5 Things needed for business success

I cannot recall what I listened to, watched, or read. Sadly my notes don’t include the author of this incredible information. Being that it is “5 Things” I would guess that it’s from John Maxwell.

1. Find the Problem that needs solving.

To be successful in business value needs to be added to others. Find the pain points of customers and then find a solution that helps.

2. Understand the Problem

Once the problem is understood – WHY does this happen? – WHAT the Problem is becomes a leadership/strategy issue.

3. Push against the Problem

Discover HOW to move it by:

  1. Asking questions of the people that are surrounded by the Problem – Push “how fast, how high, etc.”
  2. Listen
  3. Their opinions determine their performance
  4. Determine a Solution / Strategy / Plan
  5. Expect Opposition – First within the company, then externally

4. Take the Vision from ‘Me’ to ‘We’

This is the Change Management step of clearly communicating the vision and getting everyone in the company on board and then getting everyone externally on board.

5. Simplify & Focus the Organization

Looking at military operations – an individual is either a supplier or a combatant. In business it is the same – you’re either supporting or you’re selling.

Action Step

Stay Focused

Where is Wisdom – an ancient poem

Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine. Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore. Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness. He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives; they are forgotten by travelers; they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro. As for the earth, out of it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire. Its stones are the places of sapphires, and it has dust of gold.

That path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon’s eye has not seen it. The proud beasts have not trodden it; the lion has not passed over it.

Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots. He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing. He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle, and the thing that is hidden he brings out to the light.

But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or Sapphire. Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, not can it be valued in pure gold.

From where, then, does wisdom come from? and where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’

God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’

Job from Uz, Chapter 28

9 AAR questions that lead towards success

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.

Peter Drucker

In the military they use after action reports to reflect on what happened, both good and bad, and what lessons can be learned. As the year and decade close off, the holiday time off is a perfect opportunity to perform an AAR.

  1. Looking back, what went well?
  2. What choices did you make that worked?
  3. What failed?
  4. What surprised you?
  5. What has become a good habit?
  6. What needs to change?
  7. What is an outrageous goal for the next year?
  8. What S.M.A.R.T. goals do you have for the coming year?
  9. What does your schedule need to look like for those goals to be accomplished?

Scotty Kessler’s AWCFROGROL

I met Scotty Kessler when I played Football for Northwestern. He came to the training camp my sophmore year of college and challenged us to walk as men. His training had a powerful effect on my life and though I didn’t remember his name, I remembered what he taught.

Fast forward seven years and my wife and I had just begun attending a church 2000 miles away from my college in the Pacific Northwest. Kess was there and I was shocked to see him again. He now is a leader in the University where I completed my doctorate – it has been a really great journey together and his influence has always come at an integral time of my life.

As my children are getting older, preparing to head to university, and beginning to ask really great questions about life, my wife and I have been attempting to state, as simply as possible, our doctrine – what it is that we believe and why. I remembered Kess’ AWCFROGROL yesterday and found his website which is filled with incredible resources that will challenge you to become better.

AWCFROGROL

A –  ADMIT (Romans 3:23) – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of god

W – WAGES (Romans 6:23) – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of god is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

C – CONFESS (Romans 10:9) – That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in y our heart that god raised him from the dead, you will be saved

F – FORGIVE (I John 1:9) – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness

R – REPENT (Acts 3:19) – Repent, then, and turn to god, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the lord

O – OPEN (Revelation 3:20)  – Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me

G – GRACE (Ephesians 2:8-9)  – For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of god, not by works, so that no one can boast

R – RECEIVE (John 1:12) – Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

O – OBEY (I John 2:3-4) – We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him”, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him

L – LOVE (John 14:21) – Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him

—————

GOSPEL PRESENTATION USING AWCFROGROL

A – ADMIT – that means that everyone is a sinner

W – WAGES – that means that the wages or results of your sin is that you are separated from god (both now and for eternity)

C – CONFESS – that means that if you confess or acknowledge jesus is lord and believe that god raised him from the dead you will be saved

F – FORGIVE – that means that if you acknowledge your sins god will forgive you

R – REPENT – that means that if you repent or change direction and follow god instead of yourself, that your sins will be wiped out

O – OPEN – that means that if you open your heart and ask jesus into your life he will come in

G – GRACE – grace means undeserved love. that means that life in jesus is a gift that is received; you can’t work for it or earn it

R – RECEIVE – that means that if you receive jesus into your life that you are now a child of god

O – OBEY – that means that if you obey him, that is the sign that you love him

L – LOVE – that means that when you love god by obeying him, that he then reveals himself to you

—————

PRAYER OF SALVATION USING AWCFROGROL

A – ADMIT – Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner

W ­- WAGES – And I know that I’m spiritually dead

C ­– CONFESS – I confess that you’re God

F ­- FORGIVE – Please forgive me for my sins

R ­- REPENT – I’m turning to you to make me clean

O ­- OPEN – Please come into my life and live within me

G ­- GRACE – I accept your gift of salvation

R ­- RECEIVE – Thank you for making me your (adopted) child

O ­- OBEY – Lord Jesus, I commit to obey you all my days

L ­- LOVE – I love you. Thank you for loving me

____________________________

GOSPEL PRESENATATION / MESSAGE (SLANG VERSION)

Lord Jesus, I’m sick and I’m gonna die (ADMIT AND WAGES)
You’re the doctor and I need help (CONFESS AND FORGIVE)
I’ve tried to help myself and I can’t do it (REPENT)
Jesus, please help me (OPEN)

_________

AWCFROGROL Doctrines

A –  ADMIT – the doctrine of the depravity of man

W – WAGES -the doctrine of eternal judgment

C – CONFESS – the doctrine of salvation

F – FORGIVE – the doctrine of forgiveness

R – REPENT – the doctrine of repentence and sanctification

O – OPEN – the doctrine of fellowship with God

G – GRACE – the doctrine of grace

R – RECEIVE – the doctrine of sonship

O – OBEY – the doctrine of obedience

L – LOVE – the doctrine of unconditional love

15 Books I will be reading in 2020

  • The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Principle-Centered Leadership – Stephen R. Covey
  • Reasonable Greed: Why sustainable business is a much better idea – Wayne Visser & Clem Sunter
  • Leadership and the one minute manager – Ken Blanchard
  • The Whole Armor of God – Ralph W. Sockman
  • The Charisma Myth – Olivia Fox Cabane
  • The Wisest One in the Room – Thomas Gilovich & Lee Ross
  • Primary Greatness – Stephen R. Covey
  • The Top 10 Leadership conversations in the Bible – Steve Moore
  • 8 Lessons in Military Leadership for Entrepreneurs – Robert Kiyosaki
  • The Prodigal God – Timothy Keller
  • The Speed of Trust – Stephen Covey
  • Speak like a CEO – Suzanne Yates
  • The Leadership Challenge – James Kouzes & Barry Posner
  • Studies in the Sermon on the Mount – D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

Stand Tall

Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.

Tom Landry

Weathering the inevitable storms

We live and lead in a fallen world, marked by sin, tragedy, and disease. When disaster strikes in the form of a health crisis, financial pressure, or a thousand other forms of pain, we are all drawn to ask, Why is this happening? Wise leaders seek a better perspective by asking a better question, Who is in control?

When we gain better perspective on our situation we can more quickly recognize life-shaping experiences and respond properly to them. God uses everything in life to prepare us for everything in life. Every experience can be used to shape our character and accelerate our development. But the reverse is also true. When we fail to recognize how God is at work and therefore fail to respond properly, our lack of perspective slows our progress.

Steve Moore

As I’ve been speaking with a close friend who is in the midst of a storm, I’ve been challenged to sit and be present with him, no counsel, no words, just presence. What words could I possibly speak to mend the situation, a situation only God can mend, not man. This has brought me to reading through the book of Job – what a challenging book!

Job experienced an incredible injustice and could not fathom a reason why it had happened to him. He sat with his friends who were saying things like: “Righteous people don’t experience suffering like this.” Accusatory statements that were defeating, not helpful. Too much is going on in my mind right now to fully write my thoughts out.

I’m realizing that the challenge of writing 40 posts in 40 days is difficult in that, I don’t have the time to allocate crafting well written blog posts currently. I think my goal will continue to get the 40 out in 40 days and then revisit each post spending a week on each one, getting my thoughts and research put together and putting out a well-written article that will hopefully help others in similar situations – that’s the goal right? To share my thoughts with the internet, opening a dialogue, so that at the end of the day ‘we’ are certain of what it is that ‘we’ believe.

Action

Comment below to let me know your thoughts on how you counsel close friends in storms. Do you speak to them in the same manner you speak to yourself? Do you speak at all? Do you believe that: “God uses everything in life to prepare us for everything in life. Every experience can be used to shape our character and accelerate our development?” How have you weathered storms before and how did it shape your character?

10 end of life quotes to inspire you today

I have been inspired recently after reading a speech that a leader gave near the end of his life. He was looking back over his years and wanted to exhort those he had led into maintaining the growth and the focus he had been guiding them in. This speech led to many others, including George Washington’s address to a young nation.

Why would I look into end of life speeches? I have currently reached mid-life (41) and as I am reading these speeches, it is incredible to see what these leaders have considered to be the errors or foundations that shaped them, their productivity, and their legacy. If I can pay attention to those, it builds a focus that can become an almost guaranteed success, so that at the end of my life, I can look back across the decades and feel like I’ve run my race well.


If neither crying nor laughing can change my circumstances, then I rather go through them laughing.

Moffat Machingura, Life Capsules

Life is like a restaurant; you can have anything you want as long as you are willing to pay the price.

Moffat Machingura, Life Capsules

In the end, if we don’t have God we don’t have anything other than an end.

Craig D. Lounsbrough

I am not afraid to fail, I am scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me: ‘Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trust me more’.

Mother Angelica

But after my death let it be known that in my old age, at the very end of my life, there was still plenty that made me smile.

Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red

I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.

Oliver Sacks, Gratitude

At the end of life, your reward in heaven will not be proportional to the role you played on earth, but how faithful you played it. Be faithful in every little role you are to play; it’ll lead you to a greater reward! Faithfulness is key!

Israelmore Ayivor

At the end of my life I want to say, “I lived every moment of it.’

Debasish Mridha

Every Task, Goal, Race, and Year comes to an end… Therefore, make it a habit to always finish strong.

Gary Ryan Blair

George Bush had been fading in the last few days. He had not gotten out of bed, he had stopped eating and he was mostly sleeping. For a man who had defied death multiple times over the years, it seemed that the moment might finally be arriving.

His longtime friend and former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him.

Mr. Bush suddenly grew alert, his eyes wide open.
“Where are we going, Bake?” he asked.
“We’re going to heaven,” Mr. Baker answered.
“That’s where I want to go,” Mr. Bush said.

Barely 13 hours later, Mr. Bush was dead. The former president died in his home in a gated community in Houston, surrounded by several friends, members of his family, doctors and a minister. As the end neared on Friday night, his son George W. Bush, the former president, who was at his home in Dallas, was put on the speaker phone to say goodbye. He told him that he had been a “wonderful dad” and that he loved him.

“I love you, too,” Mr. Bush told his son.
Those were his last words.

~ Excerpt from NY Times

Action

Because your vision always costs more than you estimated, and often takes longer than you planned, it can become blurred by your circumstances and emotions. That is why it becomes imperative to write it down and keep it in front of you! With a clear-cut written goal, you’ll always know where you are and remember where you’re going.

What is the direction, focus, or vision you have for your life?
At the end, what will your life look like as you look back?

How I manage stress

As a Christian, I find that prayer and trusting the Lord is ultimately my biggest stress relief. Faith is trusting that God is an active participant in my life. The other part of the human-divine equation is my responsibility.

I am a husband to an incredible wife. We were married fresh out of college in July 2001 at 22.

At 24 we were parents. At 28 I started my own graphic design and web development company, began pursuing my masters degree, and we welcomed child number two. At 30, I had employees at the company and we welcomed child number three. At 32, we had child number four, massively shifted the focus of the company, and moved to a third world country.

At 37, I began pursuing my doctorate degree. I was still running my company in the USA and working a full time job here in South Africa. It took massive discipline to manage my family, my responsibilities, and my education. During that season I developed a system of daily and weekly disciplines that have helped me manage stress.

I have a daily planner that I write in. Every Sunday I perform what I call a “mind-dump” (read about it here), where I go through this routine:

Capture

  • Get things out of my head and onto paper
  • Collect any other notes lying stray
  • Process into the right place(s)

Reflect on the last week

  • Did I get everything done?
  • If not, why not?

Review next week

  • What commitments do I have?
  • What preparation do I need to do?
  • How much (sensibly) can I do in a day?
  • Allocate things from my monthly goals/tasks into my time
  • Make sure that there is a reasonable balance between the different key areas over the week

Review the next 4 weeks

  • What events are in there (and do I need to do anything about them?)?

Review goals/projects

  • Ensure they each have clear next action points to work on (in monthly goals)
  • Edit out impossible/pointless/out of balance things
  • Add anything new that has recently come up

Action

What is the routine that helps you stay sane?

What is the noise you are making?

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

Theodore Hesburgh

I’m mainly asking myself this question: what is the noise I’m making? What does that trumpet blast sound like? Is it recognizable?

A greeting in one of the 11 National South African languages is “Sawubona.” It translates literally as: “I see you.” If the human heart’s deepest desire is to be seen, heard, and understood, then to Sawubona someone means “I see you, I hear you, and I understand you.”

With my family, the trumpet blast, or rather vision statement is a call to “Sawubona” each person they meet.

Personally and professionally it would be a similar call – the call to Servant Leadership. To see an individual’s needs and with balanced wisdom, respond appropriately.

Action

What is the noise you are making?

How to make decisions according to Jeff Bezos

A few years back I sat down and listed out my personal values. It took me a few days of meditating on and solidifying the list. Having a list of what you value, and then re-visiting it regularly, reveals the type of individual you will be as well as how you will be perceived by others.

I recently met a software developer at a conference. He was my age, had a wedding ring on, and a photo of his kids on his computer. He was incredibly skilled as a programmer. Knowing the only way to get to that skill level of programming is with time, I asked him what priorities he had to sacrifice in order to gain the time he has put into programming – and does he have any regrets. He stopped the conversation and walked away, apparently we weren’t friends enough to have that deep of a conversation yet.

Looking at the successful programmer, he may have sacrificed time with his family, or he may have sacrificed certain career moves or finances or… in order to gain the skill he had. Any sacrifice is not ideal, but when one is firm on their values the choice is clear and made with confidence and includes no regret.

In regards to all of the above: I do not know Jeff Bezos personally but I can tell that he has a different set of values than I do – simply by the fact that he has made certain sacrifices which I would not make. He is however, a successful, intelligent businessman and there are principles one can gain insight from that his voice lends credence to. This is a business principle, but can be applied to every day life as well. Many have said it before, but I like how Bezos put it in his letter to the shareholders of Amazon – 2015.

Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long.

You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups. As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavy-weight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention.

2015 Letter to Shareholders

Courage is a characteristic I’m currently researching and hope to write further on. It takes courage to make decisions, to risk, to become and to be a great leader. While I continue researching and putting my thoughts together on courage, I will put this short poem by Mark Twain here:

With courage
you will dare to take risks,
have the strength to be compassionate,
and the wisdom to be humble.

Courage is the foundation of integrity.

Mark Twain

Action

If you haven’t already, I would challenge you to set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and write out your values. Revisit the list over the next few days. Make sure those values will lead to the type of person you want to be and to be perceived as.

Next, are there decisions you have made/are currently making that need to be reversed in order to re-align yourself to your values?

Finally, are there decisions that you are not making because of fear? Are you stuck standing in front of a two-way door (Type 2 decision) but you’re treating it as a one-way door?

Staying focused and true

It has been well said that the true test of a man’s character is what he does in his leisure hours. Many of us can demonstrate enormous heroism in the clash of conflict. It is often ease and plenty that perverts the best of people.

This quote encouraged me as I read it. The reason was because we were having “load shedding” here in Cape Town (no electricity) meaning that I had 2.5 hours of forced leisure time; so I went, sat outside and read. I was happy to see that I am in pursuit of developing my character.

One of the intentional choices I’ve made, and am committed to, is writing or journaling more. Journaling has been credited as the key to great success for decades now by many successful people in all different walks of life. My aim is not necessarily financial success or fame, but rather I want to live my life on purpose.

This online journal allows me to be able to look back in an easier way than in all of the many notebooks I have on my bookshelves. As a bonus, I hope my ramblings improve my writing skills, help me find my voice, and possibly encourage you.

Action

How do you develop your character? If your individual character went to the gym would it be fit or completely out of shape?

Thinking slowly

It’s interesting what happens when you intentionally choose to slow down and think through a problem. I have found that while building websites and applications that there is a slippery slope when you run into a problem. The natural inclination is to chase after the problem in order to find the solution.

When I have actually stopped and gone for a walk in order to think through the issue, those are the times that I have found the most elegant solution.

I found this story about Warren Buffet and I really liked the perspective. If you are actually attempting to solve the problems of those you are working for, you will find success.

The first was to find out what people need and use that to get access to them. In 1951, after Buffett finished his studies, he set himself up as a stockbroker. But every time he tried to get a meeting with a local businessman, they turned him down. Who wants to meet some young guy with no track record, trying to sell stocks? So Buffet thought of a different approach: He started calling business people, telling them he could help save them from paying too high taxes. Now they finally wanted to meet, and Buffett was able to kick-start his career.

The Third Door by Alex Banayan

Action

What solution are you working out? What is it that your customer needs? It’s cliche, but what are their pain points, not just physically, but emotionally? How do you solve those problems?

Resetting

I’m sitting in my bedroom right now doing a routine I often do on Sunday. I’ve explained this routine to my children using the metaphor that when a computer slows down, the ram has become overloaded and when you restart the computer and voila, it runs better.

I, like many other responsible adults, carry a lot of things that I need to remember in my “temporary memory” and that gets overloaded. I do a weekly (in stressful times – daily) “brain dump” where I sit down and write out everything I can think of.

I then take my list and prioritize it according to my values and the vision and mission I have laid out for my family, finances, work, etc. It is a constant checking and re-aligning. I do not perform this due to a fear I will miss anything, but more out of a stress relief. It helps me to stand with certainty that the choices I have made have been thought through thoroughly.

Back to this moment – I am taking the time to experience and remember, be present. I listen to all the noises surrounding me and I have peace. I can hear the waves crashing in the ocean, the Cape Town wind blowing, but more than that, I hear my nine year old playing a duet on the piano with my wife playing her cello.

My Bible is opened to Proverbs 8 and I am reminded of the security I have and all that I have been given by the perfect judge and creator.

I am at peace. I pray you are as well.

Action Step

What is something you do to reset? If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to try a “brain dump” by putting a 10-minute timer on and writing out everything you are currently thinking or worrying about. Things as minute as: “don’t forget you need laundry detergent soon” to big things like “next paycheck I need to change the oil.”

A life of uncertainty

Naturally we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing…

Certainty is the mark of a common-sense life.

To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.

– Oswald Chambers

Foundational Principles

I have felt for a while that I am to write more. I have even had an acquaintance challenge me out of the blue that: “I have a book in me that he wants to read.” With that in mind and knowing one only gets better at a task with time, I am setting out to write my thoughts down here.

Today I helped my daughter edit her capstone project for a civics course. She wrote a paper on what the ideal citizen should look in the USA. The history she looked back on was rich. I quickly did some of my own research after initially reading her paper. I came across George Washington’s farewell address that he made to a young nation. The thought of the United States without the leadership of Washington caused great concern. Despite his confidence that the country would survive without his leadership, Washington used the majority of the letter to offer advice as a “parting friend” on what he believed were the greatest threats to the nation.1

One of the most referenced parts of the letter is:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.

George Washington

The interesting thing is that I’ve been reading two books lately which seem to be circling around this thought of foundational principles. What principles make up the foundation that I stand on? That I have built my life upon? That I lead my family from? Better yet, what are the principles that will make up the foundation that my children stand on/live based on?

Leadership is difficult.

It feels as though you’re constantly attempting to look ahead and gauge which direction is best. What direction seems to be pointed at the most in history by men who are still greatly respected centuries or even millenia later can be summed up in the words of another leader giving his parting speech. In the book of Joshua from the Bible, Joshua gathered all of Israel together when he “was old and well advanced in years.” As he always did, he reminded the people of all that had been done for them.

Note: It seems to be the mark of a great leader that vision is always spoken from a place of remembering. This seems to be too deep for this quick note and I will have to expand upon this thought in a different post.

He then stated: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

So, here is a man thousands of years ago stating he will choose to serve the Lord (Yahweh). You then have leaders throughout history making similar claims, including George Washington. It seems a strong fabric of society is made from individuals who choose to serve the living God and walk in His ways.

How does this play out in 2019? This is the question I think often on. I don’t quite know how to put it into words that make sense. I speak often to my children about three characteristics that I desire them to have: Integrity, Honor, and Humility. In Micah 6:8 the prophet wrote: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Action Statement

What principles are you living by? What seems to have been effective for you? What is your track record? When I am 80, I hope to look back and have a family that walks in peace, love, and laughter. As a close friend recently stated: “I want to be the same person in the midst of the storm that I am in the calm.”

  1. (Elkins, Stanley; McKitrick, Eric (1995). The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800. Oxford University Press. pp. 489–499. ISBN 978-0-19-509381-0.)

Leadership Tip

You can talk for days about the customer journey… but if you really want to get results you have to bring up the metrics that are meaningful to executives.

– Shelley Armstrong

SQL, scala, ioT and custom built dashboards

I love being a business intelligence solutions developer. I’ve been interested for the last few years in AI/ML and have been lucky enough to attend a few conferences on the subject.

I was just tasked with building out some custom dashboards that will display real-time data that is pushed from hundreds of ioT devices around the globe to a SQL database. From their the data is translated using scala software. It will then be sanitized from any traceable customer information and pushed into an AWS database (off-site). That way the dashboards I’m building will be able to access the data.

I’m planning on using PHP to encode the data into JSON and consume from there.

This is all new and I’m attempting to architect the schema and the flow of data, so this will end up becoming a multi-part post.

For now, the first step is to see if I can connect to a sql dB, encode it to JSON and consume it into a dashboard.

Looking at example dB’s here: https://dev.mysql.com/doc/index-other.html

Starting a consulting business

A close friend recently approached me asking for advice. They are considering launching a consulting business and in doing their research, they wanted to know any “off the cuff” words of wisdom I might have for them. Having run my own graphic design and website development firm for several years, I had some things to say.

When I was starting my company in the USA I had approached a businessman and asked a similar question, his wisdom was invaluable and I would say it is part of the reason my company was successful.

First, let’s define successful.

Each individual needs to define success in their own terms. For me personally, success would look far different today than it did a decade ago. I’m going to assume you’re reading this because you’re defining success monetarily, so let’s move on.

Look around enough and you will begin to recognize the “blah blah me too lemming-like” marketing speak everywhere. It’s boring and useless and begins to look pathetic. Be bold enough to plant a flag on ONE specific mountain and work hard to be the unquestionable SME (subject matter expert) to defend it. Find good people you can trust to hand off certain requests you are regularly getting asked for, maybe even work out a finders fee, but stand firm on top of your mountain. Get speaking gigs, get recognized, be the expert.

ADD VALUE. When you are an expert and you are adding value, you’ll be busy and well paid.

Consider these very distinct stages in how you make money in consulting, in order:

  1. Know your hourly rate and use it as a positioning tool.
  2. Get a second shift job to keep from compromising while you build it. 
  3. Fill >60% of ALL the time you work with residual fees. 
  4. Maintain >60% with an increasingly higher hourly rate. 
  5. Move exclusively to package pricing w/o reference to hours. 
  6. Build scalable income (webinars, books, etc.).

I personally have not made it to ‘6’ yet. I always am a bit nervous to put myself out there as I do not want to come across braggadocios.

Be very helpful in giving away terrific advice for free as long as you don’t personalize it; then charge ridiculous amounts of money to do so.

I spoke at an event once where I gave ALL of my secrets away. It was a wild plan, but it worked. I gained more business from that engagement than I could possibly handle and my hourly rate nearly doubled because of it. The reason: the business owners trusted me.

Figure out why you’re in business. I’d suggest these three things, in this order: 

  1. Make money. 
  2. Make a difference. 
  3. Enjoy the process.

If you don’t charge enough, no one listens and you don’t have an opportunity to make a difference. But just charging a lot of money, especially in a service-client relationship, can be soul crushing. You must find the win-win balance where you’re making enough money while feeling like your customers are winning. 

Take chances and be different. This leads me into my second take-away:

Be amazing at communicating. I have found transparency as highly valued in the C-Suite.

What I mean by transparency is: communicate as clearly and often as possible. Imagine yourself in the C-Suite and answer the questions you imagine them asking – especially the difficult ones. If your product is necessary then it will be easy to sell. Find out why it’s necessary and walk boldly as the expert in that category. In 2007 the iPhone was the answer – Apple wasn’t hiring salespeople to sell it, the product sold itself. 

Feeling Machines that Think

Over the past several weeks I’ve been performing my research on developing empathy and humility, the foundation of servant leadership, in Afrillennials. I found in the past session an interesting “aha moment” popped up in our discussion and it brought me back to this quote:

According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio our emotions are the deciding factor for 95 percent of our decisions. So rather than “thinking and acting,” we generally “feel and act.” Part of Damasio’s research involved brain-damaged people who were unable to experience emotions. Even though they could list the pros and cons of any given choice, they were unable to make decisions.

Damasio’s work led him to believe that human beings aren’t “thinking machines that feel,” but rather “feeling machines that think.”

The 95% of our decisions are based on emotions is a staggering thought. I’ve found in my own life, as the development of this research has been taking place, that I desire to make more decisions based on fact vs. emotions. The self-awareness required for this takes deep effort, introspection, and humility with others to allow them to speak into your life, calling out the areas where your thoughts may not be in alignment with your values.

How to write emails with military precision

Consulting this week with a large corporation I found they were drowning in emails. Many of the exco team were stressed and it reminded me of this amazing article, which I presented to the team and am working on having implemented into daily routines – from the top down.

Subject line keywords are:

  • ACTION – Compulsory for the recipient to take some action
  • SIGN – Requires the signature of the recipient
  • INFO – For informational purposes only, and there is no response or action required
  • DECISION – Requires a decision by the recipient
  • REQUEST – Seeks permission or approval by the recipient
  • COORD – Coordination by or with the recipient is needed

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). Military professionals lead their emails with a short, staccato statement known as the BLUF. (Yes, being the military, there is an acronym for everything.) It declares the purpose of the email and action required. The BLUF should quickly answer the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why. An effective BLUF distills the most important information for the reader. Here’s an example BLUF from the Air Force Handbook:

BLUF: Effective 29 Oct 13, all Air Force Doctrine Documents (AFDDs) have been rescinded and replaced by core doctrine volumes and doctrine annexes.

Here is an email example for corporate use that uses keywords in the subject, bottom line, background bullets, and active voice:

Subject: INFO – Meeting Change

Shannon,

Bottom Line: We scheduled the weekly update meeting for Thursday at 2 PM CST to accommodate the CFO’s schedule.

Background:

  • We searched for other available times, but this is the only time that works, and it’s important that you are on the call, so that you can address your P&L.
  • CFO will be in Boston on Thursday meeting at an offsite with the management committee.
  • He wants to review the financial report that can be found here (insert link) before the call.

A Change Management secret to tremendous feedback

As I look deeper into Change Management and Organizational Leadership the topic of feedback increasingly comes to the forefront. In a conversation with a fellow Change Manager here in Cape Town our discussion centered around getting feedback which he said is the biggest hurdle he faces in his projects. His practice has begun focusing on helping the employees elicit open, anonymous feedback from their co-workers. Their tool focuses on two questions: What can employee A do better? and What is employee A doing better than anyone else?

The explanation of their Change Management process made me think of this article explaining how Steve Jobs would elicit the most effective feedback.

Tell me what’s not working.

The questions were not directed only toward the exco team, but various people in the organization: Tell me what’s not working here. Then conversely, he would ask someone else: Tell me what is working here.

Ultimately, great leaders, Level 5 leaders as Jim Collins (Good To Great) calls them, are individuals who trust those they’ve hired. By asking questions in this manner, it allows those individuals to speak up and be heard.

Read the article here

Characteristics of the ideal leader

I was in a meeting the other day for a possible Change Management contract. The leader of the organization walked in and impressed me with the way he carried himself, responded to questions, and generally led. I left thinking, not only do I want to work with that guy, I want to be like that guy.

This morning I came across an article with a tremendous bullet list describing several characteristics this CIO has.

Here are some characteristics that make for my ideal leader:

  • You’re noticeably calm and comfortable at work. You’re aware how your attitude and behavior affects those around you, and you care deeply about having a supportive climate at work.

  • Work is one part of your life. You fit your work into healthy working hours. You take vacations. You switch off. When you choose to work unusual hours, you don’t expect others to, therefore you don’t disturb them.

  • No matter who you’re speaking with, when you’re speaking with them, you are present.

  • You listen.

  • You operate on intentional, thoughtfully chosen processes based on what you and your team value. Because you value other’s engagement, and time, you don’t add or persist process for the sake of process.

  • You don’t just expect your people to do their best work, you empower and trust them to. You give or find them the support they need to grow into new challenges and be successful.

Read the full list and article here

Influence

Steve Moore has written a new book called “The Top 10 Leadership Conversations in the Bible” and the introduction has already profoundly impacted me. He discusses a man I’ve never heard of, Samuel Logan Brengle, so passionately that I will begin reading more about this man.

The quote which I latched onto was:

Influence, not position, is at the core of leadership. When a person without leadership capacity is given a leadership title or position, the result isn’t a complete lack of influence, but rather a greatly limited power base. This is true in life and in the Bible.

You can read the intro here.

The answer to a perplexing question

This is an excerpt from the book ‘Strength to love’ by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is addressing the problem that has always hampered man: his inability to conquer evil by his own power. In pathetic amazement, man asks, “Why can I not cast it out? Why can I not remove this evil from my life?”

Though the evils of sensuality, selfishness, and cruelty often rise aggressively in his soul, something within tells him that they are intruders and reminds him of his higher destiny and more noble allegiance. Man’s hankering after the demonic is always disturbed by his longing for the divine. As he seeks to adjust to the demands of time, he knows that eternity is his ultimate habitat. When man comes to himself, he knows that evil is a foreign invader that must be driven from the native soils of his soul before he can achieve moral and spiritual dignity.

So, how can evil be cast out? Men have usually pursued two paths to eliminate evil and thereby save the world. The first calls upon man to remove evil through his own power and ingenuity… Give people a fair chance and a decent education, and they will save themselves. This idea, sweeping across the modern world like a plague, has ushered God out and escorted man in and has substituted human ingenuity for divine guidance.

But in spite of the astounding new scientific developments, the old evils continue and the age of reason has been transformed into an age of terror. Selfishness and hatred have not vanished with an enlargement of our educational system and and an extension of our legislative policies. The humanist’s hope is an illusion, based on too great an optimism concerning the inherent goodness of human nature.

The second idea for removing evil from the world stipulates that if man waits submissively upon the Lord, in his own good time God alone will redeem the world. The fallacy of thinking that God will cast evil from the earth, even if man does nothing except sit complacently by the wayside, is that no prodigious thunderbolt from heaven will blast away evil. No mighty army of angels will descend to force men to do what their wills resist.

The Bible portrays God not as an omnipotent czar who makes all decisions for his subjects nor as a cosmic tyrant who with gestapo-like methods invades the inner lives of men but rather as a loving Father who gives to his children such abundant blessings as they may be willing to receive. Always man must do something. “Stand upon thy feet,” says God to Ezekiel, “and I will speak unto you.” Man is no helpless invalid left in a valley of total depravity until God pulls him out. Man is rather an upstanding human being whose vision has been impaired by the cataracts of sin and whose soul has been weakened by the virus of pride, but there is sufficient vision left for him to lift his eyes unto the hills, and there remains enough of God’s image for him to turn his weak and sin-battered life toward the Great Physician, the curer of the ravages of sin.

There is so much more to discuss and Dr. King’s thoughts on this are profound and life-changing to the reader. Please buy this book, read the rest of this chapter, and let’s discuss this further.

Increase your effectiveness with this one simple question

We all want to be more effective; increase profit and productivity while decreasing spending.

I came across an article discussing the value of being empathic towards the customer as well sharing the story of why you come to work every day. In one organizations weekly meetings they found that asking the below question increased sales by 23%. Employees began to hear and envision their “why” and were able to find the excitement in how they were helping their customers, not just selling products.

How did we make a difference for a client since last time we met?

Leader Empathy: The Key to Effective Relationships

Leader Empathy: The Key to Effective Relationships

Empathy is one of the Social Awareness competencies in the twelve-competency Leadership Competency Model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. Empirically linked to leadership performance, Empathy is present in leaders with an understanding of the motivations of others, and the ability to relate to differing perspectives.

Strength in this competency is also demonstrated by leaders who:

  • Listen attentively
  • Are able to understand unspoken or confused attempts at communication
  • Engage in actions indicating a sincere interest in others
  • Have an increased capacity to respect diversity

Uber’s New CEO taught a Major Lesson in Emotional Intelligence

Background: London announced they would not renew Uber’s licence to operate in the city — major blow to the organisation. This comes after a series of mishaps and scandals kept Uber in the news for months–for many reasons–the company’s board of directors decided that former chief Travis Kalanick was no longer the right man for the job.

The new CEO stepped in and responded to the London announcement by stating:

While the impulse may be to say that this is unfair, one of the lessons I’ve learned over time is that change comes from self-reflection. So it’s worth examining how we got here. The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation. Irrespective of whether we did everything that is being said about us in London today (and to be clear, I don’t think we did), it really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours, where actions in one part of the world can have serious consequences in another.

It’s good to listen to criticism and check ourselves, we all have blind spots.

Read the article at inc.com

Having trouble receiving good feedback? Try this

Remember the raison d’etre, the reason your project is.

Ask for feedback related to either the vision or user goals. For instance, if working on a website, instead of a completely open-ended question like “What do you think?”, try a more focused question like “How well does this design help users find volunteer opportunites based on their desire?”

Lao Tzu

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Thomas Huxley

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.

Books recommended by Global Business Leaders

Of the 16 books recommended in this article, I would like to read at least these few:

Woo, Wow, and Win

Service Design, Strategy, and the Art of Customer Delight

Authors: Thomas A. Stewart and Patricia O’Connell

One Sentence Summary: This book promotes the concept of designing your company around service and offers strategies based on the idea that the design of services is different from manufacturing.

Recommended by: Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick


Technology as a Service Playbook

How to Grow a Profitable Subscription Business

Authors: Thomas Lah and J.B. Wood

One Sentence Summary: A guide to decision making and execution around the “as-a-service” model, with the intent of putting a company on a path to profitable growth by changing how “offers” are designed, built, marketed, sold, and serviced.

Recommended by: Stephanie Newby, CEO of Crimson Hexagon


Delivering Happiness

A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Author: Tony Hsieh

One Sentence Summary: The CEO of Zappos explains how he created a corporate culture based upon the concept that there is value to happiness, both for employees and customers.

Recommended by: Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Worldwide


Freakonomics

A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Authors: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

One Sentence Summary: A set of amusing case studies illustrating that economics is the study of how people get what they want or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.

Recommended by: Jeremiah Owyang, CEO of Crowd Companies

A gratitude journal to combat the worst f**king year

John Oliver called 2016 the worst f**king year. I feel like this outlook is very dramatic and shows the emotional intelligence of those who hold that view. 

In response to this, the author of this article kept a gratitude journal and was able to realise some incredible revelations about his life. 

https://apple.news/ATSjc5ee0Q8i5Ti3PWbmESg

What do you think? Regarding the photo: I’m so very grateful to have had an incredible opportunity to climb into the enchantments near Seattle for my friends’ 40th birthday. 

Simon Sinek on Millenials in the Workplace

I am researching Millenials in the Workplace and how to develop better employees. A friend of mine sent me this video last night and wanted my take.

He breaks down ‘4 pieces or characteristics that lead to happiness’ as:

  1. Parenting
  2. Technology
  3. Impatience
  4. Environment

The main point he tries to get across is that Millenials are entitled and lazy, and it’s not their fault, but the fault of the parents who were following terrible parenting advice.

Five Leadership Hacks

“To me, a hack is a clever or unexpectedly efficient means of getting something done. A good hack should feel like cheating because the value created by the hack feels completely disproportionate from the work done.

With this definition in mind, I present five leadership hacks I regularly use. These are not practices designed to redefine your leadership philosophy. They are hacks.”

  1. Two minutes early for everything.
  2. The clock faces you.
  3. Office Hours.
  4. Three questions before any meeting.
  5. Continually fix small broken things.

In reading this, I really appreciated the five hacks, but number four and five especially stood out to me. Three questions before any meeting or else it doesn’t happen: brilliant. He resolves to have three questions which need to be answered in order to prove the value of that meeting taking place.

The last hack is the easiest and it’s the best: fix small broken things. Always. It takes seconds to clean that whiteboard, to plug in the clock in the conference room, and to stop, lean down, and pick up a piece of trash. Seconds.

The value created isn’t just the small decrease in entropy, it’s that you are actively demonstrating being a leader. I understand the compounding awesomeness of continually fixing small broken things.

Read the whole article here

Ethics: Do you have enough?

It seems a lot of the shaking that is happening in 2016 has been bringing up some good things. Just this morning I’ve run into a great infographic laying out the hierarchy of profit and then I came upon Seth Godin’s recent thoughts on Ethics. His thoughts, the infographic, and other items I’m noticing in my news feed all seem to be pointing to a dissatisfaction in business for profit and more towards empathy.

Perhaps profit and market share and the rest could merely be tools in service of the ability to make things better, to treat people ever more fairly, to do work that we’re more proud of each day.

Read Seth Godin’s full post here

Wait and Hope

This quote seems a little depressing, but I wanted to post it because I think what he’s touching on is the fact that if you haven’t experienced exhilaration then you can’t empathize with grief or vise versa. Being in a current state of Waiting and Hoping, I feel I’m experiencing both pain and joy at the same moment. (In my attempt to practice becoming more self-aware, my introspection is becoming too philosophical at the moment).

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.”

“Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope’.”

– Alexandre Dumas

Self-Awareness and Leadership

I had to write a quick response today to the question:

Why do you believe a leader needs to be reasonably self-aware if they are going to be a good leader?

What do you think of my response:

When I envision a leader who is not self-aware, I think of an individual dealing with insecurity then attempting to hide it with pride and arrogance. There are several reasons a leader must be self-aware, but I will discuss the one most important to me: If you are unable to read what’s going on with yourself, how will you read your subordinates and lead them well? A leader with no self-awareness would end up making choices on whims versus logic and would demoralize everyone who works for them. Beyond having a high employee turn over rate, this type of leader would end up costing the organization money and time due to them working on ego boosting projects while avoiding rather than delegating other projects. They would not be capable of delegating due to their lack of personal skills as well as not being able to recognize the skills of their subordinates. 

Further Reading:

Humility

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. – Jack Welch