How to Become a High-Stakes Leader

Become a High-Stakes Leader

When the stakes are high, that’s when we need the very best in leadership. Why do some leaders succeed and others fail? Why do some not only survive a crisis, but use difficulty to produce incredible results?

These questions are tackled by Constance Dierickx, PhD in her new book, HIGH-STAKES LEADERSHIP: Leading Through Crisis with Courage, Judgment and Fortitude. She shares how to lead with the type of courage that makes you stand out.

I recently asked her to share her insights on high-stakes leadership.

 

“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” -Aristotle

 

What do you mean by High-Stakes leadership?

A high-stakes leader is someone who is successful when risk is high and visibility is low.  New ventures are an example, whether they are for a new product, service, geography or method of production. Top leader changes, mergers and crisis are also examples of high-stakes situations.

Leaders who get good results achieve value on multiple fronts. As Jim Kennedy, Chairman of Cox Enterprises says, “It can’t be just about the money.” In a crisis, we need only compare the recent leadership failure at Equifax with the response of The Home Depot in a similar circumstance, a breach. The response of these two companies was wildly different. Frank Blake’s actions are a model of what to do.

My book talks about what leaders in high-stakes situations should do and provides examples from a wide range of organizations. I also talk about what gets in the way of leaders. Invisible traps include the human cognitive system, which is not a completely rational system. Our human limits lead us to make mistakes that may look foolish but can be the result of cognitive limits, the effect of emotion on decisions, the context or our own habits of avoiding anxiety.

There is an additional factor, which I include in my forthcoming book Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, in which I focus on mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. That is when we wrongly assign value to opportunities, risk, timelines, market size, and so forth. It’s one thing to think something is low risk and be right and quite another to believe risk is low when it isn’t. Even smart people can be blind when making evaluations, a part of leading. We don’t have measures for everything, and even when we do we aren’t always measuring what matters.

Perhaps the greatest risk of all is in thinking we are operating in a safe zone and being complacent.

 

“The greatest risk of all is in thinking we are operating in a safe zone.” -Constance Dierickx

3 Qualities of Innovation Leaders

Elephant With Butterfly Wings

When You Need Radical Innovation

Innovation.

It’s at the top of nearly every organization’s strategic priority list. Whether due to tepid growth, robust competition, globalization, budget constraints, or a myriad of other reasons, almost every organization is seeking innovation. Looking for the next big thing to transform the business and to improve a customer’s experience is always top of mind for a leadership team.

 

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” –Drew Houston

 

Steven Hoffman is Captain and CEO of Founders Space, a Top 10 Incubator in Inc. and the #1 Accelerator for startups coming to Silicon Valley from overseas in Forbes. He is constantly innovating, and he is a serial entrepreneur and investor. From his vantage point, he’s seen what works and what doesn’t. His book, Make Elephants Fly: The Process of Radical Innovation, is a practical guide to help startups achieve breakthrough growth and help more established organizations find a path to successful innovation.

It is a compelling read, filled with great examples to help you achieve faster growth. I recently spoke with Steve about his book.

 

“Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” –Steven Hoffman

 

Copying is Brilliant

One of your chapters is focused on copying vs. creating. You say, “Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” What role should copying play in radical innovation?

All great innovations are built on top of previous discoveries. Copying is an essential starting point. Steve Jobs copied Palm Pilot when developing the iPhone. Mark Zuckerberg copied Friendster and Myspace when developing Facebook. Brian Chesky copied Craigslist when developing Airbnb. But all these brilliant entrepreneurs innovated radically, and that’s why they were able to breakthrough and become so much bigger than their predecessors.

To innovate, you must start with something, and it helps to pick a business model that works. That’s where copying comes in. Once you’ve identified the customer need, then you must figure out how to radically improve it. There are only two ways to break through:

1) You create a product that is exponentially better. This is what Google did with its search engine. It was ten times better than the preceding search engines.

2) You create something new, something that offers a different value than the competition. This is what Twitter did with its micro-blogging platform. It wasn’t like a typical blog because it limited posts to 140 characters, which created an entirely new experience for readers and bloggers.

Why You Should Join Me for a Rollercoaster Ride

rollercoaster

The Ride of a Lifetime

Right up front, I need to disclose that this isn’t my normal type of post. It’s much more like a parent announcing the birth of a child.

Today I’m officially announcing that I have a book coming out in February. It’s called The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future.

For those of you who have thought about writing a book, but haven’t taken the plunge, let me share with you some of the emotions involved. I’m excited, sure, but that excitement is also mixed with nervousness, anxiety, stress, and, if I’m really honest, a healthy dose of undiluted, raw fear.

It’s like the first time I was on a terrifying rollercoaster in an amusement park. The ride up is like the writing and editing process, a slow ascent without fully realizing what’s about to happen. But then things change. Before your book is released, things shift, just like that feeling on the rollercoaster when you’ve crept up and up, the gears grinding, the wheels churning. You’re perched on the precipice, knowing what’s coming, knowing the drop is imminent, your stomach tightening involuntarily, your teeth gritting together.

I suppose that I should be somewhat okay with all of it. After all, each time I write an article whether here or on other sites, I’m exposing a part of me.

But a book is more permanent. It’s like putting a part of myself out into the world, wholly vulnerable and unable to get it back.

Let’s face it: I watched my wife deliver our child and did all I could to support her, but I wasn’t the one in agony.

Now I am.

It’s both an exhilarating experience and a horrifying experience. It’s like nothing I imagined.

From what I now know, and whether this book takes off or sells only two copies, I have a newfound appreciation for authors and for those who put their creative talents on display over and over again. It’s not easy.

And so, if you find yourself friends with an author, I suggest you buy that person’s book. If your friendship isn’t worth the price of the book, then back out of the friendship. If it is, read the book. You’ll get a glimpse into the mind and heart of the author. After all, a good friend is one that grabs your hand for the ride, screaming with you on the way down, not at you from below.

I hope that you join me on the ride.

 

*If you do order, keep your receipt. You’ll see why in another note soon.

 

 

“Everything worth doing starts with being scared.” –Art Garfunkel

 

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” –John Wayne

 

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“Only the most courageous wring the most out of life.” -Zig Ziglar

 

“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” -Aristotle

How to Reach Better Agreements

The One Minute Negotiator

My friend Don Hutson has a career in speaking, management, and sales that spans time, geography, and industry. His client list includes over half of the Fortunate 500. He’s the CEO of U.S. Learning and has appeared on numerous national television programs. He previously served as the President of the National Speakers Association.

He has authored or co-authored fourteen books. Two of them The One Minute Entrepreneur and The One Minute Negotiator have been Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestsellers.

Given this extensive background, I wanted to talk with Don about two subjects: sales and communication.

In this first video interview, I talk to Don about sales.

 

What’s In and Out

He shares that closing is out while gaining commitment is in. Overcoming objections is also out replaced by dealing with concerns. Even listening is upgraded from a passive activity to power listening, requiring action.

 

“Let us move from the era of confrontation to the era of negotiation.” –Richard Nixon

 

The Importance of Trust

Phrases to Defuse Difficult Workplace Situations

Defuse conflict

Are you ever at a loss for words?

Do you approach a potentially volatile situation with trepidation because you don’t know what to say?

The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book by Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem is for you.

It’s a handbook of sorts, a reference book, filled with clever phrases and questions all designed to help you in conflict situations.

After reading it, I decided to put it to use immediately. I read a few of the phrases before attending most of my meetings. What I found was that I was asking better questions and was a more focused listener.

I recently asked Barbara more about her work.

 

“Knowing when to fight is just as important as how.” –Terry Goodkind

 

Build Your Conflict Muscle

How do you best build the conflict muscle so that you don’t shy away from it?

Practice, practice, practice!  Many of us are uncomfortable with conflict to the point where we not just shy away from it—we run from it and give in rather than dealing with it. It takes courage and practice to have conflict muscle, but we also want people to know that not all conflict is “bad.”  Having differences of opinion can spur creativity and positive change in organizations and personal relationships.

 

Talk about the power of listening.

Most of us think we’re really good listeners, but what we really do is, while the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say when they stop speaking.  That’s not listening.  Listening is putting your own thoughts aside to focus on the words being said but also observing body language and facial expressions to really get what the person is saying.  Our ever-increasing virtual world makes listening even more difficult, so whenever possible, have difficult conversations face to face. But if you can’t be in the same place, use Facetime or Skype so least you can see each other. A good listener uses techniques like paraphrasing back what they heard to ensure both people are on the same wave length. Listening takes practice—just like any other communication form. We spend a lot time learning how to speak to be understood or how to write well but not much time learning how to listen.

 

“If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.” –Thomas Edison

 

Ask for Clarity