From the time of Alexander the Great to the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, there was almost no increase in people’s productivity.

The speed a soldier in Alexander the Great’s army could travel was limited by the speed of the horse he rode or the beasts pulling his wagon; and weapons they used were all hand forged. The same was true for Napoleon’s troops 2,000 years later. But with the invention of the steam engine, things began to change. Since that time, the nominal annual rate of productivity improvement in developed economies has been between 0.5% and 2%. This is approximately the same natural improvement rate that is found in most traditionally run organizations.

But what if you could improve faster, at a rate that outpaced your competitors? And what if you could maintain this rate year-after-year? The result would be a considerable competitive advantage.

We have studied a number of companies that have been able to increase their productivity by as much as 13% to 15% annually. (read more…)

It’s mythical and alluring, that thing that you may secretly desire. It surfaces slowly and silently unseen, unheard and often unrecognized. It hides within the facade of your ego, growing larger with time while blinding you to its presence.

Make no mistake. It will destroy you and your organization even while it parasitizes your values and harms the spirits of those who once willingly followed you, but who now trudge along like sheep going to slaughter.

“Why aren’t our employees more innovative?” you exclaim, and the question “Why must I carry the burden of being all things to all people?” is keeping you up at night.

You’re blind to it when it surfaces, this thing named control. Yet it makes you feel powerful. The desire to control will surface throughout your leadership career. The trick to keeping control at bay is be aware when it surfaces and to let go of it (this is the hard part) when it’s appropriate. (read more…)

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBlogs posts by YEC.

yec_Dan Price1. Find the truth

When you get negative feedback, it can be emotional, so give yourself time and space to process the feedback. Then, realize there’s truth behind every single piece of feedback you get — no matter where it comes from. — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

yec_Brennan White2. Act like a CEO

Regardless of the level, managers should respond to negative feedback like good CEOs would. They should get more data to confirm or deny the feedback, and if the negative feedback is true, they should unemotionally set a plan to rectify shortcomings by a specific date and use the same reports to judge their progress. Agree in advance what the remedies are if progress isn’t made. (read more…)

Sara leaned back, crossed her arms, and sighed.

“It’s not right! My VP expects me to hit these numbers, but customers want updates, and research is focused on new products and won’t give me the time of day.”

She shook her head. “I guess I’ll go down to R&D and tell them they’ve got to change their attitude or the company’s going to end up in the toilet. This just sucks!”

I asked, “How do you think that will work?”

“It won’t! But what else can I do? I didn’t ask for any of this!”

When life isn’t fair

Can you identify with Sara?

You’re working hard, you take your work seriously, and then you’re confronted with obstacles. They’re not your fault. You didn’t ask for them, but there they are, staring you in the face, keeping you from moving forward.

Every leader I’ve ever met (heck, every person) is faced with unfair, difficult circumstances at some point. (read more…)

Like all of you, I’ve had experiences where I had unwittingly offended or hurt someone. I have blind spots (these behaviors can cause problems in relationships because we aren’t aware of them). In each case, I sensed something was amiss and was able to address the reaction of the other person by asking for feedback.

I never intend to cause pain or suffering to others, so it’s important for me to hear others’ experience of me. I’ll admit it’s hard to ask for feedback because of my fear of what I’ll hear and how I might react.

That sounds very silly when I write it down. Because I know that feedback is like medicine; it may not taste very good in the moment, but over the long run it will make me a healthier (and better) person and leader.

Little by little, asking for feedback can break down those ego barriers that exist between yourself and others. (read more…)