Actors, sports figures, musicians, and even a former United States President have been doused in ice-cold water in recent days. If you haven’t witnessed this, you may be enjoying a summer on a remote island with no connection to any media. For those of us who have watched this phenomenon take off, we may ask what lessons we can all learn from it all.
Why did this take off? What is it about this campaign that made people act?
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is for a meaningful purpose: to raise money to find a cure for a devastating and fatal disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The financial results are stunning. If the challenge were not tied directly to a bigger purpose, it would have failed. Not many people would participate without an important cause. It’s hard to turn down a challenge with a purpose.
“An idea spreads faster when purpose is married to challenge.” -Skip Prichard
Technology has changed everything. It’s easy to record a video, upload it to a social media account, and see what happens. The video brings multiple senses and emotions into play. We can see our friends’ reaction to the water; we can almost feel the cold of the ice; we hear the laughter in the background. It’s a powerful multi-sensory appeal. When you add the emotional appeal of the cause, the call to action becomes almost irresistible.
“An idea spreads faster when more senses are involved in the call to action.” -Skip Prichard
The challenge has a uniquely personal appeal. One person challenges others to join in. Instead of merely forwarding an email or sharing something on social media, it demands participation. That’s where it becomes uniquely personal. If this challenge were a cookie-cutter replication, it would not spread. It’s the personal spin that draws us in. Bill Gates didn’t just have water thrown on him; he sat down and designed a better way to execute. The personality of each participant shines through.
“An idea spreads faster when personalized.” -Skip Prichard
After the interview, I decided to follow up with him to ask when leaders need to abandon or re-evaluate a strategic plan. I have seen executives stick with a plan and others modify or abandon a plan. Most leaders don’t want to open up the plan over and over because it shows indecisiveness, a lack of confidence or it creates confusion. That said, there are times when a major review or rewrite is important. So, I asked Rich:
When is revisiting the plan the right thing to do?
The ability to modify strategy at the right time can literally save or destroy a business. Here is a checklist of five moments when it is critical to evaluate your strategy.
1. Goals are achieved or changed.
Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.
It makes sense then, if the destination changes, so too should the path to get there. As you accomplish goals and establish new ones, changes in resource allocation are often required to keep moving forward. In some cases, goals are modified during the course of the year to reflect changes in the market, competitive landscape, or customer profile. It’s important to reflect on the strategy as these changes occur to see if it also needs to be modified.
“Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.” -Rich Horwath
The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition. But, as the makers of the Polaroid camera, hard- cover encyclopedias, and pagers will tell you, customer needs evolve.
The leaders skilled in strategic thinking are able to continually generate new insights into the emerging needs of key customers. They can then shape their group’s current or future offerings to best meet those evolving needs.
“The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition.” -Rich Horwath
Innovation can be described as creating new value for customers.
The new value may be technological in nature, but it can also be generated in many other ways including service, experience, marketing, process, etc. It may be earth shattering, or it may be minor in nature. The key is to keep a tight pulse on your market, customers, and competitors to understand when innovation, or new value, is being delivered and by whom. Once that’s confirmed, assess your goals and strategies to determine if they need to be adjusted based on this new level of value in the market.
4. Competitors change the perception of value.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about!”
This is a guest post by Thai Nguyen. The power of words to evoke positive change motivates Thai to write. Formerly a professional chef and international athlete, he’s now somewhere in the world with a backpack, MacBook, and a story to share. You can follow his work at The Utopian Life, Facebook or Twitter.
It all begins with looking in the mirror. Success in the public world goes hand-in-hand with success in your private life. Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.
“Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.” -Thai Nguyen
Our empirically dominated culture places all focus on the external and physical world, blinding the importance of the internal and mental. Self-mastery is being in control of the internal thought processes that guide your emotions, habits, and behaviors.
It’s the ability to respond rather than react. The former is done with intention and awareness, the latter is visceral and without reason.
Self-mastery is captured well in this quote attributed to many:
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
It seems counterintuitive, but being selfish and focusing on enriching yourself will lead to being selfless and enriching the lives of those around you.
Here are 7 effective strategies for cultivating self-mastery:
1. Talk To Yourself
There’s a voice inside your head, and that’s completely normal. It’s your internal dialogue, the inner commentary that strives to make sense of the world. The first crucial step in developing self-mastery is to become an observer of your thoughts—to become self-aware, self-reflective. To think about your thinking.
Throughout history, psychologists and philosophers have presented theories on the multiplicity of the human mind. Plato divided the psyche into appetitive, logical, and high spirited. Freud categorized into the Id, Ego, and Superego. Modern theories continue to be presented and debated.
But they all agree on the multi-dimensional aspect—as strange as it sounds, there seems to be more than one “you” inside of you. And often, we’re at odd with ourselves. Self-mastery is about creating inner congruence—an agreement and peace between an external stimulus, our internal interpretation, and our emotional response.
A lack of mindfulness will respond to external stimulus immediately with an emotional response. Self-mastery causes a pattern break and allows for an internal interpretation to take place. Stop, fully observe the emotions welling up inside you and the thoughts that present themselves.
Self-mastery requires this observation and recognition. Label the emotions and thoughts as they present themselves.
“Becoming the best version of yourself will equip you to spark change in others.” -Thai Nguyen
While there’s truth in the statement, we’re the sum total of our experiences, self-mastery recognizes we’re certainly not confined to them. It’s not easy to do; our experiences, particularly negatives have a way of seeping deep into our soul. But although some stains can’t be removed, we can choose not to wear those clothes again.
A personal example, I made peace with my father and our lack of relationship: Acknowledging the post-war trauma he was no doubt affected by, and that he had to play the father role in light of a difficult script. Self-mastery meant not allowing past negative experiences the power of emotional collateral to spark present and future fires. As a result, the clean slate has given birth to the relationship I’d always desired.
Making peace with your past allows you an untarnished and more objective approach to the present, ideally resulting in a positive future. It’s hard to pick up anything new when your hands are full with burdens. It means to let go, forgive, and as humanly possible, to forget.
Author Eleanor Brown has a great quote on mastering your past:
“There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”
3. Play Devil’s Advocate
Challenging your thought patterns and reasoning will help with self-mastery. Putting on the other shoe and playing devil’s advocate will uncover weaknesses and holes in your thinking. A more critical mind will result in making better decisions. You’ll be able to iron out any unreasonable biases that appear in your logic.
Whatever decision you’re working through, come at it from as many different angles as possible. Debate with yourself, have a spirited argument. You may be surprised at some of the insights you come up with.
Who do you think of when you think of a servant leader? What are the traits of a servant leader? Is it possible for an entire organization to have these characteristics?
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I love to watch baseball. Live, up close: Hearing the “thwack!” of the bat making contact, feeling the crowd take a collective breath as a ball heads for the outfield, peering through the dust to see if the runner made it to home plate. There is something incredibly different about being there versus watching it on television. It’s just not the same reading about the game in the newspaper the next morning.
“Servant leaders give more in value than they receive.” -Skip Prichard
When I was young, I had the extraordinary opportunity to watch a different game. It was also live and up close. It was servant leadership at home. My parents literally took people in from all walks of life, individuals who needed a place to heal for all sorts of reasons. That childhood experience taught me the incredible lessons of a servant leader. There’s nothing better than watching servant leaders in action, in person, live in the game.
It was early in my life when I started studying leadership. Attending seminars and listening to teaching became a success habit. Even more importantly, I realized what I didn’t know, what I had to learn, what I was missing. I became determined to learn from those who were further along the leadership journey than I was. Because of this, I began to seek out leaders and ask them questions.
What I’ve learned is that learning is a choice. The most successful people I meet are constantly learning. They realize that they don’t have all the answers.
“Servant leaders have your best interest in mind.” -Skip Prichard
I’ve run a few global companies and, as the CEO, have hit home runs and have also struck out. Still, I’m always excited to keep improving my game. The learning continues.
Launching this blog a few years ago, I decided to share what I am learning from my own experiences, from books I read, and from thought leaders in many industries. Many of you have said these articles have helped you, but the real beneficiary has been me. I learn to be a better leader every time I share one of these ideas. And I also learn from your comments and engagement and the relationships I have established online.
Leaders realize that sharing and giving to others paves the way for more opportunities. It reinforces ideas and opens unexpected doors.
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“A servant leader cultivates a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard