Now more than ever great leaders are great storytellers. Storytelling helps executives weave rich narratives that inspire their organizations, set a vision, teach important lessons, and define the culture and values. Perhaps most importantly, stories explain who you are, how you got here, and what you believe most deeply about your work and about each other.

According to branding expert Dan Schwabel, storytelling is useful when leading change or making recommendations. It’s also good for approaching delicate issues like diversity and inclusion, or giving people feedback in a way that will be better received.

One leader who told a compelling story was Hubertus von Grünberg, a former CEO and chairman at Continental AG. In the mid-1990s, Continental, the world’s fourth-largest tire company, was a powerhouse in its native Germany but held a small relative share in the global market. Continental’s executives understood that for Continental to survive, it would have to build new core capabilities and grow its international business. (read more…)

Connection Culture Book CoverConsider this: Few of the 500 largest corporations from 50 years ago exist today. They failed to change and became irrelevant, left behind by emerging competitors more in tune with the market.

How is it possible that so many top companies made this same fatal mistake? The answer may lie in a simple explanation. Humans run corporations, and humans have a biological aversion to change.

Change creates stress. It boosts stress neurotransmitters in our brains and stress hormones throughout our bodies. It shifts brain activity from the cortex where we make rational decisions to the mid-brain where we are more likely to make rash decisions.

We can handle short periods of stress. Ongoing stress, however, kills productivity, wellness and well being.

As humans, we naturally avoid change, and when we do encounter change, we tend to handle it poorly. The best organizations recognize this, and cope with change and the accompanying stress through carefully designed workplace cultures. (read more…)

They did it! Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson climbed a rock that everyone thought was impossible to climb. Much has been written and more will be written about their extraordinary feat.

One view of their climbing that has struck me is that there are many lessons for leaders that we can glean from what they did. So as I continue to share vicariously in this ultimate event, I can’t help but think about the extraordinary examples of leadership that we have learned from the two men.

  1. Focus like a laser. The precision required for the El Capitan climb in Yosemite National Park leaves me in awe. In dealing with issues of people or tasks, it is essential for a leader to focus with the “eyes of a super creature” (Superman or Catwoman). Regardless of the size of the target, it is essential to be totally absorbed. Attention must never dip; if it does, the end result may be less than the leader hoped for.
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Your team is looking to you for answers, but you don’t have many. There are a lot of moving parts, and more’s uncertain than certain. Perhaps your job’s affected and you’re dealing with your own angst.

Meanwhile the work must get done. After all, this could take a while, and suffering results will only make matters worse. How do you inspire confidence in the context of an uncertain future?

It’s not easy. But, acknowledging the uncertainty and helping your team work through it will save a lot of wasted time and emotional energy.

4 ways to help your team thrive in times of uncertainty

“Accepting that the world is full of uncertainty and ambiguity does not and should not stop people from being pretty sure about a lot of things.” ~ Julian Baggini

1. Keep your cool

If you must freak out, do it in private. In uncertain times, nothing will calm and inspire your team more than your “game on” attitude. (read more…)

Sometimes it feels like you spend more time taking care of the business side of the business rather than the core product or service you provide.

There are myriad important to-dos that require attention, that’s for sure. But not all of them require your attention. Outsourcing small-business tasks related to human resources, finances and technology frees you up to focus on the aspects of the business that really need your involvement. Here’s a quick look at what and when to outsource.

  • Outsource CFO functions when you require deeper knowledge of business finance, activities beyond basic bookkeeping, or you have multiple partners. An outsourced CFO uses weekly, monthly and quarterly reports (prepared by you or your bookkeeper) to track and manage your business’ financial performance, assess current and future financial requirements, and make recommendations for decision-making. This person can also help you design internal controls and processes that reduce fraud, lower spending and operate more efficiently.
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