July 9, 2010

Find My Recent Blog Posts

Filed under: Noah's Posts

Due to the challenges of managing multiple blogs – here, wordpress, Amazon, Red Room, Facebook, etc. – I have consolidated.

Please check out my blog at bethehero.wordpress.com.

I post there every day. I hope you’ll visit and leave a comment.

March 29, 2010

Truth in Advertising

Filed under: Communication,Influence

The web allows unprecedented sharing of information. It also spreads unprecedented misinformation.

As a result more people are either misinformed or more skeptical than ever before. Yesterday I received an email that perked up my inner skeptic. It had the telltale signs of misinformation.

1. It had been forwarded numerous times before reaching me.
2. It contained a cute inspirational story. Though ugly fearful stories are also often false (and spread like wildfire).
3. It began with the words, “A True Story”.
4. And the biggie. The font wasn’t black. For some reason people spreading email lies seem to love colorful fonts.

But it was true. The end of the email contained a snopes link.

[An aside if you don't know what snopes.com is: This is a website you should have bookmarked. It allows you to search for stories you receive via email. They have researched the stories and can tell you which ones are true or false. If you've never been there then go and search for Sarah Palin or Barack Obama or Michael Jackson. You should verify any email you get with snopes before forwarding it on to others.]

I thought this was fantastic. Every forwarded info email should contain a snopes link (at least the true ones should).

But what struck me was the location of the link. This email began with the words “A True Story” which convinced me it was all a hoax and ended with the snopes link which brought me back from pure skepticism. It could have lost me at any time without my ever discovering that there was truth there.

As I’ve often said, we all sell. So when you are selling your ideas or products or services, what is your equivalent of snopes? What gives your ideas or products validity? Once you figure that out, lead with it. Don’t hide it at the bottom like an irrelevant disclaimer that people may miss.

March 28, 2010

Ram Charan Lesson #3

Filed under: Innovation,Leadership

On Wednesday I met Ram Charan, one of the foremost management consultants and leadership gurus in the world. Here’s the third insight I gained from my time with him.

Invention is the creation of new ideas. You need geniuses for that.

Innovation is converting ideas into revenue and margins. You need leaders for that.

Successful business relies far more on the latter than the former.

I thought this was a very interesting perspective. When we talk about innovation the conversation does usually push toward extreme examples, but business innovation, the kind that helps one company win over others, is often about incremental improvements, a cost saving here, a process improvement there.

Time after time when companies unleash the creative power of their employees (usually doing little more than asking and listening) they uncover numerous innovations. So we can leave the invention to the Einsteins. Ask around for the innovative ideas. Then put our leadership to use selecting the best innovations and converting them to positive business results.

March 26, 2010

Ram Charan Lesson #2

Filed under: Leadership

On Wednesday I met Ram Charan, one of the foremost management consultants and leadership gurus in the world. Here’s the second insight I gained from my time with him.

Right before his keynote he made the comment, “I don’t know anything.”

The organizer of the event quickly replied, “You’re going on in a few minutes. Please don’t say that.”

Of course, Ram Charan knows a great deal. But he has also come to terms with what he does and doesn’t know. He seems equally comfortable with both sides of that equation.

This is something I discuss with my coaching clients all the time. It never ceases to amaze me. Whether I am coaching a first time manager or a senior executive, they almost always have the same fear – that someone will discover how little they know. They spend their lives hoping no one will realize that they really don’t belong.

In fact they do belong, as much as anyone does. This isn’t to say that there aren’t differences in competence levels. But it is extraordinary to me how many people share this common anxiety that they really don’t know enough.

Ram Charan seems to have truly embraced and found comfort in Socrates. You’ve seen this quote before, but it is always worth reconsidering.

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. And in knowing that you know nothing, that makes you the smartest of all.”

March 25, 2010

Ram Charan Lesson #1

Filed under: Leadership

Yesterday I had a film session with SkillSoft, a company that provides online video training. They were also filming Ram Charan, one of the foremost management consultants and leadership gurus in the world. Over the next few days I will share some of the bits of wisdom I gleaned from my time with him.

I find it interesting that recently I wrote about curiosity being the best trait a salesperson can have, and yesterday Ram Charan told me that Jack Welch was the most curious CEO he has ever seen. Given that Jack Welch is one of the most celebrated CEOs I think there must be something to this.

Ram was very clear that this was an invaluable trait for Welch, but our conversation flowed elsewhere. I never asked the follow-up question – Why is curiosity so valuable for a leader?

So here’s my own take.

Curiosity about your people helps you discover their best ideas. It helps you understand what is happening in their world. It also brings out their best. If they know you are going to ask them questions, they will be more prepared. Your best employees will be more eager to speak with you.

Curiosity about your business helps you discover your strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments. It gets you out of group think and acceptance of status quo.

Curiosity about the world around you helps you discover changes in your industry that will affect your organization. It helps you react quickly to crises, limit losses, and take advantage of opportunities.

March 24, 2010

Add or Subtract

Filed under: Leadership

My friend Mark Levy sees the world in strange ways, a helpful trait for a marketer. For example, when brainstorming ideas for blog posts he said, “You should write about how blogging isn’t about perfection. Make sure your post is flawless.”

We also enjoy a fair amount of banter, generally centering around his genius and my comparative lack thereof. It is all good natured. Recently he characterized his banter efforts as geared towards giving me a confisectomy – i.e., he sought to remove my confidence.

Now Mark gives me lots of confidence. He seeks me out for advice and praises the work that I do. I’ve never felt hurt or threatened by our joking around. But it got me thinking about the idea of a confisectomy.

Who gives them? How are they delivered? I realize they are actually quite common, sometimes intentional, sometimes not. Consider the following ways to boost or diminish confidence.

We can micro-manage or give stretch assignments (as always, this applies to managers and parents). We can focus on errors or achievements. We can emphasize possibility or risk. We can simply hug the people we love and tell them we believe in them.

On a broader scale marketers and politicians can play to our fears or our egos. Unfortunately, they seem to believe (and maybe they are right) that our fears are stronger than our egos.

We all hold the scalpel every day. We can either perform confidence enhancements or confisectomies. Which surgery will you perform today?

March 23, 2010

A Favor for a Stranger

Filed under: Healthy Living

What would you do for a stranger? If it’s someone you’ve never seen before and will never see again? It isn’t charity. This isn’t someone who needs money or a handout. If I told you it would cost you nothing to provide this favor, I bet you’d do it. But not everyone does in reality.

The other day I was that stranger. My flight had been delayed. So when we landed I had less than 10 minutes to make my connection. I made my way up the row asking each person the same question.

“I only have 10 minutes to make my next flight. Do you mind if I go ahead of you?”

The doors hadn’t been opened yet. I just wanted to get to the front so I could run up the jet bridge and hope against hope, make my next flight.

The responses to my question fell into three categories.

1. “Go ahead.” Some people were models of kindness encouraging me and wishing me luck and safe travels. These were my Good Samaritans.

2. “Where’s your connection?” These folks wanted more info. They wanted to be sure their act of kindness was justified. Still, I can’t complain. They let me pass. These were Open Skeptics. Skeptics because they wanted to be convinced. Open because they accepted the information.

3. “There’s nowhere to go.” This person flat out rejected my plea. The previous 10 people moved slightly aside back into their rows to let me pass. This individual preferred to maintain his place in line. This was the Greedy One.

Which one would you be?

March 22, 2010

Don’t Naysay the Naysayers

Filed under: Leadership

“I just wish we could move forward. The problem is all of these naysayers.”

What is in a name?

Naysayers are problems. They prevent progress. They take your brilliant plans with tons of upside and see only the risks and the weaknesses. They stop you from changing yourself and your organization.

Stabilizers on the other hand are essential. No business can operate without them. They prevent chaos. They cut apart poorly conceived plans and shore up weaknesses in good plans. They maintain the history of an organization. They save you from charging head first into big mistakes.

The way we label coworkers matters. Dismissive or derisive labels amplify frustration, infighting, politicking, and marginalizing. Appreciative labels breed respect, open communication, honest dialogue, strong relationships, and yes, progress – even when the coworkers are stabilizers.

March 21, 2010

Best Job Ever

Filed under: Leadership

After college I waited tables for a year at a chain restaurant in Kenmore Square Boston. It’s located between Boston University and Fenway Park. So the patrons were a mix of angry sports fans (this was before the Red Sox finally won) and poor college students.

The money was awful. It was physically exhausting work. The customers were obnoxious and demanding. At the time I thought there was nothing redeeming about it.

But I learned more important lessons about work, people, and life in that job than in any other. Here’s a smattering.

1. Always, always be nice to people who will handle your food. (This lesson probably also applies to things like medicine.)
2. Tip well. Very well. They are working harder for a living than you are and getting paid less. (Unless you are a school teacher.)
3. Glass cracks when it goes quickly from hot (fresh out of the washer) to cold (filled with ice and soda) but not the reverse. Who knew?
4. If you are heading somewhere and see something that should go in the same direction (e.g., dirty plates), take it with you. Now. This time. Don’t put it off.
5. Make friends with everyone at work. You never know when your tips will depend on them.
6. Getting slammed (restaurant lingo for suddenly having all 8 tables in your section seated at the same time) shows you what people are made of. (The people here being you, your coworkers, your manager who can either sit at the bar watching or dive in and help, and yes, your customers.)
7. The measure of the quality of a human being isn’t how he treats his friends. Most people are pretty good at that. It’s how he treats the people he will rarely, if ever, see again.
8. Rubber Soul is the greatest Beatles album of all time.
9. Waiters are like piranha when a mistake order of nachos are returned to the kitchen.
10. And never be mean to people who will handle your food. Trust me, it’s worth mentioning twice. (I swear I didn’t do anything, but I’ve seen some things that still keep me up at night.)

What about you? What job taught you the most?

March 19, 2010

Offer and Ask

Filed under: Influence

Gary Cohen asked me to guest blog. And we wanted something different. So he suggested that I ask my readers what questions they would like to hear me answer. I wondered, would I get a response?

So I emailed my weekly hero tip recipients, and over 100 really insightful questions later, I was clearly reminded of the power of asking.

But requests alone lack power. This blog post is titled “Offer and Ask”. It would not work as just “Ask”. And even “Ask and Offer” doesn’t work very well.

But when you focus your life on offers, it becomes easy when the time comes to ask. Think about all the offers you can make:

Boss, is there anything I can help you with?
Colleague, how can I support you on that project?
Network, I have some knowledge or expertise that I’d like to share with anyone interested.
Spouse, I know how hard you work. How can I help make your life easier?
Kid, go clean up your room. (I couldn’t resist.)

We often convince ourselves that we are too busy to make offers, and then we feel squeamish about making requests. But offering help feels great. It is a wonderful end in and of itself. And when you’ve made offers, people are excited to help you in return.

So what will you offer today?

And what will you ask for tomorrow?

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