Monday, March 2, 2015

Need To Get Creative? How To Create An Idea Space

By Jeff DeGraff,

Where you work is how you think. Your immediate surroundings determine your mindset, the way you generate ideas and solve problems. You can’t break institutional barriers within the walls of your everyday workspace. If radical change is what you seek, create your own idea space–a discrete location away from workplace distractions where you can cultivate and share new knowledge. Think of it as a retreat, a refuge, an escape from the constraints of office culture.
An idea space is as much mental as it is physical. Idea spaces spark wild energy as like-minded people come together and brainstorm new initiatives. Dislocating from the typical task-oriented work mode helps us gain the freedom of mind and insight necessary to produce great ideas.

Hallmark is an organization that understands and benefits from the power of idea spaces. Next-door to its headquarters, the company has a giant innovation facility full of studios for crafts like glass-blowing, ceramics, and papermaking. These activities allow employees to take a break from the day-to-day grind and rejuvenate their spark. Hallmark also invites workers to take sabbaticals and travel. These sabbaticals give people the permission to try something they would not try at home–and they can return to inject some of their inspiration back into the company by initiating new product lines. The world is their office.

The development of an idea space can help you achieve any of these goals:
  • Provide a sanctuary from institutional thinking
  • Give employees a place to free their minds and develop creative thinking ability
  • Offer a ‘test track’ to experiment with new ideas
  • Develop communities of practice for sharing knowledge and experience
Give your space a metaphor or theme. This will shape how people use and think about the space. By calling an idea space “kitchen of the mind” or “corporate garage,” you express the real purpose to an uninitiated participant. You can use the theme to develop the physical space as you would a theme restaurant.

Idea spaces come in many forms, but often fall into one of four categories:
  • Stimulation: Spaces that stimulate people’s imagination through new interaction. These include art, music, and dance studios, field trips, and sabbaticals
  • Facilitation: Spaces that bring in seasoned “travel guides” to assist small groups in their journey toward breakthrough ideas and action. These include jumpstart programs and creativity coaching.
  • Experimentation: Spaces that provide a workshop or laboratory for the development of ideas into products, services, and learning. These include virtual labs, idea banks, incubators, and accelerators.
  • Education: Spaces that develop creativity competencies in individuals and groups through teaching and partnership. These include training sessions and mentorship programs.
Don’t expect fast, quantifiable results. Be patient as you build your sanctuary. Remember that the predictability of routine is what you’re getting away from. In an idea space, chaos is your friend.

Jeff DeGraff is a world-renowned professor, speaker and innovation guru. Referred to as the “Dean of Innovation,” Jeff’s expertise has been shared globally at top innovation incubators and think tanks such as the Aspen Institute and with companies that include Eaton, GM, SPX, 3M, Apple, Coca-Cola, GE, Johnson & Johnson, LG, Pfizer, and Toyota. To learn more about Jeff DeGraff or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Jeff's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Get A Lot Better At What You Love To Do In 2015

By Douglas Conant,

“If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.” – Stephen Covey

It is a commonly held belief that we can become an expert in any discipline by spending 10,000 hours practicing. The wisdom of the “10,000 hours” was posited by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Outliers,” and has been oft repeated throughout the business world. It’s a nice idea. The aspirational, yet attainable, number of “10,000” serves as an inspiring reminder to work hard towards reaching our goals. After all, most would assert that the pursuit of greatness requires perspiration above all else. We need only put in the time and preeminence is ours, the number seems to suggest. But the axiom of the 10,000 hours is, at best, only partially true.

Why? Because merely practicing isn’t enough to improve our performance profile dramatically. Attention must be paid to the way we practice andour attitude towards improvement. Take for example a person who, in a burst of motivation, devotes themselves wholeheartedly to fitness. They hit the gym enthusiastically, day after day, but without taking the time to learn the proper form or reflect on what is or isn’t working. If they continue to exercise improperly, and never change up their routine — they will most likely never get much better, no matter how much time they devote to the task. They will be toiling in futility.

It’s the same with anything we apply ourselves to – including leadership. If we are repeatedly doing something ineffectively, we run the risk of remaining stagnant, no matter how noble the desire behind the repetition is. To make notable progress, an adjustment in our approach is required so we can push ourselves to experience meaningful gains in our craft. This requires grit, persistence, and most importantly a commitment to practicing in the right way. The following is the most important tweak you can make to your tactics to cultivate tangible growth:

Pursue “Deliberate Practice.” There are talented people everywhere. You may have a real knack for leading teams or crunching numbers. But talent can only get you so far. In Geoff Colvin’s must-read book, “Talent is Overrated” – he reminds us that innate ability and experience alone do not guarantee excellence. What really makes the difference between ‘average’ and ‘extraordinary’ is hard work done in the right way. Not rote repetition but deliberate practice. This means adapting your entire approach to improving; it requires a calculated and studious effort that starts with identifying specific areas for growth and pursuing them relentlessly. It means working through discomfort, and persevering when every part of you wants desperately to quit. This kind of practice is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. And to stick with it you’ll have to make sure you are deeply passionate about the craft you’re pursuing. But if you’re “all in,” this arduous process will help you to achieve breakthrough — and it’s what separates better from best.

So how do you start? To experience the significant gains promised by deliberate practice you have to begin from a place of humility and fierce resolve. In Jim Collins’ notable book, “Good to Great,” he identifies these as the two essential traits one must possess if they hope to steer an effort, or an enterprise, from average to extraordinary. Not humility or fierce resolve. It’s got to be both. This means you acknowledge the areas that need attention (humility) and are hell-bent on doing whatever is required to achieve that growth (fierce resolve).

First, humbly endeavor to identify your weak areas. What things do you avoid? What do people tell you needs work? Which parts of your job feel uncomfortable? Get feedback. Do some serious reflection, identify the major areas you want to work on, and make an action plan. If you’re serious about being extraordinary, you’ll withstand the blows to your ego that can sometimes accompany raw feedback. (A great resource to help you in identifying your talents is the book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths” authored by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton).

Second, and possibly more importantly, take stock of your strengths and thoughtfully advance your development in such a way that you can smartly build on them to continuously improve your performance profile. (A great resource to help you in identifying your talents is the book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths” authored by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton).

Then, resolve to address each development area – both your weaknesses and your strengths. Grit your teeth, clench your fists, and look the potential of your future self dead-on. Feel the determination. And, to quote a nice bit of ad copy from Nike, “just do it.” Read everything there is to read on the subject (especially the four great books referenced in this post), focus, and forge forward. Deliberately. This is how to get better at what you love to do. It’s not easy. But it is definitely worth the effort.

Douglas R. Conant, New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker is dedicated to improving the quality of leadership in the 21st century. He serves as Chairman of Avon Products as well as Chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute (KELI) at Northwestern University. The newly formed KELI initiative is designed to help leaders of today enhance their ability to lead in the "here and now." This program combines the best insights of the Kellogg academic curriculum with the best practices of world class leaders across the landscape at the highest levels of the organization. To learn more about Douglas Contant or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Douglas' bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Landing a Client, Courting a Partner

It's February, the month when relationships seem to be at the forefront of many people's minds. As a sales and marketing professional, have you ever noticed the similarities between courting a client, or convincing a potential partner that you have what they are looking for? There are parallels between the sales world and the dating world, whether we are pursuing new prospects or maintaining a long term relationship through attention to detail and follow-through.

To dig a little deeper into this matter, we asked several BigSpeak thought leaders for their advice on how to best approach professional or romantic relationships.

Be Genuine:

Small things lead to big results. It’s not just showing up in a sharp, classy outfit or going to dinner at fancy restaurant. It's about being polite, on time, asking questions, and focusing. Be genuinely interested in the other person and allow them to talk. Finally—be yourself. Show your humanity and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Authenticity sells.
Waldo Waldman

Be a Good Listener:
The number one skill that will make a difference in romantic relationships and sales is listening. I mean really listening to what that person says (and sometimes how they say it) without judging them, defending yourself, or explaining your point of view. It is about focusing on that other person and demonstrating a genuine effort to understand them. Once you do that, you establish trust which is the basis for both relationships.
Bill Hawkins

Be Empathetic:
This is going to sound strange coming from someone with a degree in mathematics, but what I have found is the most important thing in sales and personal relationships is empathy. In our study of 12,000 people we identified that one of the behaviors demonstrated by the top 10% performers was the ability to listen without jumping to conclusions. Listening for and validating the emotions that drive the behavior of others will increase your success in selling and dating.
Bill Benjamin

Live Up to Your Promises:
Reputation and character are everything. People who buy from you or date you have to believe in you and trust you—in both situations, actions definitely speak louder than words! This is true for how you act, how you handle difficult situations, how you treat people, and even how you show respect for yourself. Without this trust neither relationship will go very far.
Connie Podesta

Own the Experience: 
In business, we build relationships by “owning the customer experience.” That means staying in touch long after a sale to ensure our company is meeting our clients' expectations and helping them achieve their visions of success. In successful personal relationships, we take the same approach, fulfilling our commitments and continually looking for new ways to help our partners achieve their dreams.
Susan Ershler

Be Confident:
When you’re desperate everyone knows it. Unfortunately, you’re the last to figure it out. The best power tool you possess is confidence. Unfortunately, most people confuse this word with being conceited. Confidence is an understated ability that enables you to influence others. Everyone is attracted both personally and professionally to those who master this trait.
Brian Parsley

Don’t Settle:
Don’t focus so much on the “close”, but determine if you're moving forward with the right person.  You want to close a big sale and earn the commission, or close a relationship and get married, but while every "close" ends one step, it also begins another. If you take things too far with the wrong customer or spouse, you may get that commission check or wedding, but end up in a bigger pile of trouble afterwards.
Aaron Ross

As our thought leaders have shown, whether dealing with professional to personal relationship, the same principles apply. Ultimately, your partner needs to know that you are going to be trustworthy, dependable, and have their interests in mind for a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you are not committed to the vision, they will take their business elsewhere.

Happy prospecting!
The BigSpeak Team

Written By: Amber McEldowney, Feb. 24, 2015

When Meg Whitman Loved Me

By Patrick Lencioni,

No, this is not a tabloid headline. It’s a true story, and not a steamy one.

It was more than twenty years ago, long before Meg Whitman became the CEO of Hewlett–Packard, or candidate for governor of California, or CEO of eBay. I was just out of college in my first job as a research analyst for the management consulting firm, Bain & Company, and she was the lead partner on one of the projects I was working on, which made her something of my boss.

As a senior in college, I had decided that management consulting sounded really interesting. Management had always fascinated me, and being a consultant seemed like a wonderful way to help people. It was a perfect fit. So I applied for one of the most coveted jobs available to me and my classmates, and somehow was hired.

After about eighteen months on the job, Meg invited me to her office for a meeting. She said something pretty close to this: ”Pat, I think you’d be a really good partner some day, but I don’t think you’re a great analyst.“ Meg wasn’t one for fluffy conversation or saying things she didn’t mean. I knew that she was being sincere about both of her comments, and while I was simultaneously flattered and wounded, I was a lot more wounded. But I had to confront the fact that in the competitive world of big consulting firms, I was not on the fast track, and needed to find a new track.

Looking back and understanding my Myers–Briggs and DISC profiles, I can see that I was never cut out to be a research analyst (I’m an ENFP and a high I and high D). My attraction to management consulting had to do with the work that partners did, but the only way to rise to that level in a big firm was to be better at quantitative analysis and number crunching than my peers. Meg made clear what I already knew, even if I didn’t want to admit it: I wasn’t ever going to love or be good at that kind of work.

I won’t say that I took the news easily. I certainly didn’t stand up and hug Meg (I don’t remember her being a big hugger). I probably agreed with her assessment a little sheepishly, and slinked back to my cube to begin pondering the future of my career (which would eventually take a new turn that has been a great blessing in my life). As I look back at that moment today, I realize it may have been the kindest thing anyone did for me in my career.

Let me be clear. I’m sure that Meg didn’t particularly enjoy having that conversation with me. But she did it anyway. She was gracious enough, direct, and most important of all, honest. And that’s a form of love. Love is not an emotion; it is a verb. What Meg did is take responsibility for helping me, regardless of whether she felt like it or how it would make me feel about her.

More leaders need to understand the power of honest feedback, because they would better serve their organizations and the people who work there. Keeping people in jobs or situations that are not suited to them is almost never an act of kindness, even when intentions are good. In most cases, it only prolongs suffering and prevents the pursuit of a better life. That’s not an argument for abruptly dismissing people who need to move on, but rather an invitation to have difficult conversations that give them clarity early and help them begin to take responsibility for their own success.

Ultimately, kind but direct feedback reduces the number of painful and expensive surprises that too often result in lawsuits for companies and personal scars for employees. If this seems like a simple message, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, this kind of love is all too rare.

So here’s to loving our people enough not just to hug them, but to tell them the kind truth. And here’s to Meg (I promise not to hug you).

Patrick LencioniPat Lencioni is the founder and president of a firm dedicated to providing organizations with ideas, products and services that improve leadership, teamwork, clarity and employee appeal of Patrick Lencioni's leadership models have yielded a diverse base of speaking and consulting clients, including a mix of Fortune 500 companies, professional sports organizations, the military, non-profits, schools and churches. To learn more about Pat Lencioni or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Pat's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Converting Cultural Intelligence to Increased Employee and Consumer Engagement

By Glenn Llopis,

As the workplace and business landscapes have changed, corporations are losing their impact and influence to perform in this changing terrain. For example, the multicultural footprint of America will reach 54% of its population by 2050, making cultural intelligence, a leadership and business imperative that can no longer be ignored.

It is no longer enough to meet the numbers in terms of workforce diversity and to pursue ethnic product/service differentiation, as many companies have done. This cultural lens – more broadly defined as the “immigrant perspective” – holds the key to unlocking business growth and innovation in the next decade and beyond.

While corporations are still warming up to the importance of multiculturalism as a business imperative, a lot of work still needs to be done to recruit, develop and retain top talent – and it begins with their leaders becoming more intelligent about the core cultural characteristics of Hispanics that are leading the demographic shift in the U.S, which will redefine business models and brand strategies.

With consumer purchasing power estimated to reach $1.5 trillion by 2015, Hispanics are an important part of business and the fabric of American society – yet many are not sure how to start a relationship with this emerging Hispanic consumer base – especially considering that Hispanics come from different countries with different experiences and customs.

Herein lies the opportunity for companies across all industries to fully understand the mindset of their Hispanic talent and how best to build brand loyalty by tailoring its business strategy, products, services, and internal culture to embrace a consumer base that will comprise 30% of the U.S. population by 2050.

Across all industries everyone wants to engage with Hispanic consumers, yet industry leaders continue to unknowingly create tension points that continue to widen the gap of engagement. The truth is, it’s not just only about the numbers, the data, or the analyses any more. The first step in recruiting and developing Hispanic talent – and building trust and loyalty with Hispanic consumers -- is to reacquaint yourself with the opportunity – recognizing there is both an art and a science to its approach. If done correctly, your Hispanic employees will yield valuable intellectual capital for your business. Furthermore, the relationship you have cultivated with your Hispanic consumers will generate incremental revenue streams and serve to propel a two-way dialogue to stimulate innovation and initiative.

Increase Hispanic employee and consumer engagement by first becoming more culturally intelligent so that you understand Hispanics not just with your head (the data) but with your heart (the human component). Frankly, it’s the latter that will gain you long-lasting loyalty and sustainable success because it will help you understand the former – and the required intellectual capital that supports both.

While Hispanics may represent different countries, there are certain traits and values that transcend country boundaries – character traits that are deeply rooted in the Hispanic culture and that can be recognized and leveraged to better understand and know how Hispanics work, are motivated, and buy.

Glenn LlopisMr. Llopis is the Founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership and a best-selling author of Earning Serendipity: 4 Skills for Creating and Sustaining Good Fortune in Your Work, The Six Reasons Why Hispanic Leadership Will Save America's Corporations and Why Personal Employee Branding Will Save Your Career and Your Workplace. To learn more about Glenn Llopis or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Glenn's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is Employee Job Tenure Really Shortening? (Yes, It Is)

By Ben Casnocha,

Catherine Rampell, writing in the Washington Post, says churn in companies is down:

The share of people getting laid off each month — as well as, more disturbingly, the shares getting hired and quitting their jobs — is near record lows. That’s according to Labor Department data released this week and calculations from John Haltiwanger, an economist at the University of Maryland. Haltiwanger estimates that private-sector layoffs, hires and resignations are 21 percent to 26 percent below their rates two decades ago.

But is it true? It seems counterintuitive. The new Five Thirty Eight helpfully digs into the tenure data:

The median “tenure” of a worker — how long the typical worker has been with the same employer — rose by 14 percent between 1983 and 2006, to four years from 3.5. When the recession hit, the trend accelerated, with median tenure hitting 4.4 years in 2010 and 4.6 years in 2012. As counterintuitive narratives go, it would be hard to beat, “Job security continues to rise.” …

But when you look closer, it becomes clear that this counterintuitive narrative is counterintuitive for a reason. The Labor Department’s data on tenure look only at people who are employed. That means that if a large number of recent hires lose their jobs at once — as tends to happen when a recession hits — median tenure will rise, even though people aren’t staying in their jobs for longer.

The prerecession trend of increased tenure turns out to be equally misleading in a different way. There are two major forces at work. The first is age: Older workers are more likely to have been in their jobs for longer, so the gradual aging of the U.S. population has pushed up workers’ average tenure. The second is the entrance of women into the workforce and, particularly, into career-track jobs. In 1983, the average woman had been with her employer a year less than the average man; 30 years later, their average tenures are nearly equal. If we set aside those factors and focus just on men in their prime working years, there was a decline in tenure in the years before the recession. This is one case where conventional wisdom holds up.

Of course, the correct, conventional wisdom of shortening employee tenure is even more apparent when you’re looking at high skilled workers in dynamic industries.

Ben Casnocha is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and executive in Silicon Valley. He is coauthor with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman of the recent New York Times bestseller The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, which has become one of the most sought-after management frameworks on how to recruit, manage, and retain entrepreneurial employees. To learn more about Ben Casnocha or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Ben's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.