Leadership

Can You Answer This Basic Question?

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“What do you do for a living?”

That’s a question that far too many people dread, because they don’t have a good, compelling answer. They say something like, “I’m a lawyer,” or, “I’m a financial planner,” or, “I’m the drummer for the Beatles,” and then wonder why everybody quickly walks away. (Okay, they’re probably not going to walk away from that last one, but you get my point. And by the way—Ringo, if you’re reading this, give me a call. I ...

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Do You Know What Your “Real” Business Is?

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A couple of nights ago I made sauteed chicken breasts for dinner, with a white wine pan sauce to make it a little more interesting. Briefly, here’s how you make a pan sauce (and yes, I promise this is going somewhere): you add a quarter cup of wine and a quarter cup of chicken broth to the pan, perhaps with a bit of mustard, and then boil it until the half-cup of liquid is reduced down to a total of ...

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The #1 Skill Warren Buffett Says You Need

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I just finished watching a town meeting with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that was taped at Columbia Business School last month. The entire meeting was immensely illuminating, but I was fascinated by one thing Warren Buffett said. Before I get to that, let me say that both Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates were exceedingly optimistic about the future of our country and our economy. [You, at your cynical best: “Yeah, I’d be optimistic too if I were worth $50 ...

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Are You a Leader or a Coward?

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I hate to be the one to point this out, but most of the corporate businesses in America are run by cowards. [You: “Wait a minute, Stainton. I run a corporate business and I’m not a coward!”] Really? You think not? Then answer this question—honestly: What drives most of your decisions? [You: “Well, let’s see. There are many elements: the profitability of the company, the cost/benefit ratio, consumer expectations….”] Bull. It seems to me that most corporate decisions made in ...

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Are You Playing to Your Strengths?

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Why do we spend so much time focusing on the things we don’t do well? Honestly, we beat ourselves up all the time. It seems that no matter how many things we’re good at, we choose to dwell on the weaknesses:

Alan (despondently): I just can’t hang pictures. Look at these. They’re all crooked. I’m going to kill myself.

Kari: Are you crazy? You’ve won a Nobel Peace Prize, cured swine flu, and you’re currently starring in the ...

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Leaders, Stop Droning…PLEASE!

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A good leader is, among other things, a good communicator. As a professional speaker, I attend a lot of corporate and association conferences. I’ve seen hundreds of CEOs, presidents, and other leaders address their people. And I’ve found that, all other things being equal, the most effective communicators are those who can say what they need to say in the least amount of time (while keeping it engaging). The ineffective ones are those who drone on and on, generally eating ...

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3 Lessons from the Beatles on LEADERSHIP

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There are people out there who don’t like the Beatles. No, really, there are. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know if the brain damage is genetic or the result of an injury, but some people just don’t care for the Fab Four. But here’s the thing: Whether you like them or not, you can’t argue with their success, can you? And because of this, it turns out the Beatles can be pretty effective role models for people who ...

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Does Your Vision Pass the “Cool” Test?

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Your vision statement sucks. (And yes, it’s because of statements like this that I have no friends.) But c’mon, let’s be honest. Most vision statements suck. And if most vision statements suck, then, statistically, yours probably does too. That’s because most vision statements look something like this:

We will be the premier provider of value-added, customer-focused solutions in strategically chosen markets.

Okay, first of all, what does that even mean? And second of all—who cares? I mean really, if you were on ...

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How to Get “Buy-In” for Your Ideas

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For 15 years, I was the producer of a sketch comedy TV show in Seattle. Each week we would have a “pitch meeting,” where we would sit around a table and read our new material, hoping to get it onto the show. Although the ultimate decision was mine, it was actually a pretty democratic process: if we laughed at something, it had a good chance; if we didn’t, it was out. Some pieces were clear winners or losers, but most ...

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How Much Are Your Blinders Costing You?

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Don’t look now, but you may be going through life with blinders on. Actually, we all are to some extent—some of us more so than others. What do I mean by this? Well, I grew up in Amish country, where horses and buggies are a common sight. Because horses have amazing peripheral vision and are easily distracted, the Amish put blinders on the horses so that they can only see straight ahead. This is a very good thing for a ...

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