Leading with No

man wearing a suit sitting in a table showing a signboard with t

 

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said, “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes.  It is very easy to say yes.”

 

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” -Tony Blair

 

It’s one of my favorite quotes.

So much of leadership literature is about what to do.  You can read about how to organize your company for success:  You determine a course of action, outline a strategy, and develop the plan.

It is more fun to say yes.  It’s easier.

I think every parent can relate.

“Can I have ice cream for dinner?”  Yes!

“May I stay up all night?” Sure!

I think every business leader can relate.

“We need to add six people to my department.”  No problem!

“I know it blows the budget, but can I still spend this money?”  Absolutely!

Saying no, setting limits, and knowing what you will not do is hard work.  But that’s leadership.

Renowned strategy expert Michael Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

 

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” -Michael Porter

What’s Your Leadership Legacy?

Adult Hands Key To Child

 

Do you think about your leadership legacy?

What type of culture do you want to leave in your organization?

As a result of your leadership, what will remain long after you left?

 

Andrew Thorn is a business coach, consultant, and psychologist.  He has recently written Leading With Your Legacy In Mind.  I had the opportunity to ask him about his new book and leaving a leadership legacy.

 

The Importance of Legacy

Why did you decide to write about legacy?

My father passed away when he was 65 years old.  I was born when he was 30, so many of the important events of my life happened 30 years after they did for him.  When he died, I had an overwhelming sense that I was next in line.  This caused me to think about my legacy and the impact that I was making.  I asked myself if I was satisfied with my life, and the answer was no.  I began to make some changes and that included writing about the process of creating a legacy.

 

“Leadership is the act of making things better for others.” -Andrew Thorn

 

What is Leadership?

What’s your definition of leadership?

Leadership is the act of making things better for others.  When we live by this definition, all of us, regardless of our formal title or lack thereof, can engage in leading with our legacy in mind.

 

“Discussion is impossible with someone who claims not to seek the truth, but already to possess it.” -Romain Rolland

 

What is the “arc of leadership”?

The “arc of leadership” represents our own maturation as a leader.  It helps us remember that life is a circular experience and that it is difficult for us to see it as a whole.  When we pull out an arc, or a part of that circle, we can study it and understand it more effectively.  Each arc calls us into movement and improvement.

 

“The measure of a society is not only what it does but the quality of its aspirations.” -Wade Davis

 

Where To Spend Your Time

I’m interested in your view of balance.  Your chapter on this subject is called “From Balance to Focus”.  What does this mean?

A very lucky person, over the course of a 45 year career, will spend about 117,000 hours at work (average of 50 hours a week working), 131,000 hours sleeping (average of 8 hours a day sleeping), and 65,000 hours (average of 4 hours a day) taking care of personal responsibilities.  This scenario would leave the lucky person with a little more than 50,000 hours to use however he or she wants.

Unfortunately, most of us work longer, sleep less, encumber life with unnecessary personal responsibilities and then find ourselves too tired to make our free time matter.  Just by looking at the hours, we can see that there is no way to balance the number of hours between work and life.  We need to work to provide for our needs.  Instead of trying to balance the time, we must spend time focusing our efforts into meaningful work.Andrew Thorn

The time we spend at work is the time when we are most awake, most alert, most focused on what we want, most productive and most engaged.  Once we focus on where we want to work and how we will contribute what we know we must contribute, we find ourselves full of energy at the end of the work day, which in turn means that I can use my 50,000 hours more effectively, too.

 

How do you coach clients to understand ‘purpose’?

I think it is important that we understand that purpose is a moving target.  In other words, purpose is different during the different seasons of life.  Sometimes we hang on to a purpose for too long or we let it go too soon.  This is why we must be constantly evaluating what we find to be meaningful.  When we connect to meaning, our purposes come into focus, too.  When we can see purpose for what it is – the guiding force of why we do what we do, then we can begin to also know what to do.  I use one or two questions to connect my clients to purpose: (1) Why do I want to do this? & (2) If this were my last day, would I still be willing to do what I am about to do? Once these questions are answered, there are very few doubts about purpose.  I don’t want to make it any more complicated than this.

 

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams

 

From Success to Significance

 

Let’s talk about one of the leadership arcs: moving from success to significance. How do you help coach someone in this area?

A Leadership Course for the Rising Star

Cutlery Set

 

The Case of the Missing Cutlery

As a new manager, Kevin volunteers for the most unusual challenge.  Kevin is the manager of an airline catering company.  The airline is furious when it discovers that silverware is disappearing at an accelerating rate.  Given an aggressive deadline, Kevin needs to find out why the cutlery is disappearing and solve the problem.

As he is solving the case, Kevin learns about team building and motivation.

 

The Case of the Missing Cutlery is your personal story of learning leadership.  You found yourself managing a team with a major problem, with limited time to fix it, and with limited resources.  Why is this story resonating with readers?  Have you shared it with some of your colleagues working on “the case”?

The Case of the Missing CutleryThere’s so much great literature on leadership, but when I was coming up, it was hard to see how the high-flying exploits of C-level titans applied to me as a newly-minted shift supervisor.  People can easily relate to stories on the shop floor as well as colorful characters that we all have shared at one time or another.  I have received nothing but warm reactions from my peers including Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s former Chief Executive (and now with Apple), who endorsed the book.

 

What is buoyancy?  Why and how is it created?

Contrasted with the command and control of yesterday’s hierarchical organizations, buoyancy is the concept that you “float” by connecting with the hearts of your people, galvanizing them on a journey toward an amazing goal.  They “float” you because they believe you are worthy and reward your belief in them with their belief in you.

 

The Importance of Story

Why is storytelling an important skill for a leader?

Storytelling is man’s oldest form of communication.  Throughout the ages, we have used this resonant means to impart vitally important values, beliefs and principles. It is powerful because it is human and emotive.

 

What is the “six o’clock conversation” and how is it important to leadership?

Well it’s funny you should ask: I remember vividly when I got my first leadership role at venerable ad agency McCann Erickson.  Mike, my mad-man boss, slapped me on the back and said, “Well, kid, congratulations.  You are now dinner conversation.  Everything you say, and more importantly how you say it, will be shared at dining tables all across your organization.”

Putting thought into the positivity and the emotive quality of what you say can move mountains, or as poet Maya Angelou would say, “ You may be forgotten for what you said, or forgotten for what you did, but never forgotten for how you make people feel.”

 

Kevin Allen is best known for his work at the top of advertising behemoths McCann-WorldGroup, the Interpublic Group and Lowe and Partners Worldwide where he worked with brands including Microsoft, Nestle, and Lufthansa.  He pitched the famous “Priceless” campaign for MasterCard.  He is the Founder & Chairman of employee engagement company Planet Jockey, which specializes in gamified learning and business transformation company re: kap.

 

Define real ambition and why it’s important.

5 Surprising Hacks That Will Boost Creativity In Minutes

Business person having an bright idea light bulb concept
This is a guest post by Greg Fisher; he is the Founder of Berkeley Sourcing Group. He started BSG eight years ago after realizing the need for coordination between manufacturing firms located in the U.S. and factories in China.

Creativity is a fantastic trait to develop that can help us to perform better in a huge range of situations – not least in business, where it can help us to come up with new products, new marketing angles, new business models and unique solutions to enduring problems.

 

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” –Henry David Thoreau

 

But creativity is also an elusive abstraction that is difficult to define and even more difficult to acquire if you aren’t naturally gifted in that way.  With that in mind, how does one go about helping themselves to be more creative and to think outside the box?  Especially in a world that more and more often seems to encourage conformity and output?

With these powerful hacks, that’s how!  Follow these tips and in minutes you’ll be having better ideas and using your brain in ways you didn’t know you could.

 

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” –Julia Cameron

 

Hack #1: Lie Down

 

Lying down or at least leaning back into a more supine position has been shown by many studies to boost creativity.  Why’s that?  Because it encourages us to feel relaxed and at ease. When you’re stressed or busy working, your body produces chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline which gives you a kind of ‘tunnel vision’ and focus.  That’s useful for completing a dull task, or for outrunning a lion, but it’s not useful when you need to ‘see the bigger picture’ and try to connect abstract concepts.

 

Hack #2: Look at a Plant

 

Thus anything that helps you to relax to a degree will help you to access more of your natural creativity.  Another example is simply looking at plants and greenery, which help us relax thanks to our evolutionary imperative of finding fertile land and luscious green nutritious plants.

 

Hack #3: Use a Green Wallpaper on Your Desktop