John Hypothetical has a big exam coming up, and there’s a lot riding on the outcome. He prepares well for the exam, but he’s understandably nervous. When the big day arrives, he can feel his heart beating fast. Despite all his preparation, John chokes.
Emily Imaginary has the same big exam coming up, with the same consequences riding on the outcome. She also prepares well and is also understandably nervous. When the big day arrives, she can feel her heart beating ... Continue Reading →
I’m continually astounded by how short-sighted some leaders are. Let me tell you what I mean.
Last week, I was booked by the CEO of an organization that wants me to keynote their annual conference in October. The topic of the keynote is Producing Under Pressure. After we agreed on the details for the keynote program, I asked him, “What do you have on the agenda to help your team think more creatively?” (I have a great hands-on breakout session on ... Continue Reading →
It happens virtually every morning.
You wake up, and there in the paper, or online, or on TV, is a success story. (Yes, they’re there. Sometimes you have to wade through the garbage.) Some entrepreneur, some company, some industry has come up with a game-changer. It might be Elon Musk, or the folks at Apple, or some person you’ve never heard of from some small town you’ve never heard of. But they’ve done it. They’ve come up with something brilliant—a breakthrough.
And ... Continue Reading →
It was during a focus group that I realized my customers were lying to me.
I was working at a TV station in Portland, Oregon, and we were developing a new, nightly game show. Part of that development involved focus groups.
Maybe you’ve participated in a focus group. In our case, the process went like this. Our focus group research company somehow found several groups of likely viewers, paid them twenty bucks or so to come to a meeting room, and then ... Continue Reading →
Are you better today than you were yesterday?
I don’t mean physically. We all catch colds, we all have occasional aches and pains—particularly as we get older. No, I mean are you better at what you do? Are you better at your job? Are you better with your customers? Are you better with your team? Are you a better leader?
And, by the way, if you’re already a superstar—if you’re already at the top of your game—well, sorry. You can’t hide behind ... Continue Reading →
What kills the cat strengthens the leader.
If you have any cats in your life, you know that the adage “Curiosity kills the cat” is not just a saying; it’s a fact. Cats have an insatiable curiosity that overrides their instinct for self-preservation. And it can get them into life-threatening danger, over and over again.
Fortunately, though, you are not a cat. You are a leader. And leaders need a healthy amount of curiosity in order to be effective.
To put ... Continue Reading →
For fifteen years, I was not allowed to get sick on Saturday. Sunday and Monday were fine; I could be sick then. Tuesday through Friday weren’t ideal, although if push came to shove, I could be sick then too.
But not Saturday. I couldn’t get sick on Saturday. Why?
Because Saturday was showtime.
See, for fifteen years, I was the Executive Producer of a hit comedy TV show in Seattle called Almost Live!, and we taped the show in front of a live ... Continue Reading →
QUICK QUIZ: Which assignment do you think a creative person would like more:
- Write a story about anything.
- Write a story about a duck.
If you’re like most people (which, of course, you’re not—you’re better), you said Assignment 1. It’s obvious, isn’t it? I mean, creativity is all about freedom, no restraints, “Don’t box me in, man!” Right?
The surprising, non-intuitive truth is that the vast majority of creative people would prefer Assignment 2: Write a story about a duck.
Now, why is this? And ... Continue Reading →
I recently read an interview with Marija Ringwelsky, the co-founder and COO of Remedy, a company that helps protect people from medical overcharges and billing errors. In it, Ms. Ringwelsky said:
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“While I thought leadership was about influence and control, starting Remedy has taught me that leadership is quite the opposite—it’s about finding great people who share common values and a shared sense of purpose and counter-intuitively relinquishing control. If you’ve done your job right, the people on your ...
“You guys are better than Saturday Night Live!”
I used to hear that all the time. I still do, although now “are” has changed to “were.”
For 15 years, I was the Executive Producer of a sketch comedy TV show in Seattle called Almost Live!. We were on the NBC affiliate, KING-TV, and for our final 10 years, we aired at 11:30 on Saturday night (we pushed SNL back a half-hour; they aired from midnight to 1:30 am in the Seattle market). ... Continue Reading →