Leadership Lessons: Why “My Way or the Highway” Leadership is History

by Mike Abrashoff

The neat thing about what I do is that I get to meet and learn from all sorts of people from all walks of life. Whatever my experience, I realize that I don’t know everything and more important, that I still have tremendous opportunity for growth as a leader.

Last week, I was chatting with my seat-mate on a flight and it turns out, he is a highly sought-after television director in Hollywood. He says his phone is constantly ringing off the hook from TV executives wanting him to direct their shows. I asked him why he was in such great demand – thinking he had some technical ability few others possessed. He said that had nothing to do with it. Instead, what he is known for is his leadership ability on the set in dealing not only with the highly paid actors, but also with the people behind the scenes, the grips, the caterers, the a/v guys and the like. It seems they have so much respect for him that they have become a disciplined and cohesive unit that meets or beats the demanding deadlines because they work well together and get it done in one take.

I told him that my impression of a television director is one of a dictator that barks orders to everyone. He told me that there are many out there like that but that the ones who are most in demand these days are the ones who can execute on budget while delivering an excellent product. I asked him his secret and he replied: “on our set, you don’t have to do it my way as long as your way is just as good if not better. What I make sure I do is to create a climate whereby people feel free to tell me their ideas and a climate where I will give them a respectful hearing.”

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The Stock Market: What Should You Do Now?

by Terry Savage

The stock market is just plain scary these days.  What should you do when market gyrations make headlines?  The simple answer is:  Do Nothing! 

Never make investment decisions based on emotion. And the two most dangerous emotions are running rampant right now:  Fear and Greed.  The only way to overcome them is to have a sensible investment plan – and stick to it.

That’s the kind of discipline that comes from experience. And experience is an expensive teacher.  So if you can’t do it on your own, this is the time you’ll appreciate having a financial advisor.  There are three key ingredients involved in disciplined investing:

1.   You Need Perspective.   All historical context seems to fly out the window when markets go wild.  You’re influenced not only by emotion, but by your recent investment experiences. 

Right now, those experiences are in conflict.  You remember the three years in a row of double-digit gains in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  (Last year was basically flat.)  But you also remember the market crash of 2008-09, which literally cut market averages almost in half, wiping out your previous gains. 

And now you search frantically for a clue as to whether this is just a temporary decline – or the beginning of another bear market. No one can give you that answer definitively — in advance!

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Millennial Alert: How to Handle Older Folks in the Workplace 12 Insights from Someone Who’s Been There, Done That

by Connie Podesta

I recently spoke to a large audience made up mostly of millennials. And they had tons of questions about working with “older people”. And I realized… hey, that’s me! I am always teaching people how to deal with the millennials, but I never teach them how to deal with us. So, in fun, here are a few good tips when working with the rest of us that just might come in handy. Whichever side of the generational fence you’re on – these will be good tips to take with you!

12 Top Millennial Tips for Working with Baby Boomers

1. Make a “voice call” on your phone. I know. It seems archaic. But they seem to like it. ConniePodestaGo figure. It’s a grand way to communicate while hearing a person’s voice at the same time. Even though they are capable of texting, their ADHD skills aren’t as honed as yours and they don’t mind the extra time it takes to get through a conversation. For some reason it makes them feel closer to you when they can attach a voice to the words.

2. Be patient. Give them some leeway if they don’t return your texts immediately within a few seconds. When they were young they had something called “a life” which means they did other things besides having constant communication with their friends. They often go back to those days and have experiences that are phone-free. During those times they may not even look at their phone for minutes at a time. And texting again asking “are you there?” won’t help. You may have to just wait it out. For some reason they seem to be even better focused once they return to the real world of constant chatter.

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Keep It Simple.

by Joe Calloway

To the extent that you make things simple for your customers, you create value. You also create a distinct competitive advantage shared by virtually all market leaders.

keep it simple

Chances are very good that you’re making things way more complicated than they need to be, for yourself, your team, and your customers. Look around.  The best companies and the top individual performers make things simple.

Siegal+Gale publishes an annual Global Brand Simplicity Index, that has consumers around the world rank companies according to their perceived simplicity or complexity. Look at the companies that ranked highest at making things simple for customers:

  • Google
  • Netflix
  • Publix
  • Amazon
  • Chipotle (Survey taken before their recent quality/safety issues. Will be interesting to see what happens with that.)
  • Zappos.com

You get the point. And when it comes to successful new companies that are disrupters, they all achieve success through creating simplicity: Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Spotify, etc. They make life simpler. They make things easier to do and buy.

As the Executive In Residence with Belmont University’s Center For Entrepreneurship, I work with students who are entering the marketplace with sometimes wildly disruptive ventures. One of my favorites is EVAmore.co a company that has taken the complicated, cumbersome, and often uncomfortable process of booking a band for a college party or event, and boiled it down to using a simple website and a credit card. Amazing. Even better, it’s amazingly simple.

What gave MacDonald’s trouble in the marketplace recently? A menu that had too much and was too complicated. What makes Wingstop a perennial market leader and growth machine for 21 years? The menu is simple and they rarely change it.

What’s your simplicity rating? Do you make things more complicated than they need to be? How easy are you to do business with? Does everyone in your organization have a simple and accurate understanding of what matters most?

Steve Jobs said, “If you can make things simple, you can move mountains.”

Keep it simple. It’s not easy, but it pays off.

16 Predictions

by Vikram Mansharamani

2015 was a roller coaster of a year for analysts of global economics and politics. Terrorist tragedies from the US and France to Nigeria and Iraq shocked us, Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake, and Volkswagen’s massive fraud surfaced.  A million migrants flowed into Europe, and a nuclear deal was reached with Iran.  The US and Cuba made progress in restoring relations, and Donald Trump grabbed global headlines.  Nations reached a new set of climate accords in Paris, and the Islamic State persisted.  China’s slowdown continued, it ended its one-child policy, and energy and industrial commodity prices stayed lower than expected.  And of course, the Fed began its effort to normalize interest rates.

How can we possibly navigate the radical uncertainty presented by this chaotic tangle of events and trends? Some use a Magic 8 ball, while others turn to Ouija boards. I’m more conventional. Rather than try to predict what will happen in the coming year—to me, a fool’s errand, due to the short time-horizon—I try to look through the noise by analyzing structural signals and making predictions over a five-year window.  Last year, I made 15 Predictions for 2015-2020. But as noted by the late Yogi Berra, “The future ain’t what it used to be!” So I’ve incorporated feedback from last year into my predictions for the next five years.

2016-2021 Predictions

  1. China posts a GDP growth rate below 5% before a consumption boom re-accelerates the economy. Animal protein demand skyrockets. In the meantime, saber rattling in the South China Sea and towards Taiwan and Japan aim to distract popular attention away from domestic economic matters, but rising unrest and economic insecurity call the long-term viability of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule into question.
  2. In Australia, low prices for industrial commodities drive budget deficits, generating additional volatility in economic growth and the Australian dollar. Exports ultimately rebound thanks to growing Chinese demand for consumer goods and services, but housing prices in Melbourne and Sydney correct amidst slower inbound immigration.
  3. Low oil prices spur a transition to consumption-led growth in many emerging nations.  Formerly hedged North American producers find themselves losing money and (temporarily) shut down. OPEC eventually curtails production, and tensions escalate in the Arctic over seemingly large resources. Coal markets suffer but don’t disappear. Oil ultimately rebounds as rising Middle Eastern instability combines with aggressive investment cutbacks.Fusion emerges as a viable long-term alternative energy source.
  4. In Canada, the combination of high household debt, high home prices, and anemic job growth due to low oil prices leads to stubbornly persistent economic stagnation.  An emerging market consumer boom eventually drives Saskatchewan real estate prices as potash prices rise dramatically.
  5. In Africa, a growing middle class booms, boosting consumption and driving higher food prices worldwide.  Low oil prices force Nigeria’s economy to diversify away from commodities and towards services. High unemployment and domestic unrest continue in South Africa, leading the once dominant ANC to lose ground, power, and legitimacy.Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam spurs a water war.
  6. The current technology bubble deflates even as a few champions of the sharing economy enter the Fortune 500.  The biggest casualty proves to be employees ofnaked unicorns as venture capitalists and institutional investors utilize ratchets to limit their losses.  The Internet of Things takes off, generating concerns from privacy and security experts alike. Calico becomes the world’s hottest company.
  7. A Robolution in Manufacturing massively increases productivity and also decreases employment. Robotsprove deflationary as the labor component of goods drops and the fall in aggregate workers’ income reduces demand for the very goods the robots make.  The markets for drones, driverless vehicles, and industrial robots boom.
  8. Saudi Arabia faces rising domestic unrest and regime-threatening instability. Regional tensions escalate, distracting the regime from addressing domestic concerns. Due to oil price pressures, the government cuts budgets for social services, giving momentum to demands for increased freedoms.
  9. Despite initial success, Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” campaign proves ill-timed, as productivity gains in automated manufacturing make the Chinese development model obsolete. Speculation arises thatIndia may never emerge as the economic powerhouse it was once generally assumed it would become. Leaders discuss the possibility of demographic controls.
  10. Cyber risks continue to rise as a top concern for global boardrooms. Financial regulators begin mandating independent information audits comparable to today’s financial audits. National governments create military-like cyber teams to hunt down and bring cyber-terrorists to justice, but they are not able to avert a destabilizing attack on critical infrastructure.  Ted Koppel’s Lights Out proves prophetic.
  11. Japan acknowledges its demographic problem and opens the doors to immigrants. It begins allowing Southeast Asian healthcare workers (nurses from the Philippines?) to care for the elderly. Economists come to understand that the older Japanese population, living on fixed incomes, actually prefers deflation.
  12. The United States of Europe fails to congeal as expected. The refugee crisis hastens the disintegration of the attempt at political and monetary union. Even as some countries see refugees as demographic saviors, nationalism rises in others. Separate currencies emerge.
  13. Central bankers struggle to unwind quantitative easing without generating massive instability. Equities suffer, credit markets tremble, and gold surges as investors lose confidence in responsible central banking. Martin Wolf’s “chronic demand deficiency syndrome” worsens leading economists to question the usefulness of productivity. The Fed finds it can’t raise rates as much as it has planned and eventually reverses course.
  14. In the wake of 2014’s successful containment of the Ebola virus, a new epidemic (MERS?) rears its ugly head. The global public health community again scrambles (and again succeeds) to avert a disaster that might have threatened millions of lives. Despite more health-conscious border control efforts, healthcare continues to globalizeCuba’s economy accelerates on the back of strong medical tourism from the United States.
  15. The Pacific Alliance, a trading bloc centered on Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru, grows its profile and emerges as Asia’s preferred economic entry point into Latin America.  Mexico tries to deal with its corruption problem and makes progress towards establishing rule of law. The Colombia peace talksare ultimately successful, resulting in the end of the 50+ year civil war.
  16. Whoever wins the 2016 US presidential election, the American people are sorely disappointed and vote with their feet in the 2018 midterm elections, resulting in a rapid and unexpected swing of control in Congress.

As I mentioned in last year’s predictions, it’s worth recalling the prescient words of John Kenneth Galbraith: “There are two types of forecasters: those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.” I’ll let you decide which I am, but I do hope these 16 ideas provoke thought!

3 Team-First Lessons From America’s Most Entertaining Sports Bench

by Don Yeager

Monmouth HawksPlayers on the Monmouth Hawks bench react during the game against the USC Trojans at HP Field House. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

First, a Monmouth Hawk basketball player slam-dunks a basket on the court and the crowd’s attention immediately turns to…the bench! There, two backup players lift another player—who forms a basketball hoop with his arms—by the waist, allowing a fourth bench player to dunk an imaginary basketball through the makeshift hoop. The Monmouth bench collapses from the dunk, and the crowd goes wild.

This circus of team support (and ridiculous fun) is Monmouth basketball: The greatest sideshow in all of sports. (Just watch this video!) Already this season the Hawks have upset the UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but it is the Hawks’ choreographed bench celebrations that have become viral sensations…and a great lesson in supporting roles.

Lee Williams, my Greatness partner and a part of my writing team, spoke with the Monmouth Hawks a couple of weeks ago and walked away with three great takeaways:

1. Great teammates know their role and celebrate it.

The mini-celebrations began organically during the Hawks season-opening overtime win against the Bruins. After the win, the Hawks’ bench collectively realized just how powerful their support had been. Additionally, the public response to Monmouth’s stunts was so popular that the players decided to replicate them to generate enthusiasm…and help the team win.

And win they have. Thanks to a culture of support, the Hawks are off to their best regular season in years.

The lesson is crystal clear for any team desiring to be great: Every team member has a role and it is important to keep them all enthusiastically engaged—from the starting-five to the bottom of the depth chart.

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