Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Basics

Everywhere you click there’s information on “the new” ways to communicate and market products/services, organizations, people, and ideas. I’m amazed at the number of consultants, coaches, agencies, etc. that have something to say about online marketing and social media. Many are screaming the message that if you aren’t utilizing ALL of the “new” technology, you’re missing the boat … If you aren’t on Facebook your business won’t survive … LinkedIn is where professionals find other professionals … Sign up for Twitter and make sure you “tweet” every day… it goes on and on.

It seems there are as many ways to get a story out as there are stories to tell. But, in the back of my mind, there’s been this nagging thought - the basic principles of marketing, leadership and good solid relationships still apply. It’s not all about the tools. It’s about the story.

So what are the ‘basics’? Let’s look at it from a business owner’s perspective.

1. What are you really selling? Or asked another way, what are your customers/ clients really buying from you? What needs are you superbly meeting for a defined group? Spend some time in their [your clients’] shoes and see, hear, touch, experience what they experience when they are purchasing from or working with you. Choreograph the process. The more you understand about “you” [your people, the organization, your products/services] the better you will understand your clients – and how to serve them. In other words, sweat the small stuff.

By the way, you need to be remarkable. What you’re doing and the way you do it has to be amazing. There’s no room for “so-so” or “ok”. There are too many choices in the marketplace to not be the very best you can be. And something to really shake you up - your very best might not be good enough. I read something just today from Seth Godin: You must make something work in the small before you bet the farm and market it to the masses. If you can't sell to 1 in 1000, why market to a million?

2. Who are you selling to? Who is the audience(s) that fits your product/ service offering - perfectly? Here’s a hint: The answer can’t be “people”. It has be people who _____ [are college professors, drive used Volvos and enjoy Thai food – Trader Joe’s target audience (Thank you Jim Carroll from the
Small Business Development Center)].

3. What’s your message? Or asked another way, what is your target audience(s) interested in? What is your target audience telling you [and have you asked them]? What problem are you solving? What are the words that need to be communicated so that you are addressing their wants, needs, and desires? What is the part of your story that connects with each of your audiences? And to make sure you’ve got all the bases covered, what are you not? What are you not going to do, sell, be, etc?

4. How can the message best be communicated? What tools will get your story and message out to the audience(s) who wants what you have to sell [and you want to reach]? In what format does that message need to be delivered? What are the best vehicles to move your message to each target audience? Where do they go? What do they read? Who are their friends? What’s important to them? What’s not important to them?

5. Where are you going to start? Step 1, step 2? This is your “to do list.” So, step 1 is start answering the questions above. Start today!

Here’s to learning and growing. J

Thursday, September 17, 2009


When I first heard Bono speak at the 2006 Leadership Summit, I was blown away. His intensity, passion, conviction was ... surprising and inspiring. I took notes and put them in my daughters baby book. I want her to incorporate his words as life lessons. And from a rock star. Who'd have thought?

This is what I wrote in 'E's' baby book in August 2006:

"One of the speakers was Bono, the lead singer of the Band U2 and Time Magazine's 2005 Person of the Year. He was a taped interview conducted by Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. I was so impressed by Bono that I took some notes to share with you [E]."
  • Always reserve the right to be ridiculous.
  • He finds Christians difficult - very judgmental and only looking at surface issues.
  • He likes to be in the middle of conflict - he actually said "in the middle of a conflict is a great place to be. It allows duality. I see his point here and agree with the concept - be able to see all sides / perspectives. But, be prepared. Sometimes you have to chose a side.
  • Celebrity is currency.
  • Great ideas have the same power as a great melody.
  • The church is historically behind the curve.
  • Love thy neighbor - who is our neighbor?
  • Stop asking God to bless the things you are doing. Find what God is doing. It's already blessed.
  • It's not a burden, a duty. It's an opportunity, an adventure.

So here it is 2009 and Bono was back at the Leadership Summit to report on what he was seeing in the fight to end extreme poverty. Again, this was a taped interview conducted by Bill Hybels.

  • Only love can leave such a mark.
  • Love thy neighbor" is a command, not advice.
  • Intuition is greater than intellect.
  • There's always resistance on the ongoing journey of equality.
  • If you lead anything do something.
For more information on the fight to end extreme poverty and the One Campaign, go to www.One.org.

Here's to learning and growing. J

Eye Witness to Power

David Gergen was great [I really haven't heard anyone I didn't like - a lot]. His bio reads:

Editor-at-large at U.S. News & World Report and political analyst for CNN and PBS, David Gergen has served as a White House adviser to four presidents; Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. He is also a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Leadership. An active participant in American national life for 30 years, Gergen has a lifetime of experience in observing and participating in high-capacity leadership, which he’s distilled into seven vital elements needed for future leaders. The author of Eyewitness to Power, he firmly believes that by identifying the traits of other leaders (and learning from their mistakes), we can increase our own effectiveness and leadership potential.

  • “A leader's role is to raise people's aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.” David Gergen
  • A teacher of leadership can't make you a leader. They can point you in the/a direction.
  • There's a difference between learning and doing.
  • You have to learn to get better ... reflective practice = you learn in the doing (in the arena) and the reading [of books by other leaders].
  • "Not every reader is a leader, but every leader is a reader." Harry S. Truman
  • Reflection - what worked, what didn't, what will we do differently.
  • "There's confusion between motion and progress." Peter Drucker
  • Look at life/TO DO list in six (6) week increments. Review at the end of the six weeks.

Admirable qualities of former presidents:

  • Nixon: Best strategist .. able to see the way history could unfold.
  • Ford: A decent man.
  • Clinton: Resilient - he'd always get back up.
  • Reagan: Best leader since President Roosevelt. A principled man; a contagious optimist (not pollyannaish). A sense of common sacrifice and a sense of humor.

"Inspect is as important as respect."

Weaknesses of each:

  • Nixon: Demons he couldn't control [author of his own tragedy].
  • Ford: Naive
  • Reagan: Detachment [entrusted too far]. Let others have control of the wheel(s).
  • Clinton: Cracks in his character. No moral compass.

"Learn to keep your flaws in check so as not to hurt others." ... There needs to be alignment between private behavior and public life. ... Martin Luther King was a great moral leader. He never claimed to be a saint.

"Get up every day and try to be better." Nelson Mandela

  • We should be more forgiving and less invasive.
  • Leadership doesn't have to be lonely. Lone leadership is over. The best leaders have a team of leaders. Learn how to partner, collaborate, build things together.
  • If you want to go fast, go alone. But, if you want to go far, go with others.
  • Leadership is persuasion.
Gergen on speeches ...

  • Who the speaker "is" speaks as loudly as what they say. Trust? Authentic? Expert? Clear? Simple?
  • A speech should be 15-20 minutes - max!

Personal habits of leaders matter a lot. Self discipline:

  • Control over your life
  • Physically fit - endurance
  • Daily reflection
  • Daily time with people you cherish. Loving relationships are very important.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." Gandhi

If we only picked three of these gems to incorporate into our daily lives, can you imagine the magnitude of change?

Here's to learning and growing. J

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And the Problem Is ...

I had been looking forward to hearing Tim Keller speak after seeing the Summit's video introduction of him earlier in the summer. And I wasn't disappointed. What a gem. Tim's bio reads:

Called a "C.S. Lewis for the 21st century" by Newsweek, Dr. Timothy Keller is founder and pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Over the past 20 years, the church has grown to three sites, with weekly attendance of 6,000. Named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Churches in America, Keller’s ministry is notable not only for winning over New Yorkers who are skeptical to faith, but also for its missional approach, planting more than 100 churches through the Redeemer Church Planting Center. Author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, he will talk about the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son and discuss the ways many people in our churches tend to resist the gospel.

Please remember, these are my notes, my interpretation of what I heard at the Leadership Summit. For more information on Tim Keller and his teachings, go to http://www.thereasonforgod.com/.

He starts out with a bold statement - "The main problem in church is spiritual deadness/indifference." As a christian I'm thinking "not me." He goes on to explain the parable of the Prodigal Son in a way I'd never heard before.

Keep in mind, the word 'prodigal' means recklessly [wasteful] extravagant. The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) was told to religious leaders of the day. The younger son is a runaway son and viewed by most to be "the" prodigal son. In reality, the older son is the prodigal - just like many of of us in the church.

Both brothers are alienated from the father [like we are from God]. They both have to be invited in. Both brothers love the money and 'things' of the father, not so much the father. Both of the brothers are rejecting the father [God] and acting as their own savior. The younger brother is lost because of his recklessness, but the older brother is lost because of his goodness. He is using the father [God] to get the "things" he wants.

  • The Gospel - I am accepted therefore I obey.
  • Religion - I obey, therefore I am accepted.
The gospel gives us a righteous life - we're in, it's all ours and He loves us. The default mode of our heart is religion. The older brother gets angry with the father [God] because he believes the father [God] owes him. He prays, but has little to no intimacy with God. And the older brother doesn't forgive, he's prideful.

To keep from being the older brother, we have to find a new level of repentance and rejoicing. We have to be sorry for our wrong doing and repent for the reason for our "right-doings." Here's the kicker ... it's our good works that separate us from God.

Tim Keller is going deeper with WCA's (Willow Creek Association) Next Steps series on September 23rd at 1pm EST. Click here and scroll down to Tim Keller for more information and to register. He has so much more to say - and is very interesting to listen to. Check him out on YouTube. I can't wait to read his book(s) and listen to more of his teachings.

Here's to learning and growing! J

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Catching the Future (The Leadership Challenge)

The next speaker was Gary Hamel. His bio alone was exciting ...

Gary Hamel was ranked as the #1 Business Thinker of 2008 by The Wall Street Journal and called "the world's leading expert on business strategy" by Fortune. An author, speaker, professor, and innovative management consultant, he is most widely known for originating concepts such as "strategic intent" and "core competencies." The founder of Strategos, a worldwide strategic consulting company, his vision for the workplace revolves around releasing human potential and creativity. Hamel will address the paradigm shift needed to fully engage the potential of people and explain how tomorrow's most successful companies will be organized. He is the author of Leading the Revolution and The Future of Management.

His presentation was FANTASTIC. It was so good I was mesmerized and missed some of what he was saying in my notes, but I captured enough. Gary spoke to his audience of church leaders, but like most of the Summit, the message applies to any organization.

  • Are you [your organization] changing as fast as the world around you?
  • Are we all walking the talk as Christians?
  • A church [organization] needs to be: ... a nurturing environment for new believers, not just a place for existing christians ... a place to grow ... a place that is relevant.
  • The world is changing so fast. It's becoming more turbulent faster than organizations are becoming more resilient.
  • Conquer denial
  • Face the facts
  • Questions your beliefs [practices].
  • Listen to and learn from the renegades/dissidents/outliers
"The future has already happened, it's just unequally distributed."

"We clutch the current because we can't see alternatives."

  • It takes 1000 ideas to have 100 experiments that turn into 10 projects that become one [1] winner!
  • Ask your people [audiences, teams, etc.] "how to __________."
  • Look at what you do and identify what hasn't changed.
  • Compare your [self, organization, etc.] to others and ask "what is identical?"
  • A leaders job is to mobilize, connect, and support. It's about being part of a community vs. a hierarchy.
  • The facebook generation doesn't want organized religion OR big business. They want "cause".
  • Shoot for being spiritual powerful and institutionally weak. Be vibrant .. resilient .. flexible ..
"We won't get better at changing lives until we get better at changing our churches."

"Humility is a survival mechanism."

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Gary has provided more information and an interactive blog on the Summit's Next Steps section.

Here's to learning and growing. J

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hiring, Firing and Board Meltdowns

The second session of the Leadership Summit (08/06/09) was a different take on hirings, firings and board meltdowns. A three +/- minute drama was done showing a hiring for a key position within the organization, a firing, and board that completely breaks down. Obviously, there were things during each of the dramas that were not the "best" way to approach the depicted scenario. After the drama, a panel of experts - Bill Hybels, Carly Fiorina, Dr. Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni, and Dr. David Ireland - all discussed the good [not much], the bad [a lot], and the ugly of the drama depiction.

In all of this, it's important to understand that the leader's role is to honor people. The people you work with and lead, the people who may come into the organization, the people who will leave the organization. Jack Welch was quoted as saying "the kindest form of management is the truth."

Hiring. Scenes were shown of a person reviewing a resume, talking to someone on the phone about the candidate, and then the face-to-face meeting and subsequent offer. Some of the gems I got out of the session included:

  • Your candidate must fit in with your culture. That means you have to first understand your culture.
  • You must be clear on why you are hiring and what you want to achieve.
  • Hiring out of desperation is a big NO-NO and rarely [if ever] works out!
  • Identify [in advance] 2-3 behavioral traits you most want to see in your candidate.
  • Spend time with the candidate out of the interview environment.
  • Ask the same questions [worded differently] three times.
  • Ask questions about their answers to your questions.

Questions to ask them include:

  • What would other people say about you?
  • What are ways that are challenging in dealing with you?

In a best case scenario, your organization would have such a strong [and defineable] culture, people could self select themselves into the organization - or out of it.

Firing. The video showed the steps that led up to a person being fired, obviously badly. The gems were:

  • A firing should NEVER be a surprise. Don't let the firing/layoff be the first conversation.
  • Regular feedback is imperative.
  • Very few people like to have [or be on the receiving end of] hard conversations. Have a process in place for having dialog along the way.
  • Retrain first or re-position. Look for a different fit.
  • Clarity and care is key for down sizing.

Board Meltdown. A board meltdown can be avoided during the board creation process. Creating a board of directors [fyi 15-20 board members is unmanageable] should be a strategic and planned endeavor.

  • Board members must have influence, affluence and skill sets that are needed by the board and the organization.
  • Board members must have limited terms.
  • Time and energy should be put into defining what is needed and the ideal mix of styles, talents, etc. for a board.
  • A board is a team and as such should figure out how to work together as a team.
  • They must trust each other, be vulnerable and open to each other.
  • As a board, they must have a culture, a philosophy, and direction on how to behave.

Here's to learning and growing. J

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Second Day - continued

The third thing Bill Hybels and his team are learning from these tough economic times is Relationally.

Habakkuk 3:2 says "... I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; ..." We read and hear about the amazing things God has done in the past. But, what about now? What about in our time? According to Bill, God's great work comes through his people who are fully devoted to Him. Questions to ask include:

  • Are we attracting fully devoted people?
  • Are we growing them?
  • Are we feeding [training] and mentoring them?

What if you are not a church? What if you are a business organization? Are your people devoted to the work your organization does? Are you growing them? Feeding [training] them? Mentoring them? Here's an exercise for you and your team:

  • How many key seats are there in the organization?
  • What percentage of those key seats are filled with the right [devoted] people?
  • What is our plan to get and/or grow the right people?
  • Are we developing backup people for each key seat?
Personal. Romans 8:6 says "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." Many of us are at our best when we are rested, surrounded by talented and motivated people and doing work we love. We are at peace. But, what happens when that's not the case - when we're not at peace? As a leader, it is imperative to know yourself and monitor your "tank". Drops in your reserves require self leadership. Yes, that's right you have to lead yourself. Be diligent about figuring out what fills your bucket and do what it takes. And here's a thought - maybe you need to spend more time with God.

If you are interested in learning more about Bill Hybels or his presentation on 'Leading in a New Reality', check out
Summit Next Steps [catchy title] and scroll down to 'Speaker Links and More.'

Here's to learning and growing! J

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Second Day ...

Though the title is slightly misleading, the first day of the WCA Leadership Summit (08/06/09) was nothing short of amazing! Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church kicked the summit off with Leading in a New Reality. Romans 12:6 says "We have different gifts ..." Romans 12:8 "... if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; ..." The very toughest economic times, like a rogue wave [like we are in now], forces all of us to investigate and use new ways, new creativity, new leadership. God has given all of us the gifts we have "for such a time as this." Bill went on to describe four things that he and his team are learning.

Philisophical. Be the church, no matter what. Love one another, help one another. If you are hurting/struggling, seek help. If you are not hurting or have opportunities to reach out, step it up - step up your serving, sowing, etc. For everyone, use these times to stretch intellectually.

Kingdom Economics. Cash is king [really, Christ is King, but you get the idea]. You must have healthy cash reserves [which buys time]. Saving is key. Have six months in reserve. For many of us, nothing new here. But, while you're saving, pay attention to the costs.

Part of remaining relevant in challenging economic times is to stay laser focused on what it is you are "tasked" with doing. One way to do this [with your team as a group exercise] is to group activities, tasks, expenditures, etc. into three categories: A - you will NEVER stop doing; B - if revenues drop 50%, it has to go; and C - if revenues drop 75%, it has to go. Do this exercise periodically to make sure you stay on track.

For those who utilize volunteers in getting things done, here's another exercise. Break your expenditures down into five categories: Staff/benefits, donations (give it away), ministry budgets, overhead/facilities, and "whims" of the spirit - those things you just get a sense about. Most of us don't have a "whims" of the spirit budget. You may not even have a "give it away" budget. What this will force you to do is look for opportunities to identify, equip, and mobilize volunteers in your organization.

But 'what if' your organization [business] doesn't have the option of volunteers? How could you incorporate these two ideas into your organization. Staying laser focused is a skill we all can use and improve on. What about trimming the budget and creating room for donations and/or "whims" of the spirit. What would that look like for your organization? Just some thoughts.

Stay tuned for the final two take aways for Leading in a New Reality.

Here's to learning and growing. J

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

For the past six years, I've attended the Willow Creek Association (WCA) Leadership Summit. This is two days (formerly 2 1/2 days) that I get to sit and hear some of the greatest minds in church, business, NGO, politics, etc. talk about and educate on leadership. These two days feed my soul and the very fiber of my being. But, there's a problem. I'm always at a loss for what to "do" with all this information (fyi, I'm a doer struggling to be a human being). Of course I incorporate some of what I learn into my personal and professional life, I share my notes with friends and those who are interested, but I've never "strategically" utilized the information - until now.

Compiled in the posts that will follow are my notes, available information, insights, questions, etc. My hope is that in doing this, I'll become a better professional and a better person. My prayer is that you will find this information helpful and that we can share ideas and thoughts as we live this thing called life - together.

Here's to learning and growing! J