The Business Leader’s Skillsets

It’s a tall order, but to provide successful business leadership you need to ensure that three skillsets exist in your organization and are applied effectively:

Execution Skillset: understanding the marketplace, establishing objectives and a plan, and implementing the details of that plan. Ultimately, it has to be decided who will do what when and why that should happen. Then it has to be decided how those activities will be carried out. And then they have to actually be accomplished.

Innovation Skillset: leveraging conversations, observations, and hands-on experience to understand what your customers want to achieve, whether they can state it or not, and create appropriate value to help them do so.

Branding Skillset: clarifying the value you want to be known for delivering to specific customers and then maintaining discipline throughout the organization to continually create that value and let other people know it is available.

As the business leader, you need to make sure these three areas are covered, otherwise you won’t be able to sustain success over the long term.

80% of Success is Execution

To paraphrase Woody Allen, 80% of success is execution. The vast majority of the success in your organization is going to be determined by how well people execute on a day-to-day basis. Innovation and branding are important to sustaining success, but you have to have success to start with and that is built on effective execution.

Execution has two parts. First, answer this question, “Who is going to do what when and why are they going to do it?” In essence, that question is directly related to the strategy that has been established for your organization. Second, actually go and do it.

Sometimes the problem is that the strategy is wrong and people are going down a path that doesn’t matter to customers. However, there are many instances where the strategy was good, but it got botched in the doing it part.

As you move forward in actually implementing the answer to that question, make sure you maintain real teamwork. Real teamwork is a group of individuals supporting one toward achieving meaningful objectives. If people are working against each other and/or have no idea what objectives they are trying to impact, they are unlikely to fulfill their tasks effectively. Teamwork is a business driver. It is essential for strategic insights to become useful realities.

As a business leader, focus on improving the teamwork in your organization: clarify roles and responsibilities, hold people accountable for behaviors that strengthen teamwork and for the ones that don’t, and reinforce the importance of teamwork on an on-going basis.

Take Responsibility for Yourself

By far the most important person for you to focus on improving in your organization is you.

Imagine a house on a foundation that has a variety of cracks in it. No matter how great the house is it will not survive over the long term if those cracks are not sealed well. You are the foundation upon which a lot of the future success of your business resides. No matter how great the current results are your organization will not succeed over the long term unless you seal the cracks within your own foundation.

If you take that attitude seriously, you will see the importance of focusing on yourself and taking responsibiility to improve yourself. Here are three buckets I would like for you to think about: your physical health, your internal attitudes and thoughts, and your interactions with other people.

For each of these three areas, what do you need to sacrifice and not do anymore, and what do you need to discipline yourself to either keep doing or to start doing?

After you write down your answers for all three areas, carry that sheet with you wherever you go and read it over daily. As you let go of the stuff that widens the cracks in your foundation and you keep the stuff, or start using the stuff, that strengthens your foundation, you will steadily build a base that you can create an even greater business upon.

It literally starts with you.

See the Downside of Micromanaging, Focus on the Upside of Not Micromanaging

Take out a sheet of paper.

Write down all the problems you create by micromanaging other people. (Just to help you get started, I’ll throw in a couple: you sap the energy and excitement out of your best employees, and you create an environment where weak employees simply wait to be told what to do and never learn to think for themselves.)

Then write down all the benefits of not micromanaging other people. (For starters, you don’t have to do all the thinking in your organization, and those other people might very well come up with better ideas than you have.)

Micromanaging is absolutely counter-productive to being an effective business leader. When you micromanage other people, they will doubt that you trust them. And then there’s another couple dozen problems associated with it.

Lead, don’t micromanage.


The Calm Observer is a Vastly Underrated Leadership Approach

What happens when you are in an intense business meeting with twelve other people and you stay calm?

1. You notice what makes other people tick. You gain a greater understanding of their personalities, their hot buttons, and what turns them off.

2. You get to see what people are good at and what they are not good at. You can use that information later when you are assembling project teams or assigning roles and responsibilities. Even if you’re not the final decision-maker, you’ll have a much better idea of who to try to recruit or recommend for certain tasks.

3. You gain a much greater understanding of what the real issues are and the underlying causes of those issues. You can stay rational while others become emotional.

4. When you do eventually step in to the discussion, the odds are much greater that people will listen to what you have to say. You will be seen as providing a calm perspective rather than a hot-headed approach.

The media makes a big deal about dynamic retorts and explosive comments. However, it’s the calm observer who has the better chance of affecting long-term, meaningful change.

Our Finest Hour

During the Olympic broadcasts, Tom Brokaw gave a tremendous one-hour special program called, Their Finest Hour. It was about the people in England from June1940 – December 1941 when they withstood a nearly non-stop series of attacks from Hitler’s Nazi air force. I thought I knew about WWII, but until I watched that show I didn’t realize how intense those days were for the English.

Today’s world-wide business situation is obviously not comparable to that period in terms of the horrific conditions or the pure courage necessary to survive. However, I do believe business leaders around the world need to have their finest hour during this period of prolonged economic stagnation. Keep believing in the value of capitalism and free markets and meritocracy. Don’t give in to the temptation of giving up as you see government spending and debt rising year after year.

During WWII people all over the world fought for their freedom and many gave their lives because they believed in freedom. In our generation, we need to perform every day as though all of our freedom depends on our ability to create value, put it into an open market, and compete in a global economy. Is it a perfect system? Of course not. But it’s the best one we’ve got and we need to perform with as high a degree of precision and innovation and execution and teamwork as we can muster.

As Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, never give up!”


Why Bullies Disgust Me

Bullies disgust me.

At, a bully is defined as a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. That seems to be a pretty good definition to me.

So who are bullies?

Parents who demean their children privately or publicly and set out to make the child feel bad about themselves. Jerry Sandusky was a bully. He overpowered children because of his position. Adolph Hitler was a bully.

In the business world, anyone who leverages his or her title or position of authority to demean other people who can’t respond directly to them for fear of losing their job is a bully. Anyone who swears at an employee and the employee is not able to respond in kind for fear of losing their job is a bully. Anyone who cuts off another person every time he or she makes a comment that they don’t agree with is a bully.

When you have a bully employee you are at a crossroads as a business leader. If you knowingly allow the bully to continue on as in the past, you no longer are a business leader. That is why the outrage against Penn State has so much validity. It was the ultimate example of a combination of a horrible bully AND a lack of leadership to do the right thing in addressing the bully and taking away his power and punishing him. The aftereffects continue to rain down on the university.

In your organization, stand up as a leader whenever confronted with a situation of dealing with a bully and remove the person’s ability to demean others. If need be, remove the person. Bullies destroy cultures. The culture, which is how people consistently act, is what produces results. A culture with known bullies will eventually collapse the organization and a lot of innocent people will be hurt. That is one of the most powerful lessons from the Jerry Sandusky – Joe Paterno saga.

As a business leader, keep that in mind the next time you know that someone is bullying another person.