Make no mistake – both are hard to do. And both are amazingly important.
If you’re not tough enough, you can’t win.
It’s just that simple. You can design the best “business models”, create world-class ideas, and rally to your cause amazing advocates. But that doesn’t have much of anything to do with your likeliness of being successful.
“Ideas are only as good as you are tough enough to bring them to reality.”
That’s where start-ups and business leaders fail. They emulate the smart things that they read in magazines like INC and Fortune and in great books and blogs from leaders like Brad Feld and Fred Wilson. But they don’t live them.
And knowing isn’t the same as doing
It’s not the same as trying and failing. It’s not the same as figuring it out on your own. Thinking for yourself. Taking advice and ideas and “owning them”.
Reading words is a great start. It you aren’t learning - exploring and gaining new skills - then you aren’t going to get better.
But, you have to change. And change is hard.
Quality difference is the key to success.
You being different is what changes things. And not just being different to be spiteful. But being different because that change drives you closer to you goals. You need to change in order to be successful.
Once you realize that and start heading down that new path, you’ll realize that not everyone understands what you are doing — and “why” you are doing it. And since they don’t understand, they’ll tell you that you’re off-course. That you are doing something wrong. That you are making mistakes.
And you’re not. They’re wrong.
Which is why you need to ignore them.
You can take the time to explain and win them over or you can just execute. It’s usually easier to “do” than to explain and persuade. (And you can’t do one really well while attempting to do the other at the same time.)
Which means you have to make a decision. A tough decision. Do you convince or conquer? Flail or fight?
That’s a decision that you have to make each day of the year.
Each morning you have decide if you are going to be tough enough. To ignore the travelers on the path as you blaze a trail to where you want to be.
That decision is yours:
- Be tough. Hang in there. Learn from your mistakes. Do what is hard.
- Sometimes you need to ignore awesome, smart people on your way to success.
Great leadership doesn't mean running away from reality...sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better.
Excel at What Does Not Come Naturally: 7 Ways to Lead Better
It may seem counterintuitive, but you don't only want to lead with your strengths. Here's why and what you can do about it.
People often ask me, "How can I become a great leader?" I usually put the ball back in their court.
"What do you do really well?" I ask. "Where do your strengths lie and how are you using them to bring out the best in those you lead?"
Answers to these kinds of strengths questions usually come naturally. I'll often hear responses that reflect the connected, big-picture thinking of someone like Steve Jobs or the flexible nature of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who mentions the need to "refine your idea constantly" in the book, Leadership and the Art of Surfing.
But one thing that often surprises leaders--and I've talked to CEOs and high-level executives at large and small corporations throughout the world--is when I ask about their weaknesses:
"What are your biggest challenge areas?" I ask. "What would you look to improve?" "How do you use the most difficult aspects of yourself in leadership?"
To truly be a great leader, you can't just take advantage of your strengths. You also have to recognize your weaknesses, and learn how to make them benefit your particular leadership style. This will help you come across as authentic and competent.
As the Harvard Business School management guru John Kotter states, "Great leadership doesn't mean running away from reality...sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better."
The reality is, as a leader, you can't be a one-trick pony. Core components of leadership are understanding your charges, communicating to them, and inspiring them to action, so you need to ensure you speak their language and don't simply rely on your own go-to ways of working. To put it more specifically, a message geared to your own preference for logic and data, for instance, will not resonate to a person who thinks in a more visceral world of collaboration, gut instinct, and people power.
It certainly isn't easy to lead through your weaknesses, but when done well it can be a coup.
I like to use the example of my friend and associate Matt who runs his own consulting firm and is a renowned speaker on leadership. Matt is as right-brained as it gets, with strong preferences for 'social' and 'conceptual' thinking. You can notice this about him immediately, along with his gregariousness. That said, Matt finds it challenging to think or behave in a 'structural' or process-oriented way. He realized after putting in a lot of time doing the things he loved but not always seeing the results he craved that something needed to change. Instead of simply doubling down on his strengths, he more closely examined what he could do better when it comes to operations and he came away with two big ideas:
- He brought in people around him (which he loves to do) who had strong preferences for structural thinking, and he now relies on them day-to-day.
- He put his head down and set aside time to do all his structured tasks at once.
Now, every client gets a detailed agenda at Matt's speeches and every event features a focused follow-up list of action items to ensure that a tangible return from his work is high. You would never know that he has challenges with structured work and that's because he's made a clear effort to go beyond his strengths and lead with his challenges.
Harvard Business Review echoes this strategy, describing that to get to great leadership, you need to "do the equivalent of cross-training" by developing strengths as well as boosting difficult areas.
Here's how to identify where your biggest challenge may be and how to overcome it as a leader:
1. If you have trouble making the case for an idea, you may not love--or be good at--analytical thinking. Consider an idea you have and ask yourself "What issue does this solve?" and "What will the benefit be to our specific objectives?"
2. If you're challenged by details, you likely don't have a preference for 'structural' thinking. Focus on laying out the plan five steps further than you think you need to. Ask "What is every contingency that someone would need to know?"
3. If you don't always think about the ramifications decisions have on others, you may not have an natural inclination for 'social' thinking. Focus on gaining consensus for an idea from employees, customers, or shareholders before pushing it through and ask things like "How will this impact you?"
4. If you don't naturally think big picture, you probably are not a 'conceptual' thinker. Focus on brainstorming how one idea connects to another and think about what the ramifications are a year or two or five down the road.
5. If you're naturally quiet, make sure you've set a time to express yourself, and convey your thoughts and emotions to others. If you're more gregarious, be sure you don't talk over those you lead.
6. If you're a natural peacekeeper, don't be afraid to push your ideas. Don't worry, you won't seem like a bully if you do it respectfully. On the other hand, if you're competitive and driving, make sure you don't bowl over others, but look to build consensus if possible.
7. If you like things focused and straightforward, know that change is constantly happening, and prepare for it. Be open to switching the plan at times. But, if you readily welcome change, make sure you offer your constituents real, valuable rationale as to why something should shift.
We all have unique qualities that come naturally and things we do well. Great leadership is about recognizing what we don't always do quite as well and working to improve.
Nothing good comes from an exit interview.
If you are a leader, reading the snotty feedback of disgruntled employees you’ve fired (or let leave on their own) is distracting and counter-productive.
You won’t learn anything you don’t already know right now.
And whining, cranky under-achievers are hardly the best source for the bold strategies you need to scale your business in a turbulent marketplace. You won’t make important changes because you are nagged.
If that were the case, and the changes were important, you would have already made them.
So stop listening to HR. Shut down the exit interview process. It’s a mental death trap.
Angry departing employees don’t put aside their frustrations and calmly share their perspective on your growth potential. They lash out. They’re petty. They’re acidic and biting and cheap.
You aren’t likely to change either.
If you were an arrogant, un-listening leader before reading the exit interview, you aren’t going to have a “come to Jesus” experience reading the dark satire of an employee no longer at your company. That’s just silly thinking.
And if you know that you have problems and are working on fixing them (albeit slowing and painfully), you only find yourself more humiliated and discouraged after reading these biting critiques.
Frankly, no one wins in the process.
Not the person being interviewed. Not you listening in to their answers.
That’s because the time for learning is past. The time for a better conversation is past. What went wrong went wrong. It’s important to learn from your mistakes, but there is no reason to rub poison in your eyes. Just do it better next time.
- Only hire people that you respect enough to listen to their advise — now and sometime in the future.
- Share your company’s goals and vision as often as you can with each member of your team. Pound your story home.
- Take regular time to ask your team members what they think the company should be doing. Ask for “facts” and opinions.
- Give team members responsibility for fixing problems and make them accountable for their results.
- Encourage failure. Discourage excuses. Talk about each, often.
- Fire team members who have negative attitudes or are passive aggressive. Foster candid conversation.
Everybody wins this way.
You’ll solve problems before they turn into disasters and you’ll spot troublemakers before they disrupt your business growth.
The worst time to read advice is right after a “blow-up” or a break-up”. Don’t make the mistake ofgetting your business ideas from the sour tones of unhappy ex-employees.
Focus on the conversation each day. Talk through challenges. Inspire leadership.
Greatness will follow.
12 Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing LA Forever
Ilya Pozin, Contributor
Los Angeles is bustling with entrepreneurs. Startups are popping up everywhere and it seems everyone is trying to make a name for themselves in the industry. But who is really changing the LA game? Here’s my list of 12 LA entrepreneurs who will change this city and the idea of entrepreneurship forever.
The Amplify LA guys
The group of guys at Amplify.LA have all come together and are making major moves in the LA scene. Amplify.LA was cofounded in late 2011 by Paul Bricault, Richard Wolper, Jeff Solomon, Oded Noy and David Carter and is a hands-on startup accelerator (and is actually a startup itself). These guys each have their own impressive entrepreneurial and visionary backgrounds, so together there is no telling what they are capable of.
Jason Calacanis is an accomplished Internet entrepreneur, probably most known for founding Mahalo.com. Calacanis has also been an Angel investor since 2009. Calacanis actually grew up in New York where he was founder, CEO, and editor of the Silicon Alley Reporter. When the dot-com era struck, it became VentureReporter.com and has since sold to Dow Jones. Jason then became CEO and co-founder of Weblogs, Inc. (which AOL purchased in 2005 for a cool $25-30 million). He’s also the co-founder of ThisWeekIn and founder of LAUNCH and LAUNCH conference. Clearly Calacanis has already made his mark on the Internet industry. As a seasoned entrepreneur, there is no telling what he will do next.
Paige Craig is a well-known Angel advisor and investor in the LA scene. Recently though, he add CEO and cofounder of BetterWorks to his resume. BetterWorks helps small and medium sized businesses reward and retain employees with big-company style employee perks and recognitions. He co-founded his first company, Lincoln Group, in 2003. Craig is one to watch because he’s an investor who has switched to the entrepreneur side. He has a strong background in knowing what works and what fails for other companies and will undoubtly be growing BetterWorks through that knowledge.
Bill Gross founded Idealab in 1996 and currently serves as the company’s CEO. Idealab tests multiple ideas at once and then turns the best of the ideas into companies. Before starting Idealab, Gross founded several other companies: GNP Loudspeakers (now GNP Audio Video), GNP Development, Inc., and Knowledge Adventure. Idealab’s mission is to create companies that challenge the status quo and change the way people think, live and work; and they are doing just that.
William Hsu is one of five cofounders of Muckerlab, yet another startup accelerator in LA. Muckerlab, however, is focused on serving Internet software and media entrepreneurs. Before founding Muckerlab though, Hsu founded BuildPoint at age 23. Before the company was acquired in 2004, he helped BuildPoint grow to 250 employees and raise over $50 million. He’s helped several other companies, like AT&T Interactive and eBay, achieve impressive numbers as well.
As a junior in college, Mike Jones founded his first successful online company which was eventually sold to PBJ Digital. Since then, he’s become an expert at founding, building and selling web based companies. He’s also served as CEO of Myspace and Senior Vice President of AOL, is an angel investor and an advisor to startups around the west coast. In November 2011, Jones launched Science, a company that develops new businesses, assists emerging companies, and transforms later-stage assests. With over 18 years of experience in developing and growing businesses, Jones’ newest business venture is likely to be huge.
Adam Lilling is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur and now spends his time helping out other entrepreneurs as the director at LaunchpadLA. Before joining LaunchpadLA, he started Pentagon CDs and tapes, one of the first online music and video stores which was sold to Virgin Records in 1999. He later developed Panzanga and BiggerBoat. Not a newcomer to the startup world by any means, he’s providing great insight to the novice in the industry.
Marks’ entrepreneurial expertise is in building companies in the video game and online gaming industry. Most notably he is the founder and CEO of Gamzee, which are social mobile games that play on any device. He’s also the co-founder of Start Engine, an LA based accelerator that helps tech startups build a solid foundation for success. Marks got his start at the University of Michigan, where he studied computer engineering. From there, he and a business partner gained control of Activision and turned the ailing company into a video game powerhouse. Marks was also CEO and founder of eMind and Acclaim Games, Inc. Start Engine has a goal of pumping out 500 LA startups in just five years, with this level of ambition, you’d be crazy not to keep an eye on him.
In 2007, Nazar founded Docstoc with co-founder Alon Schwartz. Today he is the CEO. Docstoc is an online community to find and share professional documents; it currently houses over 20 million documents with more than 25 million registered users. Before starting Docstoc, Nazar founded Choice Speakers Inc., was a partner at Venature Capital and Consulting and created Startups Uncensored.
Bestcovery was founded in 2008 by Kamran Pourzanjani, who is also an angel investor. Bestcovery is basically a quick and easy way to find the best of everything. The company’s experts help you find the product that is best for your individual needs. Before founding Bestcovery, Pourzanjani was co-founder and CEO of PriceGabber. PriceGabber quickly became one of the most popular comparison shopping websites and had an enterprise value of about $500 million when he sold it in 2005.
Jeff Scheinrock is currently the CFO at Originate, a company that invests elite engineering talent and startup expertise into high potential opportunities. Before teaming up with Originate, Scheinrock was the CEO of his own company, Scheinrock Advisory Group, which merged with Originate Labs. Scheinrock is actually a CPA with extensive experience in international financial markets, corporate finance, capital structure, acquisitions and strategic investments. He also teaches entrepreneurship courses at UCLA. With his well-rounded business background, Scheinrock is shaping the minds of young entrepreneurs in the industry.
Digital LA was founded in 2007 by Kevin Winston and is now the largest networking organization for the digital entertainment industry. With over a decade of experience in digital entertainment, Winston continues to push the envelope and better connect and inform LA entertainment professionals. Recently he organized the Silicon Beach Fest with LA companies, accelerators and venues. Silicon Beach Fest is the first startup entertainment tech conference in LA. There were over 2,000 attendees, speakers, organizers, sponsors and volunteers at the first event, and no doubt next year will be bigger and better.
I want to both thank and congratulate Growthink's Director of Engagement Management Brittany Lawson for her 4-year Growthink anniversary this week. Brittany - it has been very inspirational to watch you work - your incredible commitment to the success of our clients and to that of Growthink. I know I speak on behalf of the entire company when I say how much we all enjoy working with you, and appreciate everything you do. Thank you and congratulations!
So let’s get this straight right now: “Just because you aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean you aren’t right.”
There will always be things that you do that are wrong. Some bigger than others. Some easier to spot than others.
You’ll never completely stop being an idiot.
That’s just how you’re wired — to make mistakes. To get things wrong.
To try and fail. To try failing.
And along the way there is always that someone who likes to point out everything you’re doing that is wrong. They think that by dramatizing your imperfections, that they can discredit your efforts. They think that if you are doing something wrong that everything you are trying to do must be wrong.
But they’re really just running from their own fears.
That’s the secret they hope you don’t figure out. They don’t want you to know that they wouldn’t even dare attempt the heroics that you are undertaking .They’re scared to death to admit that they might not be as tough as you. As crazy or as motivated.
So they let their mental defeat turn them into a nitwit shouting nonsense at you from the sidelines.
And sadly, that is all you hear. You hear their fear in your ears. Their hate. Their insecurity.
You have to be tough enough to ignore it.
You can’t believe it. You can’t entertain for one second that they are right and you are wrong. You’re not wrong. They are.
You’re not perfect. They’re right about that.
But what is perfect is that you have a dream. You have a vision. You are on a mission. You are attempting to better what you feel is wrong with the world around you.
Mean people will always try to dazzle you with their biting critiques of your flaws and failures. They’ll be first to say: “I told you so” and last to ever tell you “Good job.” For them, you are everything that they are not. And it makes them angry and jealous.
They’re afraid that you are right.
Remember that the next time you want to lash out. That would be wrong. Even if what you are doing is right after all.
Love client notes like this....great, great job Phil!!
Hi Phillippe,Thank you for the documents, I've actually gone over the plan a few times and may I say... this exceeds my expectations.
My hat off to you all who have contributed and been involved in the making of this wonderful and unique plan and also (once again) a special thank you to you Phillippe for all the time, effort and attention to detail that you've put into it, superb work.
While talking with techies can be uncomfortable for most of us, it doesn’t have to be. With a little insight into their mindset, you will find you two have far more similarities than differences.Tip 4 – You are a sales expert, not their technical peer.Techies avoid business development at all costs. Why? Because the concept of selling makes techies just as uncomfortable as talking to techies makes you feel! Let this insight temper the flow of your sales conversation. Keep it comfortable and educational. You don’t need to impress techies with how much you know about their technology. (You can’t!) You do need to educate them about your sales process. Explain why you are asking questions. Let them know you have done your homework and have questions and ideas about what you’ve learned. Share the trends you’ve observed across your customers. Techies love to learn. You can give them a peek outside their own walls into the broader world of the competitive global market. Now that’s valuable. Tip 5 – Tell them why you selected to call on them. I’ve found being straightforward with technical accounts can be disarming, probably because most emails and voicemails sound canned and robotic. I called on a prospect for several months before one of the partners picked up the phone. Expecting to get voicemail for the umpteenth time, I was a bit taken aback when I heard his voice! I gushed out: “I’ve been calling on you for the past two months because I’m fascinated by your technology and how you’ve applied it to all sorts of products I never imagined. I told myself, ‘This is a company I want to work with.’!” I got the appointment and landed the account. We learned from each other. The techies perceived me as a trusted partner. I can’t tell you how many times the technical acumen I gained from this one account has allowed me to identify needs for new customers. Tip 6 – Establish a common denominator for your conversations and expertise. In tech companies the decision-maker is probably a techie who morphed into a businessperson. They have to address day-to-day and long term operational and revenue aspects of their business. That’s your common denominator. As you earn their trust, they will teach you more about their business model and industry challenges. Techies like data, even if it’s soft. Discuss how their company compares, and contrasts, with the rest of the companies you call on. Business owners and decision-makers want to know about the dynamics of the marketplace. Gaining expertise in these topics allows you to have a peer discussion and provide relevant value to your customers. Tip 7 – The most important hurdles to overcome are your own biases and stereotypes. Techies are perceived as Dilbert® personas: they stick to their own kind, talk in a monotone, use large words to explain themselves, and make non-techies feel dumb. Salespeople are perceived as smarmy, dime-a-dozen, manipulative talking heads who memorize sales scripts and regurgitate them at sales calls. How were these two stereotypes formed? In most companies, sales folks and techies are separated in divisional silos creating Us vs. Them mindset. By taking some time to identify how your own mindset creates obstacles to selling to techies, you will discover how to showcase your sales expertise to those who need it. From now on, let the techies work over your competitors instead of you. Do your homework, examine your mindset, and engage technical decision-makers in a productive manner. Soon you will find it easier to talk with and sell to techies. And that means more opportunities for success in today’s globally competitive economy. http://salesaerobicsforengineersblog.com/2012/09/27/7-tips-for-selling-to-techies-part-1/http://salesaerobicsforengineersblog.com/2012/09/28/7-tips-for-selling-to-techies-part-2/