Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Leadership That Inspires

While performing extensive research for a leadership project - and following an intriguing introduction to TEDTalks - I happened upon an incredibly inspiring video presentation featuring Simen Senek entitled How Great Leaders Inspire Action and was compelled to share! I actually used this as a reference, which meant I had to transcribe the entire video, so you'll find the complete text below as well as the full video within the text below (or via the link in the reference at the end). Enjoy!

How do you explain when things don’t go as we assume? Or better, how do you when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions? For example: why is Apple so innovative? Year after year after year after year, they’re more innovative than all their competition. And yet, they’re just a computer company. They’re just like everyone else. They have the same access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same media – then why is that they seem to have something different?

Why is it that Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement? He wasn’t the only man who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. And he certainly wasn’t the only great orator of the day, why him?

And why is it that the Wright Brothers were able to figure out controlled powered man flight when there were certainly other teams who were better qualified, better funded – and they didn’t achieve powered man flight, and the Wright Brothers beat them to it.

There’s something else at play here. About 3 ½ years ago, I made a discovery. And this discovery profoundly changed my view on how I thought the world worked, and it even profoundly changed the way in which I operate in it. As it turns out, there’s a pattern. As it turns out, all the great and inspiring leaders and organizations in the world, whether it’s Apple or Martin Luther King or the Wright Brothers; they all think, act and communicate the exact same way, and it’s the complete opposite to everyone else. All I did was codify it, and it’s probably the world’s simplest idea. I call it the Golden Circle.
Why, How, What.

Figure 1: The Golden Circle
Simon Senek’s model demonstrating ordinary (uninspiring) leadership approach versus the remarkable (inspiring).
Copyright 2011 - Rush Lindquist, Lit-Engineering.com
This little idea explains why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire where others aren’t. Let me define the terms really quickly. Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100%. Some know how they do it – whether you call it your differentiating value proposition, or your proprietary process, or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do, and by why I don’t mean to make a profit, that’s a result (it’s always a result). By why I mean, what’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Well, as a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in. It’s obvious; we go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders, and the inspired organizations, regardless of their size, regardless of their industry, all think, act, and communicate from the inside out.

Let me give you an example:
I use Apple because they are easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this:
            We make great computers.
            They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.
            Want to buy one?

Meh. And that’s how most of us communicate, that’s how marketing is done, that’s how most sales is done, and that’s how most of us communicate interpersonally. We say what we do, we say how we’re different or how we’re better, and we expect some sort of behavior (a purchase or the vote, something like that).
            Here’s our new law firm.
            We have the best lawyers with the biggest clients, (you know) we always perform for our clients.
            Do business with us.
            Here’s our new car.
            It gets great gas mileage, it has leather seats.
            Buy our car.

But it’s uninspiring.

Here’s how Apple actually communicates:
            Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
            The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to
            use,and user-friendly.
            We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?

Totally different, right? You’re ready to buy a computer from me. All I did was reverse the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
This explains why every single person in this room is perfectly comfortable buying a computer from Apple, but we’re also perfectly comfortable buying an mp3 player from Apple, or a phone from Apple, or a DVR from Apple. But, as I said before, Apple’s just a computer company. There’s nothing that distinguishes them structurally from any of their competitors. Their competitors are all equally qualified to make all of these products. In fact, they tried! A few years ago, Gateway came out with flat screen TVs. They are eminently qualified to make flat screen TVs, they’ve been making flat screen monitors for years. Nobody bought one. And Dell; Dell came out with mp3 players and PDA’s, and they make great quality products; and they can make perfectly well designed products. And nobody bought one. In fact, talking about it now, we can’t even imagine buying an m3 player from Dell, why would you buy an mp3 player from a computer company? But we do it every day.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. Here’s the best part. None of what I’m telling you is my opinion. It’s all grounded in the tenants of biology; not psychology, biology.

If you look at a cross section of the human brain, looking from the top down, what you see is that the human brain is actually broken into three major components that correlate perfectly with the Golden Circle. Our newest brain – our homo-sapien brain – our neo-cortex corresponds with the what level. The neo-cortex is responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought and language. The middle two sections make up our limbic brains. And our limbic brains are responsible for all of our feelings, like trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behavior, all decision making, and it has no capacity for language. In other words, when we communicate from the outside in; yes – people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features, and benefits, and facts, and figures – it just doesn’t drive behavior. When we communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior and then we allow people to rationalize it with the tangible things we say and do.

This is where ‘gut’ decisions come from. You know, sometimes you can give somebody all the facts and the figures and they say, ‘I know what all the facts and details say, but it just doesn’t feel right.’ Why would we use that verb? It doesn’t feel right. Because the part of the brain that controls decision making doesn’t control language, and the best we can muster up is ‘I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.’ Or sometimes you say you’re leading with your heart, or leading with your soul. Well, I hate to break it to you, those aren’t the body parts controlling your behavior, it’s all happening here, (points to the ‘why’ in the chart) in your limbic brain. The part of the brain that controls decision making, and not language; but if you don’t know why you do what you do, and people respond to why you do what you do, then how will anybody – how will you ever get people to vote for you, buy something from you, or more importantly, be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do?

Again, the goal is not just to sell people who need what you have; the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe. The goal is not just to hire people who need a job; it’s to hire people who believe what you believe. I always say that if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat, and tears. Nowhere else is there a better example of this than with the Wright Brothers.

Most people don’t know about Samuel Pierpont Langley. Back in the early 20th century, the pursuit of powered man flight was like the ‘dot.com’ of the day. Everybody was trying it. Samuel Pierpont Langley had what we assume to be the recipe for success. I mean, even now, if you ask people why did your product, or why did your company fail, people always give you the same permutation of the same three things: under-capitalized, the wrong people, bad market conditions – it’s always the same three things. So let’s explore that. Samuel Pierpont Langley was given $50,000 dollars by the war department to figure out this ‘flying machine’, money was no problem. He held a seat at Harvard, and worked at the Smithsonian and was extremely well connected. He knew all the big minds of the day. He hired the best minds money could find and the market conditions were fantastic. The New York Times followed him around everywhere, and everyone was rooting for Langley, and how come we’ve never heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley?
A few hundred miles away, in Dayton Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright – they had none of what we consider to be the recipe for success. They had no money; they paid for their dreams with the proceeds from their bicycle shop. Not a single person on the Wright Brother’s team had a college education; not even Orville or Wilbur. And the New York Times followed them around nowhere. The difference was, Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it will change the course of the world.

Samuel Pierpont Langley was different. He wanted to be rich and he wanted to be famous. He was in pursuit of the result. He was in pursuit of the riches. And, low and behold, look what happened. The people who believed in the Wright Brother’s dream worked with them with blood and sweat and tears. The others just worked for the paycheck. And they tell stories of how every time the Wright Brothers went out, they would have to take five sets of parts because that’s how many times they would crash before they came in for supper. And eventually, on December 17 in 1903, the Wright Brother’s took flight; and no one was there to even experience it. We found out about it a few days later. And further proof that Langley was motivated by the wrong thing – the day the Wright Brothers took flight, he quit. He could have said ‘that’s an amazing discovery guys and I will improve upon your technology.’ But he didn’t. he wasn’t first, he didn’t get rich, he didn’t get famous, so he quit.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe. Why is important to attract who believe what you believe? Something called the Law of Diffusion Innovation, and if you don’t know the law you definitely know the terminology. The first 2 ½ % of our population are our Innovators. The next 13 ½ % of our population are our Early Adopters. The next 34% are your Early Majority. Your Late Majority (writes in 34%), and your Laggards (writes in 16%) – (pointing at Laggards section) the only reason these people buy touch-tone phones is ‘cause you can’t buy rotary phones anymore.

Figure 2: The Law of Diffusion of Innovation
This graph exhibits Everett Roger’s theory, which states: “diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system” (Rogers, 2003) and also illustrates “the chasm” as labeled according to Geoffrey A. Moore’s philosophy (Moore, 1991).
Copyright 2012 - Greg Satell

The lay of diffusion of innovation, shows that the adoption curve (a typical bell curve) can be segmented out into the following sections.
Of all our population:
1.       2.5% innovators
2.       13.5% early adopters
3.       34% early majority
4.       34% late majority
5.       16% laggards

We all sit at various places at various times along this scale, but what the Law of Diffusion of Innovation tells us is that if you want mass market success, or mass market acceptance of an idea, you cannot have it until you achieve this tipping point (indicates the line between Early Adopters and Early Majority) between 15% and 18% market penetration, and then the system tips. I love asking businesses, ‘what’s your conversion on new business’, and they love to tell you, ‘oh, it’s about 10%’, proudly. Well, you trip over 10% of the customers – we all have about 10% who ‘just get it’, that’s how we describe them, right? It’s like that ‘gut’ feeling – they just ‘get it’. The problem is, how do you find the one’s who ‘just get it’ before you’re doing business with them, versus the one’s who don’t get it (points to the Laggard section). So, it’s this here, this little gap (points to the Early Adopters section) that you have to close, as Jeffrey Moore calls it Crossing the Chasm. Because you see, the Early Majority will not try something until someone else has tried it first. And these guys, the Early Adopters and the Innovators, they’re comfortable making those gut decisions. They’re more comfortable making those intuitive decisions that are driven by what they believe about the world (draws a miniature Golden Circle above that section of the graph), and not just what product is available. These are the people who stood in line for six hours to buy an Iphone when they first came out, when you could have just walked into the store the next week and bought one off the shelf. These are the people who spent $40,000 on flat screen TVs when they first came out, even thought the technology was substandard. And, by the way, they didn’t do it because the technology was so great – they did it for themselves. It’s because they wanted to be first.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe. In fact, people will do the things that prove what they believe. The reason that person bought the Iphone in the first six hours – stood in line for six hours – was because of what they believed about the world and how they wanted everybody to see them. They were first. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

So, let me give you a famous example – a famous failure and a famous success of the Law of Diffusion of Innovation.

First, the famous failure; it’s a commercial example. As we said before, a second ago, the recipe for success is money, the right people, and the right market conditions – right? You should have success then. Look at TiVo. From the time TiVo came out, about eight or nine years ago, to this current day, they are single highest quality product on the market. Hands down, there is no dispute. They were extremely well funded. Market conditions were fantastic – I mean, we use TiVo as a verb! I TiVo stuff on my piece of junk TimeWarner DVR all the time! But TiVo’s commercial failure; they’ve never made money. And when they went IPO, their stock was at about $30-$40 and it plummeted and it’s never traded above $10. In fact, I don’t think it’s even traded above $6 except for a couple of little spikes. Because, you see, when TiVo launched their product, they told us all what they had. They said:
We have a product that pauses live TV,
skips commercials,
rewinds live TV,
and memorizes your viewing habits without you even asking.

And the cynical majority said that ‘we don’t believe you’, ‘we don’t need it’, ‘we don’t like it’, ‘you’re scaring us’.

What if they had said:
            If you’re the kind of person who likes to have total control
            over every aspect of your life – boy do we have a product for you!
            It pauses live TV, skips commercials, memorizes your viewing habits, etc.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it, and what you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe.

Now, let me give you a successful example of the Law of Diffusion of Innovation. In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed on the Mall in Washington to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in pre-civil rights America. In fact, some of his ideas were bad, but he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America; he went around and told people what he believed. “I believe. I believe. I believe” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and they made it their own and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And, low and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day on the right time to hear him speak. How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel on a bus for eight hours, to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed. And it wasn’t about black versus white; 25% of the audience was white. Dr. King believed that there were two types of laws in this world; those that are made by a higher authority, and those that are made by man. And not until all of the laws that are made by man are consistent with the laws that are made by the higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happens that the Civil Rights movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed him not for him but for ourselves. And, by the way, he gave the I Have A Dream speech, not the I Have a Plan speech!

Listen to politicians now with their 12-point plans, they aren’t inspiring anybody.

Because there are leaders, and there are those who lead. Leaders hold the position of power, or authority; but those who lead inspire us – whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to.

We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves.

It’s those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them, or find others who inspire them. Thank you very much.

Sinek, S. (2010, May 10). How Great Leaders Inspire Action. TED Talks. Puget Sound, WA. Retrieved September 20, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blogging as a Virtual Leadership Tool

As more and more organizations focus on collaboration they also find themselves working in virtual environments. It is critical, therefore, for managers and/or group leaders to make use of blogs to establish strong and effective teams built for high-performance. Using an actual case study I will exhibit how blogging could have enhanced virtual team performance.
Working in a virtual environment I have experienced many of the challenges that are often associated with such collaboration. It’s such a new world for organizations where leaders and members of the team have no choice but to utilize a trial and error process that often leads to frustration for team members and poor performance of the team. In a course I am taking on Leading in a Virtual Environment we are discussing a case study that I have outlined in the next paragraph. Although the consensus is that this team was mostly successful, I believe that their performance would have been greatly enhanced had they created a group blog as the central component for communication and documentation.
Case Study Overview
“Teams who quickly can define the expertise of the team members, define work practices, and demonstrate adherence to team norms can build a trusting environment that overcomes the lack of past history and lack of face-to-face interactions” (French, 2009, p. 45). This statement supports the model promoted in the chapter of our textbook (Peters, 2008, p. 107) which precedes the case study I want to discuss – a model that emphasizes what is needed in order to ensure high performance for their virtual team: trust, shared understanding, and depth of relationship. My goal is to emphasize how creating and managing a team blog will help meet these requirements, but first an overview of the case study itself. This nine-member team was organized to determine which technological improvements would increase the effectiveness of the sales team for this organization. The team never met face-to-face and few of the members had every met previously. The work was demanding and required everyone’s participation. In preparation for the “kick-off” conference call, the project sponsors and co-leaders got together to discuss the project and create a detailed PowerPoint presentation where they would introduce each team member, review objectives, etc. The conference call itself was long and allowed time for all members to give input and ended with the assignment of tasks and due dates. The member who is quoted in the case study states that the team was successful and identifies “clear direction from the top” and “close collaboration between co-leaders and several team members” as the reason for the positive performance of the team. Email is mentioned as the form of communication between members and although this team member considers the team as having been successful I believe that utilizing a blog instead of email as the primary tool for communication would have been useful. Malhotra and Majchrzak (as cited in French, 2009) “warn against the use of email as the primary electronic media and recommend a full suite of technologies be made available to teams” (p. 47). Instead, French (2009) suggests organizations create a “virtual workspace” (p. 47) and continues to list some technologies that would be beneficial, “. . . expand upon the use of email and telephones to include video conferencing, electronic whiteboards, instant messaging, team calendars, document repositories with version control and comment records, and electronic routing of documents” (p. 47). By customizing a group project blog many of these items can be addressed in one virtual space!
Trust, Shared Understanding, and Depth of Relationship
The key ingredients to establishing the solid foundation as referenced in the textbook mentioned earlier are interdependent items: trust, shared understanding, and depth of relationship - with trust being the most critical for successful, high performing teams. The importance for members to develop personal relationships and to effectively communicate with one another poses a great challenge for virtual teams since there is no face-to-face or social interaction but in order to trust and collaborate it’s essential. French (2009) displayed a chart listing the challenges faced by virtual leaders and the top 4 items listed were: ability to gel as a team, people skills, communication, and trust (p. 97) supporting this conclusion. By using a group blog this situation could be greatly improved in a number of ways:
1.      Community – members will immediately feel like a part of the group and can view the other member’s profiles, which would list not only their professional bio, accomplishments, and expertise but also include some personal information including their photo. Not only will each member be able to appreciate other member’s role but they will have an idea of other’s perspectives based on their experience and lifestyle. Including a statement in each member’s profile from the organization referencing that member’s role and reason for selection ensures a clear understanding of roles
2.      Trust – cognitive and institutional trust is more immediate due to two factors: 1 – expertise and previous experience listed in each member’s profile; 2 – organization’s selection of each individual member
3.      Progress – Andrea Doucet states, “I blog not in addition to what I do, but as part of what I do” (2012). Members should do the same throughout the project, creating posts regarding steps in their part of the process as well as discussing issues, posting questions, updates regarding decisions, etc. The open forum structure of the blog enables members to dialogue and keeps a running record of the discussion. Managers or leaders who otherwise have no good way of checking in with members and / or viewing progress will be kept up to speed without disrupting the work flow with too many conference calls or meeting updates. As members engage with one another relationships will develop and a shared understanding is reaffirmed due to the virtual workspace shared by all members.
The case study mentions that one member of their team didn’t have a very good reputation as a team player and therefore had to earn the trust throughout the project … this type of monitoring would have been very difficult since the case study team (and thereby the co-leaders) used email as their primary form of communication. Had the organization used a blog, however, they would have instant access to the collaboration between this member and others on the team reducing stress for the co-leaders and ensuring that the team was collaborating successfully.
            As virtual collaboration becomes the new normal for organizations it is important to identify the challenges this new environment creates and identify the best processes to implement in order to improve the performance and success of virtual teams. It wasn’t long ago that email was the preferred method of communication but it just makes more sense to utilize a more cohesive tool like a blog instead. In a discussion of blogging in reference to student collaboration, Halic, et al (2010) references “collaborative constuctivism” and states:
Collaborative constructivism moves sense of belonging into online and blended environments. Garrison and Akyol (as cited in Halic, et al, 2010) pointed out that collaboration through use of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, “goes beyond simple interaction in the sense that it is clearly focuses on a problem or dilemma where students are deeply engaged in purposeful discourse to construct meaning and collaboratively share meaning and validate understanding”. (p23)
Although the above is in reference to students collaborating in a virtual environment, the same applies to organizations and supports my conclusion that utilizing a blog would be useful and improve the collaborative efforts of any virtual team.


Doucet, Andrea. (2012). Scholarly Reflections on Blogging: Once a Tortoise, Never a Hare –
Advice. The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept.
<http://chronicle.com/article/Scholarly-Reflections on/130191/>.     
French, P. A. (2009). Virtual organizations: A grounded theory model to
be used in the development and implementation of virtual teams. Argosy
University/Washington DC). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com/docview/892741908?accountid=12817. (892741908).
Halic, Olivia, Lee, Debra, Paulus, Trena, & Spence, Marsha (2010). To blog or not to blog:
Student perceptions of blog effectiveness for learning in a college-level course. The
Internet and Higher Education. 206-218.
Peters, Linda M.L., and Manz, Charles C. (2008)."Getting Virtual Teams Right the First Time."
The handbook of high-performance virtual teams: a toolkit for collaborating across
boundaries. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 105-129. Print.