Should We Exploit Strengths or Overcome Weaknesses?
Posted on Monday, Feb 8, 2016 by Michael Canic

I’m on a small Mexican island reflecting on the Super Bowl in the midst of Mardi Gras on Chinese New Year.

Surreal.

Which of course got me thinking about strengths – the Denver Broncos defense – and weaknesses – the Denver Broncos offense. And the much talked about issue: should we focus on exploiting our strengths or shoring up our weaknesses?

The established answer – we should shore up our weaknesses – has come under siege in recent years. Marcus Buckingham and others have argued that to be successful we should focus instead on our unique strengths. It’s an empowering thought.

But what if our weaknesses are liabilities holding us back from success? Think of the leader whose temper outbursts lead to employee turnover. Or the entrepreneur who can’t scale her business because she won’t let go. Or the football team that commits too many turnovers.

Back to the original question: Should we focus on strengths or weaknesses? Answer: Whatever is most relevant to help you succeed. Which could mean focusing on unique strengths and/or critical weaknesses.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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Why Tomorrow’s Leaders Will Be Better Than Today’s
Posted on Monday, Feb 1, 2016 by Michael Canic

Soft skills are crucial to leadership effectiveness. No revelation there. Leaders who lack soft skills simply aren’t as good at engaging their people or inspiring a high level of performance. And they certainly aren’t as good at getting things done through their peers. So how is it that many leaders still lack soft skills or don’t believe them to be important?

Over the next generation, that’s going to change. A growing body of research is making clear that children benefit greatly from being taught soft skills. Ultimately, this research will influence educational practices, and soft skills will become engrained in a critical mass of young people.

What has the research shown? One study, conducted by Duke University researchers over 10 years, found that teaching school-aged children soft skills – like self-control and working cooperatively in a group – resulted in significantly more pro-social behavior, less delinquent behavior, and fewer mental health issues. Adding empathy to the list of soft skills – being aware of and sensitive to the feelings of others – would only strengthen the effects, according to Dr. Neil Bernstein, a prominent psychologist who focuses on child and adolescent behaviors.

Don’t mistake soft skills with squishy, it’s-all-good, everyone-gets-a-ribbon, nobody-should-be-held-accountable thinking. Exhibiting soft skills is not incompatible with providing clear expectations, honest feedback, and accountability. It is a necessary part of the performance elixir.

Social change is a slow process. But have no doubt. Soft skills will become more pervasive and leaders will become more effective. That’s something all of us will feel good about.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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Why You Don’t Want People With the “Entrepreneurial Spirit”
Posted on Monday, Jan 25, 2016 by Michael Canic

I often hear leaders say they wish more of their people had the entrepreneurial spirit. Yet people with the entrepreneurial spirit are the ones who often become … entrepreneurs. So is it a hopeless wish?

Limeade, the #14 company in Fortune.com’s list of the “25 Best Small Workplaces” doesn’t look for people with the entrepreneurial spirit. They look for people with the intrapreneurial spirit.

What does that mean? People who think big, who think “outside the circle”, who believe that anything is possible, who are self-motivated, proactive and action-oriented in pursuit of innovation … and who feel rewarded by doing it within a team environment and within the strategic context of the business.

As an organizational leader you don’t want entrepreneurs. You want intrapreneurs.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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The Surprising Truth About Innovation
Posted on Monday, Jan 18, 2016 by Michael Canic

When you think of innovation what comes to mind? Revolutionary products like the iPhone or the GoPro? While impressive, such revolutionary innovations are only one type of innovation.

There are three levels of innovation: incremental, evolutionary and revolutionary. Focusing exclusively on revolutionary innovation is a high-risk and often unwise endeavor.

The surprising truth about innovation is that the most successful companies allocate most of their innovation assets – 70 percent – to initiatives that are already core to their business, Another 20 percent gets allocated to slightly risky initiatives and only 10 percent to transformational ones. This according to a survey referenced in Inc. magazine.

Don’t overlook the innovation that is necessary to keep your business moving forward: continuous improvement and, periodically, product and process evolution.

While a home run gets them cheering, a stream of base-hits can be even more effective. Remember the three levels of innovation.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How Adaptive is Your Leadership Style?
Posted on Monday, Jan 11, 2016 by Michael Canic

As leaders we struggle. Should I direct? Or suggest? Decide? Or involve others? Manage? Or lead?

The answer is: there is no one answer. The best leadership style is adaptive. To the people and the situation.

People with little experience or skill need the most direction. People with a high level of experience or skill need little direction. Collaborative decision-making can result in better solutions and more buy-in. But in urgent situations there isn’t time to solicit broad input. Autocratic decision-making may be more effective. Highly complex situations require analysis and organization – traits of strong management. Highly volatile situations require vision and communications – traits of strong leadership.

Of course, every leader has his or her own style. And needs to be true to that style. Yet the best leaders also know when and how to adapt.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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Why You Should Sweat the Details
Posted on Monday, Jan 4, 2016 by Michael Canic

Hosain Rahman, the CEO of Jawbone, design celebrity Yves Béhar, and a Jawbone executive met to discuss the packaging for a product. The specific issue: Did they have the right color of black? After 45 minutes the exec loses patience and asks when they’re going to put the crayons away and do some real work. The exec is now a former Jawbone exec.

“That was just the wrong way to think about the product experience,” says Rahman. “We care about the debossing and embossing, the matte, the shiny – all the different iterations of black and how they interplay when you do black on black. And it was important to us that we were sweating that detail for the experience.” (Italics mine)

Do you remember when Steve Jobs called a Google exec on a Sunday saying they had an urgent problem that needed fixing immediately? The second “o” in the Google icon on the iPhone didn’t have the right gradient of yellow.

How often do you give in to “it’s good enough”, “it doesn’t really matter”, “no one will notice”?

If you are truly committed – not just interested, but committed – to the customer experience, then it’s not good enough. It does really matter. And the point isn’t whether they will notice. The point is what you choose to do when you notice.

Because that speaks to who you are.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How To Start The New Year Off Right
Posted on Monday, Dec 28, 2015 by Michael Canic

It was Socrates who said that to move the world we must first move ourselves. So with the New Year upon us, and the world at your feet, what are you doing to move yourself?

Have you reflected and are you clear about your purpose, the direction in which you are headed and the goals you wish to achieve? Have you done a brutally honest self-assessment of your traits, skills and behaviors? Finally, have you determined, and are you committed to doing, what it takes to achieve your goals?

Start the New Year off right: Reflect. Assess. Commit. Then take action.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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What Every Business Traveler Wants Under the Tree
Posted on Monday, Dec 21, 2015 by Michael Canic

The holiday season is upon us. And what would every business traveler like to find under the tree? How about a travel experience customized to their likes, wants and needs?

Marriott Hotels has tapped into a valuable source of ideas for how to enhance the travel experience. Travelers! As part of their “Travel Brilliantly” initiative (travel-brilliantly.marriott.com), they asked travelers to submit innovative ideas. Some of the top ideas:

  • Wireless speakers in guest rooms
  • Healthy vending machines conveniently located
  • Digital daily newspapers delivery
  • Scales in the lobby to weigh luggage
  • Daytime personal shoppers
  • Coasters, napkins, mugs and more showcasing the local flavor – art, culture, history, food
  • Dining area tables designated for networking

What would happen if you engaged your customers to help you enhance their experience? What if you were to acknowledge their ideas on your website? What if you adopted some of the ideas … and gave the customers credit? What would that do for your brand?

Your thoughts?

Michael

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What I Love About Millennials
Posted on Monday, Dec 14, 2015 by Michael Canic

Generational differences are a hot topic of study and conversation. It’s no wonder, given Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers in the workforce and the purchasing power of Millennials will surpass that of Boomers over the next two years.

I sometimes hear Boomers and Gen X’ers complain about Millennials (it’s a time-honored tradition for older generations to speak authoritatively about the supposed deficiencies of younger ones). So, for those of you over the age of 35 (and I am one of you), here is what I love about Millennials:

They are totally engagable.

They care. They want to learn; they want to be challenged. They want a make a difference. They want to do work that is meaningful for organizations that are purposeful. They want to be treated as colleagues, valued and treated with respect. They want to celebrate and be celebrated.

Imagine instead a generation who are apathetic. Whose work philosophy is a shrug of the shoulders and whatever. Who have little ambition. And for whom meaning and purpose revolves around themselves. Is that what you want?

I didn’t think so. You want engagable. Well, you’ve got it. Now it’s up to you to engage.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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Should a Leader Have a Big Ego?
Posted on Monday, Dec 7, 2015 by Michael Canic

All of us have horror stories about leaders with big egos. The leader whose self-serving arrogance destroyed a company culture. The leader who recklessly overextended a company that imploded.

But what would happen if you didn’t have a big-enough ego? Would you have the grit to carry the battle to the competition? Would you have the confidence to take calculated risks? Would you have the uncompromising will to succeed?

Sir Alex Ferguson, the former manager of Manchester United and one of the most successful and respected managers in the history of soccer, once said of players, “I embrace the ones with ego. Because they need to win.”

So perhaps the issue isn’t the size of your ego … it’s your ability to manage it.

Business is a team sport. For those with well-managed egos, it’s all about how they can effectively mobilize others so the team can win. For those with poorly managed egos, it’s all about themselves.

Well-managed egos are secure enough to take responsibility when things go wrong. Which enhances their status. Poorly managed egos avoid responsibility when things go wrong. They fear losing status.

Well-managed egos intentionally surround themselves with highly capable people. Poorly managed egos feel threatened when surrounded by highly capable people. They fear being upstaged or exposed.

So, yes, you as a leader need to have a strong ego. You need to be confident … and yet realize that you can’t do it alone. The question is: Are you in control of your ego or is your ego in control of you?

Your thoughts?

Michael

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