Jong Il, who passed away today (in case you missed the memo) will be fondly remembered along with other notable historical leaders such as Pol Pot (Cambodian genocide), Mao Tse-Tung (the Great Leap Backwards) and Adolf Hitler (The Holocaust).

Kim Jong Il was by all accounts a raving lunatic, and if you would like to laugh at his expense you can:

  1. check out Kim Jong Il looking at things here, and
  2. ponder the ridiculous fate of his son, Kim Jong Un, who is privately doubting that he’s crazy enough to run North Korea.

So, jokes aside, what can business leaders learn from one of the world’s worst leaders?

Luckily, Kim Jong Il was such a dreadful leader that it is very easy learn from his mistakes. Simply ask yourself “what would Kim have done?” and then do the opposite.

Here are three hand-picked leadership lessons brought to you by the dear leader:

  1. be a tyrant (don’t – you should encourage worker engagement),
  2. discourage diversity (don’t – you should promote a meritocratic work environment where people are hired and promoted based on value contribution rather than gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or other arbitrary forms of categorisation), and
  3. prohibit freedom of expression (don’t – you should keep the communication lines open because you should not be competing against your colleagues but against your own personal best performance).

We need you to lead us

You too can put a ding in the universe

THERE are three simple steps to being a visionary leader. That’s it. Just three simple steps.

To be a visionary leader, you need to:

1) Learn from everyone,
2) Follow no one, and
3) Look for patterns.

So simple and easy to remember.

Learn always, never follow, and look for patterns.

Oh, and one more thing. You’ll need to work like hell.

Go, get moving, we need you.

January 17th, 2012 #OWS

Things just escalated

LEADERSHIP has been described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task (Chemers 1997).

From a “theory of leadership” perspective, what is interesting about the Occupy Wall Street movement is the absence of any one person as the identifiable leader.  This is remarkable when you consider that the movement started on September 17th and remains in full swing.

What can business leaders learn from the Occupy movement?

One thing comes to mind.

A resilient organisation is united be shared beliefs (“we are the 99%”).

Steve Jobs – farewell

Trust that the dots will connect down the road, love what you do, and remember that you are going to die

TODAY October 5th 2011, we received the sad news that Steve Jobs has departed.

We are lucky to have lived during the same age as Steve Jobs, a man who has put a dent in the universe, and whose lasting impact will be remembered in the same breath as Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, and Sir Isaac Newton.

If you have ever used a personal computer, listened to digital music, or used a smart phone, then Steve Jobs has changed the way that you experience the world.  For most of us it would be impossible to imagine using a PC without a mouse, but this is just one of the innovations that were introduced and popularised by Steve Jobs, the visionary.

In 1976, Jobs and his high school friend Stephen Wozniak started Apple in a suburban California garage. Wozniak designed the original Apple I computer to impress his friends at the Homebrew Computer Club and Jobs was immediately inspired.  Jobs saw its potential and took responsibility for marketing this creation to the world. (source: New York Times)

Jobs understood that ideas which spread win.  Apple has always appealed to a different kind of person. A person who believes that things can change, that the world can be a better place, and that we can make a difference.  Apple’s products personify this idea, and the Apple faithful purchase Apple products not merely as a consumption decision but as an expression of their personal identity.  Steve Jobs is their poster boy.

Jobs also understood that ideas which fail to spread lose … even if they embody more advanced technology. Apple has often been criticised by the tech-purists for selling shiny products which contain ordinary technology.  The amusing iPhone4 vs HTC Evo video reflects this lament.  Why would someone buy the iPhone4 when the HTC Evo is technologically superior?  Why indeed.  The answer, which Jobs intuitively understood, is fairly simple.  When you purchase the HTC Evo you only get a phone.  However, when you purchase the iPhone4 you also get to be part of the Apple community, to express your personal identity, and to tell a story about who you are and how the world might be one day.  “Things can be different, things can be better, we can change things.”

Jobs understood how to communicate his ideas effectively.  His keynote speeches at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference were extremely popular, were covered extensively by the international press, and were so effective at influencing software developers that they came to be referred to as his “reality distortion field.”  How did he do it?  One technique Jobs used consistently in his communications was the Rule of Three – a simple, powerful and effective tool that you can adopt to improve your speeches, reports and other communications.

Jobs used his powers of persuasion to change the world for the better.  His passion for pursuing the future, and bringing Apple and the rest of the world with him, was captured in his keynote speech at the Macworld Conference and Expo in January 2007 when he concluded by quoting ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky:

There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very very beginning. And we always will.

Some would argue that skating passionately into an unknown future is not only risky, but foolish … and Jobs would probably have agreed.  His view of the world was shaped by the 1960s counterculture of the San Francisco Bay Area where he grew up.  And he identified one publication from that period as having a lasting impact on his life: “The Whole Earth Catalog”. Jobs recalled that it was an amazing publication which, after a few years in circulation, left a brief yet memorable farewell message on the back cover of its final issue:

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

6 Steps to Blogging #WINNING

YOU may wonder whether you should blog.  Stop wondering. You’re either on the Internet or you’re with the trolls. Here are the steps:

  1. Search
  2. Digest
  3. Synthesise (hint: this is were all of the competitive advantage comes from)
  4. Polish
  5. Publish (hint: this is where all of the value comes from)
  6. Repeat

#WINNING

Seth Godin

Seth who?

SETH Godin is an American marketing guru born in 1960 in Mount Vernon, New York. Seth is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker and agent of change. Seth is widely regarded as America’s greatest marketer.

Seth is always starting new initiatives, some of his more remarkable contributions are highlighted below.

Companies

Yoyodyne, his first internet company, pioneered the use of permission marketing to reach customers online, and was sold to Yahoo! in 1998 for US$30 million.

Seth’s latest company, founded in 2005, is called Squidoo. Squidoo is a community website which allows anyone to build a page (known as a ‘lens’) about any topic they are passion about. The site raises money for charity (pays royalties to its members) and is currently ranked 120th in the US (by traffic) by Alexa.com.

Blog

Seth writes the world’s most popular marketing blog. You can read it here.

Books

Seth has written thirteen books, all of which have been best sellers. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. His most recent book is called Poke the Box, a call to action about the initiative you’re taking in your life. You can learn more about Seth’s books by browsing his books here and reading some of the Amazon book reviews.

Free Downloads

Here are some manifestos, ebooks and other PDFs that Seth has gifted to us for free.

  1. Poke the Box: The Workbook – This work book asks one basic question, “What would our world look like if more people started projects, made a ruckus, and took more risks?”
  2. Unleashing the Ideavirus: Read and Share – This manifesto answers the question “how do we get attention to ask for permission from the consumer”?
  3. Money for Nothing (and your clicks for free) – Three Secrets to Web Traffic
  4. The Bootstrapper’s Bible – There’s never been a better time to start a business with no money
  5. Brainwashed – Seven ways to reinvent yourself
  6. Knock Knock – Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to building a website that works
  7. Who’s There – Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to Blogs and the New Web
  8. What Matters Now – Big ideas from Seth and others
  9. Flipping the Funnel – Giving your fans to power to speak up
  10. Seven Type Rules for Amateur Designers
  11. On the future of the music business

Talks

You can view lots of Seth’s talks but clicking the “Seth Godin” hot tag in the Consulting Forum.

Warren Buffett

WARREN Buffett is an American investor born in 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska. Buffett is often referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha” and is the world’s most successful stock market investor.

Buffett is the largest shareholder and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.  He has an estimated net worth of around $US45 billion.  In 2010, Forbes ranked Warren Buffett as the 3rd richest man in the world.

Buffett is noted for his adherence to the value investing philosophy and it is arguable that Buffett’s most influential mentor was Benjamin Graham. Graham was an influential economist and professional investor and is considered the first proponent of value investing.

Inspirational Leadership Requires Self-Esteem

A PERSON who wants to work on their leadership ability should work on their self-esteem.

The job of a leader is to persuade and inspire. A leader needs to develop and persuasively convey a clear vision of what their organisation plans to do, and to inspire and empower the people who work for that organisation to contribute towards making that vision become a reality.

A leader with high self-esteem will be able to do that job more effectively. There are at least three reasons for this:

  1. A leader with a low self-esteem may feel the need to prove that they are right, or feel the need to take credit for any success achieved by the organisation. This kind of behaviour is unlikely to inspire and will not encourage people to give their best efforts;
  2. A leader with low self-esteem is more likely to hire other people with low self-esteem because they are intimidated by people with more confidence than themselves; and
  3. High self-esteem contributes to high performance. This view is supported by Nathaniel Branden, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, who has identified six practices that result from (and contribute towards) high self-esteem:
      a.  living consciously;
      b.  self-acceptance;
      c.  self-responsibility;
      d.  self-assertiveness;
      e.  living purposefully; and
      f.  personal integrity.

A leader who operates at a high level of consciousness, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, purposefulness, and personal integrity, that would certainly be inspirational.

Start a movement – stand up and dance

STAND up and dance like nobody’s watching. We are watching though, everyone is, and that’s why being the initiator feels so scary. You are afraid of looking like a fool, we all are. So we wait and watch you dance.

Genuine passion is contagious, and as you dance freely and passionately one person sees the genius in what you are doing and has the courage to join you.

Simple dancing, nothing fancy. You dance because you love to dance and you embrace your friend in the dance. We continue to watch you dance, the two of you. It is still a novelty and still too early and much too risky to join you.

You dance openly and eagerly and another person is infected by the brilliance of what you are doing and comes to join you.

You dance wildly and keenly and as passionately as ever, the energy levels race higher, the tension grows, and the attraction of the dance becomes so compelling that people are wonderfully and inescapably drawn towards the dance. A few people begin to walk and others start to run.

The movement has started.

Daniel Kahneman on improving the decision making process

IN MAY 2008 the McKinsey Quarterly spoke to Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, notable for his work on behavioural finance and hedonic psychology, about quality control and improving the decision making process.

1. The decision factory

Kahneman says that you can think of an organisation as a factory for producing decisions. The organisation might produce other things, but it produces decisions at all levels. Thinking about decisions as a product is a useful way to think about it, because it immediately raises the issue of quality control. As an organisation, whenever you have a product you take measures to ensure that your product meets certain standards.

2. Improving the quality of decisions

What can be done to improve the quality of decisions that are produced?

Kahneman indicates that quality control of decisions will be organised, in part, by bearing in mind those mistakes that are common and recurrent, and by making a deliberate effort to check whether those mistakes are happening.

Are there ways of eliciting the best information that is available in an organisation? Are the talents of the people that surround the decision maker utilised effectively? In many cases the answer is no. One could do a great deal better in utilising the human resources and information that are available in the process of decision making.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of hostility to the idea of improving decision making processes. Kahneman argues that as there is convergence to a decision, dissent becomes progressively more difficult and costly. Some changes, even though they may be desirable, are not adopted because they threaten the leadership of the organisation too much.  As such, people warning of potential disaster are increasingly set aside, shunned and treated as basically disloyal to the organisation that is committing itself to do something.

3. Pre-Mortem

Given that improving the decision making process is a difficult task, Kahneman presents the idea of the “Pre-Mortem”, an idea that he borrowed from one of his contemporaries, Gary Klein.

The Pre-Mortem is a simple idea, and involves a very straightforward procedure that benefits an organisation by helping to improve the decision making process. When you have a plan that is being formulated, convene your group for a short meeting. The meeting might be led by the person in charge or facilitated by someone else. Either way, the group should be presented with the following scenario: “it is a year from now. We have implemented the plan. It was total a disaster. You have a sheet of paper in front of you, write down a history of the disaster.” After giving everyone some time to write down their ideas you collect the pieces of paper and read them out. The process does not have to involve an extensive discussion.

The beauty of the Pre-Mortem is that it legitimises dissent. In fact, it does more than legitimise dissent. In organisations where the members are competitive, you expect people to think quite hard about the flaws in the idea and what could go wrong. In a room of twenty people you might expect three or four new ideas that can be used to readjust and improve the proposed plan of action.

4. Anchoring

Kahneman identifies anchoring as one of the big sources of mistakes in the process of decision making.

When you think about some quantity, like the amount of time it will take to finish a project, the first number that gets mentioned has an enormous impact on the way that people think.

Kahneman states that the psychology of anchoring is simple and happens automatically. There is nothing we can do about it. You retrieve a biased sample of information and then you evaluate that sample, and then it is already too late.

Kahneman provides a simple explanation of anchoring. Imagine you have a group of people. You ask them to write down the last four digits of their social security number, and then to consider a question, is the number of physicians in Manhattan higher or lower than the number you just wrote down? Now you ask the group, what is your best guess about the number of physicians in Manhattan? Kahneman suggests that what you are going to find is a difference of roughly 30% in the size of the estimates between the people with high social security numbers and the people with lower social security numbers.

When there is a particular number that is critical to a decision, try to trace down where the number came from, who brought it up first, and what information was used to support that number initially. Tracing down the history of a number is an example of something that is not too hard to do and, Kahneman believes, is almost guaranteed to improve things.

One implication of anchoring is that, if you are the leader and want to have an honest discussion about a number, you shouldn’t start with a number.

5. Opinions on paper, pre-discussion

Making discussions more fruitful and productive is something that we should think about. Kahneman provides one suggestion of how this might be done.

Before initiating a discussion solicit the opinions from each member of the group on paper. If you are going to generate an estimate of a number, for example what price is to be offered for a particular project, then getting opinions from the group on a slip of paper is going to improve the quality of the discussion.

This approach will help to draw out dissenting points of view. Once the discussion has begun, some group members may choose not to voice their dissenting opinion or may silently acquiesce to the prevailing view. Obtaining everyone’s starting position before the discussion ensues avoids this from happening.

In some cases, soliciting individual opinions before you discuss can make the discussion unnecessary. Kahneman gives an example of his involvement in an academic committee where he implemented this idea. In deciding whether to fund particular grants, the academics discovered that they loved to discuss, at great length, grants on which they all agreed. Soliciting individual opinions prior to discussion resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of time wasted on discussion.

Sun Tzu on strategies for effective leadership (part 4)

THIS post, part 4, considers the principles developed by Sun Tzu on strategies for effective leadership. It is the 4th and final part in a series looking at how Sun Tzu’s military precepts provide a timeless guide to modern business leadership. Part one looked at the qualities of successful leaders. Part two considered principles for organising your business affairs. Finally, part three considered the principles for dealing with business rivals.

I have summarised Sun Tzu’s principles into four simple categories:

  1. Qualities of a successful leader;
  2. Organising your business affairs;
  3. Dealing with rivals; and
  4. Strategies for effective leadership.

4. Strategies for effective leadership

4.1 Create a common philosophy

Marc Benioff, CEO of salesforce.com says that “to be truly successful, companies need to have a corporate mission that is bigger than making a profit…By integrating philanthropy into [the] business model … employees feel that they do much more than just work at [the] company.

He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.

4.2 Foster co-operation

In order to be successful in business it is important to have many experienced employees working together in co-operation.

Adam Smith was the earliest to report the merits of specialization and cooperation some 230 years ago. He compared the output of a Scottish farmer working alone to make pins for his wife with a French pin factory’s daily production. The factory employed experienced specialists, equipped them with the latest tools and organized them to work cooperatively to produce pins. The factory turned out hundreds of times more pins per specialist per day than the farmer working alone. Moreover, the factory-made pins surpassed the farmer’s pins in terms of quality and consistency.

If two armies will help each other in a time of common peril, how much more should two parts of the same army, bound together as they are by every tie of interest and fellow-feeling. Yet it is notorious that many a campaign has been ruined through lack of co-operation…

4.3 Maintain good communication

Being well informed is the only way to make good decisions. Make sure that you have access to the latest information on who is doing what in your organization.

…the commander whose communications are suddenly threatened finds himself in a false position, and he will be fortunate if he has not to change all his plans, to split up his force into more or less isolated detachments, and to fight with inferior numbers on ground which he has not had time to prepare…

4.4 Pick your men carefully

A leader must use the skills of his employees to best advantage by using the right man in the right place.

The skilful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man. For the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death.

4.5 Control your men with kindness and discipline

If [subordinates] are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, they will be practically useless. If, when [your subordinates] have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless. Therefore [subordinates] must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline.

Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to deal with but a single man.

4.6 Set up a dependable systems of reward and punishment

People respond to incentives, this is one of the first lessons learnt in Microeconomics 101. As such, it is important to encourage good behaviour and discourage poor behaviour with an appropriate system of reward and punishment.

…that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy they must have their rewards.

4.7 Do not micro-manage your subordinates

The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify the minor blunders and not to be swayed by petty doubts. Vacillation and fussiness are the surest means of sapping the confidence of a [company].

4.8 Foster a spirit of enterprise

Encourage your employees to be industrious and hard working.

Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.

Sun Tzu on the art of leadership – qualities of a successful leader

Background to The Art of War

SUN TZU wrote The Art of War in approximately 490BC in the Kingdom of Wu, China, and became a general for the King of Wu in 512 BC. For the next 39 years his precepts were followed and the Kingdom of Wu was victorious. And then, they forgot … the armies of Wu were defeated and the Kingdom made extinct.

In 1782, The Art of War was first translated into French by a Jesuit, Father Amiot. There is a legend that it was Napoleon’s key to success and his secret weapon and the first English translation was produced by P.F. Calthrop in 1905.

In reading The Art of War I have tried to think about how Sun Tzu’s military principles provide a timeless guide to modern business leadership.

Dr. Foo Check Teck, Asia’s foremost expert on Sun Tzu, says, “I found many more CEO’s and entrepreneurs, especially those who had to compete at the edge, are unconsciously applying Sun Tzu’s ping-fa (Law of Soldiering).”

The essence of business, like war, is to pursue goals and achieve success (Dr. Raymond Yeh). Success, or even your proximity to success, can make you a target to those who oppose that success, however they might choose to fight you. That is why understanding Sun Tzu’s Art of War can prove advantageous to just about anyone (Robert L. Cantrell, consultant and author of Understanding Sun Tzu on the Art of War).

I have summarised Sun Tzu’s principles into four simple categories:

  1. Qualities of a successful leader;
  2. Oranising your business affairs;
  3. Dealing with rivals; and
  4. Strategies for effective leadership.

If you’re interested in The Art of War and want to read more, check out both Sonshi.com and Wikipedia.

1. Qualities of a successful leader

1.1 Discipline

A leader must be disciplined. Having discipline includes maintaining the hierarchy within the organisation; clearly defining the specific roles and responsibilities of members of management; maintaining systems to ensure delivery of services by suppliers and payment from customers; and controlling expenditure.

I fully believe he was a good soldier, but I had him beheaded because he acted without orders.

1.2 Presence of mind

Presence of mind is the ability to stay calm and act sensibly in a crisis. This is a leader’s most important asset.

1.3 Self respect

If you do not respect yourself, your men will not respect you. If your men do not respect you, they will be unresponsive to orders and will delight in undermining your authority and reputation.

1.4 Wisdom, sincerity and good faith

If your decisions are well thought out and you act honestly, your men will trust you. If you are trusted, people will speak their mind freely and openly, which means business problems can be solved more quickly and effectively.

1.5 Prompt decision making

In a competitive business environment time is always of the essence. As such, a successful leader needs to make quick decisions.

…though we have heard of stupid haste in [business], cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.