Allowing people room to conceive and try things. Bringing in “troublemakers and tinkerers.” Encouraging ideas from everyone, then allowing “people to collide and generate ideas.”

These traits are part of the process that allows companies to adapt to change, to disrupt themselves and fend off competitors, and improve without losing sight of what they are. But it wasn’t just speaker Dirk Beveridge of 4th Generation Systems saying this — it was a CEO of a $50 million company and a corporate sales manager of a $1.6 billion operation. They model these traits as part of their vision, instill them in the culture, and ultimately inspire companies that iterate, think and adapt with guidance, but not micromanagement, from their leaders.

All this matters because, as Scott McKain said later on Thursday at the NAW 2015 Executive Summit, “Great isn’t good enough to grow a business in today’s economy.” If you are doing great work but can’t say what makes you different than your competitors, than your marketplace, then you aren’t differentiated or truly focused on customers. (read more…)

Early in the year, many leaders will take their teams “off-site” for a day or more. An off-site meeting can be a great way to develop strategy, get creative, develop a team, learn and re-invigorate a team. Of course, they can also be like a sentence in purgatory if not planned and run well.

There is plenty of advice on how to run effective meetings, but not enough on planning. A well planned meeting can prevent a lot of the problems associated with bad meetings. Given that off-sites typically involve more time and people than regular team meetings, more thought needs to be put into preparation.

Here’s a few planning tips that will ensure your upcoming offsite is a fun, productive and rewarding experience, and doesn’t turn into an all-day meeting from hell.

1. Ask: “What is the overall purpose of the meeting?” Is it to develop a three-year strategy? (read more…)

The term “smart creative” is often heard today in the hallways and conference rooms of some of the nation’s leading tech companies. Not surprising, since it was coined by Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. But the concept is not necessarily unique to Google, or even to the tech world.

Smart creatives (SCs) can be found almost anywhere, from the corner coffeehouse to the corner office.

  • How can you tell if you are a smart creative?
  • How can you spot a smart creative?
  • How can you maximize smart creatives’ potential in your organization?

Here are four key characteristics to look for:

  1. They are master integrators. SCs are analytically savvy but also business savvy. They know how to analyze problems and issues, but they avoid getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Instead, they use their analytical skills to create excellent products and services. They know what the consumer wants because they are early adopters themselves, power users of their own products.
  2. (read more…)

Adrian had been looking for a solution to an issue at work in her head for months (and months). She was, in her words, a perfectionist who was looking for a way to control the issue without negative consequences. She didn’t just ponder how to deal with it, she obsessed about it. It was beginning to impact her leadership and her personal relationships. Wishing that her obsessive thoughts about the issue would stop didn’t work; in fact, it made her more frustrated.

She discovered a way to find answers to the issue that worked for her and allowed her to take action. Once she did, she was able to come back to the technique she used over and over again, increasing her ability to make faster decisions and her effectiveness as a leader.

Very few leaders will claim to get stuck, but realistically we all do at some point. The decisions you don’t make are as important as the ones you do. (read more…)

PerdueCoverThis post is an excerpt from the book “Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business and Life Lessons from Frank Perdue” (December 2014, Significance Press) by Mitzi Perdue, who holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University and a master’s in public administration from George Washington University. For two decades she was a syndicated columnist, first for Capitol News, writing about food and agriculture, and then for Scripps Howard, writing about the environment. For more on the book, visit FrankPerdueBook.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Although Ed McCabe was the copywriter for the Perdue account, he also became one of Frank’s best friends. Years after they were no longer working together, they would still visit each other.

In McCabe’s eyes, the basis of their relationship was that they were both fanatics. (read more…)