Gap International’s Leveraging Genius Conference began Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nearly 200 global executives and their teams from multiple industries and cultures have come together in a week-long journey to discover and leverage the origins of their own great performance (SmartBrief recently interviewed Gap International co-Chief Operating Officer Bob Rothman). The following excerpts come from Gap International’s in-conference interview with Jaime Graña, managing director of Diageo Mexico, about the business effects of the work under way.

As a business leader today, what are some of the main business challenges people are facing?

One challenge is how to grow people — to grow them faster than the pace that the business grows.

The second one is to manage the context of the business — why you’re doing what you’re doing — in a way that is favorable for the business, making that context more important than the circumstances you face.

With what you’ve learned so far, how might a leader address those issues? (read more…)

If you’re a workaholic like me, you wake up rearing to dig into your to-do list every day (this includes weekends). Secretly you know that you can’t possibly get it all done that day, but no harm in trying, right? Wrong. There is an old Zen saying:

“Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.” — Lao Tzu

I know what you’re thinking: “I’m getting paid to produce, get things done, make things happen. You want to tell my boss I’m practicing not-doing? Plus, secretly you know I get a kick from making things happen so if I did nothing, I’d just crawl into a fetal position and die of depression.” I know exactly how you feel. I struggle with this too. But here is why “not-doing” has the power to change the way we work and live.

What is not-doing?

When I first read this Zen saying, my rational brain refused to process it. (read more…)

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” — Martina Navratilova

“The biggest differentiator of companies that excel in leadership development is the commitment and ownership of the CEO or top executive.” — Dan McCarthy

Don’t you hate it when people quote themselves?

It’s easy for a “chicken” CEO to just pay lip service to leadership development. All they need to do is show up at the annual talent review and nod their heads; stop by a few training programs to give a quick talk, approve the training budget, and read the script written for them by HR that tells them to say, “People are our more important assets” at every employee gathering.

You can tell what’s really important to them by taking a look at their calendar to see where they spend their time, the agenda items on their executive team meetings, and by what gets measured. (read more…)

In what may have been his final appearance in office, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that knowing now how it would be, he would have still gladly taken the office in 2009. Chu told the audience at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Maryland that he learned that it was most important to focus on hiring the right people to accomplish the Obama administration’s clean and sustainable energy initiatives, rather than just the initiatives themselves.

Having the right team in place allowed him as their leader to focus on providing them resources they needed and to remove obstacles and distractions on their path to reaching goals, Chu said. His job was “blocking and tackling … so that they can run with the ball.”

He worked to recreate the work atmosphere he enjoyed during his nine years at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist said the cramped quarters there forced everyone to monitor each others’ progress, which fostered discussions and challenges to individuals’ work, which ultimately led to stronger achievements. (read more…)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg blames the intensity of superstorm Sandy, which struck Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states in October, on pollution caused by coal energy. He spoke at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Maryland.

“Sandy was developed by warmer-than-normal ocean waters, and it was amped by rising sea levels, and because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, when the storm came, it packed a greater wallop. And a lot of this is because of pollution that coal puts in the air,” Bloomberg said.

He said it is crucial that the U.S. clean up its air by eliminating coal, which makes up a significant amount of America’s carbon footprint, and move forward with cleaner energy sources. The mayor said he was pleased to see that through the work of environmental groups and tougher federal emissions standards, energy companies are shutting down coal plants because they are no longer economically feasible. (read more…)