What does it take to land on the New York Times Bestseller’s list nineteen times, with three books hitting the number one spot?
This is the current record of one of my friends, Ken Abraham. Not too long ago, I sat down with Ken to ask him about his phenomenal success. Ken’s specialty is collaborations. He works with celebrities, politicians, sports heroes and others to tell their stories. He writes authentically in their voice, not his own.
I have known Ken for some years and will tell you a few things that he would never say, but they are characteristics that fuel his success.
Ken is what I call a “power listener.”
1. Know that it is all about you.
Too often we listen faintly as we form another question or clever comment in our mind. We wait for the person to breathe so we can get our point in. Learning to listen well, extraordinarily well, has been a long-term goal of mine. I’m not even close to attaining it. Ken is a master.
Despite Ken’s success, he is one of the most humble people I know. That humility seems to work especially well in his work because Ken is more interested in learning about you than in talking about himself.
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” –Doug Larson
2. Are able to communicate what they heard accurately.
Good communication is not about saying something. It’s not about the audience hearing it either. It’s when the listener understands your message and can repeat it back. It’s when that person understands the nuances, the emotion, and the content.
Ken’s ability to do this propels him to the top of the world’s greatest listeners. His writing skills are amazing, but I believe it starts with his unique listening skills. He can only capture an accurate and authentic story because of his listening mastery.
“I think part of my gift..is that I love listening.” –Eric Clapton
There are many articles about how to get people to sign up for email updates. Aimed at marketers, they cover topics ranging from pop-ups to providing incentives to a call to action.
Most don’t seem to cover the question why. Why should you sign up for an email of recent posts? If you have a favorite blogger, why would you choose to opt-in and receive email as well?
I thought about that recently and about this Leadership Insights blog. I decided to ask people why they subscribed and why they didn’t. I learned more from those who said they did not subscribe than from those who did.
Here are the top 7 reasons I was told people do NOT subscribe and my responses:
1. I get too much email.
Sure, you get too much email. We all do. But most email that is in this category is spam. If I opt-in, I want to get periodic emails that will encourage, inspire or teach me something. When someone has spent time reading, researching and writing, and I am interested, I am happy to get those emails.
Key Question: Do I get too much positive email?
Whatever your favorite hobby or topic, you can find an exceptional blogger writing about it and providing free updates.
“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” -Elbert Hubbard
This is a flavor of too much email. In today’s world, so much is coming at us from social networks, phone calls, emails, texts, and everything else. One way to deal with it is tune out. I get that, and I do that.
Key Question: Are you more likely to achieve your goals with regular reminders?
Regular updates connect you to ideas in a powerful way. You are fueling your subconscious, revving up opportunities.
“Positive communication fuels your subconscious, readying you for opportunity.” -Skip Prichard
Sure, you do. It’s not even close to the same. You miss too much. Jim Rohn once said, “The book you don’t read won’t help.” That’s exactly right. The blog post you miss won’t help either. And, it is far more efficient and much easier to have an email sent to you than trying to remember what you viewed on your last visit and where you left off.
Even a single idea that makes you more effective, saves you time, increases your earning potential is invaluable.
Key Question: Do you want to miss the one idea that could change your year?
Find a blog and subscribe for a period of time. If you don’t find one thought, fact, or idea that you can use or refer to after two months, then drop the subscription.
4. Some of the topics don’t interest me.
Two things come to mind. First, it takes a second to delete it if you are not interested. Second, I have seen extraordinary benefits to reading widely. Someone once told me to make sure you are exposed to different ideas, different points of view. That will strengthen your arguments, challenge your thinking, and make you more empathetic. You will understand what someone else is thinking. And, if nothing else, you will never be at a loss at a party. Read as much and as widely as you can, and you will never be at a loss for good conversation.
Key Question: Do I want to miss everything because I don’t like something?
“The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.” –James Russell Lowell
I would be surprised if anyone did. Most people don’t realize that I don’t agree with all of the opinions expressed here either. That’s the point. When I was growing up, I learned a powerful lesson. If I agreed with a teacher, I did not learn because the conversation ended. But, if I disagreed and argued, I learned more than I ever thought possible. Adults would become animated, passionately defending a position. And, for me, that’s where I learned best. Here’s the other benefit. Often, it made me change my opinion. What if you are stuck in a mindset and changing that opinion is the key to your success?
Key Question: If I only listen to people who agree with me, am I any better off?
“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” –Leonardo daVinci
Now this one, I definitely understand! I am constantly worried about spam and receiving unwanted offers. Know that Leadership Insightsdoes not share your email with anyone. Another concern I have heard is that you may want to opt out later. The email from this blog includes an easy link at the bottom of each post so that you can unsubscribe, at any time, for any reason. It’s easy.
Key Question: Are you allowing a possible fear rob you of a definite benefit?
“Always do what you are afraid to do.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve heard this in various forms, and it stops me because I think, “No one really can feel that way!” Apathy is insidious. When I hear this, I am passionate in my response. I believe that everyone has the opportunity to improve, to do something great, and to serve a greater purpose. Of course, not many people tell me directly, “I cannot change.” Yet, that’s the feeling they are telling me.
Key Question: Are you more or less likely to get what you want with your current habits?
If you are not currently subscribing to blog email updates, I am asking you to change. Try it for 60 days. Not only do you have nothing to lose, but you will also be able to download my free ebook on Servant Leadership: Leading With Others in Mind. Making this small change in your weekly routine may give you just a bit more of an edge. And winning often happens right at the edge, where you are distinguished from the competition.
Words have remarkable power. Choosing to fill your life with positive, inspirational words is like fueling the engine of your mind. I believe that our circumstances can change based on what words we read, hear, and speak. That’s why in every blog post I try to pull out quotes that will spur new thoughts and actions.
Share a few of your favorites or stop by anytime to add one to your social media streams. You never know when a few words will be just the fuel someone needs.
“Success is something you attract by the person you become.” –Jim Rohn
Rob-Jan De Jong is a speaker, consultant and faculty member at Wharton’s executive program on Global Strategic Leadership. His new book, Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead, outlines what it takes to become a visionary leader. Sharing examples and principles from his research, Rob-Jan’s mission is to increase your personal visionary capacity. I recently had the opportunity to ask him about vision and the art of looking ahead.
“Anyone can grow their visionary capacity.” –Rob-Jan De Jong
As a CEO, I just loved this sentence: “Vision is not an exclusive for those in top ranked positions.” It’s really something for everyone, not only those with a title. How do corporate leaders unleash creativity and vision at all levels of the organization?
Empowerment and trust.
An important success factor is around empowerment and trust. A directive company culture is detrimental for people’s engagement. Having a sense of influence is a prerequisite for getting people to become involved in the hard work of engaging with uncertainty and anticipating the future.
“Vision is not an exclusive for those in top ranked positions.” –Rob-Jan De Jong
A second critical factor is fault tolerance. This naturally goes with empowerment – people will get it right and every so often they will get it wrong. These are the important moments of truth for you as the leader, as your response will set the standard for the culture that shapes from these moments. People will be on the lookout about how serious you are about empowerment. My simple suggestion is to not focus on what went wrong but to focus on what the person has learned.
“Visioning, future engagement, anticipation is a skill set and a mindset.” –Rob-Jan De Jong
And a third factor that should not be underestimated is that you will also need to enable your people to do this. Visioning, future engagement, anticipation is a skill set and a mindset. And it is often a step aside from the environment people have grown accustomed to, so you will need to enable your people to strengthen themselves in this area.
That might sound like blatant promotion for my work and my book, but I’m absolutely convinced that this has been a gap in management theory. Despite the widely acknowledged importance of ‘vision’ in leadership, little – if any – systematic support has been provided in terms of developing your visionary side as a leader in a responsible way. Scholars, business schools and strategy textbooks agree that a vision is one of the most powerful instruments a leader can have. And how you go about developing this side of your leadership has been met with tremendous silence.
It was my intention to fill part of this gap by offering a comprehensive perspective on the topic, original ideas, a developmental framework, various practices, and many stories and anecdotes to draw lessons from.
“Vision, the hallmark of leadership, is less a derivative of spreadsheets and more a product of the mind called imagination.” –Abraham Zaleznik
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He reluctantly leaves his sail boat to help me with strategy. After convincing him to write here once, I am now hoping he becomes a regular contributor.
Indecisiveness when it is clear that a decision should be made;
Failure to take action when cultural expectations are violated or associates misbehave;
Inability to provide timely feedback to teach individuals and the organization;
Failure to frame an issue, articulate priorities and delegate to others;
Ignoring customer issues that the organization simply takes for granted;
Failure to address large, well-known issues openly and directly.
These traits result in an environment where:
Decisions are delayed by over-analyzing or waiting for consensus to emerge;
Poor behavior is overlooked; exceptional efforts and good performance are unrecognized;
Meeting topics wander off the agenda into excruciating detail;
Customers issues are ignored or met with half measures;
Important, uncomfortable topics are not openly discussed.
Working in an environment with wasted authority is very frustrating, wastes the time and talent of the organization and drains the energy of the organization.
What if You Are Not The Leader?
If you are a leader and recognize your behavior in any of these traits, it is time to adjust your style to be more decisive, open, focused and action-oriented. There is a lot a leader can easily do to stop his/her own wasted authority behavior.
But what if you are not the leader and are subjected to wasted authority by one or more of the leaders of your organization? What can you do to help change the environment? How can you lead when you are not the one who should? Even though you are not the one in charge, there are several actions you and others can take to improve specific situations and change the environment. Consider the following actions to overcome wasted authority.
“Wasted authority results in weak organizations.” -Bruce Rhoades
When confronted with indecisiveness from the leader, start by making sure everyone agrees to options or alternatives for the decision. For example, say, “Can we simply list the alternatives for this decision?” and then start the list – write it down on a flip chart or whiteboard for the leader or group. You should make the list of alternatives as short as possible, ideally just 2 or 3, and prioritize them.
Define What is Needed and Schedule Closure
The next step is to ask, “If we cannot choose one of these options, what additional information do we need to decide?” List what is required. Then determine who is responsible to get the information. Agree who is going to do what and make assignments. Finally, ask when the group can reconvene to review the structured options and make a decision.
Many times with this approach, a group will be able to make a decision at the time. But if not, this process will structure the alternatives, establish concrete actions and decide when to decide! Another term I like to use is “scheduled closure.”
Orchestrate Support of Others
If you know ahead of time that there will be a tendency to delay a decision, then meet with others who will attend the meeting to structure alternatives before the meeting. If an indecisive leader sees several people on the same page, it will help make the decision.
Develop an Offline Decision
Alternatively, once a list of options for the decision is created, see if a smaller group of individuals can be assigned to return with a decision or recommendation. Indecisive leaders sometimes will let others decide if options are clear and several agree.
Leadership Tip: Confront indecisiveness by listing and agreeing on the possible options.
When a leader does not recognize good employee performance or ignores poor performance or behavior, the wrong culture is set for the entire organization by lack of action. The attitude spreads rapidly.