Leadership

Why Don’t We Take More Risks?

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We all love a risk-taker, don’t we? The business owner, the entrepreneur, the CEO who has a big idea, then boldly rolls the dice with a “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” attitude. We look at them with wonder and envy, ...

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Stop Lurching Through Your Business!

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As a professional speaker, I get to visit with many different businesses in a cross-section of industries. I’m noticing some trends that I find encouraging—trends that I’ve confirmed with several of my speaker colleagues. Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that we’re completely out of the economic doldrums. You’re too smart to fall for that (except for you—the guy in the yellow flowered shirt—you’ll believe anything I tell you). But in broad terms, ...

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How To Lead a Creative Team

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I’ve never run a pre-school daycare, but for fifteen years I was the boss of ten multi-Emmy Award winning comedy writers, which amounts to pretty much the same thing. As the Executive Producer of Seattle’s sketch comedy TV show, Almost Live!, it was my job to keep a highly creative team motivated and productive. I learned a lot of things along the way, but primarily I learned that a creative team needs two seemingly incompatible things in order to thrive: ...

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Are You a Real Leader? Here’s One Test

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For fifteen years, I produced a sketch comedy TV show in Seattle, Washington. And for fifteen years, I was routinely asked the question, “What, exactly, does the producer actually do?” Many times, this question was asked by my mother. My stock answer was this:

“The producer is the person who apologizes the following day.”

As hilarious as this answer might be [How hilarious? On a scale from 1 to 10…about a 4], it’s only partially in jest. The producer is the person ...

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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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