Companies Break in the Middle

Companies Break in the Middle

After spending over 1,000 hours per year with CEO’s I have an observation, companies break in the middle.

Hold a stick with both hands at each end. Your right hand is the CEO, your left hand is the front-line employee. Everything in between is the middle. Now bend the stick…until it breaks.

The break will happen somewhere in the middle. No matter the strength of the branch, it will break with the right amount of pressure. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the middle.

Releasing the Brake

Releasing the Brake

When you’re in a position of leadership, it’s easy to think you know exactly where to take people—they just need to listen to you.

That is a flawed approach.

Our job as leaders—whether in business, in family, or in life—is to take people From Here to There.

Before we can take them There we must first know where they’ve come From. Once we understand that, then we can learn how they got Here. Only then can we help them get to their There. This takes self-reflection and answering questions similar to what I asked Anna. While you may understand what it is holding them back, they need to discover it for themselves.

Leaders And Urgency Addiction: A Love Story

By Gail Angelo

Do short deadlines and fast-paced environments give you an adrenaline rush?
Chances are you’re an urgency addict.

Long-term states of heightened adrenaline, however, take their toll on overall health. People who overwork themselves have an increased sense of anxiety, rarely feel rested, are often impatient and are generally less effective workers. Responsibilities start to fall through the cracks.

Most importantly, urgency addiction takes its toll on relationships because it is distracting. The ability to be present and engage with teams, customers, colleagues, and even family and friends diminishes.

To shift yourself out of an urgency mindset, you need to focus less on being the best at something and learn to focus on being the best to someone.

Recently, I had the opportunity to coach John, a senior level executive of a multi-million dollar organization. John was suffering from urgency addiction. One clear indicator was his recent physical. The results were not glowing. He was worn out, less than fully engaged and had this nagging feeling that something was missing. Leading just wasn’t fun anymore.

After conducting an initial session and 360 degree feedback process, it was clear that John’s zest for life and leadership had waned. He felt like he was dealing with one crisis after another and his days were an endless stream of meetings. It was difficult to find white space in his calendar. In his mind, everything was urgent.

John began the coaching process reflecting on two questions:

1. What is the story you hear yourself telling most often about your life?

2. What is the story you want to be telling?

John heard himself saying that he was stuck in doing and not leading. He was not aligned with his values around leadership and relationships. He missed feeling more deeply connected to his teams and his family as well as to the underlying purpose of his work.

John used the following strategies to move himself out of urgency addiction and into purposeful leading:

1. Pay attention to intention

John took time to explore what gave his leadership and his life purpose and meaning. He clarified his purpose, core values and strengths. He asked himself and others how these elements were manifested in his leadership. He then made changes accordingly.

2. Create space for:


John started setting aside 15 minutes a day for reflection, increasing it over time to 30 minutes. Reflection provides the opportunity to understand how the events of our lives shape our future and impact others. It supports our quest for discovering purpose and meaning. Reflection moves us from the mental model of being right and smart to leading with purpose and wisdom.


Addiction to urgency can leave us in a state of stress. When we’re stressed, it’s important to take care of ourselves so that we can make clear-headed decisions. John became more aware of what he ate. He hired a personal trainer. He ensured he was getting 7-8 hours of sleep most nights. As importantly, he began to think about things he used to love to do. He started incorporating more of those things into his daily life. Sometimes it was just a simple, leisurely cup of coffee with his wife or a trip to the beach to relax and recharge.

Strengthen relationships

Focusing on others without distraction helps strengthen trusted relationships. John came to realize just how often he was in conversations waiting to respond versus listening to understand. When he was more present in his interactions with people, the quality of those interactions and relationships grew.

3. Delegate for better team engagement

The engine of team engagement is a clear purpose, a feedback mechanism and the opportunity to build on strengths. John was a micro-manager. His leadership team felt both deflated and defeated. He re-assessed how he was delegating, then shifted his focus to delegate artfully based on individual and team strengths. He thought about opportunities for individual and team growth and exposure. These steps resulted in a stronger, more engaged team and greater capacity for him to lead more effectively.

4. Breathe

When everything feels urgent, we are engaging an aspect of the brain that triggers our fight-or-flight response. Studies show that focusing on our breath results in a physiological relaxation response to the body and clearing of the mind, leaving us free to make clear decisions. John began to practice breathing at various times throughout the day with a marked difference on how much more energized and relaxed he felt.

5. Enlist an accountability partner

In this case John enlisted one of his trusted advisors. He was transparent in what he was doing, where he was struggling, and the type of support that was helpful.

The transformation for John and his leadership team was remarkable. The team gained a legitimate voice in the long-term direction and strategy of the organization. There’s been a surge of creativity and innovation on the team. John is more fulfilled as he learned how to cope with his urgency addiction and a better leader to his team. He is living into the story he wants to tell.

Gail Angelo is a leader of leaders: equipped with an extraordinarily intuitive, yet practical approach that enables those she works with to move from wishing and hoping to doing and attaining - from boring to bold - Gail empowers her clients to act as the owners of their leadership goals. Her experience and powers of perception allow her to help executives identify their true strengths, eliminate negativity and create strategies with clear action steps that lead to success and fulfillment for her clients.

Build An Outstanding Team With Flawed People

by Jeff Haden
Great people make a great team—as long as you define “great” correctly. That’s a definition many CEOs, and bosses in general, often get wrong.

I worked in a manufacturing plant where productivity was everything. We spent significant time and effort working to improve efficiency, reduce waste, reduce downtime…typical improvement initiatives. As supervisors and managers we also spent a lot of time competing with each other. (You are what you measure.)

One manager decided team performance could be predicted and improved by quantifying the attributes of a great machine operator. He felt that if you could determine the key attributes, and measure potential team members against those attributes, that he could select and create a great team. So he tried to identify the “key attributes,” filling a dozen easel sheets with key skills and attributes.

The problem was, though, great operators possess a dizzying array of qualities. Many attributes were hard to quantify, like “self starter” and “team player.” So he narrowed his list to quantifiable attributes. One quantifiable attribute was mechanical aptitude.

Plenty of tests evaluate and measure mechanical knowledge. And intuitively it made sense: machine operators run machines, so mechanical knowledge must be important. And off he went, in short order creating a team filled with mechanical aptitude superstars.Yet my team—most of us with limited mechanical aptitude (based on testing my mechanical aptitude was the worst)—consistently outran his team by a wide margin.

Where did he go wrong? Faced with too many variables, many of them intangible and hard to quantify, he picked an attribute he could put a number on: mechanical aptitude. Never mind our plant’s equipment failed less than 4% of the time. Never mind we had skilled machinists who were seconds away if we needed help. Mechanical aptitude could be measured in a way hustle, teamwork, drive, and work ethic could not, even though those qualities were much more important. So he went with mechanical aptitude because it was something he could “know,” instead of focusing on other qualities that were more difficult to assess.

That’s a simple, and all too common, mistake.

Here’s how you can avoid it. The key is to recognize that every employee brings different skills and attitudes so your goal isn’t to ensure every employee is great; your goal is to ensure that as a team those employees can collectively be great. To build a great team:

Decide the key attribute every employee must have.

Forget about the stereotypically well-rounded employee for a moment. If you could only pick one attribute, what would you choose as the most important skill or quality a great employee needs to have to succeed in the position? Maybe it’s attitude, or interpersonal skills, or teamwork, or a specific skill set… whatever it is, that attribute is the foundation for individual employees and for your team. Training can fill in the gaps, but this is the attribute almost every employee must possess.

Decide the attribute every employee can’t have.

This one’s easy. Just complete this sentence: “I don’t care how great he is, I don’t want him on my team because he…” Typically your answer won’t be skills-based; it will be something like terrible interpersonal skills, a horrible work ethic, or a larger than life ego. Just identify the attribute you can’t live with and make sure it stays off your team.

Determine your threshold point.

You may not be able to build a team where every member possesses your most important attribute. In our case a crew was made up of six operators. We had room for one operator who wasn’t quite as fast on job changeovers but was a great leader. (In fact, he could serve as the poster boy for my definition of a remarkable employee.) The rest of us bridged his speed gap and we all benefitted from his leadership skills. Could we have afforded two operators on the team like him? No, probably not. Decide how many individuals who possess your most important attribute will be enough to make things work. If you can find more, that’s great. If not you’re still okay.

Put together the rest of your puzzle.

Knowing your threshold point frees you up to build a team with complementary skills. You can take on a great team player who is technically weaker, or a loner who is an outstanding problem solver, or a person with limited experience that possesses incredible hustle and drive. Never assume the only individual attributes that matter are attributes that can be measured. In some cases, when individual contributors work alone and largely outside the scope of a team, quantifiable skills may be all-important. But where teams are concerned, success is almost always the result of intangible qualities. Focus only on numbers—especially on the wrong numbers—and you build teams that on paper should perform well… but in practice never do.

Stop Pretending That You Can’t Give Candid Feedback

We’ve all heard the famous bromide that “honesty is the best policy.” But when it comes to performance feedback, honesty often falls by the wayside. Many managers hide behind performance management checklists or water down their feedback with generalizations. And on the other side of the equation, employees tend to position themselves in the most favorable light possible in their self-assessments, and avoid giving constructive feedback to the boss, even when it’s requested. The result is a lack of candid dialogue between boss and subordinate — which not only prevents the organization from improving, but also stymies individual development.


The odd thing about this phenomenon is that everyone knows that performance feedback should be more candid. There are hundreds of articles about the value of candid assessments and most supervisory and management courses include some variation on how to have “courageous” conversations (corporate-speak for “honest”). There also are some organizations, such as GE and (the new) Ford under Alan Mulally, that insist upon it.

Research also shows that employees are far more engaged when they receive honest feedback; and that leaders who rate highest in managerial effectiveness are those who most actively seek feedback from others. Yet performance feedback continues to look like the Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone pretends that it’s different than it is.

The reality is that candid, two-way dialogues are intensely uncomfortable and cause anxiety on both sides of the table. The boss, for example, often worries that too much candor might be hurtful or damaging. As one senior manager said to me, “If I tell this person what I really think, it could destabilize her and make it difficult for her to do her job.” At the same time, the boss may also want to be liked by the subordinate and doesn’t want the relationship to deteriorate, especially if they have to work side-by-side. So it’s easier to pull punches than to say something that might damage the relationship.

On the other side of the ledger, subordinates worry that negative feedback will adversely affect their job continuation, career prospects, or earning power — so they may appear defensive or anxious, which makes it even harder to have an honest conversation. And if the manager asks for feedback, many subordinates will try to say nice things as a way of currying favor, or signaling a quid-pro-quo arrangement of “I’ll give you positive feedback if you give me the same.”

The net result of all this angst and (largely unconscious) anxiety is a stilted, pro-forma, ritualistic, and not very productive pattern of dialogue about performance. It’s a pattern that adds little value to the organization or to managers and employees.

Unfortunately, given the powerful nature of the underlying psychological forces, it is difficult to break this pattern. Most people believe Jack Nicholson’s line from the movie, “A Few Good Men,” when he shouted: “You can’t handle the truth!” That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do. On the contrary, given the enormous value that more honest feedback can produce, here are three suggestions that might be worth exploring:

Acknowledge and discuss the difficulty of honest performance feedback. Whether you are the boss or subordinate, initiate conversation about the issue, the underlying psychology, and the value of getting it right. Use this blog post or other articles like it as a way to get the discussion started. The more you can build awareness of the dynamic, the better your chances of dealing with it.
Separate developmental feedback from job-security issues such as compensation and promotion. The easiest way to do this is to conduct these discussions at different times (even if your corporate process wants you to do them together). Doing this allows you to focus the conversation on how you and your subordinate can better accomplish key goals and projects — so the discussion is more work-related than “personal.” Making this explicit division removes some of the emotion from performance assessment and might free you up to be more candid.
Like any good skill, you need to practice. So don’t wait until the formal process kicks in and you’re under the gun to fill out forms and have a high-anxiety performance review. Instead, engage your people (or your boss) in a series of mini-discussions about how things are going and what can be done differently. The more frequently you have these conversations, the more comfortable they will become. Honest performance feedback is not easy. But learning how to do it well can make a huge difference both for you and for your organization.

Reprinted From HBR.org

The 9 Traits That Define Great Leadership


To motivate your team to achieve the highest levels of performance (and create an extraordinary organization in the process) here are the qualities you should model every day.


Many leaders are competent but few qualify as remarkable. If you want to join the ranks of the best of the best, make sure you embody all these qualities all the time. It isn't easy, but the rewards can be truly phenomenal.

1. Awareness  There is a difference between management and employees, bosses and workers. Leaders understand the nature of this difference and accept it; it informs their image, their actions, and their communication. They conduct themselves in a way that sets them apart from their employees--not in a manner that suggests they are better than others, but in a way that permits them to retain an objective perspective on everything that's going on in their organization.

2. Decisiveness All leaders must make tough decisions It goes with the job. They understand that in certain situations, difficult and timely decisions must be made in the best interests of the entire organization, decisions that require a firmness, authority, and finality that will not please everyone. Extraordinary leaders don't hesitate in such situations. They also know when not to act unilaterally but instead foster collaborative decision-making.

3. Empathy Extraordinary leaders praise in public and address problems in private. a genuine concern The best leaders guide employees through challenges, always on the lookout for solutions to foster the long-term success of the organization. Rather than making things personal when they encounter problems, or assigning blame to individuals, leaders look for constructive solutions and focus on moving forward.

4. Accountability Extraordinary leaders take responsibility for everyone's performance, including their own. They follow up on all outstanding issues, check in on employees, and monitor the effectiveness of company policies and procedures. When things are going well, they praise. When problems arise, they identify them quickly, seek solutions, and get things back on track.

5. Confidence Not only are the best leaders confident, but their confidence is contagious. Employees are naturally drawn to them, seek their advice, and feel more confident as a result. When challenged, they don’t give in too easily, because they know their ideas, opinions and strategies are well-informed and the result of much hard work. But when proven wrong they take responsibility and quickly act to improve the situations within their authority.

6. Optimism The very best leaders are source of positive energy. They communicate easily. They are intrinsically helpful and genuinely concerned for other people’s welfare. They always seem to have a solution and always know what to say to inspire and reassure. They avoid personal criticism and pessimistic thinking, and look for ways to gain consensus and get people to work together efficiently and effectively as a team.

7. Honesty Strong leaders treat people how they want to be treated. They are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success. They embody these values so overtly that no employee doubts their integrity for a minute. They share information openly and avoid spin control.

8. Focus Extraordinary leaders plan ahead and they are supremely organized. They think through multiple scenarios and the possible impacts of their decisions, while considering viable alternatives and making plans and strategies--all targeted toward success. Once prepared, they establish strategies, processes, and routines so that high performance is tangible, easily defined, and monitored. They communicate their plans to key players and have contingency plans in the event last-minute changes require a new direction (which they often do).

9. Inspiration Put it all together and what emerges is a picture of the truly inspiring leader: someone who communicates clearly, concisely, and often, and by doing so motivates everyone to give their best all the time. They challenge their people by setting high but attainable standards and expectations, and then giving them the support, tools, training, and latitude to pursue those goals and become the best employees they can possibly be. 

8 Qualities That Make Leaders Memorable

By Glenn Llopis

Leaders that strive to be significant seek to create the greatest impact and influence.   These are the types of leaders that we value the most; inspired by their courage and resiliency, we seek to emulate them. They are the most respected.  Leaders that are self-aware, are clear about their identity and expectations, have the backs of others and can be trusted – they are the ones we instinctively gravitate towards.  These are the leaders that are rare to find and will not soon be forgotten by their colleagues and the organizations they serve.   These are the leaders that can get the most out of very little, are grateful for the opportunity to lead, and always treat others like family.

Great leaders are the most memorable.  They go about their day leveraging their distinction   by leading in ways that come most naturally to them.  They are remembered and admired because they have their own unique style and approach that supports innovation and initiative and  are known  for making the workplace culture stronger, more  unified and collaborative.  The most memorable leaders always set the right tone.  Their presence and charisma are in service to others and they go out of their way to make their employees feel secure.  They embrace two-way communication and are active listeners.  They observe the dynamics around them and take pride in staying ahead of the game.   They are game changers and are constantly looking for ways to challenge the status quo; they identify and help course correct those who might bring the organization down and are quick to solve problems.

The most memorable leaders are change agents – never afraid to confront complacency and make the required changes to get the organization back on track.   My boss during my early corporate years was the most memorable leader I have ever worked for.   Mark quickly and respectfully evaluated the organization, its talent, shortfalls and the opportunities for growth.  He recognized that the culture needed a refresh and renewed energy.  He is the boss that helped shaped me into the leader I am today.  He injected a renewed sense of professionalism in the organization and made others feel more relevant and important.  He single-handedly used his unique leadership skills and capabilities to revive an organization that was growing complacent and needed some real leadership.   I was grateful to have experienced the transformational impact of great leadership at an early age. It made me realize that people just want to be led the right way – where they feel valued and can contribute in meaningful and purposeful ways.

Is your leader memorable for the right reasons – or are you stuck with a leader that is disrupting your career momentum?

Your leader impacts your career advancement and influences how you think, act and innovate more than you might imagine.  As you manage your career, be on the lookout for the following eight  qualities that make your leader extraordinarily memorable  and positively enrich your experiences along the way.

1.  Authenticity

The most authentic leaders are the most memorable.   These are the leaders that don’t play games nor exercise power plays.  They wear their intentions on their sleeves and make their expectations clear.  Authentic leaders are consistent, embrace diversity and encourage their people to share their ideas and ideals.  They know how to convert a melting pot into a mosaic.  They encourage an entrepreneurial attitude.

Authentic leaders are experts at identifying the unique skill sets that lie within every person – because they place an emphasis on individuality, one’s unique strengths, and they allow employees to have a voice that matters and is heard.   They allow their employees to discover their own identity and assign them roles and responsibilities where their contributions will enable them to flourish.

2.  Shares Their Wisdom

Memorable leaders are those who enjoy sharing their wisdom and secrets of success.   These types of leaders are great teachers and are the best mentors.   Their storytelling abilities alone make them memorable — but it’s the leadership lessons they share that you will come to appreciate later in your career because they carry the most weight and impact.

In fact, I will never advise people about something that I’ve never experienced (firsthand) myself because of my own experiences with great leaders who have shared their wisdom with me.  When you advise someone of something that you don’t know enough about (because you never experienced it), you are potentially putting that person into a position of great risk.    What is the point?  When leaders act as if they know the answers when they don’t, they are not doing you any favors.

Every year, I send a handwritten letter to those leaders and mentors who were most memorable to me and positively influenced my life.

3.  Does What Others Don’t

You know that you’ve worked with a lot of different types of leaders in your career when the personalities, styles and attitudes of leaders begin to recycle.   As such, over time leaders become predictable.   The most memorable leaders are truly unique and have an identity and presence about them that helps them stand out from the crowd.  They are the ones that support you in ways that others don’t.   They have your back and will stand-up for you when times get tough.   They sponsor you at work and help give you a platform to get discovered   and advance your career.

You know that your leader is unique when they consistently go out of their way to make you feel that you matter and/or attempt to leverage a skill or competency that other leaders neglected.  These leaders–are self-aware and trust themselves enough to appreciate the differences in others.

How many times have you felt that your talent was never fully appreciated or discovered by your leader?

4.  Embraces the Lessons of Failure

Leaders that allow you to learn from failure are those that are eager for you to grow and prosper.   They  view risk as their best friend.   I am not suggesting that leaders want you to fail – but if you should fail or experience any level of significant hardship, the most memorable leaders make sure that you learn valuable lessons.  These types of leaders know that failure is not fatal, but rather a time to teach you how to overcome adversity and avoid the same occurrence from repeating itself.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had great leaders that guided me rightly during some of the worst experiences of failure in my career.   For example, in my first senior role in my early 20s, one of my leaders flew cross-country with me to meet the client that I had experienced a shortcoming with.   She taught me that business was something that should never be taken personally.  If I did, I would have a long, unfulfilling career.  She also taught me   to avoid a repeat of this incident with better communication and fewer assumptions.  Without strong communication, things can get lost in translation and thus lead to poor decision making.      Needless to say, this leader of mine will never be forgotten.

5.  Gives You Their Valuable Time

Time is a leader’s most precious asset.  Everyone wants more time with them than they have available.  The most memorable leaders give you the time that they don’t always have.  They recognize that their employees need attention and will find a way to make the time to listen to their concerns and provide insights to the situation at hand.

You know the leaders that are simply going through the motions and growing complacent along the way.    They are not the ones giving their employees their valuable time and making them feel valued and recognized.  Many times an employee just wants to know that their leaders are paying attention to their work and acknowledging their efforts.

6.  Creates Special Moments

Memorable leaders create special moments.   They are extremely well tuned to their employee’s needs, the culture and the tone of the organization.   These types of leaders can quickly connect the dots and are aware of the internal and external politics and tension points that are being dealt with by employees each day.    Without notice, they will create a special moment to inspire and inform the organization that they are aware of the circumstances at hand and will attempt to lighten the mood with spontaneous acts of kindness – and an action plan of support.

These types of leaders make you feel that you are never alone and that they are willing to fight the fight with you at all times.    Employees that are led by leaders like this are the most valued and fulfilled in their jobs – because they feel a layer of security that looms over their tireless efforts.

7.  Makes You Feel Valued

The leaders that are most grateful for your hard work and efforts will be the most memorable.   When you feel genuinely appreciated – that you are not taken for granted – these are the times you feel that the 60+ hour work weeks are worth it.

Not enough leaders appreciate the work of their employees – especially in today’s unemployment world – where many employers remind their employees that they are fortunate just to have a job.     When a leader is self-absorbed, they tend to forget about the efforts of others.   This is when top-talent is lost and the efforts of others begin to wane.   When leaders value and respect their employees, retention will remain strong and people will work harder, with a greater sense of purpose, and with a passionate pursuit of excellence.

Leadership is all about people and leaders who forget this will be forgotten quickly.

8.  Leads to Leave a Legacy

Leaders that lead to leave a legacy are leading for the right reasons.  They know that success comes most to those who are surrounded by people that want their success to continue.   Leaders that are in it for the betterment of a healthier whole are rarely forgotten.    People enjoy teamwork in collaborative, group-think environments.

There is a difference between making a mark  and leaving a legacy.   When you make a mark, it means that you may have done something great, but not necessarily something that is of everlasting significance.  Legacy building is when the mark you created continues to grow and foster; where the people respect the legacy enough to sustain it.  Legacy becomes an embedded part of the organization, its culture, brand and history.

If you were to leave your organization today, what would be the legacy that you would be leaving behind?   What would be the legacy of your current leader?

When you lead to leave a legacy, your leadership is focused on significance and not just success; respect over recognition.

Ultimately, it is the leader who strives to have an impact that is bigger than just themselves who will be the most memorable – and for all the right reasons.   They will always leave an unforgettable impression and have long-lasting influence on you, your career, and the organization they serve.

Practical Steps for Finding a Job in a Tough Economy

Finding a job today, especially for a young person, is tough.  The world is changing and even though the millennial generation is well versed in the digital world, many lack an understanding of how to use this to their advantage. Today, resumes are scanned digitally and so paper is passé.  The days of nice stock, fancy fonts and embossed letterhead are gone forever.  The key today is to stand out from the crowd, highlight your true strengths and network, network, network.

There are four specific assets you need to land a job.  Each has their own unique benefits and each must be complimented with a sprinkling of throw back common sense and values.  Here are the assets and how I suggest they should be best utilized:

1)  Your brand – A brand is who you are as perceived by others. 

Website:  The best vehicle to do this is a personal domain name pointed to your website.  There are lots of free or inexpensive websites to choose from.  My daughter chose Wix.com and I use Squarespace, both are very good and easy to use. 

The purpose of your website is so that employers can get to know who you are.  Start with a picture of yourself.  Don’t make it formal but something possibly relating to your field.  For example my daughter is in medicine and her picture has her in a lab coat.  Add a few pictures of yourself doing activities you enjoy or serving in the community.  Employers are looking for more than applicants.  What you do outside the classroom or work environment is important.as well.

Describe yourself as you would to a new friend.  Talk about interests, hobbies, travels and life.  If you have quotes from former employers or references add those as well.  Don’t make your website about your education or work experience. Make it about you.

Domain name:  I recognize not everyone can be blessed (or cursed!) to have an uncommon name such as Tom Cuthbert.  Find a domain name that is you or close to your name.  Any hosting company can help with this and point it to your website.  I use www.GKG.net.  It is inexpensive and the phone support is very good.

Email:  Ideally get yourname@yourdomainname.com.  If you don’t associate your email with your domain then be sure your email address is not cheesy, suggestive or embarrassing..  Get your name @ gmail.com or yahoo .com.  Your brand assets need to align as best you can. 

Phone number:  Most people don’t think about this.  You will want to put your phone number on your website, your resume and your LinkedIn profile.  All of these will, of course, be all over the Internet.  Not a good idea!  The answer is Google Voice.  Get a free Google Voice number and simply forward it to your cell phone.  Be sure you use the custom greeting to sound professional.  Your voice, is the first “human” interaction that recruiters and HR people will have with you, make it count.  My daughter is moving to another city so her Google Voice number has a local area code, a nice touch.

Note:  DO NOT put your home address or your parents home address on public sites.  Mail or email them to recruiters and HR professionals but you do not want to put yourself or your family at risk.

2) Your information:  A good resume is a must and girth does not equal worth.  The Twitter generation needs to learn to communicate succinctly, highlighting the positives and value of you as a person.  The most common mistake people make is they fill in a bunch of information about what they did or facts about education and work history.  This is the wrong approach.

The two resumes above include a heat map of recruiters' eye movements. The one on the right was looked at more thoroughly than the one of the left because of its clear and concise format.

The two resumes above include a heat map of recruiters' eye movements. The one on the right was looked at more thoroughly than the one of the left because of its clear and concise format.

Put your name, phone number, email address and website address across the top.  Add a professional picture of yourself to the resume, different than the one on your website.

Spend time on your objective.  Don’t say what everyone else says.  Be specific, creative and speak with passion.  I read one recently that said, "I am seeking a position to teach children where I can use my creativity and education to enhance their lives.”  Uh, no!  

Instead try, “I have had a desire to teach children since I was a child myself.  My heart and mind easily focus on their needs and the heroes in my life are those who have committed themselves to education.  I am looking for an opportunity as an elementary teacher at a school that shares my passion, can equip me to teach and allow me to grow to become a role model for others.”

Tailor your objective to match yourself and for the specific type of job you are looking for.  A good objective should communicate three things:

1) Specifically what you are looking for

2) A trait or two you have that matches the job (meaning I will be good at this because I have a passion/ education/experience...)

3) A "commitment" or "hook" such as, "I have dedicated myself to both enhancing my own skill set while improving the effectiveness of my employers communication"


Read this carefully… you must communicate what what you did, did for your company.  Think about how successful companies sell their products.  The value is not in what the product is or does, the value is in what the product or service does for their customers.  Writing a resume is no different than writing an ad to sell a product or service.  Focus on the outcome of the work you did.  How did it change lives, move the needle, grow a business or solve a problem.

A good resume should be one page, unless you have a great deal of relevant education or are in the medical field.  Be succinct and start with the aspect of your experience or education that is the most impressive.  In each experience, connect what you di to what it did for others.  Use a simple font size 12 or 13 and don’t get fancy.  End with “References available upon request”.  Save it as a PDF and have printed copies available as well.

Try this exercise.  Hold up your right hand and spread out all five fingers.  Now hold up your left hand with all five fingers.  Have your hands face each other.  Imagine that each finger on your right hand is an asset YOU possess.  Now imagine that each finger on your left hand is a NEED that your future employer has.  NOW... slowly touch each finger together... pinkie to pinkie, pointer to pointer and so on.

This is exactly the way employers read resumes... how does this person match the needs we have.   You can sell yourself once you get in front of them and your resume is the tool to get you in front of a potential employer.  

3)  Your networkLinkedIn is here to stay.  It is changing they way business is done and smart people understand how to leverage LinkedIn to connect.  Unlike your resume, you want your LinkedIn profile to be full and rich.

Start with your picture.  It should walk the line between the personal photo and the business photo.  Work on your headline and be engaging.  Again, your headline should not be simply what you do.  Let it represent where you are in life, something about what you do and most importantly, where you are going.

List all relevant work experience, education, service, organizations and service.  Include details, dates and description.  Fill it up and repeat words that relate to your job search.  The summary is critical.  Spend time describing you as a person, your interests, education and experience.  Think of it as an expanded version of your resume objective.  Add in specialties and areas of expertise.

LinkedIn now allows videos, which are a great way to display who you are and your ability to communicate.  Take advantage of this if possible; just be sure it is relevant and well produced.

LinkedIn has become the place to be and be seen in the business community. Start to build your network with people you know well.  Find friends and connect.  Networking is all about giving so find ways to add value to members of your network.  Leverage your friend’s relationships to request connections with those in the industries you are interested in.  Don’t overplay this, beg or sound desperate.  Have a business reason for the connection and offer to help them as well.  Get involved in groups relevant to your industry, post and comment on articles.

Be sure your news feed is active with interesting and relevant articles.  I use Buffer to keep a steady stream of information flowing to my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages.  You can set frequency and time of day.  Don’t overwhelm people but you do want an active news feed. It shows you are a professional in your field.

Complete your profile with endorsements.  You need at least 10 from credible friends, references and those who know you best.  Use these references to create a reference list.  You will need this to send as a follow up or attachment with your resume.

4) Your Persona:  The goal of all of the assets described above is to get you in front of the right person to hire you.  I am amazed at the number of people I meet who “look good on paper” but fall short in person.  Don’t let this happen to you.  I recently had a young man in my office.  His father had requested my help in teaching his son how to interview.  This young man was bright, had a great background and wonderful education.  After five minutes I asked him to stand up and walk out of my office.  “Try again”, I said.  This time I coached him on proper greeting.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Start with a firm handshake.  Three shakes and you’re done.  Don’t break fingers or grip it loosely.  Stand tall.  Don’t slump or lean.  Get your hands out of your pocket (or at least one of them!).  Make eye contact often.  At this point you’ve come a long way and worked very hard to get your shot.  PRACTICE this before your meeting.  Do not overlook this step. 

Finally how people follow up (or not) says a lot about who they truly are.  Order inexpensive stationary.  I suggest VistaPrint or Overnight Prints.  Make it look clean but nice and include your name, address and website on the outside.  Take the time to send a hand written (I mean HAND written) note to the person who has taken time for you.  Send these to referral sources, references, HR mangers, executives and anyone who has taken time to help you get your shot at the right job. 

This approach is only the beginning.  You are the one that can find yourself the job you really want and can have success.  Don't skip any steps and rely on all your resources.  These resources include family, friends, your network and associates.  Don't hesitate to ask for help and always, always say thank you!

Tom Cuthbert



How to Turn Around Nearly Anything

By Rosabeth Moss Kanter via Harvard Business Review

The Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series championship will long be remembered as proof that you can turn around nearly anything. The team ended last season at the bottom of the standings (Las Vegas odds were 28 to 1 that they’d make it to the World Series), but rallied this year. With renewed solidarity and determination, the beard-wearing Sox went on to win the division, the playoffs, and the big prize.

Their game is baseball, my game is change. I’ve been involved with turnarounds for years, including observing and writing about the Red Sox 2004 World Series win that reversed many decades of being almost-rans. In turbulent times, turnarounds are increasingly a fact of life. Some companies need to be rescued from the brink of extinction (BlackBerry), but that’s not the only kind of turnaround. Others need a course correction while still  profitable (Microsoft), or a momentum shift because of disruptive new technologies (newspaper companies). Red Sox owner John Henry recently purchased one of those newspapers needing a momentum shift, the Boston Globe. For the Globe and its counterparts, the competition is not one rival or game at a time, like baseball; it is multiple digital media offerings and others-to-be-named-later. Henry, like any leader seeking strategic change, can benefit from these turnaround lessons.

Be prepared for bad news; the situation is always worse than you think. One symptom of decline is withholding information. Inconvenient facts are papered over. Decisions are made behind closed doors. Accusations and blame abound. So it is almost impossible to know the full extent of problems. When Avon Products CEO Sheri McCoy took the helm in April 2012, she acknowledged that resolving a bribery crisis in China would be a slow process, but she had no idea how slow — it’s proving to take longer and cost more, she told analysts, while also mounting multiple initiatives. Facing the facts squarely is a turnaround imperative. Open dialogue encourages everyone to see their role in the fix-up.

Identify the core assets that create value for customers, and refurbish them. For newspaper companies, that’s the news rather than the paper. For The Weather Channel Company, that’s the weather rather than the TV channel; to unlock growth opportunities, new CEO David Kenny returned science to the center and took out channel in the name — it’s now just The Weather Company. At the British Broadcasting Corporation, a turnaround leader reallocated resources from corporate staff to program producers. A bankrupt community health center repaired leaky ceilings in medical examination rooms. Forget bureaucrats, fancy lobbies, and marketing expense! They first restored the assets determining whether people use a health center.

Find a meaningful unifying purpose. Teams and companies with negative momentum are characterized by fragmentation — a drift into many activities that get tacked on and stay, becoming ends in themselves. Territories get hardened, and people seem to be out for themselves. It is too easy to lose sight of the larger purpose of being together. Why does this company/team/relationship matter? What is a common definition of success? For airlines, it is on-time performance. For consumer products company Procter & Gamble, it is improving lives, translated in the baby care group into helping babies thrive.

Invest in teambuilding – a cliché but still true. Convene strategy retreats and mountain-climbing excursions, as Shinhan, a South Korean company did. This was a vital step in healing old wounds and going on to stellar performance at the top of the Korean stock market. Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino echoes this winning strategy: “I used to believe in biology, not chemistry. Give me big and strong and fast,” he said. “I’m a big believer now in team chemistry. You almost always have it when you win, and oftentimes it is team chemistry that leads to winning.” His quote stood for every other turnaround examined in my book Confidence.

Give voice to people who haven’t been heard. Every company/community/school is full of buried treasure. Find the ideas that might have been suppressed and bring them into the open or into action. Think small as well as big. Turnarounds operate on several time frames. There are big strategies and systems that take a long time to shift — think IT, which almost never works the first time, as Americans see in the hasty failed implementation of the Affordable Care Act website. Meanwhile, there are numerous small wins if everyone is engaged. While Verizon worked on shifting the momentum from landlines and voice to smartphones, FiOS (fiber-optic communication systems), and cloud services, mini-innovators created software and streamlined processes.

These lessons work in companies, communities, countries, sports teams, and even families. The key is to spot symptoms of decline before they accumulate, and then shift toward the actions that build positive momentum.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Her 2011 HBR article, "How Great Companies Think Differently," won a McKinsey Award for best article. Connect with her on Facebook or atTwitter.com/RosabethKanter.

The Culture Is Only As Good As The Leader


Has your company culture got a bad case of the Mondays? Is store-bought birthday cake the highlight of your employees’ workday? Do you have company leaders doing the Bill Lumbergh shuffle, strolling amongst the cubicles, coffee cup in hand, looking for missing TPS reports? If so, it might be time to rethink the culture in your office space.

Which Came First: the Leader or the Culture?

A company’s culture is palpable from the moment you step through the front door. Whether it’s a polished establishment, a disruptive startup or an ailing Initech, you get an immediate sense of its energy and style.

There’s a misconception that employees create a company’s culture — how they dress, conduct business and communicate represents the company. If you observed a company’s employees, it would be easy to think they’re both the byproduct of the atmosphere and its creators.

But peel back the layers. You’ll discover that a company’s culture grows, in many ways, from the top down. Leadership is the real root of any organization — the vital source from which all energy, vision, values and style manifest themselves. It’s a direct reflection of a company’s culture. And when leaders forget they’re the ones running the internal machinery, it can lead to a real paper jam.

What You See is What You Get

A company’s culture establishes unwritten rules and norms for how business should be done and how people should interact. So how are you, as a leader, a direct reflection of this culture?

  • You’re the visionary. You set the direction and tone for the company’s personality. Employees want to “fit in” so they take behavioral cues from you. The priorities you set and the way you foster relationships in the office establishes the mindset and guides the behavior of everyone working for you.
  • You’re the gatekeeper. You create internal culture via the people you hire, the information you disseminate and the resources you make available. Externally, you control employee satisfaction, products and services. What you reward and punish sends clear messages about the behaviors you expect from your team.

Leaders who remain aware of their role in shaping the company’s culture to support business objectives will be positioned for success. Costcounderstands this and works hard not to forget it. Founders who don’t acknowledge this often find themselves wondering why they’re stuck in the basement without a paycheck.

Symptoms of a Toxic Culture

As a business owner, certain symptoms in your company’s culture will signal that it’s time to reevaluate your leaders and implement change.

  • Disinterest: Look for declining performance in financials, production or compliance. When you see that once-successful behaviors are no longer working, it’s time to reevaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
  • Resistance to Change: Getting leadership and employees to change the way they work can be tough. You can have a beautiful strategy for growth that goes nowhere because people can’t — or won’t — adapt to a changing environment.
  • Bad Habits: A toxic company culture evolves out of a leadership holding onto the “right” way of doing business, even though that way no longer serves the company strategy. Stuck management is a recipe for unhappy, unmotivated and disengaged employees.

Healthy Leaders, Healthy Culture

Leadership ultimately determines the culture of a company. You develop it, foster it and maintain it — good or bad. But if you’re the creator of an unhealthy culture, you can also be its cure.

If management is the source of toxic culture, work with your leaders both in groups and individually to intervene and get things back on track. Provide both leaders and employees with a safe space to share their thoughts about company culture and strategy. It’s important to remember that you’re dealing with ingrained beliefs, values and assumptions about how business should be conducted. These must be challenged in order to transition to a new cultural mindset.

Be an honest advocate for the change effort. Bring in an objective expert. Engage all members of the company in open dialogue and talk about culture and how it affects performance. Model the behaviors you want to see in your leadership and employees. Reward those behaviors that align with your vision and the company’s success, and remove the ones that don’t.

Be the visionary, and while you’re at it, ditch the TPS reports.

ByChris CancialosiManaging Partner and Founder at gothamCulture



Charisma isn't something you have. It's something you earn.


By Jeff Haden

Some people instantly make us feel important. Some people instantly make us feel special. Some people light up a room just by walking in.

We can't always define it, but some people have it: They're naturally charismatic.

Unfortunately, natural charisma quickly loses its impact. Familiarity breeds, well, familiarity.

But some people are remarkably charismatic: They build and maintain great relationships, consistently influence (in a good way) the people around them, consistently make people feel better about themselves--they're the kind of people everyone wants to be around...and wants to be.

Fortunately we can, because being remarkably charismatic isn't about our level of success or our presentation skills or how we dress or the image we project--it's about what we do.

Here are the 10 habits of remarkably charismatic people:

1. They listen way more than they talk.

Ask questions. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Frown. Nod. Respond--not so much verbally, but nonverbally.

That's all it takes to show the other person they're important.

Then when you do speak, don't offer advice unless you're asked. Listening shows you care a lot more than offering advice, because when you offer advice in most cases you make the conversation about you, not them.

Don't believe me? Who is "Here's what I would do..." about: you or the other person?

Only speak when you have something important to say--and always define important as what matters to the other person, not to you.

2. They don't practice selective hearing.

Some people--I guarantee you know people like this--are incapable of hearing anything said by the people they feel are somehow beneath them.

Sure, you speak to them, but that particular falling tree doesn't make a sound in the forest, because there's no one actually listening.

Remarkably charismatic people listen closely to everyone, and they make all of us, regardless of our position or social status or "level," feel like we have something in common with them.

Because we do: We're all people.

3. They put their stuff away.

Don't check your phone. Don't glance at your monitor. Don't focus on anything else, even for a moment.

You can never connect with others if you're busy connecting with your stuff, too.

Give the gift of your full attention. That's a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.

4. They give before they receive--and often they never receive.

Never think about what you can get. Focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.

Focus, even in part and even for a moment, on what you can get out of the other person, and you show that the only person who really matters is you.

5. They don't act self-important…

The only people who are impressed by your stuffy, pretentious, self-important self are other stuffy, pretentious, self-important people.

The rest of us aren't impressed. We're irritated, put off, and uncomfortable.

And we hate when you walk in the room.

6. …Because they realize other people are more important.

You already know what you know. You know your opinions. You know your perspectives and points of view.

That stuff isn't important, because it's already yours. You can't learn anything from yourself.

But you don't know what other people know, and everyone, no matter who they are, knows things you don't know.

That makes them a lot more important than you--because they're people you can learn from.

7. They shine the spotlight on others.

No one receives enough praise. No one. Tell people what they did well.

Wait, you say you don't know what they did well?

Shame on you--it's your job to know. It's your job to find out ahead of time.

Not only will people appreciate your praise, they'll appreciate the fact you care enough to pay attention to what they're doing.

Then they'll feel a little more accomplished and a lot more important.

8. They choose their words.

The words you use impact the attitude of others.

For example, you don't have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. You don't have to create a presentation for a new client; you get to share cool stuff with other people. You don't have to go to the gym; you get to work out and improve your health and fitness.

You don't have to interview job candidates; you get to select a great person to join your team.

We all want to associate with happy, enthusiastic, fulfilled people. The words you choose can help other people feel better about themselves--and make you feel better about yourself, too.

9. They don't discuss the failings of others...

Granted, we all like hearing a little gossip. We all like hearing a little dirt.

The problem is, we don't necessarily like--and we definitely don't respect--the people who dish that dirt.

Don't laugh at other people. When you do, the people around you wonder if you sometimes laugh at them.

10. ...But they readily admit their failings.

Incredibly successful people are often assumed to have charisma simply because they're successful. Their success seems to create a halo effect, almost like a glow.

Keyword is seem.

You don't have to be incredibly successful to be remarkably charismatic. Scratch the shiny surface, and many successful people have all the charisma of a rock.

But you do have to be incredibly genuine to be remarkably charismatic.

Be humble. Share your screwups. Admit your mistakes. Be the cautionary tale. And laugh at yourself.

While you should never laugh at other people, you should always laugh at yourself.

People won't laugh at you. People will laugh laugh with you.

They'll like you better for it--and they'll want to be around you a lot more.

4 Questions That Keep Things Simple


Although it doesn’t show up explicitly in any personality test, some people seem to be more prone to creating complexity than others. Instead of cutting to the heart of an issue, they tangle it further; rather than narrowing down projects, they allow the scope to keep expanding; and instead of making decisions, they defer until there is more data and better analysis.

These behaviors are characteristics of people that I call “complexifiers.” Like Pig-Pen, the Peanuts character who carries around his own cloud of dust, complexifiers seem to leave complexity in their wake, making it more difficult for subordinates, colleagues, customers, and even family members to get things done. Here’s a brief (disguised) example:

Due to changing market conditions, price compression, and the slow introduction of new products, a billion-dollar consumer products unit was starting to see erosion in market share and profitability. To turn things around, senior management brought in a new general manager, an industry expert named Phillip who had previously run the consumer products practice for a large consulting firm.

Phillip turned out to be a classic complexifier. At every meeting with his team he asked for additional data and berated his people for not knowing the answers to every detailed question he could think of. And although he seemed to be dissatisfied with some members of his team, he kept telling HR that he wanted more time to evaluate them, so no changes were made. Eventually he reorganized the unit into a functional/geographic matrix that he explained through an intricate series of slides that most of his people didn’t fully understand. He also created additional metrics that required people to spend more time on reporting. The net result of all this work was that people in the unit were busier and under more pressure than ever before — but market share and profitability continued to decline.

Obviously Phillip represents an extreme example of a complexifier with his insatiable hunger for additional data and inability to make fast decisions. But all of us fall into this category from time to time. If this kind of pattern seems all too familiar to you, and you want to learn how to think more like a “simplifier,” here are four questions that you can ask yourself and/or discuss with your team:

How much data is enough?

Complexifiers always want more information, with the hope (or fantasy) that the next bit or byte will answer all questions and hold the key to success. Simplifiers understand that there will never be complete data and that it’s necessary to create hypotheses and action plans based on an intuitive sense of how much is enough.

Have we agreed on the key priorities?

Complexifiers like to hedge their bets and not commit to a definitive course of action, particularly since some new information might surface that will change the plan. So rather than get locked in to a few things, complexifiers ask their people to keep multiple balls in the air. Simplifiers on the other hand narrow the focus to a few key things and give their people permission to stop doing things that don’t make the cut.

Do we have an efficient process for rapid review and course correction?

Complexifiers like to spend their time in long meetings, sorting through reports and analyses, and trying to manage lots of disparate and unfocused work streams. Simplifiers have focused reviews of the key priorities and hold people accountable for their commitments and results. They also learn as they go, continually testing their hypotheses about what should be done against the reality of what’s working and what is not. This allows them to shift course whenever it seems appropriate or necessary.

Can we explain our plan to others?

Complexifiers have a hard time communicating their plans to colleagues and customers, relying on intricate charts and diagrams and convoluted slides rather than simple, straightforward messages. One of the key characteristics of a simplifier is the ability to tell stories that convey the situation, the goals, and the plans — in a way that helps people understand what they need to do and how their work fits with everything else.

Some people are naturals at simplification. But for the rest of us, asking these questions can help keep us honest about whether we are slicing through complexity, or creating it.

Reprinted from HBR.org

7 Things Really Persuasive People Do

by Kevin Daum

While many people don't like to sell, most find themselves having to persuade someone at some point. Persuasion is not just for salespeople and their prospects. You may try to persuade an employee to perform better, or perhaps you want to persuade your boss to take on your brilliant idea. Often the most effective persuaders are your kids. Somehow they come by it naturally while you, the adult, has to work hard to find the persuasive path to success.

Whatever your persuasive need, here are 7 things that the most persuasive people consistently do:

1. They Are Purposeful

Truly persuasive people understand their power and use it sparingly and knowingly.  They understand that most conversations do not require trying to get someone to do or accept something. Aggressive pushers are a turn-off and will put most people on the defensive. It's the person who rarely asks or argues that ultimately gets consideration when they strongly advocate an idea, especially when they do it with power and persistence.  Simply put, they pick their battles. Want to persuade more? Argue and advocate less often.

2. They Listen ... and Listen ... Then Listen Some More

People who know how to persuade also know that just pushing your own argument will get you nowhere. They certainly are able to articulate their position in a convincing way, but that is only half the equation. They are actively listening when in persuasion mode. First, they are listening to assess how receptive you are to their point of view. Second, they are listening for your specific objections, which they know they'll have to resolve. Last, they are listening for moments of agreement so they can capitalize on consensus. Amazingly persuasive people are constantly listening to you and not themselves.  They already know what they are saying. You can't persuade effectively if you don't know the other side of the argument.

3. They Create a Connection

It's easy to dismiss people who are trying to persuade you if you have no emotional stake in them or their argument. Really persuasive people know this, so they will be likeableand look for common ground to help establish emotional bonds and shared objectives.They show empathy for your position and make it known that they are on your side. They manage their impatience and wait for you to give them permission to advocate their approach. You'll persuade people much more easily if they are open and aligned with your desires.

4. They Acknowledge Credibility

Really persuasive people understand that there is no sense wasting time arguing facts. Most of the world does not function in black and white. They value strong opinions and will make sure that you are entitled to yours. In fact, they will make sure they give you full credit for every argument of yours that has some validity. This makes it harder for you to fully dismiss their point of view. When you are persuading people, reinforce their credibility on facts and opinions rather than dismissing them outright. Then they'll be more likely to pay you equal respect in the exchange and be more open to the merits of your opposing view.

5. They Offer Satisfaction

Smart persuaders know that they don't have to win every little battle to win the war. They are more than willing to sacrifice when it helps the overall cause. They are ready to find the easiest path to yes. Often that is simply to give you what you want whenever possible. In my old lending days, we would often deal with busy underwriters who asked for items we knew they already had. Instead of arguing the point, we would just resend the documents and save our energy for issues that were not so easily resolved. Give ground where you can and hold your ground only where it matters. Choose being successful over being right.

6. They Know When to Shut Up

Successful persuaders get that you don't win the battle by constantly berating people with an unending verbal barrage. Wearing people down is not an effective strategy. They carefully support their arguments and check in with questions that will help to close the conversation. Then they step back. The great sales trainer Tom Hopkins still today teaches these decades-old techniques of his mentor J. Douglas Edwards. His most important lesson is "Whenever you ask a closing question, shut up. The first person who speaks, loses."

7. They Know When to Back Away

Urgency and immediacy are often the enemies of real persuasion. It's possible to close a less significant sale through urgency, but deep ideas require time and thought to take root. Great persuaders bring you along in your own time. And they give you the space and time to carefully consider their position. They know that nothing is more powerful than your persuading yourself on their behalf. That almost never occurs in the presence of the persuader. The next time you want to persuade someone of something truly important, follow the tips above, make your case, and walk away. If they don't come around, you were probably wasting your effort in the first place.

Why Successful Companies Stop Growing


We’ve all seen examples of unstoppable companies that suddenly hit the wall. Growth slows down, stock prices start to decline, shareholders get nervous, and the press starts to speculate that something is wrong. In some cases, like P&G and Starbucks, the board brings back a former CEOwho can presumably return the firm to its previous glory. In other cases, like with Apple, GE, or Cisco, the board holds its breath and hopes that things will change.

But the reality behind many of these cases is that periodic slowdowns are inevitable, even if the company is fundamentally solid. That doesn’t mean that CEOs (old or new), and other managers, can’t do anything to slow the decline or reverse it more quickly. Taking action, however, requires an understanding of the three forces that always drag high-flying companies back to earth.

The first is the law of large numbers. As a company gets bigger, each percentage of incremental revenue suddenly represents a fundamentally larger number. As the base grows, the amount of new business needed to make a material difference in earnings also rises, increasing the pressure on sales to find new markets, new categories, and new geographies. In other words, the larger a company becomes, the more the entire engine has to work harder.

A company’s growth is also inhibited by market maturity. Over time, markets follow morepredictable patterns as buyers become familiar with and loyal to particular brands. Eventually, as the market becomes more crowded, prices tend to stabilize, reducing the ability to grow through price increases. Finally, some markets reach a saturation point either because of limited demographic growth or commoditization of products. Taken together, these product and market life cycle forces all put pressure on the typical sources of growth for marketing and sales.

The third reason that growth slows down is psychological self-protection. As a company gets larger, there is more pressure to preserve the base business and less willingness to cannibalize itthrough innovative new offerings. As a result, at the very moment when the company needs new sources of growth, there is a tendency to play it safe and focus more on adapting existing products and services, rather than breakthrough opportunities. This not only opens the door to potentially disruptive competitors, but constrains moves into whatever is perceived as “risky” territory.

Taken together, these natural forces almost always damp down growth, which is why we shouldn’t be surprised when successful companies hit periodic speed bumps. The challenge of course is what to do about it. Here are two suggestions that managers at all levels can consider:

  • Regularly re-examine your business model. In the face of the forces described above, most business models eventually get stale and need to be either abandoned or refreshed. So periodically take a look at what you do, and how you do it — and ask yourself if it still makes sense. Could someone else provide this product or service differently? Do our customers have other choices or have their needs changed? In other words don’t limit your innovation and research to the development of new products and services, but also focus on the possibility of new business models.
  • Think about getting smaller in order to get bigger. A second way to cope is to periodically do some pruning. Like trees that get too spindly, organizations also grow unnecessary branches that reduce the health of the overall enterprise. These need to be cut back in order to allow new shoots to have the resources to flourish. To do so, ask yourself whether some of your products or services may not be producing sufficient returns; or whether you would be better off without some of your customers. These are tough questions that often provoke strong emotional responses. But taking action on them can liberate you and your resources to focus on new opportunities and will lead to more growth in the long term.

There is no such thing as a company that grows forever without eventually hitting the wall, or at least slowing down to go over a speed bump. Through judicious pruning and the exploration of new business models however, managers can minimize the slow downs and give their organizations a better chance at long-term growth.

Reprinted from HBR.org

Are You in Over Your Head?

By Doug Dickerson via Leader's Beacon

If you’re going through hell, keep going. – 
Winston Churchill

A story is told of a group of friends who went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck.

“Where’s Harry?” he was asked. “Harry had a stroke of some kind. He’s a couple miles back up the trail,” In disbelief the others replied, “You left Harry laying there and carried back the deer?” “Well,” said the hunter, “I figured no one was going to steal Harry.”

That humorous story sets up a not so funny real life scenario involving the state of mind of many of corporate leaders in today’s workplace. Writing in Forbes (http://onforb.es/122XxYT), Susan Adams opined about a recent Booz &Co. survey that revealed that “many corporate leaders are not able to keep their priorities straight. They are also pursuing strategies they don’t believe in, and many of their strategies fail to build on the things their companies are especially good at, compared with competitors. It’s like everything that can go wrong already has gone wrong for them.”

More than 3,500 managers from around the world took part on the Booz survey. Here is a sampling of the results:

·         A majority, 64%, said their biggest frustration was having too many conflicting priorities.

·         54% said they don’t believe that both employees and customers understand their strategy.

·         Only 33% said they thought the company’s “core capabilities” support their company’s strategy.

·         Just 21% said all their businesses “leverage their core capabilities.’

·         Only 20% said they think their company has a “right to win” in all markets where it competes.

From these findings we get an idea as to why so many corporate leaders feel the way they do and the need for strong leadership to correct it. The issues are complex and the solutions are varied. If you feel like you are in over your head then here are three solutions worth considering.

Organizational values should be shared not sacrificed. At the heart of your business is a set of values that define who you are, the product you deliver, the customers you serve, and how your will conduct your affairs. It’s the creed of your business that transcends ‘what’ you do and answers the question of ‘why’.

Until everyone is on the same page as it relates to your values you will never carry out your priorities. If managers and leaders are feeling the tension of competing priorities then it’s time revisit your values in order to get to the root of the problem. Values are the glue that binds you together and without them you will always have tension.

Organizational priorities should complement not be in conflict. Not even the best corporate leaders will be able to execute their plans successfully if the company’s priorities are not in harmony with its values and embraced by everyone. When competing agenda’s and ego’s interfere with what’s best of the company then there will be problems.

Everyone has priorities as it relates to individual performance. That being said, those priorities should not run contrary to the overall values and priorities of the organization. They should complement it. If you don’t fully embrace your core values then you will never fully execute your priorities. Why? Priorities flow out of values.

Organizational communication should give clarity not lend to confusion. The lifeblood of your organization is clear communication –on all levels. Many of the concerns expressed by the survey respondents can be traced back, and in part attributed to, poor communication. If the lines of communication are not open and clear it makes keeping priorities straight much more difficult.

Tony Robbins said, “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” This is a great point to consider going forward. Wise leaders will make every effort possible to communicate core values clearly so that they are known and embraced internally, and as a result known and appreciated by your customers.

The challenges of corporate leadership are as complex as they’ve ever been. But in the search for solutions we must not be our own worst enemy by engaging in approaches that are self-defeating. Values should be clear. Priorities should be mutual. Communication must be clear.

What do you say?

© 2013 Doug Dickerson

- See more at: http://www.leadersbeacon.com/are-you-in-over-your-head/#sthash.0FSpiIIH.dpuf

7 Reasons You Can't Learn Leadership on Your Own

By Brian Evje via @inc

Very few entrepreneurs, board members, or investors give much thought to leadership development. That's a huge mistake.

Very few founders, startup CEOs, board members, investors, and others supporting the entrepreneurial community actively pursue and advocate disciplined, professional leadership development. This is an enormous missed opportunity.

Entrepreneurs, especially founders and startup CEOs, need not wait to be encouraged to do this work. They should not consider their own development as a nice-to-have, an indulgence, or an unnecessary expense. They certainly should not delay until their jobs are threatened by their poor performance. 


Here are seven reasons (among many) that every founder and entrepreneurial CEO should actively develop their leadership, and a question about each.

1.     Leadership development works

Studies consistently demonstrate that organizations with a developmental mindset and holistic leadership programs out-perform organizations that do not. (See the Center for Creative Leadership for some excellent research.)

In which category would you like your company to be?

2.     Leadership is learned and can be taught

The question is not whether leaders are born or made. Rather, we should ask what leaders have made of their attributes (inborn and otherwise), and which experiences they’ve had or missed. Leadership is learned because leaders are not born with special powers. They are made over time through challenges, personal courage, setbacks, self-reflection, and an ability to grow. 

Many leadership lessons require us to unlearn old habits, default reactions, and assumptions about human nature in order to adopt new and different choices and behaviors.

This is not to say that anyone can lead; it is to say that true leaders learn over time. Entrepreneurs need to start learning about leadership, and never stop. 

What are you doing right now to learn about your leadership?

3.     Observing leadership is not the same as developing leadership

A certain amount of learning takes place through observation, and a number of leadership elements can be demonstrated by good role models.  However, there is a massive gap between seeing and doing. Too few people and organizations address this with deliberate, consistent, and constant leadership development.

One particularly stubborn myth is that leadership is something one naturally gains over time, like graying hair.  One survey of 17,000 global leaders found that the average age for their first leadership training was 42, “about 10 years after they began supervising people,” and almost 20 years after they started experiencing leadership in organizations. That’s a long time to observe leaders who are figuring it out on their own, while picking up their bad habits. A better approach is to take charge of the proper way to learn about leadership. 

What is more formal and serious than developing yourself, and what are you doing about it?

4.    Many board members and investors are not good leaders

In truth, many boards don’t know enough about leadership.  After all, boards are comprised of the same representative 17,000 people cited above.  Some are pure investors. Many have experience as executives, and yet are not adept at helping someone else with leadership. Many see themselves as tremendously effective leaders, but they are actually tremendous egotists.  (When you find Board members who contradict these categories, hold onto them with both hands.)

Board members and investors have specific agendas. Helping you grow as a leader is rarely one of them, especially if it interferes with their primary objectives.  Also, learning requires vulnerability, which is not the relationship you want to have with your board.  So, solicit their opinions, listen to their experiences – and then talk about the personal implications with your coach. 

How do you demonstrate your leadership growth to your board without involving them in the direct process?

5.     Leadership is about power

Many entrepreneurial CEOs are surprised by, and uncomfortable with, the intense power dynamics of leadership. They often focus on the personal responsibilities of leadership (“I am now responsible for the livelihood of all my employees”) without recognizing that they must demonstrate their fitness to lead by exercising, balancing, and containing the power of their role. This means making difficult decisions and tradeoffs that may be unpopular and contrary to the ethos of the earliest days of the organization. In a high-growth company, the shift from a happy band of co-founders to an organization of dozens of people can happen in a flash. 

How are you preparing so that the weight of your power does not break you?

6.     You can’t always see the ice cracking beneath your feet

Boards play power games, too, and take power from those who are weaker. You are not immune to these attacks.  Lori Mazan, a Leadership Advisor at Leading From Center, points out that many boards and investors of early-stage companies seem to think that leadership “just happens.”  When they don’t see the CEO embodying their unrealistic version of leadership, they read it as an absence of leadership and a signal to replace the entrepreneur CEO.  This drama often plays out unbeknownst to the CEO -- until it is too late. 

What are you doing to increase your awareness of how you are perceived, and how will you make adjustments?

7.     The future is not the past

Many entrepreneurs approach the founding and leading of a company with the same mindset they engaged before they were entrepreneurs.  Wanting to hold onto the past is an understandable reaction to change, but not terribly useful for the forward-looking challenges of leadership. 

A very hard element of personal growth is the awareness, discipline, and courage to set down the skills, activities, and identity of the past, in order to pick up new things for the future.  You can’t carry both.  You must listen for what the past is telling you to stop, and learn what the future requires you to start.

Nothing complicated is learned casually, and leadership is nothing if not complicated.  Every leader needs help learning about their leadership. 

From where do you get help?

Why Great CEOs Roll With The Punches


By Tom Bell 

Every day we see or read about superb acts of leadership. The ones that occupy an indelible place in our minds are often characterized by unexpected high-pressure, traumatic conditions and courageous acts taken within a very limited amount of time—a cabbie delivering a baby, a mayor calming a city after one of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of mankind, a pilot making the call to land a powerless 65 ton piece of steel on a river in the middle of a major metropolis or a primary school teacher protecting her class from a gun-wielding madman.

With the exception of tampered product recalls, oil spills or factory explosions, these types of trials never face the captains of industry. Am I implying that leading a business enterprise is easy? Not in the least. But in the context of taking charge and leading human beings during major or minor crises, every chief executive is blessed with the luxuries of time, subordinate counsel, years of related experience and knowhow imparted by pundits in thousands of books, journals and case studies.

So, why do 21st century CEOs continue to struggle in their roles as leaders of a business enterprise? Consider this: Only two years ago the average tenure of a CEO in America was 8.4 years, down from 10.0 years in 2000. According to The Conference Board reportdismissals were on the rise because of increased accountability of directors and a greater scrutiny from shareholders and activists.

The Conference Board suggests that the pressure of serving as the CEO of a large company in an increasingly competitive global marketplace has resulted in voluntarily shorter tenures, implying that CEOs are leaving on their own terms after fewer years on the job. This is a case of “jump” before you are “pushed.”

Is the tenure problem leadership itself, impatient shareholders, uncontrollable external factors or a combination of all three? Blaming shareholders is a cop-out. The moment shareholders lose confidence in their chief executive, he or she is toast.

A critical role of an organization’s leader is to generate and communicate business progress to all stakeholders. Sometimes that headway doesn’t show up on the profit line of the income statement. Progress may be represented by top-line sales, market share, productivity, innovation, new product launches or expanding distribution. These factors can be the determinants of the organization’s strategic well-being.

Strategic health ultimately results in profit. But profit can also be the worse indicator of a company’s strategic health. Look at any business with increasing profits and declining or stagnating sales; below the shining profit façade is a deep-rooted problem.

In judging CEO performance, there is no place for the uncontrollable factor. Chief executives are paid handsomely to deal with sick economies and currency fluctuations. CEOs aren’t expected to change the world, but they sure as hell can affect how their companies deal with negatives that ostensibly are beyond their control.

Over my 17-year career in the North American coffee business, I must have dealt with three or four Brazilian frosts that pushed the price of coffee futures through the roof. Most of the lessons learned were from the errors the executive team made in the first frost that almost put us out of business. After that calamity, we altered our course to make the best of a difficult situation and always came out of the frost in much better shape than our competition. You do not throw your hands in the air and tell the shareholders to wait for prices to stabilize.

Back to my question—who is to blame for lackluster CEO performance? Though I have no statistical evidence to support my theory, I place most of the blame on leadership itself. Great leadership begins in the interview process. Those keen to secure the job and the big paycheck over-sell and over-promise.

Astute leaders establish the right expectations and continue to manage those expectations in the battlefield. These CEOs deal with uncontrollable issues as the norm, and they have a better shot at a longer tenure—if they want it.

In the late 19th century, someone said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Today’s successful CEOs have little choice but to walk that talk.

Are You Making This Mistake at the End of Your Meetings?

By Fred Kofman

"Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? 
Five, because deciding is different than doing.

Decisions are worthless … unless you turn them into commitments.

In a business conversation, your counterpart's decision states his intention, but a commitment holds him accountable. Although a commitment does not guarantee delivery, it’s far more reliable than a decision. More importantly, when managed properly, it allows you to handle breakdowns with effectiveness, trust and integrity.

Have you been in meetings where lots of decisions are made but nothing gets done andnobody is held accountable? Unless you finish the meeting with commitments about “who will do what by when,” you’ve just built 90% of a bridge.

Broken commitments damage tasks, relationships, and culture. They bring about inefficiencies, mistrust, and corruption. Coordination suffers, collaboration suffers, and cohesion suffers. You can avoid this suffering – if you finish every conversation with clear commitments.

Ask and You Shall Receive

Commitment conversations begin with a request: “Can you bring the financials to the meeting?” “Please ship the order to my new address.” Things can go off track at this early point, especially if you ask without really asking.

I once coached a production manager who was put on a performance-improvement plan for failing to meet a crucial deadline. Weeks before the date, my client figured he had to add a shift to finish the job on time. He needed approval from his boss for the overtime, but he didn’t want to ask. He had heard the plant manager complain that corporate was breathing down his neck about costs.

He decided to use a soft approach. During a staff meeting he mentioned that his project could really use a second shift. The plant manager acknowledged it was a tough deadline; he said he would see what he could do. The production manager believed he had gotten the much-needed help. He waited for his boss to call him after the meeting to implement the second shift, but to no avail. Disappointed, he assumed that a delay was better than a cost overrun. He finished the job late. Imagine his outrage when he got chewed out!

Like many of us, the production manager tried to ask without asking. His indirect approach avoided a confrontation, but it also prevented a frank discussion of the tradeoff between additional labor costs and the delay. As I described in my previous posts onschizorganization and discussing the un-discussable, it is impossible to preserve sanity at work without open communication.

The typical way to avoid making a clear request is to make a muddled one. Do you recognize any of these examples?

  • It would be great if…
  • Someone should…
  • Do we all agree to…?
  • Can you try to…?
  • The boss wants...

To make a clear request you must utter it in the first person, using direct language and addressing it to a specific person. You must specify observable conditions of satisfaction, including time. It helps if you explain your purpose for asking, and, if and when you arrive at an oral contract, always ask the other sign it.

Although there are many ways to ask, the most effective ones follow a common pattern:

  1. In order to get A (a want or need),
  2. I ask that you deliver B by C.
  3. Can you commit to that?

It may sound odd to ask like this; you can adjust your language to suit your culture. For example, the production manager might have addressed the plant manager as follows: “I am running behind schedule. I don’t see how to catch up without some extra help. In order to finish the job I need some overtime. Can you authorize a second shift for the next three weeks?”

Time to Commit

A well-formed request demands a clear response. There are only three possible answers:

  1. Yes, I commit.
  2. No, I decline.
  3. I can’t commit yet because,
    a. I need clarification.
    b. I need to check; I promise to respond by X.
    c. I want to propose an alternative.
    d. I can make it only if I get Y by Z.

Anything else is a weasel promise. Here are some interesting ways by which people often say, “No, I don’t commit.”

  • Yes, I’ll try.
  • OK, let me see what I can do.
  • Seems doable.
  • Let me check into it.
  • Someone will take care of it.

When you declare, “I commit,” you assume the responsibility to honor your wordunconditionally. You take on an obligation to deliver on your promise; or if you can’t, to do your best to take care of the requestor.

When you declare, “I decline,” you might still try to do what you were asked, but you don’t commit. You do not give the requestor the right to hold you accountable. It is much better to have a clear “no” than to get bogged down in a wishy-washy “I’ll do my best.”

There are many good reasons to decline. You may not have the resources; you may not have the skills; you may have a conflict with a previous commitment; you may anticipate problems; or you may just not want to do it.

When you are not ready to say “yes” or “no” right away, you may:

  • Ask for clarification if the request is unclear to you. For example, if I ask you to help me with a project, you might ask, “What kind of help do you need?” or, “When do you need my help?”
  • Promise to respond by a certain time if you need to check your resources, obtain commitments from others, or assess whether you can deliver to specifications. For example, if I ask you to prepare a report, you might answer, “Let me check if I have the information available. I’ll get back to you in an hour.”
  • Counteroffer with alternative proposal to satisfy the need behind the request. For example, if I ask you to meet today, you might respond: “I am not available today. Could we meet tomorrow? Or if it’s urgent, we could speak by phone.”
  • Commit conditionally if your commitment depends on factors outside of your control. For example, if I ask you deliver a rush order, you can commit to do it only if I authorize overtime.

Clear commitments don’t mean that everything will work out. Life is unpredictable, so even the most impeccable commitments can break down. In my next post, I will explain how you can preserve effectiveness, trust, and integrity even when you can’t fulfill your promise.

Do or do not ... there is no try.” -- Yoda

By Fred Kofman, PhD. in Economics, is Professor of Leadership and Coaching at the Conscious Business Center of the University Francisco Marroquín anda faculty member of Lean In. He is the author of Conscious Business, How to Build Value Through Values (also available as an audio program).

Are You Working on Your Business, or FOR Your Business?

by Gina Abudi

Too often, CEOs’ time is spent on everything but what it should be spent on — working on the business. Our tendency — especially for smaller to medium-sized businesses — is to do the workof the business in addition to trying to work on the business.


Certainly, there are good reasons for doing this in those very early years as you are trying to get the business off the ground and you have limited staff; but I’ve seen this occur even when the CEO has other executives on board to manage key areas of the business. Let’s assume for this article that the issue is not that you can’t tear yourself away from overseeing every part of the business, but rather, the issue is that you need to slice out more time in your day to actually work on the business.

Let’s look at some things you can do to be sure you are better able to manage your own time by delegating more effectively to others; and then let’s look at what you should be doing as the CEO.

Hire the right people. The people you hire to join your team — at any level of responsibility — must be “go getters.” While certainly training your employees is necessary, they should be individuals who are motivated to take on responsibilities and get things done without constant handholding or oversight.

Develop your employees — from senior leaders to individual contributors. Provide your employees with training and professional development opportunities. This may be anything from workshops to attending conference to participating in, or leading, strategic projects to help the business meet its goals.

Clear roles and responsibilities. Ensure that all employees have very clear roles and responsibilities. Too often, we do not provide clear roles and responsibilities to our employees. Without this information there is no clarity around expectations. Roles and responsibilities should include decision-making authority levels (for example, the ability to make a decision to refund an unhappy customer up to $x dollars.)

Autonomy to do their jobs. It’s hard to let go of aspects of the business — there is a feeling of wanting to be involved in everything simply because it is your business. But you need to learn how to let go. Provide employees autonomy to do their jobs. Set an end goal — they can get to the end goal as they see fit. Feel free to put parameters around how they get there if that makes you more comfortable; but there is no need (and certainly you can’t spend the time!) to tell an employee every step they need to take to get from point A to point C.

Now let’s discuss how you should be spending your time as the CEO.

Setting strategy for the organization and communicating vision. Your strategy shouldn’t be set once and then tucked away. You’ll need to revise your strategy on a regular basis to keep up with changes in the industry, with your competitors and to meet customer needs. Have key employees take the lead in updating components of your organizational strategy, with you being responsible for setting strategy and communicating your vision to them.

Being the spokesman for the organization. You are the face of the organization! On a regular basis you should be meeting with partners, vendors, customers and others to communicate your vision for the organization, understand the impression they have with your organization, and determine how to better serve their needs. This helps you in developing an appropriate strategy for the business.

Serving on boards. Serve on boards — whether for private companies or non-profits. Share your knowledge, be seen and establish strong relationships with other business owners.

Keeping up to date with the industry. Regardless of your industry, there are always changes to keep up with. Keep up to date with what is happening in your industry and others through conferences and industry events. By understanding what is happening in your industry you are better positioned to be prepared for when changes occur without being in reactionary mode.

Finding partners for the business. You should be looking at ways to grow your business and continue to find ways to serve your customers. On a regular basis, be on the look for partners, vendors and others who can help you in this endeavor. You’ll meet potential partners in a variety of places, including Chamber meetings, networking at Vistage CEO meetings and through conferences and industry events.

Keeping tabs on the global economy and its effect on your business and strategy. In today’s world just knowing what is going on nationally is not sufficient. Every business — no matter how small — is impacted by the global economy. On a regular basis know what is going on in the world around you, and consider how it may impact your strategy and business plans. Certainly through Vistage, Chambers of Commerce and industry groups you’ll be able to share information with others and plan for managing your business in a global environment.

The bottom line: You must be focused on your business — its strategy, vision, growth potential, partnerships, and products and services offered to meet the customers’ needs. You can only do this effectively if you are working on the business and not in the business. You set strategy and provide the vision; tactical operations are the responsibility of your employees.

Gina Abudi is president of Abudi Consulting Group, LLC; providing strategy around projects, process, people and technology to businesses of all sizes. Gina can be reached via her website, www.AbudiConsulting.com.

4 Surprisingly Effective Things to Say

By Marla Tabaka via @inc

As the boss, you have to know it all and always be in the right. Wrong. Try these simple, yet powerful words to build trust and lead with integrity.


We all make mistakes, say the wrong things, and misjudge a situation from time to time. But not everyone will admit their errors, especially in a competitive environment.

Perhaps legendary leadership author and pastor John C. Maxwell said it best: "A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them."

I learned that very important lesson early in my career at NBC-TV.  As the assistant to the vice president of sales I reported to an amazing mentor who relied heavily on my judgment and diligence.  But on one occasion I had a terrible lapse in common sense and fell short of her expectations. I really screwed up.

Naturally, my boss was livid. She immediately called me on the carpet for my error in judgment. My defenses reared up; my fight or flight instinct screamed, "Fight to survive!" Thankfully, in a moment of sanity I took a more sensible approach. Here's what I said.

 I was wrong. I'm sorry. I know that I still have a lot to learn. Please let me fix it.

Apparently, this reply from a young, ambitious employee was far from expected. I will never forget the series of internal responses reflected in my boss's eyes:  surprise, confusion, acceptance, and something that may have been admiration. Whew! In that moment I knew I'd done exactly the right thing.

This experience taught me something I've carried with me through the years: a little honesty and humility go a long way in life.  It enriches relationships, prevents unnecessary confrontation, saves time, and builds trust. What could have destroyed my career instead earned the trust of a powerful and successful woman and opened the door to growth, learning, and many promotions over the years.

The next time your defenses are up you may find instant relief in one or more of these surprisingly effective, yet simple statements. Give it a try, the only thing you have to lose is a little ego!

I'm sorry.

A short and sweet apology lowers the levels of resistance and anger in the room. Diffuse the situation with these simple words. The conversation will become less stressful and a solution to your problem or challenge is more likely to surface.

I was wrong.

Admitting your mistake is cleansing. No need to defend yourself, no need to create a litany of excuses. How freeing! Admit it and correct it. It's that simple!

I need help.

Go ahead. Accept that you don't know it all. A great entrepreneur surrounds herself with people who know more than she does. Reach out to your army of supporters and save yourself a lot of frustration and time.

I don't know.

Do you think you have to have all the answers? Well, you're wrong. Even "experts" don't know it all.  Any true expert will tell you is that no one is expected to have all the answers. Let's face it, if we knew everything life would be boring! This is an opportunity learn and grow; something every entrepreneur loves to do!

Marla Tabaka is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka