A 2017 Reading List for Success

Whenever I go through the airport heading to my flight, I make it a point to walk through the bookstore. 90% of the time something will catch my eye and once again they have me hooked. I’m a sucker for a good book.

However on this particular morning while heading out to Salt Lake City for a cold snowy week, I reached a conundrum. I found a particularly enticing assortment of books. While I tried to narrow my selection down to just one book, I couldn’t. My next choice was to expand to two or three books which I quickly eliminated as a viable option seeing as I had three books witb me already. Hmmm. Such an unfortunate predicament.

Finally, it occurred to me. Any one of these books would be an amazing read, and seeing as I had only read two of the books, why not make this book display my reading list for the year? And thus was born my business reading list for 2017. I say my business reading list because I have various other spiritual, adventure, and scientific books already started.

As I found this shelf to be filled with very relevant topics for my new adventures in 2017, I felt it only fitting to share the list with others. Enjoy.

Leadership Lessons from Bill Hybels

Great leadership ability is not something you attain. It’s something you constantly work to improve and refine. I find it extremely interesting that the best leaders are always looking for ways to improve. They never see leadership from the lens of “I’ve arrived.”

On August 9th and 10th, our leadership team was able to attend the Willowcreek Leadership Summit. As usual, the summit was phenomenal event. While I was unable to attend the full two days, I was very fortunate to fit a couple of the key speakers into my busy schedule. One of my favorites was Bill Hybels. Rather than taking time to write up my own summary, I’m taking the easy way out and cheating a little. Enjoy these fabulous summaries. 🙂

Mark Sanborn

Mark Waltz

Lifepoint Leadership

Leadership Tools

Always working to stay sharp and keep that edge. Ran across a couple of leadership tools last week. There’s a lot of good and a lot of bad material out there. Hope these help you cut through the crap and add a little value to your leadership skills.

Leadership Challenge –http://www.leadershipchallenge.com, interesting site. Can’t say I endorse them, but they make a bold claim on their site. That must be worth something. Right? “The Most Trusted Source For Becoming A Better Leader”

Leadership Now – http://www.leadershipnow.com, I especially like their recent post on 4.12.11. From Values to Action

Employee / Company Word Association

Keeping a company cohesive and strong is a tough job. It takes vision, purpose, focus, resolve and long list of other things to pull it off. Unfortunately, many companies fail in developing a top notch work environment. In fact, many companies barely try. I enjoy reading stories about companies like Zappos that are doing a great job creating a strong work environment for their team.

Earlier this week, a co-worker forwarded me this great chart of word associations that employees have put together in conjunction with their companies. I found the chart very inciteful when thinking about my own team and how it stacks up with the this impressive list of other successful companies.

Word Comparisons

View the chart

First 90 Days on the Job

My monthly goal is to post to my blog 2-3 times per month, so I’m breaking my rule by posting again today. However, I love using linkedin.com, and I read something today that might be valuable to you. If you aren’t familiar with linkedin.com, it is a community of professionals from all types of fields.

The linkedin.com basics: 1) Create your profile…similar to a resume with some additional information, 2) join a group that interests you. I belong to several groups, 3) get daily or weekly digests emailed to you with the groups discussion topics. While reading one of my emails from the CIO group today, the question was asked, “Does anyone have a 90 day new job framework?” The answers varied, but generally provided good information some of which I’ve provided below.

Many times employees are hired and unfortunately their new leaders throw them in a cube, spend a few minutes with them and expect results. How utterly worthless is that?! It’s very unhealthy for the future of the organization not to mention very frustrating for new employees.

A few years ago, I had our leadership team start putting together 90 day and 180 plans for their new hires. This was to ensure that our new team members were able to produce results quickly, learn the things they need, have some vision for their future, and get some quick wins. This program has had success, but as with any program, it has to be executed.

Quick overview of a 90 and 180 plan

90 Day (varies depending on position or skill level)

  • Week 1 – Orientation, team docs review, team meetings, daily checkups
  • Week 2 – Continued systems training, introductory joint team project
  • Week 3 – Continued systems training, introductory solo project
  • Week 4 – Continued systems training, mixed projects
  • Week 5-11 – More team involvement. More advanced projects. Begin projects with more significant ROI.

180 Day

  • Advanced projects with deliverable timelines and expected ROI
  • Measureable goals with assessed project value

A couple of books were mentioned in the CIO group today. I’ll probably pick these titles up at some point.

You’re Not the Smartest Person in the Room

Have you ever had one of those discussions with someone where you just weren’t connecting? They’re trying to get their point across. You’re trying to get your point across. For some reason, there just isn’t a connection.

I pondered that disconnect a little today and I came up with this. “You are not the smartest person in the room.” Sometimes I’m in meetings I observe others that keep talking trying to drive their point home. At other times, it’s me. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with getting our point across because we are right, that we don’t stop long enough to listen to what others are saying. At other times, we are listening, but we are not “communicating” in a way that says “I am listening. I just heard what you said.”

By adopting an “I’m not the smartest person in the room mentality”, it allows us to really listen and take in what other people are saying. Even if our initial reaction is to disagree or discount what others have said, I’m not the smartest person in the room allows us another chance at really listening. It takes out our ego, neutralizes our opinions, and eases communication difficulties.

I see this being especially difficult as you gain more responsibility within the work environment. The higher up the ladder you are, the more difficult it is to really listen. Life is too busy and its easy to shortchange the people you’re talking to.

Hopefully, I’ll have success applying this. 😉

Christmas Present from the Team

I’ve never really considered myself a needy guy when it comes to birthday presents or Christmas gifts. If I don’t get them, I usually don’t get disappointed, but when I receive something nice, I’m like anyone else…it feels good. I especially like gifts that people put a lot of thought or effort into. I’m a firm believer that there’s usually one or two things that someone really wants, but can’t quite bring themselves to purchase. I’ve got several things on my list that have been putting off for years. This year, my team knocked one of those off my list…in a very classy way.

I’m slightly enamored with the Asian culture. I still recall chilling out with my dad on Sunday afternoons watching Black Belt Theatre on channel 17. Great memories. A repercussion of that time is that I now have a taste for subtitled, b rated kung fu movies…that my wife can’t stand. Such is life. For several years, I’ve shared with a couple of my leaders that I would like to get a Kendo suit. For those of you who don’t know about Kendo, it is a training method for Japanese swordmanship (Japanese version of Fencing).

Here’s a photo of what the team picked up for me. They had the practice tanto (short blade) and the practice katana (longer blade) engraved. The tanto is engraved with the japanese characters for  “leader” while the katana is engraved with the characters for “servant”…two of the montras defining our company’s leadership style. The 3rd sword in the photo was a gift from Dave Ramsey that he gave to several of the leaders’ the company.

I don’t believe there is anything more rewarding or humbling than for a leader to receive a gift like this from their team. While we all do our best, it’s nice to get the validation from our team.

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Business and Leadership Training

Well, we’ve nearly reached the end of 2008. What a year. I didn’t acheive all my goals this year, but I’m very satisfied with the progress I’ve made. One of my goals was to research and find new methods to grow my business and leadership skills. Here’s a short list of what I’ve done this year.

  • Read relevant books
  • Read relevant trade magazines
  • Focus on growing presentation skills
  • Schedule regular speaking opportunities in addition to work related activities
  • Meet other local high level technology professionals with possibility of mentorship

I also spent some time this year researching other business and leadership training materials online. I was surprised by the relatively low quality of material I found. The lack of quality material reinforced the pride I have in our company’s product – Entreleadership – business and leadership training conferences.

Entreleadership is quite an incredible package. In it’s 4 day format, Entreleadership covers 26 required business and leadership lessons with several optional lessons on internet business and marketing, investing, accounting and business taxes. Entreleadership One Day covers 7 critical lessons for a successful business. Dave does 2 Entreleadership conferences per year and 6 Entreleadership One Day events. Total attendees for the events over the past 2 years have been around 2,000. Testimonies about the quality of the event abound.

If you are interested in top notch intense business leadership training, then check out Entreleadership. Some of the attendees have touted it being as valuable as their MBA.

Building a Successful Team #2

You wake up to the barely noticeable hum of your pda. It’s 3:10 am, and as you wipe your bleary eyes you realize this may be the most miserable day of your entire life. As you reach for what has seemingly become your technology life support device, you ask yourself one more time, “When will this ever change?

At one time or another, technology leaders find themselves in a transition period of handling critical tasks themselves to finding the right people on the team to delegate those tasks to. In a previous post, I covered a few elements about successful team building through leadership that included communication, vision casting, project management, and knowing your team. See earlier post

In this post, I’ll explore some basic delegation techniques that even seasoned leaders fail to follow.

There are some basic principles of delegation and quite a few good books on the topic. I personally follow and drill into my team leaders the following (1) know the limits of your team…don’t delegate tasks to them in their areas of weakness, (2) communicate your expectations clearly, and (3) inspect what you expect…frequent follow up as needed.

  1. Know the Limits of Your Team. It amazes me how many tasks get delegated to team members by leaders that really don’t grasp that a task may be over the team member’s head. I still recall being right out of college and having my first engineering job. My boss gave me an excel spreadsheet he had built to estimate manufacturing jobs. He then handed me a job portfolio worth $1-2 million. I still marvel at what made him trust a 24 year old straight out of college with estimating a job worth 30% of the company’s gross revs.Frequently with young leaders, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the never ending amount of work that is always piling up. Sometimes delegating comes more out of desperation than real planning. Make a habit out of knowing the limits of your team. The reality is that with young inexperienced team members, they don’t even know their own limits. I try to make a regiment during delegation of helping them think through major hurdles and pointing them in directions for any necessary help I think they may need including other team members.
  2. Communicate Your Expectations Clearly. Many times a leader will send an email, call someone into their office or make a phone call only to vaguely communicate a task. What’s worse is high level executives holding a meeting to kick off a task and for several people in the room to walk away with different ideas on what and to who tasks were conveyed. This is fairly common practice.To combat poor communication when delegating, I ask for my team members to repeat back to me what they’ve understood me to have just said. While this can seem tedious at times, it works really well for larger projects and with team members that you meet with infrequently. It is imperative that there is clear communication on the handoff of significant tasks. This practice really helps to keep frustration to a minimum as well as reducing the amount of rework later in projects. It’s also nice to have deadlines met. 😉
  3. Inspect What You Expect. Once you’ve delegated a task, make sure a proper amount of follow up is done. What is the proper amount? That depends on the size and length of the project. A project requiring less than 40 man hours may require next day follow up and day before launch follow up depending on the team member. A project of 160 man hours would require a bit more. Depending on the number of people involved and the project, every 40-80 man hours of work is a good rule of thumb.Kicking off a lengthy project then letting even a week go by without a checkup could prove disastrous for a hitting delivery goals. If you want a successful launch, frequent communication and updates on progress is vital. Even the best team members can get distracted by any number of things in their day. Putting out fires, requests from other departments, requests not related to the project, etc.

Good books on delegation

Building a Successful Team #1

Our company’s internet group has experienced some significant growth over the last 4 years adding 10 people a year to our team. We’ve also lost a few as well. Currently our team consists of 43 internet professionals including a mixture of programmers, marketers and creatives.

As my professional responsibilities have grown, I’ve continued to be challenged by how much work, planning and training it takes to assemble a successful team. As our team has grown, we’ve been looking for good people to put into leadership roles, but I’ve been a bit shocked by the quality of potential leaders that have applied. With the difficulty finding qualified leaders for our growing team, I’ve felt it would be helpful to share some of the important leadership skills we’re seeking and include some methods on how someone can gain these skills.

  1. Communication – Communication is easily one of the most critical skills that any leader must have. If you’re not good at communication, work on it or you’ll limit your professional growth. Communication is more than just being comfortable speaking. There are several must have skills for a good communicator.

    (1) Know who you’re audience. Who are you talking to? How do you need to deliver your message? This becomes difficult when you have a mixed room of personalities. For example: A “D” personality type…driven…likes to hear a results driven pitch. An “I” might like an inspiration and personable interaction. An “S” could like an more loyalty driven/caring approach. Finally, a “C” wants as much detail as possible…the more spreadsheets and thorough details the better. (reference post on personality profiles)
    (2) Confidence – one of the greatest fears people have is to speak in public. While some people or born with enough confidence for a dozen people. Others have a limited amount. If you don’t have, practice. There are plenty of speaking and communication opportunities around. Seek out opportunities in church, local colleges, local business meetings, and other places. If you can schedule one session per month, you’ll have done 12 sessions in a year and be much better prepared.It’s also good practice to find a mentor that will do lunch or meet with you. This allows you to “step up” from your peers and dialogue with someone on a higher level. Typically, your dialogue will be notch or two higher than you are accustomed. After several sessions, you’ll notice some changes in your thought processes and communication style. (10 tips for self confidence)

    (3) The Right Amount – Seldom does over communication work well. A good communicator says what needs to be said effectively and quickly with the fewest amount of words. This is typically a winning style and allows you to move quickly through a significant amount of information. Dale Carnegie’s speaking class emphasizes 2 minute speeches. Effective communication in 2 minutes or less. Obviously this doesn’t play out in the work place, but it is a good practice so that your mind is trained to keep communication brief and effective. (Dale Carnegie – Effective Communication and Human Relations)

    (4) Read Your Audience – being tuned in to body language, engagement and other ques is important. There are plenty of books on this topic. Read them and be equipped. (reading body language…introduction)

  2. Vision Casting – This skill is a must, but it’s easily overlooked in the business of work life. If you aren’t able or just don’t cast vision for your team, they will quickly fall into the j-o-b mentality, lack inspiration for their job, and eventually begin wondering why they are working. This can greatly contribute to “the grass is greener” mentality, and usually an early sign of a forthcoming job search.Typically, you want to recast the vision for your team every 90 days. That’s about how much time it takes for the team to begin losing focus and losing track of what ties everything together. You have to reset to keep everyone on the same page. (making vision stick)
  3. Project Management – I’m continually amazed by how many people just don’t grasp the scope of how much is involved on some projects. There can be a tremendous number of moving parts requiring and understanding of several disciplines.For example: A sizeable web project can involve (a) programming, (b) marketing, (c) creative, (d) business planning, (e) copy writing, and the list goes on.The typical individual barely grasps the scope of 1 of these disciplines much less the ability to pull all of skills together to leverage a complete project. This emphasizes the importance of having a strong team that can work together and draw on each others skillsets. (Execution – a book)
  4. Know Your Team – Its not uncommon for leaders to be so focused on their own needs or c.y.a. that they really don’t take the time to know their teams. They fail to really understand the strengths and weaknesses they each of their team members.The rule I attempt to live by is “know your team better than they know themselves”. While this isn’t an easy task, it is worth the effort. By knowing your team’s abilities, you are better able to assign the task to the proper teammate, help them achieve the tasks you have for them, and help them reach the goals they have for themselves. It takes a lot of insight to reach this, but it’s worth the effort. It’s a lot better than the alternative of handing off a task only to have it sent back a disappointment.

I’ll cover other points on building a successful team at a later time.