An Exciting Leadership Challenge

This last year, I have had the privilege of exploring many opportunities and consulting with different organizations.  I’ve enjoyed the chance to study various teams and learn from a variety of leaders.  At the same time, I most enjoy operational roles where I’m responsible for driving results.

In June, I will be joining OCLC as President-elect and I will be named President & CEO on July 1.  Based in Dublin, Ohio, OCLC is a nonprofit computer library service and research organization.  Its goals include furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs.

During major career changes, I make a list of what I am looking for and then evaluate various opportunities against these criteria.  Here are a few I’d like to share with you in case it helps you on your own journey:

Supportive.  If you are joining a company, it is important to know whether you will have support or whether you will be fighting internally.  Most of us have experienced teams where everyone is more concerned about survival than about helping each other.  Specifically on my list is a “supportive board of directors.”  I met with the trustees numerous times throughout the process and this is one of the most engaged, thoughtful and supportive boards I have ever seen.

Engaging.  Really what this one is about is that I don’t like to be bored.  For me, I enjoy industries in transition or undergoing change.  Libraries have been at the cutting edge of technology for years and face challenges due to budget constraints.  I’m excited to help in any way possible and know that the variety of technological and economic changes will provide new challenges.

Stable.  I’ve enjoyed working in many different environments.  Working in a stable business is important to me.  My predecessor at OCLC, Jay Jordan, has done an excellent job working with the members to expand into new areas around the globe.  Note: It’s possible to be both stable and in the middle of rapid change at the same time.

Respected.  I’ve worked with libraries my entire career.  OCLC is one of the most respected names anywhere, and this is because the member libraries help to make it what it is.  The combination of fully engaged member libraries with talented OCLC employees around the world makes for a dynamic, well-respected organization.

Working for Good

Jeff Klein is the CEO of Working For Good and trustee and executive team member of Conscious Capitalism Inc., an organization cofounded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.  He’s written two thoughtful books Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living and It’s Just Good Business: The Emergence of Conscious Capitalism & The Practice of Working For Good.

What is Working for Good” ?

Working for Good is the name of my book and business. It is a brand. And it is an approach to work, business and life that orients around service, sustainability, learning, growth and development.WFG200

What are the benefits of creating an environment where you can truly “work for good”?

Purpose is among the highest motivations for human beings. If your work is infused with purpose, then you are inspired and energized to bring all that you have and all that you can to the work.

Love and care similarly bring out the best and most in people. If you care about and for the people you work with and if they care about and for you, your connection to them is deep, and you are motivated to serve and support each other.

When people are aligned and alighted in purpose, supporting and serving each other — and others who they come in contact with (including customers and other stakeholders of the business) — the business is alive. It attracts attention and fosters relationships built on trust and loyalty, which leads to resilience and sustainability.

This is very good for business!

“If your work is infused with purpose, then you are energized to bring all that you have to the work.” -Jeff Klein

How is a business like a garden?

The most essential skill of a gardener is that of attention. “Tending” a garden begins with attention. When you pay attention to the garden, you see what is going on and recognize where care and intervention are required.

5 Customer Service Lessons from the Department of Motor Vehicles

 

You can learn from every situation.  Whether it was an incredible service experience that makes you a raving fan or whether it is one where you’re left shaking your head.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate a milestone with my daughter.  It was time for her to obtain her driver’s permit.  She had finished a weeklong driver’s education course, passed the written test, obtained all of the paperwork, and we had dutifully filled out the forms.

Everything was ready.

Now it was time for us to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), get her picture taken, and obtain the permit.  I knew it would take time.  That’s the nature of the DMV.  I figured an hour to an hour and a half max.

Instead, we quickly realized that getting the permit was going to be about as difficult as Frodo making it safely to Mordor.

All of us have had the same shared, miserable experience at the DMV.  In every state I’ve lived in, it’s the same.  We just forget, don’t we?  We finally get what we need, and then we hope that we never have to go back.

Our experience was even worse than what I recalled from before.  Nearly five hours later, we finally emerged with the permit.  All of the waiting for just five minutes at the counter.

We were exhausted, but we also were laughing.  That’s what we do when we are beyond frustrated.  Jim Rohn used to say, “Learn to turn frustration into fascination.”  When I’m terribly frustrated, I try to heed his advice.

 

Learn to turn frustration into fascination. -Jim Rohn

 

Here’s what I jotted down in my notes during that first hour:

I’m fascinated:

  •             That this operation is so inefficient.
  •             That no one has redone this entire system.
  •             That we blindly put up with it because we feel powerless.
  •             That leaders haven’t emerged to fix it.
  •             That they aren’t listening to suggestions for change.

 

After two hours, I was no longer fascinated.  That’s when I go to my second step.  I look for customer service or leadership lessons.  That worked for the next hour.

What business lessons can we learn from the DMV?

From my notes:

Set expectations.

At the DMV, they don’t give an estimated time until you will be served. Failing to set expectations leads to disappointment.

Lesson:  Whether running a business or serving on a team, it’s important to set expectations—and then keep them.

Finding the Next Steve Jobs

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/TABoomer

Nolan Bushnell founded groundbreaking companies such as Atari and Chuck E. Cheese.  In his first book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Retain and Nurture Creative Talent, he outlines a plan for helping companies bring more creativity into their organization and make it their competitive advantage.  (Nolan hired Steve Jobs in 1972, two years after founding Atari.)  The book is a must read for all creatives and especially anyone who aspires to manage creatives.

My good friend, best-selling author and speaker Tim Sanders of Net Minds, is his publisher.  Tim graciously agreed to interview Nolan and talk about creativity, leadership, libraries and even publishing.  Here is the conversation between Tim and Nolan:

FTNSJ_Cover_v31_130#1330ED1I know it’s your strong belief that leaders at companies need to foster a creative culture. If you were going to give leaders one piece of advice on how to think differently about a creative culture, what would that piece of advice be?

I would encourage them to say yes to at least one crazy idea a year.

Give me an example of some of the crazy ideas you heard when you were in Atari.

Among the many that were pitched to me, one that stands out was this notion of making pretty pictures when music happened. It seemed ridiculous at the time. The product ultimately turned into Midi.

Midi, of course, is the standard that still exists to this day for connecting music devices to each other and synchronizing them. 

I think we built 20,000 of them, and I think we sold six at full-price. (Laughs). But it did become a force within the industry, for sure.

Let me ask you about leadership because you’ve led several companies. Do you think of leadership in a military way, a coaching way, or an improv comedy way?

7 Facts of Business Success

Photo by melanie_hughes on flickr.

 

After over forty years of owning businesses, Bill McBean shares the success factors that propelled his ventures to new heights. Whether turning around underperforming auto dealerships or forming new investing and administrative services companies, Bill has seen what works and what doesn’t. He recently wrote The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows that You Don’t, and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his formula for business success.

Why do most businesses not achieve the level of success that they should?

It’s usually a combination of reasons versus one specific reason. These reasons are, in no particular order: 1) an opportunity with little potential for gross profit and net profit; 2) a lack of knowledge of the important elements, or basic fundamentals which create success; 3) a lack of leadership knowledge of how to move a business “from here to there”; 4) a lack of knowledge of how to compete; 5) a lack of overall business knowledge (not to be confused with industry knowledge).9781118094969 cover.indd

This is not a comprehensive list, but in my opinion from what I have seen they make up the vast majority of business failure or lack of success — and it’s rarely just one of these reasons. Instead it is a combination that can kill or seriously hinder the success of a business.

Your book outlines seven “facts” that successful business owners understand and utilize. We don’t have time to go into all of them, but how did you develop and choose these seven?

 

It probably wouldn’t surprise you if I told you these ‘facts’ chose me rather than me choosing them. By this I mean in all my years of business ownership these 7 facts were the ones which cost me the most money — either in not optimizing an opportunity or by not paying enough attention to a particular fact that ended up taking a big bite out of my wallet.