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December 2014

No Regrets

Dec 14, 2014 9:49 AM
Bruce Hunter

As the year comes to a close, it’s an opportune time for reflection and planning for the year ahead.  What better time to take stock and get revved up for change than over the holiday period while spending time with family and friends? 

Although the title of this piece speaks to business regrets, I’d like to spend just a little time first on the personal as they are inexorably intertwined with leadership.

It’s been a tough year.  I’ve lost two very good, long-time friends to terminal disease and two others taken far too early.  In reflecting about these events, I happened across a book and several blogs referring to a book, “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” by palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware.  The book, which has been widely quoted and summarized, highlights her discussions with those entering the final phase of life.  Where better to draw inspiration than from those who go before? Here are the top 5 Regrets.  

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3.  I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4.  I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.

5.   I wish I’d let myself be happier.

This list caused me to reflect on the literally hundreds of discussions I’ve had over the past years with business leaders of every size, shape and color.  I’ve distilled those conversations into my own list of Top 5 Regrets of Business Leadership.  I offer them now for your consideration and action.

I wish I’d listened more and done less.

I wish I’d understood that it’s all about having great people.

I wish I’d lived my business life with the philosophy that family comes first.

I wish I’d had more focus.

I wish I’d been more fearless.

Homework Challenge:

Take some quiet time over the holidays with this list and create a “Top Three” for yourself over the next year.  Identify a specific action you will take to address each item your list.  Keep the list handy and yourself honest by referring to it throughout the year, tracking progress.  You’ll be amazed what great things happen as a result!

Happy New Year!

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November 2014


Happily Ever After. Building a transferable business

Nov 13, 2014 1:51 PM
Bruce Hunter

“Ronald, your hair is all nice.
Your clothes are all pretty.
You look like a nice guy, but you know…
You are a BUM!”
 
And they didn’t get married after all!
 
Closing lines from “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch.
 
 I’m willing to bet that it is because of that ending that Robert Munsch has sold over 3 million copies of this short children’s story around the world.  Of course Ronald, the prince was a prime jerk and we revel in the strength of the Princess to put him in his place.  Ronald got what he deserved.

It’s a stretch to link Munsch’s fairy tale ending with that of unrequited unions on the business front, but I’m going to attempt it regardless.  Too often, I see prospective buyers and sellers meet to discuss a potential sale with hopes dashed on both sides as they realize that the marriage won’t work. As with Robert Munsch’s story, the union wasn’t meant to be in the first place.  Too often, the fault is that of the seller, not the suitor for three reasons:

1.  An unrealistic expectation of business value.
2.  Unpreparedness for the scrutiny and the lengthy process a sale entails.
3.  An inability to build a business that can function without their direct day to day input.
   
 It takes hard work and often years to build a business that will yield the type of return that the business owner has dreamed as the “happily ever-after” event.  For those that are willing to spend the time and effort, the end will justify the means in the form of cleaner and more valuable exit.  For those that don’t, it means either dissolution when the owner exits or an inability to capture the inherent value in the business.

The impetus for this newsletter was a piece written in the Tuesday, May 13, 2014 edition of The Toronto Star by Romina Maurino.  The headline proclaimed, “Most start-ups hope to be acquired within three years.  Canadian Entrepreneurs eager to sell, but show startling lack of preparedness, PWC survey shows.” While the article focused on start-ups, this situation extends to most privately owned businesses and the expectations of the owners.

Few business owners have spent the time and effort required to build their businesses into entities that are transferable.  And if you doubt it, just ask the folks at PWC or any other seasoned M&A advisor.  To maximize the performance and transferability of any business, the owner must create an infrastructure and hire the people to allow the business to prosper without their day-to-day input.  To do so, requires diligence, focus and often a very disquieting role change for the business owner.  To grow, they have to let go.

In order to provide some help in this area, I’ve created a comprehensive FREE questionnaire and scoring key that provides business leaders with a roadmap for improving the transferability and value of their existing business.  Please feel free to reach out for a soft copy.  I can be reached at bhunter@lighthouse360.com.

Alternatively, this questionnaire and many other tools are available in my new book, “The Success Cage.  You’ve built a business that owns you.  Now What?”  The book can be accessed through my website at http://www.lighthouse360.com or through Amazon in hardcover, softcover or e-book. 
 

 


 

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October 2014


First things First

Oct 12, 2014 8:18 AM
Bruce Hunter

I read a story about a business professor taking his students through the concept of time management the other day and it hit home.  Addressing his class, he picked up a large empty jar and proceeded to fill the jar with large rocks.  Looking at the class he asked, “How many of you believe that this jar is full?”  Of course, the majority of the class agreed that he couldn’t fit any more rocks into the jar and therefore concluded it was full.  The professor then added some gravel to the jar, shaking the gravel so it filled up the spaces left by the larger rocks.  He repeated his question.  By this time of course, the students were on to him and concluded that the jar was unlikely full.  He further demonstrated the point by then adding first sand and then water to complete the demonstration.

“So what was the point of this exercise?” asked the professor.  One student raised his hand and answered, “No matter how much we think we can handle, we can always deal with more.”  “A possible lesson but not the one I was trying to make” concluded the professor.  “Here is the point I was trying to make.  If one were to reverse the exercise, you would never be able to fit the same number of larger rocks into the jar.  The point?  Deal with your larger challenges and opportunities first.” 

Answer the question. What are your 'big rocks'?" Then, put those in your jar first.

Covey said it in his seminal book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.  He called it Quadrant 2 versus Quadrant 1 thinking.  Quadrant 2 contains less urgent but important actions.  Quadrant 1: Urgent and Less important.  Our predisposition is to focus on the latter, which of course crowds our ability to get to the really important work.

Here is a simple question I use with my clients to great effect.

“What’s the ONE THING you need to do that would remove the biggest barrier to your growth or access your greatest opportunity?”  Answering this question very often removes the paralysis of indecision and helps deal with the ambiguity of too many options.  It provides focus and impetus. It’s taking the parable of many rocks and focusing on the biggest.

What’s your biggest rock?  Are you dealing with it?

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August 2014


Build Accountability!

Aug 7, 2014 11:29 AM
Bruce Hunter

For three years I had the good fortune to coach one of the most impressive leaders I think I’ll ever meet.  He was young, just up from the United States to take on the leadership of the Canadian arm of a global services firm.  Sure, he was massively intelligent, brilliantly strategic, good with people and focused.  But what made him stand out…way out from the rest of the people I’ve mentored was his dedication to self-improvement.  He was both fanatic and sponge.  He reiterated at every meeting we had (which was monthly) that his goal was to become the best leader the organization had ever had.   Together we created a plan and series of actions to build toward that goal and reviewed it monthly, setting course corrections as we went.  By the time he returned home, he left the legacy of a vastly improved organization and made great progress toward his never-ending goal of building his leadership capabilities.  He made my job easy by taking personal responsibility for his own development.  He pushed me as hard as he pushed himself.   There was always something else to learn, some way of improving.  By focusing on himself, he inspired others, including me.  Now, when people ask me how to create accountability within an organization I answer that it starts with the person in the mirror.

Every day you are leading by example.  Good or bad.”

  Here are my 5 Steps to creating an accountable culture and organization:

1.  Establish a clear goal.   It’s not your job as a leader to provide all the steps necessary to achieve that goal.  That will be up to those who are closest to the business.  It is your responsibility however to provide direction, clarity and transparency about what you are setting out to achieve.  Set it and get out of the way.

2.  Ensure that there is individual and team commitment to that goal.  One of the biggest mistakes I see made by leaders is to assume that because they’ve communicated a destination or goal that it is accepted.  The most important part of building accountability into the culture is achieving the buy-in of the organization.  You must connect, by-person, with hearts, not just heads.  People commit most strongly with emotion.  Your job is to inspire.

3.   Establish clear roles and responsibilities.    Employees need to understand what role they uniquely play and what they are responsible for.  Lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities is usually where the system and performance starts to fall apart.  Time and effort spent here is key to creating traction on performance and an accountable culture.

4.  Build a system to regularly measure, communicate progress and course correct.  Covey said, “To get what you expect, you must inspect” or “What gets measured, gets done”.  I’ve seen too many great plans fall into disrepair not through incompetence but through neglect.  A great start is often de-railed by lack of follow-through.  Something as simple as regular monthly meetings to review progress is a good start.

5.  Create the freedom to navigate priorities.  The U.S. military moved away from a very strict protocol of “following orders” toward outlining executive intent.  This allowed soldiers to react to circumstances unforeseen in plans while remaining on-course to the final objectives.  No plan survives unscathed when it meets with the reality of the market.  By providing your employees with direction not dictums you will improve both accountability and execution.

This note started with a description of one of the most impressive leaders I’ve had the fortune to have worked with.  He created a highly performing and accountable organization by starting with the most important person.  Himself.  And that is where you and I must start as well.

 

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June 2014


The Incumbent's Curse

Jun 19, 2014 7:56 AM
Bruce Hunter

 

The popular show Dragon’s Den on CBC and now Shark Tank in the U.S. profile entrepreneurs eager to share the details of their fledgling businesses to prospective investors.  One by one, they are ushered into the presence of the panel with most leaving empty-handed and chastened by the experience.  As the audience, we have a wonderful opportunity to play Dragon in the comfort of our homes.  We sit confidently, like Caesars, ready to proclaim with a quick flick of the wrist, either a thumbs up or down to the presenting Entrepreneur.  In our home at least, most never see the light of day.

So what did these budding entrepreneurs miss?

Of course it could be a multitude of things. However one thing in particular stands out in my mind.  They have become too close to their idea to be able to apply the judgement that someone with a clear, outside-in perspective sees in an instant.  The idea sucks!

The term “The Incumbent’s Curse” was coined by Chardy and Tellis, two business researchers who used it in somewhat of a different sense.  They describe it as an individual or company who is so enamoured by success or hampered by bureaucracy that they fail to introduce the next impetus for growth.  Hello RIM, IBM before Microsoft or a myriad of other examples.  While many of the business train wrecks we see may be born of hubris or bureaucracy, my experience would say that the root of most who fail is something different.  It is the inability to see their businesses from the outside-in.  To see with fresh eyes. 

We’re all guilty of incumbent’s curse.

 Long after I had left my previous position at a Fortune 500 company, I happened to bump into a long time supplier of marketing services to that company.  Given that we were connected solely through that previous relationship, the talk eventually got around to the “Old Days”.  I reminisced about my previous employer and spoke glowingly about the fact that we, unlike others our size, had treated our suppliers relatively well.

My former supplier looked me dead in the eye and said, “And on just what planet were you located?  You guys were just as bad as the rest.  I can think about several circumstances that we were asked for proposals, and the ideas in them were used but the job was awarded to others.  In other circumstances we weren’t paid for work performed.  You weren’t the worst, but you were certainly no paragons of virtue.”

I was stunned.  And chastened.  My view of both myself and my former employer was instantaneously blemished.  I don’t remember exactly what I said in that moment but I’m sure that I put my tail between my legs and left… head low.

Here are few thoughts on how to avoid the Incumbent’s Curse.

1.  Get additional perspective.  Enlist those without specific knowledge of the subject at hand and get some perspective.  This approach has long been the central benefit of advisory groups – peer or otherwise.  One such group I was previously associated with was Vistage (The Executive Committee in Canada).  They had a terrific saying which spoke to the benefit of outside perspective when approaching a business challenge brought by a member to the group.  “Sixteen members. No blind spots”.  It works.

2.  Start with the destination.  One of the strategic planning companies I work with makes a specific point to avoid planning from today to tomorrow.  They insist on starting with a very specific view of the future desired state, purposely avoiding the question of how to get there.  Their reasoning is to avoid the natural tendency we all have in dismissing ideas we believe are not doable.  Planning from the future to the present allows many more ideas to remain alive…which in turn improves the output.

3.  Take a walk in the woods.  Make a point to pull yourself (and/or your team) physically and mentally out of the situation.  There is a reason most planning sessions are done outside the work place.  It may seem a little contrived but immersing yourself in a different situation or experience really does provide the basis for thinking differently.

4.  Trade challenges.   Prepare a brief summary of the issue or challenge you are working with and share it with someone you respect.  Have them share one for you to approach in return.  The process will open a few doors for both of you.

5.   Use a “box” process.  This is a very specific tool used in group settings to encourage the exploration of different solutions.  Start with outlining your challenge to two people.  After concluding your explanation of the challenge and the background, physically turn your chair so your back is toward the others.  Without speaking, it is your job to listen to the others discusses your challenge.  You’ll be amazed first, at how difficult it is to keep quiet and secondly, how much information is provided in a very short period of time.

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May 2014


Leader's Lead!

May 7, 2014 8:00 AM
Bruce Hunter

Lessons on leadership fill the many business blogs, libraries and scholarly institutions for good reason..To be a truly great leader requires the adaptability of a chameleon.  What is effective in one circumstance may be disastrous in another. This month I encountered a particularly sensitive challenge which brought back an important lesson from my distant past and initiated some reflection on the characteristics of truly great leaders.  For some thought candy on the subject of leadership, read on!

"Leaders Lead!"

Perhaps the most memorable lesson in leadership I've had to this point in my working life came through a conversation I had with a former VP of Human Resources.  I'd just taken on a new role with significant responsibility and entry into the life of one of the executive team members at a large public company.  I was dealing with a particularly sensitive business issue and thought I'd reach out to someone who had been on the executive to get their perspective and insight.  I also wanted to understand the lay of the land relative to my new boss.  .
 
I entered her office and sat down in the chair across from her desk.  After I had given her the background on the issue she turned and asked, "What would you like from me?"  which frankly caught me a little off-guard. I had come for her counsel and advice which I thought was patently obvious. Here's where the lesson commenced.  
 
After I explained my reasons for seeking her out and asking for her thoughts on the issue and my approach to it, she replied with two words. "Leaders lead."  Whoa!  Didn't see that one coming!  In my mind, I was taking an approach that was inclusive and respectful of the experience that existed on the team.  I was also trying to suss out some of the landmines that might be in play with my new boss.   What I got was, in my view, a rebuke!  I thanked her for her thought and slunk, chastened from her office. 
 
After licking my wounds back in my office I reflected on the tough love.  What she did was very succinctly lay it on the line.  The message?  "You're not in Kansas anymore Bruce.  You're now playing on a different field and people expect you to lead.  Sure, reach out for thoughts, but in the end, you're the one who'll need to make the tough call."  To this day, every time I get in a situation that is particularly difficult, I remember those words and it helps immensely in breaking the mental log jam. 
 
With that story as precursor, I thought I'd share some additional thoughts on leadership, borrowed from a Forbes article on great Leadership quotes.  For your consideration, I've picked a few I've found of particular value.

 

 


Leadership Quotes for the Ages


"A leader is best when people barely know they exist.  When the work is done, they will say, We did it ourselves." - Lao Tzu.
 
"Where there is no vision, the people perish."  - Proverbs 29:18.
 
"A leader is a dealer in hope."  Napoleon Bonaparte.
 
"The function of leadership is to produce more leaders,
 not more followers." - Ralph Nader.
 
"A great leader attracts great people and knows how to hold them together." - Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe.
 
"When I give a minister an order, I leave it to him to find the means to carry it out." Napoleon.
 
"No person will make a great leader who wants to do it all themselves, or to get all the credit for doing it." - Andrew Carnegie.
 
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you will be criticized anyway." - Eleanor Roosevelt.
 
"Effective leadership is putting first things first.  Effective management is discipline, carry it out." - Stephen Covey.
 
"Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everyone can understand." - Colin Powell.
 
"What you do has far more impact than what you say."  Stephen Covey.  (Bruce's version:  "Show it.  Don't say it."
 
"My responsibility is getting all my players to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back." -  Unknown coach.
 
"You don't lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership." Dwight Eisenhower.
 
Each of us, regardless of title, has the opportunity to influence and lead in some capacity.  As you think about those instances, from parenting to business to little league sports I hope that the foregoing will provide value in that most important role.

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April 2014


Monarch or Money? A business owner can't have both.

Apr 30, 2014 8:00 AM
Bruce Hunter

I got a frantic call just the other day from an entrepreneur that had built a new internet start-up from nothing to something.  He’d just been given an ultimatum from the VC’s that had been brought into the firm.  Relinquish the CEO position in favor of one of their picks (and accept another position) or exit the firm.  His question to me?  “Should he fight it?”The answer of course was that there was really no fight to be had.  He’d already set the wheels in motion when he accepted the resources of the VC in the first place.  The only thing he had to decide was whether he should stay with the firm or pursue something else.  And that was totally up to him.

What happened here has been a long-time focus for Noam Wasserman of Harvard University starting with a paper entitled “Rich versus King” which was first published in August of 2006 and his most recent work, “The Founder Resource-Dependence Challenge” March 2014.  It has also been a key focus in my consulting practice with small and medium sized companies for the last few years and a fundamental take-away from my book, “The Success Cage” launched October of last year.  It’s this.  Any business owner has a fundamental question to answer for themselves and their businesses:

Do you want to maximize your wealth or control of your business?  You can’t have both.

The issue can be gut-wrenching for any business owner.  The vast majority have built their businesses from scratch into good companies which provide a decent income for the owner and those associated with the business.   To grow beyond the owner/operator-managed company requires different skills and resources than those which brought it success to this point.  Two popular sayings come to mind…

“What got you here won’t get you there.”

 “To grow you’ve got to let go.”

The brilliance of Wasserman’s work, is that he’s put some hard numbers to support these common refrains.  The first work referenced above studied 457 private ventures in technology.  Lack of industry sample diversity aside, it came to one major conclusion: 

 The more decision-making control kept by the business owner, the lower the value of the owner’s stake.

His second, more recent study drew from a much larger sample.  He used a dataset of 6,130 American start-ups and concluded that retaining full control diminished the organization’s value by an average of up to 58%.  Within the article, he also reprised some important associated observations from others studying the subject.

“After the starting difficulties have been overcome, the most likely causes of business failure are the problems encountered in the transition from a one-person, entrepreneurial style of management to a functionally organized, professional management team.”  (Hofer & Charan 1984, pg. 2)

In order to grow, the needs of the organization move from the specific knowledge needed to build a product or service offering, (in my parlance “high technical” skills) to the more generalized knowledge and processes of managing a more complex firm (“high leadership”).  The key steps along the organizational journey pose a continuous trade-off between attracting the resources (capital & people) required to grow and build company value & being able to control decision-making.

The key question for the business owner?

In the end it comes to this.  What drives you?  Is it the need for maximizing wealth or the need for control?  The two do not go hand in hand.  And without going into a lot more detail…my experience is that most side with the latter.  It’s head versus heart and usually the heart wins.

 

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Why Change Initiatives Fail

Apr 9, 2014 8:00 AM
Bruce Hunter

Much of the work that I do centers on organizational and individual leadership change and the plans and actions that support it.  Change is tough! There's a reason so much has been written on the subject.  This month I'm expanding on a piece I previously put out on the subject.   For a quick reminder and thought stimulus, read on!

    Why Change Initiatives Fail.

I was poking around the files on my hard drive the other day and re-discovered a gem on change and change management.  On re-reading the content, I thought it would provide value to reproduce it for your reading pleasure.  So here it is...

Why Change Initiatives Fail:

1.  No clear picture of the future.   The old adage holds true.  If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.
 
2.   No alignment.  Covey said, "Those who help to create, support." Too many initiatives are dreamed up in boardrooms and foisted on an unsuspecting employee base, none of which have had the advantage of the lengthy discussions held to get to the proposed direction.  A strong change initiative builds in a process to get the buy-in and understanding of the team who will be charged to execute.  Too often this process is fast-forwarded or worse, neglected, with the predictable result being flawed execution.  You've got to go slow to go fast.
 
3.   No sense of urgency.  There's a great quote I heard recently that brings this learning home.  When asked how he went bankrupt, a business owner replied, "Slowly, then suddenly!"  In order to overcome inertia, there has to be a burning platform.  If there isn't, there won't be the impetus to move or stay the course once set.
 
4.   Change is not an integral part of the business.  The change initiative must be woven into the day to day.  It must become part of the way the business is executed to be both visible and effective. 
 
5.   Lack of visible short term wins.  Too many initiatives are flawed because people are swinging for the fences.  Ram Charan, a noted author and expert on change management put it well when he talked about the need for playing organizational small ball, a term often used in baseball.  Bunts and singles win more games.  The employees have to feel and see the positive effect of change.  Smaller, more frequent wins are critical to establishing positive momentum and the belief that change will happen.
 
6.   The change initiative is not driven or supported consistently from the top.  Enough said.
 
7.   It's not measured.  Again, a quick quote from Covey.  "What gets measured, gets done."

The Questions to Answer when building your change initiative:

  • Who is our core customer?  Do we know them and their needs better than anyone else?
  • What do they see as our differentiated value proposition?
  • What capabilities are core to deliver our proposition?
  • What are the 1 - 3 wildly important things we need to achieve?
  • What are the internal metrics we must improve?
  • How effective are we in hiring, promoting and developing our people to deliver our proposition?

Lastly, ask yourself:

  • Does everyone have a clear understanding of what the end result looks like?
  • Does everyone understand what actions they have to take to achieve their piece of the end result?
  • Does everyone understand what they are accountable for?
  • Does everyone understand what we are measuring to create ongoing progress?

 
I hope you found the foregoing to be of value as you reflect on your plans for the coming year.  I know it caused me to step back and think about what I needed to tune up.

 

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March 2014


Dealing with the Narcissus Syndrome

Mar 5, 2014 1:53 PM
Bruce Hunter

They are infuriating, obstinate and self-absorbed.  How do you deal with someone who obviously thinks they are the smartest people in the room…especially if they hold a power position!

First, the Syndrome.

According to Greek myth, Narcissus was the most handsome of men, the son (many said) of a god.  Most who gazed upon him fell head over heels in love.  Narcissus knew of his beauty and rejected all of the nymphs trying to court his favour.  One day, a frustrated maiden prayed that he might know what it was to love and not have his affections returned.  The goddess Artemis, who had been very fond of another scorned maiden, saw her chance and cursed Narcissus.

While drinking from a crystal clear pool, he caught sight of his reflection and became entranced with himself.  He remained at the edge of the water, transfixed by his own beauty.  Seasons passed and eventually Narcissus died there, a victim of his belief in his own beauty.

We’ve all met a few folks (or companies) who suffer from the Narcissus Syndrome! 

A while back, I came upon a nice summary of Narcissus symptoms (actually he was speaking about lawyers but it’s still applicable) by Juriscape CEO Harrsion Barnes.

They are generally preoccupied with fantasies of limitless brilliance, power and success.

They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance that is far from their actual level of achievement.

They lack empathy and are unwilling or unable to identify with the needs or feelings of others.

They are envious of those around them with strength they don’t have, and they believe that others are envious of them.

They require constant admiration and approval.

The worst part about the foregoing attributes is that those exhibiting these types of behaviours are blind to their impact on others and surprised when it catches up with them as it most often does. Over time they find themselves alone.  Does “Research in Motion” ring a bell?

The Narcissus Syndrome affects large and small company alike.  Entrepreneurial ventures are particularly susceptible because they rely so heavily on the perceptions of the owner/founder.  That individual wields two big sticks:  the experience acquired while building the company and the ability effectively squash dissenting opinion.  Too often, the company’s actions are directed toward the preconceived notions of the founder with disastrous results. 

“It is the nature of these people and organizations to deny the reality of the other’s (the advisor or external environment) world, wrote the University of Virginia’s Richard Ruth.  “There is an active move to try and destroy the facts supporting an alternate view in service of a soothing return to a narcissistic self-sufficiency.”  And therein lies danger!

Here are some thoughts on how to deal with the Narcissus Syndrome.

1. Stick with facts preferably generated by a trusted third party.. Whether speaking to new information about the corporate environment or an individual, outside –in information is the most powerful.  The objectivity offered by a trusted 3rd party will also increase believability.

2.  Be appropriately direct. Sometimes tact works.  Sometimes, you’ve got to use a two-by-four to get attention.  The more firmly entrenched the belief, the more difficult it will be to dis-lodge.

3.  Don’t go it alone.  There is power in “we”.  I often counsel leadership teams to step up as a group rather than try to tackle a leader one on one.  While this approach in the negative, could be viewed as a mutiny, it is more likely to cause reflection on the part of the leader.  And, of course it also is a smart self-preservation approach.  It’s a lot easier to shoot the messenger if it’s only one person.

4.   Take the Narcissist out of their comfort zone.

Subject experts are a great way to introduce new ideas or infuse knowledge into the mix and start the wheels of change moving.  The use of case studies which illuminate similar challenges has the advantage of being both authoritative and non-confrontational.

   5.   Use an individual with a close personal relationship or an outside trusted source to deliver the information. Using someone who has no skin in the game from a personal standpoint and who holds a position of respect or trust can often be very effective. 

The last thought on the subject.  Each one of us has probably succumbed to the Narcissus Syndrome at some point.  The antidote?  Listen!!!

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February 2014


Is Your Future Bigger Than Your Past?

Feb 12, 2014 7:23 AM
Bruce Hunter

“Yeah just sitting back trying to recapture

A little of the glory of, well time slipping away

And leaves you with nothing mister but

Boring stories of glory days.”

 

Bruce Springstein.

 

 

A significant birthday hit me in the face last month.  As I sat and pondered the shortening runway before me, I was reminded of the question in the title of this piece posed to me by a fellow business acquaintance and friend not long ago.  It’s a great question with application both personal and professional.  And it serves as a great kick in the ass every time I become complacent on either side.

One of the most unforgettable characters I’ve met in my life was a chance encounter with a guy named Norm whom I bumped into one day while walking my dog.  Norm was 90 years of age and was also out for his daily constitutional.  We struck up a conversation and ended up sitting on a park bench as we exchanged some details of our lives.  What impressed me most through our conversation was his vitality.  The stories he told of his past were enthralling.  He’d built a number of businesses, worked tirelessly as an educator and travelled the world.  But that wasn’t the most impressive thing.  What stopped me in my tracks were his plans for the weekend.  He was going skydiving for the first time!  At 90!  Now, every time I start to feel complacent I think of how Norm handled his daily activity and life.

On the business side of the equation, my most unforgettable character is Google.

Having built the world’s leading search engine and company might have been enough for most.  For Google it wasn’t. Just look at some of the initiatives that have been spawned over the past few years and then look at some of the initiatives they are considering for the future.

Out of Google search through organic and M&A has come:  Google Earth, Youtube, Doubleclick, Google Energy, Google translate, Google News Service, Android, Chrome, Google Goggles, Google Wallet and most recently the launch of Calico on Sept. 19 2013.  This company has been formed to deal with the challenges of aging and associated diseases.  It’s an impressive and non-exhaustive list.

Looking forward, the key trends and ideas they are looking at are:  Home automation (connecting everything from small appliances to large); Robotics; Driverless Cars; Elevators to Space; Clean Energy; New Drugs; Climate Change Insurance; Smart Thermostats; Cancer Treatments and lastly initiatives in Predicting the Future.

Not only is this list mind-blowingly impressive, who wouldn’t want to be associated with or become part of a company that exciting!  And the prospects for continued growth are equally impressive. 

I conclude with two questions for you both personally and professionally.

1.  Is your future bigger than your past?

2.  If it isn’t, what are you going to do to make it bigger?

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