Lead Like a Skinny Cow

Skinny-cow-leadershipRecently my organization underwent a grueling boot camp style, dramatic and innovative healthcare system process redesign. It was a rip the band-aid off fast approach, and two weeks of asking people to quickly change many of the ingrained daily processes they had known for many years. Set-up for organizational failure?

Nope. I was impressed by the speed at which we were able to accomplish much, while never losing a soul. One of the reasons it worked out so well was due to our Sherpa’s. In the Tibetan region of the Himalayas, Sherpa’s are guides that are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in their local terrain. Our assigned “Sherpa’s” commanded leadership to get out of the way, sought positive opportunities for change at the front lines, and guided staff in doing what they needed to do. As leaders our sole role was to get behind them, coach them, and support them. It worked well.

Skinny Cow Leadership

At the end of two weeks I joyfully arrived at the office with celebratory boxes of Skinny Cow Ice Cream sandwiches at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon. I had purchased all the flavors I could find, Mint and Chip, Cookies and Crème, Vanilla, and Chocolate. It seemed like such a small thing to do, cost all of $15, yet the experience made me appreciate something far greater. As I journeyed to each work station and watched the faces light up, offering the yummy ice cream sandwiches, I was reminded of how important it is as leaders we first serve others. As I traveled to a next department, I heard a female voice yelling from down the hall, “Susan, wait, I was told I should find you.” Honestly I felt a bit like the Pied Piper. It made me wonder, what if we could lead in a manner that compelled people to follow us with the same enthusiasm, even in the absence of ice cream. Servant leaders do, through three simple behaviors that contribute the cultivation of a culture that responds in just that way.

Servant Leadership

First and foremost, if we as leaders expect to have followers, we must first serve others. The greatest contribution a servant leader can offer their team will not be in what we do, but in what we offer to do for others. The way you can do this and achieve great results begins with asking others “What is the one thing I could take off your plate today that would make your day better?” If you’ve never done this they will look at you in disbelief. “Yes, really. What can I take off of your plate?” Each time I have asked that question I have been handed a task, and most often it is something so very basic. It can be as simple as communicating a message to another department that they do not feel comfortable in delivering themselves, or the addition of a shred basket at their work station; little things go a long way.

Effective Leadership

Secondly, effective servant leaders close the gap.  Once you’ve accepted the task of taking something off someone’s plate, remember to circle back around and close the gap; were you effective in your actions. Check back in with followers and ask how it’s going. Did your actions actually serve to make their day better? If you were effective in your efforts it will reinforce to your followers that you are there to support them, you are on their side. In practicing the “close the gap” you will strengthen your ability to effectively listen to, and serve others. You won’t know if you were effective if you don’t ask. Effective servant leaders are good listeners and ask good questions.

Ask to Serve

Lastly, effective servant leaders recognize that most of us are not very good at asking for and accepting assistance. We humans, for whatever reason tend to feel less worthy of accepting help.  I was recently reminded of this during a trip to the grocery store. At the checkout, instead of the obligatory “Do you need any help to your car?” (to which I always decline since I truly do not NEED any help), the freckly faced bag girl grabbed my three bags and with a big smile said “Which way to your car?” A sudden feeling of being served and cared for hit me. As we walked to the car I had the pleasurable experience of connecting with her on a very basic level, a human experience I would not have otherwise had. The benefits of doing this for our followers, of giving one the feeling of being served and cared for is something we could all use  little more of.

The top three servant leader messages:

  • Your greatest work will not be in what you told others to do, it will be recognized by your service to others.
  • To do great work you must know what it is that others value, start by asking questions. Stop telling and start asking, then stop asking and start doing.
  • There are no leaders without followers  If we expect to effectively lead we must sometimes get out of the way of our people and get behind them. Effective servant leaders don’t stand in front of our people, we get behind them.

How do you go about serving those you lead. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Super-connectivity is a Two-way Energizer

super-connector-leadershipMost of my work at the university revolves around communication(s) as I teach Computer Network courses and work as a department head and academic advisor to a large number of students. Working in academia is a blessing for me as it allows me to be in contact with and serve many students on a daily basis.

An example of being so blessed is as follows. In my first year of teaching, there was a student, Nabil, who missed the first couple of lectures of my course. He came to my office, obviously quite worried about how I would react to his absences. When I saw his anxious face, I asked him gently why he had missed the lectures and listened to him patiently. He told me that he was working on a part-time basis to pay for his education fees, and the company sent him abroad between the two semesters. As a result, he had to miss a couple of his lectures. He was a senior student and was due to graduate by the end of that semester—assuming he passed all his courses. The university had a strict rule on the number of allowed absences, and Nabil had reached that limit. After realizing that the work he was doing was actually relevant to the course I was teaching, I allowed him to join the class and offered help with the missed materials. Nabil passed the course and graduated that semester. During the graduation ceremony, he ran to me and thanked me profusely. I felt at that moment very grateful for my teaching career because it allows me to make a difference in people’s lives.

At the end of my second working year, I was asked to chair my department. I accepted the offer without any reservation because I knew deep down that with this new position, I could do more of what I love best: connect, listen and serve.

I chaired my department for four and half years before resigning from that position due to recurrent miscarriages and urgent medical advice to rest. In 2009, I was blessed to give birth to my beautiful twins—one of each gender. Shortly after they were born, I was asked to again chair the department. I could have refused the offer because I was very busy with the twins. On top of that, the critical and unstable situation in my country was causing me a lot of stress. But I did not select the easy option since I just wanted to do again what I love most, serve people.

Heart-Based Leadership and Super-connectivity

Leading with heart energizes leaders as much as it does to the led, mainly because heart-based leaders enjoy what they do and follow an inner call.

It seems to me that a heart-based leader is a super-connector with the following abilities:

  • To listen intently to people and empathize with them, and let them feel that they are not alone and they can trust us.
  • To connect with everyone, accept them for who they are and acknowledge that we are all different in the way we perceive the world, in our likes and dislikes.
  • To synchronize the connections among the diverse members of the community and make sure that they are capable of understanding each other.
  • To be the glue in a diverse environment, create a coherent inter-locking network in spite of a multitude of differences and provide a unique interface to the external world.

Characteristics of Super-Connected Teams Members

As a result of this, the members of a super-connected team should be able to relate between their individual roles and the goals of their organization. They should feel the importance of their jobs, become highly engaged at work and feel grateful to be part of that team.

Furthermore, not only will mutual interests bring these employees together but mutual trust which provides them with a feeling of safety and enables them to talk freely with one another, rendering any problem they may face less overwhelming and thus manageable.

All super-connected team members feel equal, empowered and involved in the decision-making process which becomes very adaptive and resilient because of this 100% involvement.

In every instance of our lives we are offered infinite choices in what we think, say or hear. This affects what we feel in the present moment and conditions the quality of our communication with others and hence the quality of our working environment. By extension, it affects the quality of our lives.

Positive thoughts and gratitude provide us with pleasant inner states and have energizing effects on us and on all the people around us.

I’d love to connect and hear your thoughts in the comments section.

3 Ways to Harness The Power of Serendipity

chaos-control-leadershipI like plans and planning. Business plans, contingency plans, and succession plans are all good things—until they aren’t. The very same plans that once brought order, continuity, and control have morphed into rigid obstacles to progress and innovation.

Both individuals and companies do it:  people become so bound to their plan that they lose sight of the big picture and fail, or worse, miss a fantastic opportunity. Businesses become so mired in the, “that’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it” mindset that the market passes them by, their products or processes become obsolete (think Borders Books, DEC, or Montgomery Ward), and they go out of business.

A few years ago I participated on the inaugural steering committee for a new community conference that had the goal of becoming an annual event. The first event was a roaring success, so was the second. The third not so much.

One of original steering committee members who had stayed the course (I dropped out after the first crazy, fun, rewarding but super time-eating year) shared her diagnosis as to why the third event was unsuccessful, “We relied on the plan too much. No one wanted the chaos we had the first year. But because we stuck to the plan, we missed out on including some excellent panelists and speakers. People we learned about after the selection process was finished. No one wanted to step outside the lines and do something different.”

The Power of Purposeful Discomfort

By virtue of conditioning, training, or preference, people often fall into one of two mental traps:  that without control there’s chaos or that too much control stifles creativity. Both viewpoints have merit. However, bad outcomes arise when we believe we must select between these two extremes:  that either it’s control or it’s chaos.

If our goal is progress and innovation, the trade-off for achieving that goal is accepting and managing the creative tension produced by having both chaos and control. They’re “equally important but essentially different” as Peter Drucker says. Disorder and boundaries are interdependent but contradictory elements necessary for success over time.

If we’re a control freak, we naturally want to resolve contradictions and create order. It feels better. It’s tidier. However, if we love having a blank slate, plans feel confining, too arbitrary. But picking sides in a paradox where both elements are needed for the best outcome is a recipe for personal and professional failure.

3 Ways to Harness the Power of Serendipity

So, how do effective leaders lead themselves and others in a creative dance where the partners are chaos and control?


1) Know where they’re going, what they want to accomplish, and have a plan for getting there. There’s a timeline. Roles, responsibilities, and measures of success are defined. There’s also a willingness to flex or scrap it all and re-invent.

2)  Get comfortable being slightly uncomfortable. They recognize that always sticking to the plan without fail provides a false sense of security that blinds them to new opportunities. They’ve learned to be flexible with “how” the “what” is implemented and are also willing to challenge their thinking about the end goal. They embrace and reward purposeful discomfort.

3)  Leave room for serendipity. Whether that “interaction with an unintended outcome” (Scott Doorley, Stanford) or moment of aha realization is engineered by an app or spontaneous stroke of fate, they’re open and receptive to the mad genius possibilities it presents. They don’t let existing plans be straitjackets.

“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” ~Lawrence Block

Embracing the power of serendipity so we can dance with both control and chaos requires a willingness to be vulnerable and sometimes not be certain of the next step. That kind of discomfort is a good thing.

Have how you learned to dance with both stability and innovation? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. 

The Death of the Hero Leader

Leadership-Hero-LeaderThe old way of leadership is dying.  We can no longer wait to craft or discover the ONE leader who can create a culture of success. The new model requires a mindset of partnerships, not followers.  Leaders of today recognize that everything they do impacts the mindset of others AND they accept the responsibility to recognize this impact in order to choose their actions.  The intent of this mindset is to form partnerships for successful implementation and engagement on strategies, projects and initiatives.

Molly Harvey of Molly Harvey Global (UK) calls this new leader the Social Artist.

There are many adjectives to describe the Social Artist.  These include transparent, congruent and high integrity.  The challenge is never the description.  The challenge is in the behaviors to become a Social Artist.  What does a Social Artist DO?  How can you become a Social Artist?

In my twenty five years of work as a leadership development coach and consultant, it is clear to me that leaders need to move away from the “to do” list of leadership traits and competencies to a mindset of leadership.  That is, to BE a leader not DO leadership.  Following are three keys to being a Social Artist.

Be Present

Being present is the strongest leadership skill you can possess. You don’t always have to be right or be the wisest person in the world to be an effective leader, but being present will create the greatest amount of trust and respect. 

While researching my book, Leadership Energy: Unlocking the Secrets to Your Success, one of the survey participants summed up the “be present leader”, saying, “In a confident, almost charismatic and very friendly voice, my leader looks me in the eye and delivers compelling statements which tell me he genuinely cares about the business, the customer, and the team (me) in a balanced manner. He provides enough information to demonstrate thoughtful consideration, provides direction, asks what help I need, and makes time for me when I ask for 15 minutes to chat during which I always have his complete, undivided attention.”

So how can you be present when your organization, your projects, your customers/clients, your family, and your team all need so many things from you? Here are three practical tools you can use to bring things back into focus:

  1. Take charge of the speed dial: our natural tendency when we are juggling many things is to move faster. Leaders need to slow the speed dial for effective solutions.
  2. Turn down the volume: high speed and high anxiety turn up the volume on everything. Quiet your voice, quiet your mind, and turn down the volume.
  3. Move one step at a time: focus on what the next step is.

Be Clear

As leaders gain followers, the followers look to the leader to create roadmaps of where to head for success. For many new leaders, the creation of this road map can seem overwhelming.

The majority of leaders I work with are high-achievers. What motivates a high achiever?  Getting an “A” on every endeavor they undertake. Now you become the leader who needs to set the road map or vision for you team. There are no guaranteed A’s on this road map. Granted your organization has a vision and goals, but for most followers, the organization’s vision gets lost in the many demands they have.  Gallup organization’s Q12 Engagement Survey found that “the best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, help them feel they belong, and enable them to make a difference.” What does that mean for the vision you set for your team?

Leaders are often promoted to their leadership position based on hard work and results, not on creating vision and engagement for their team. As they move into these roles, they need to shift from being 80 percent technical expert to 80 percent people expert. That is a major challenge, so what do you do?

Being clear is not about adding complexity; being clear is about simplifying. Start by asking yourself three questions:

  1. What do I want for my team?
  2. What does my team bring to the organization?
  3. What do we want to achieve and celebrate as a team?

The answers do not lie in numbers and profits. Most employees don’t get out of bed each morning trying to hit a profit number.  Think beyond numbers and profits; think about the types of successes and the reasons you and your employees want to bring passion, focus, and results to their world of work.

Be Genuine

Above all else, you must be genuinely you. Don’t be a mini-someone else. You have to operate knowing that you have everything you need to be a leader. Can you polish a few things? Sure. Will you learn ways to become more effective? Absolutely, but the canvas that you work from is you. I rarely meet a leader who is 180 degrees off the mark in being a leader that others want to follow.

Here are three things to increase the level of genuine you’re bringing to the office:

  1. Be vulnerable; if you don’t know, admit it.
  2. Admit your mistakes and then make it right.
  3. Act with integrity. Integrity means to do the right thing even when no one is watching.

If you focus your leadership on being present, clear, and genuine, your leadership confidence, focus, and results will grow. As you grow, so will your team. Everyone wins!  It is the impact and responsibility of the Social Artist.  

Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Building a Foundation for Mentoring Success

Mentoring-Leadership-Coaching“I want to start a mentoring program.”  You may have said this.  You may have heard this.  You may have been tasked to lead this effort. Mentoring programs are quite popular within corporate circles these days – for good reason.  Effective mentoring links to improved employee productivity and retention.

In addition, mentoring programs are a key component of leadership development, succession and future organizational growth. You may think it is a simple task to get on the “mentoring bandwagon.”  And the mechanics of planning and implementing a program are easily executed thanks to an abundance of available best practice literature.  But, before you start with design, you might want to take a look at the foundation upon which your program will be built.

  • Culture:  Is your organization ready to take on this task?
  • Commitment:  Are all participants dedicated to follow the program through to closure?
  • Collaboration:  Is the stage set for open dialogue among all players?

Organizational Readiness:  Your Culture

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  We often hear this Peter Drucker statement and nod our heads at the truth of it.  Mentoring programs succumb to culture as easily as any other organizational strategy or program. Mentoring is all about learning.  That is the premise behind the pairings, the objectives, and the measures. 

Successful mentoring programs come out of organizations that value development.  These organizations are characterized by having robust and differentiated programs for the entire employee populace. A development culture is easily identified by the actions of senior leadership and managers.  How much time is spent on developing direct reports and others?  If the answer is little to none, then expect the mentoring program to fall flat on its face.  As the percentage of time devoted to organizational development increases, so does the probability that the program will be a success.

Mentoring thrives in a culture of accountability.  Participation in a mentoring partnership is not a passive activity.  Mentors, protégés, program sponsors, and organizational managers have responsibilities to ensure successful outcomes.  Lack of preparation and responsiveness on any participant’s part leads the program down the ineffectiveness track.

Organizational Dedication:  Participant Commitment

Culture is the backdrop.  Commitment is the next step. When we think of mentor relationships, we visualize a mentor and a protégé.  When we think of formal mentoring programs, we also include a program manager.  However, effective mentoring program participation is much broader than this trio.  A successful outcome also depends on the commitment from the organization’s senior leadership and the organization’s managers. 

Effective mentoring is a TEAM activity. Successful mentoring programs are not executed in isolation.  So ask yourself:  Are the senior leaders on board – in words AND actions?  Is the downstream management on board?  These crucial voices of support prepare the program for success.

Organizational Practice: Collaboration

Informal mentoring partnerships may pop up anywhere.  But if a structured formal mentoring program is to succeed, attention must be paid to constructing a collaborative network. Collaboration begins before the initial kick-off meeting of the mentoring class.   Those who can contribute the most to the success of the mentoring program are the mentor’s and the protégé’s managers.

In the view of managers who have not been involved in the process, mentoring programs are part of a secret society – where the doors are locked and a “code word and secret knock” must be used to gain entrance.  Because they have not been included in the “reason why” and the path the partnership will take, these managers tend to make up their own (most likely negative) story. The mentor pairs will have established guidelines regarding their own communications.  Adding the manager into an open dialogue about the protégé’s objectives and progress positively impacts mentoring success. 

Managerial resistance is eliminated.  The manager becomes a team player supporting the success of the partnership. Culture + commitment + collaboration = a strong foundation for successful mentoring programs.  Come to think of it – aren’t these the requirements for success in any initiative?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Leaders, Are You Creating Gangs in Your Org?

Leadership-Gangs-GraffitiIt was just after eight in the morning. I had been on an overnight flight across three time zones. My mind was fuzzy with fatigue and eyes drowsily droopy. But shut they would not.

I grabbed my bags and headed for the train station. A few minutes after rolling out of the station, my sight was assaulted by vivid color. For the next mile, the earth-retaining walls and the back walls of buildings next to the railway tracks were covered with graffiti. And I wondered, if graffiti was this elaborate here, why was there none in the airport arrival lounge?

At every train stop, the same scenario repeated itself about a mile into the station and another out of it. An hour later, we rolled into my destined station. It was the same as all the others. As soon as I stepped out onto the street, I quickly surveyed all the surrounding building for any signs of graffiti. None, zilch, nada… I wondered, “Why?”

There was clearly a lot of artistic acumen in the canvas of graffiti that was laid out on those walls. I could see the intricate thought. However, I also had a deep sense of the violent despair in the soul of the graffitist, emptiness.

The words and images were a depiction of a lost hope. It was like those behind the graffiti had ganged up to send a silent challenge and a plea to be pointed in the right direction. What if their talent was harnessed to improve the aesthetics of public places?

Back home, two separate incidents helped me understand why ganging up emerges when true leadership fails. When a leadership vacuum occurs, gangs slowly start to form and thrive.

Stop, Police!

I had a conversation with a senior police officer as he sat in the passenger seat of my car. Where I come from, it isn’t uncommon for a police officer to flag you down for a lift. They sometimes don’t have sufficient resources at their disposal. It was then that I spotted the driver of a commuter bus commit a traffic offence.

When I asked the police officer why this was so rampant, his response left me gutted. “You see,” he sighed in resignation, “If I arrest this guy, I’ll waste a good part of my day. The paperwork is time-consuming. When he goes to court, he’ll only have to pay a small fine and is back on the road a few hours later. So why bother? No one has been injured anyway.”

This special breed of gangs have emerged because of a lack of leadership in the judicial system and weak enforcement of laws. The traffic-law-breaking gangs have grown to endemic levels; just because a leader abdicated their role to put in place the right policies and protocols.

Checked Out

The second was a series of events at one of my former workplaces. Discord was evident everywhere. The quality of work had deteriorated. By the time I left, about half the work force was coming to the office an average of thirty minutes past the official reporting time. Some would saunter in as much as an hour late and act like nothing unusual had occurred.

About half the workforce was showing up but was checked out. They had formed an alliance; a gang of employees who did the bare minimum work that reflected the quality of the leadership.

Something unfortunate began to happen. A few hard-working valuable employees were unsettled by this mediocre gangs that had formed. They were frustrated as delivery of their results depended in part to their colleagues who had already “checked out.”

Finally, some of these valuable people started to check out too. They did not join the gangs of mediocrity; they left the organization for good!

Three ‘must-dos’ for Leaders

First, people have a deep desire to be led in an authentic way. You can’t expect goodness from people if you don’t extend it to them first. “If we have a good heart and concern for others, our actions will be positive.” ~Dalai Lama

Secondly, start small before things snowball on you. Assess your habits as a leader. If you show up late for work late, your followers will follow suit. It doesn’t matter whether you are a morning person or not. “Leadership is an action, not a position.” ~Donald McGannon

Third, listen to the pulse of workers who churn out quality work effortlessly. Protect and influence them to create gangs of excellence that grow the organization’s vision. “Leading an organization is like frying a small fish. You spoil it with too much poking.” ~from the Tao the Ching

Which gangs would you rather lead? I’d love to read your comments!

Leaders – Stop Pegging People into Your Hole

Leaders-Differences-International-Leadership-Todd-NielsenI’ve had the privilege of working with people from all over the world. The United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, India, Singapore, Philippines, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, England, Kenya, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, and the list goes on and on. I don’t mention this to brag, instead I desire to state an observation about people in the world, people in your country, people in your city, and even people your office or home – THEY….ARE…..ALL…..DIFFERENT. If this is so obvious, why is it that leaders keep trying to peg people into their “Hole?”

The world is full of introverts, extroverts, and centroverts, bubbly people and serious people, thoughtful people and outgoing people. Actually that previous sentence is all wrong, sorry for leading you astray; the truth is that the world is full of… people. There is no type of person or personality that is necessarily better than another. People all have qualities that make them valuable and worthwhile, you are the same. I’m sure that most people the world over would agree more or less with that statement. Yet if that that is so true, why is it I keep seeing leaders try to form a culture that is modeled after their own personality?

The Mini-Me CulturePeople-Mini-Mes

I have seen this play out dozens of times. The outgoing extrovert CEO trying to convert everyone into mini-mes. If the world were
full of pixie-dust unicorns, and Austin Powers, we might be able to do just that, fortunately we live in a much more realistic and diverse culture.

Instead the world is full of people – all different types, different flavors, different personalities, different communication methods, different cultures, different customs and a thousand other differences. A real leader will have the intuition to recognize the value that people bring and not judge them because they are different then themselves.

In working with people from all over the world, whether from a different culture, or the same; I have found the following practices to be beneficial in communicating and relating to those you work with:

  1. Mimic – Attempt to mimic their communication styles when possible while still integrating your own in the mix. For examples in Canada and England the word “Process” is pronounced proh-ses and in the United States we say pros-es. The difference is “O” vs “AAH” in the pronunciation.
  2. Observe – Take time to observe how the other person communicates. Examine their written and verbal communications. Check out social media to see how they communicate on those channels, as the way they communicate there, often is how they feel most comfortable communicating.
  3. Research – No need to do a big report, but take a few minutes and Google the communication styles of the country, culture, or type of person you are working with to be able to understand certain idiosyncrasies. There are many differences even within a country and taking the time to understand might mean the difference between being understood or being offended.
  4. Patient – Some cultures, even some sub-cultures in the United States and other countries, move a bit slower than many executives would like. A good working relationship will require mutual trust and respect.
  5. Recognize – To have a successful working relationship, whether it is a small project or a long one, it’s important for both parties to recognize the value that the other(s) brings to the project. Recognizing the value will help one to overlook the communication differences that might be bothering to one of the parties.

Accept Differences, Value Others

As we roll into the 3rd Annual International Leadership Blogathon and more importantly, as we roll on with our working lives, I hope you can find and see that everyone has value, and that everyone should not be forced into an ideological “hole” that a leader believes is their culture of nirvana with multitude of mini-mes doing their bidding. Everyone has value, you have value and as leaders is it our job to discover other’s values.

I’d love to hear your comments below and please stay-tuned to a lot of great articles in this year’s 3rd Annual Leadership Blogathon, starting today!

The 3rd International Leadership Blogathon

3rd-International-Leadership-Blogathon-Todd-NielsenWell it is that awesome and wonderful time again. Time for the International Leadership Blogathon. Actually it is past time, but who is keeping track. Once again we are going to have another thrill ride through the world of leadership in the 3rd Annual International Leadership Blogathon. Last year I held the event and it was even more amazing than the first one, so much so that it crashed my website from all the traffic. This year I am better prepared.

The nuggets of wisdom during these blogathons, come from all over the world. They are inspirational and enormously valuable for any leader. The perspectives alone are invaluable to help all of us become better leaders.  Once again we will have leadership experts from every corner of the globe take part.

I believe this year is going to be better than last year’s event. Why? Well, it has to! They are always better. :-) This year it will be a little bit more low-key and laser focused. Last year there were a lot of articles and I about pulled my hair out. This year I am going to limit it to 20 really good articles that will be published Monday Through Friday for 4 weeks. It will start the first or second week in May.

What Is The International Leadership Blogathon?

Ok, so imagine leadership writers and experts from all over the world gathered together to share their leadership wisdom with the world. The experience and lessons of working with different cultures and organizations helps to fuel an avalanche of knowledge that is not easy to come by.

What I do is get a bunch of leaders and experts from every possible country I can. Then they each write an article between 400 to 800 words that explores some aspect of leadership. Last year we had many different topics and my heart lit up every time I read a new article. I mean, how often do you get to hear the inner thoughts on leadership from someone in Kenya, India, The Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., Japan and a bunch of other remote locations? It’s awesome! Subscribe now, and get ready for the flood of leadership wisdom to enter your inbox.

In addition to the writings we will hold some Tweet Chat’s and maybe even a Google Hangout to chat about the articles and all things leadership.

Awesome, the 3rd International Leadership Blogathon begins soon! ” Tweet This

Who Can Write For The International Leadership Blogathon & Why Should You?

Well, let me address the why first. Usually the best reason to write a guest post is to receive valuable backlinks to your own site from a reputable domain, to help grow your own platform, and get your knowledge in front of a bunch of people that might not know who you are. I get a lot of traffic, and I have a huge social network in which I will be broadcasting all of the articles – every single day. I’ll will also invite you to a private Facebook group for all the bloggers to collaborate.

So who should write? Well anyone throughout the world that has leadership knowledge, that they want to share with the world. But there are some qualifications:

  1. You must be able to write in English
  2. You need to be able to write 400 to 800 words in good grammar and punctuation. We will help out as much as we can, but last year I spent way too much time re-writing articles that had great messages but were written poorly. So reach out to others that know English before submitting your article.
  3. You have to have a Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn account and actively participate on social networks. You do not need to have a big following.
  4. You must be willing to commit to sharing all the articles on social networks and not just your article.
  5. You must be able to enter and edit an article in WordPress.
  6. The post needs to be all original work from the author, and CANNOT be shared on another site. (Google does not like that)
  7. Your topic needs to be related to leadership or a leadership subtopic. Ask below in the comments section, or send me a message if you are unsure about your topic. It could also be about the intricacies of leadership in your country of residence.
  8. Your article needs to be in the system within a week of your acceptance into the blogathon.  We need to time to get everything setup and organized.
  9. You need to love leadership and want to engage with other writers by commenting on all the articles and helping to drive more discussion.
  10. You must be willing to write a short summary post, pointing to the article on your own blog, if you have one.
  11. The article must have valuable content, and not be an advertisement for your services.

I am expecting a lot of interest this year, the same as last year. So if you are interested in writing, please fill out the form below and submit it ASAP. I look forward to a successful blogathon, I know my readers will love this content and it will be a hugely successful event.

Woohoo, I just signed-up to write for the 3rd International Leadership Blogathon” Tweet This

This is going to be an exciting event with wisdom oozing from all over the globe. Stay tuned for more information. Please share your thoughts below along with what kind of articles are you hoping to see?

I’m a Failure, and Damn Proud of It!

I’m-a-Failure-and-Damn-Proud-of-It-Todd-NielsenWow – What an amazing and awesome month. The goal of the 2nd Annual International Blogathon was to give the world a gift of greater leadership acumen from an international stand-point. Learning leadership views from across the globe helps increase our leadership wisdom by giving us differing perspectives. It certainly has met that goal for me personally.

I hope that the blogathon writers have inspired you.

I hope that your world becomes better because of the knowledge gained this month.

I hope that you were inspired to make changes that will impact your success.

What is Success?

Success,” hmm… it’s a very interesting and elusive word. The definition is different for every person, and every organization. It is a goal that is constantly moving to new heights. For the truly successful, it is a journey that never comes to an end. It’s a constant climb that refines you, strengthens you, and fertilizes your growth.

“Success is a climb that never ends, the journey refines you, strengthens you, and fertilizes your growth”  Tweet This!

Recently an individual asked me what some of my strengths were. This person new of my expertise and qualifications, but I thought for a moment and had two things enlighten my mind that were completely opposite and opposing from each other. Could these two things really be my strength?

The first strength that I thought of was that I have had a lot of success in my life. I have associated myself with successful people. I know what works in helping organizations create success. I have seen what successful people do to create even more success, and I have read huge volumes of books in learning how to personally create success in different areas of my personal and professional life.  So I thought, sure why can’t that be a strength?

The Second Strength, That Greatly Outweighs the First

The second strength I thought of – is a polar opposite from the first – and greatly overshadows it. It’s probably the single largest factor that has impacted success in my life. The second strength is, um, well… I have failed. I have a failed a lot. Failure has taught me what does not work, what NOT to do. It has molded me, chopped down the rough edges, and refined and focused me into the person I am today. I am sure the same is true for most people, but my failures greatly outweigh my successes.  So by quantitative comparison, I AM A FAILURE, and as the title suggests, I’m damn proud of it. If it weren’t for the failures I’ve had, I could never have reached the success I now enjoy.

The Failure Masochist

No, I’m not a masochist that enjoys the pain of failure or the struggles that are associated with it. I don’t look for opportunities to fail. I really strive to NOT, set myself up for failure. I strive to learn from my struggles so that I don’t repeat them. Unfortunately, no matter what I do… failures come, and they are almost always painful. They break me down, and make me grow. Like a forest that erupts into blooms after a fire scorches it to the ground, so must we be after our failures come.

Are we on the Path of Success, or the Path of Failure?

It may feel like the path of failure, but it is the path of success. Whenever I begin to veer off the path of success, I get poked and prodded by failures that direct me toward a straighter and faster route to even greater success. Failures are the enablers that help us reach success considerably faster. Without failures, we could never have success.

“Failures are the enablers that help us reach success considerably faster. Without failures, we could never have success.”  Tweet This!

The last month has resulted in some of the greatest successes in my life, but that success has been preceded by a path of innumerable failures, like a thousand fire-ants that I could not shake off. Yet those failures drive me faster towards heaps of successes. I’m sure you and I are alike; we all fail, we’re all human.

While I never look forward to my failures, I am proud of what I have learned from them and you should be proud as well.

The climb to success is wrought with failures… so let us all climb together. Let us support each other, not judge each other, look for the positive, celebrate the small successes, focus on the important things in life, and celebrate the overcoming of the many small weaknesses and failures that set us back.

“We can all do a little better, we can all become great.” Tweet This!

A Month of Success

This blogathon is chock full of examples of successes and failures. Every single writer this month shared their expertise that they have gained, by failing a thousand times first. The wisdom that resulted from those failures and the forthcoming lessons of success are priceless, and only in a small part, documented in this blogathon.

I strive to always hang out with successful people, I have told this to many. In truth though, I guess I actually enjoy hanging out with failures, since that is the path we all have taken to our success. I am honored to call the writers of the 2nd Annual International Leadership Blogathon – friends; they are some of the best group of failures I ever associated with. I only say that in jest, because they are all successful experts that kindly shared the result of their failures and successes with the world.

Until Next Time!

Today we don’t say good bye, the blogathon will live on, connections will be made deals with be stricken, and successes will be amplified. The greatness that is achieved from a single lesson this month might never be known to any us. That’s ok though.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you! It’s been enlightening. Please leave a comment and tell me what you have learned this month. What are the failures that resulted in your success?

The Power of Small Stories

power-of-stories-richard-andrewsSmall Stories are flying round every organization every minute of every day. Like mosquitoes over a lake in summer they get everywhere: in the corridors, the restrooms, the stockroom and the kitchen. They hover around the photocopier and the water cooler, they get under the door and through the smallest gap in the window. They settle for just an instant on some exposed skin and, almost unnoticed, they give a little bite. One bite’s no problem, but over time there’s one more then another; Ten, twenty, and they start to have a real impact!


Small stories are those little one-liners that are a great indicator of an organization culture.

A single story:

“I see the boss is out on the golf-course again”

tells you very little. But if the same kind of story is being repeated again and again, it becomes a big deal and whether truth or perception, it certainly has an impact on people’s beliefs and behaviors.

“I hear that the boss really bawled out Molly at the meeting last week”

quickly becomes a perceived truth that managers are disrespectful, abusive and don’t value the staff team. Forget about what it says in your values statement, it’s the Small Stories, truthful or perceived as truthful, that create the culture!

Leaders and managers are great ‘Big Story’ tellers: the annual staff day where the CEO delivers an upbeat PowerPoint about the great opportunities ahead, the monthly sales meeting, the annual appraisal, the staff newsletter and more! But most times leaders and managers don’t do small stories; they don’t like small stories. They get dismissed as ‘rumour or ‘gossip’. They’re seen as viral and uncontrollable, needing to be suppressed.

Using stories to turn negatives into positives and develop a great workplace culture.” Richard Andrews Tweet this!

You can spend a whole lot of energy trying to eradicate Small Stories but you’ve got no chance! Give up trying to kill your organization Small Stories and embrace them instead!

Small Stories don’t all need to be negative, there are great Small Stories too. What’s important is the balance between positive and negative.

So how about getting into the Small Story business?

Instead of trying – and failing to control those pesky mosquitoes, how about releasing a few of them yourself?

“It was great that Julie went that extra mile to close a deal.”

“The way John helped out in making sure that customer had a great experience of us made me feel really proud of our organization”

“There’s been a real feel of enthusiasm this week!”

Power-Small-Stories-Richard-Andrewsall have the potential to buzz around the workplace infecting people and counteracting any negative stories that may be hanging around. And if you and your management team are each releasing twenty Small Stories each week the balance between negative and positive will soon start to swing.

Positive emotion is just as contagious as negative.” ~ Richard Andrews Tweet this!

Be careful what your Small Stories are saying.

“Jane has really embraced the new strategy and has won a great new contract!”

is enough. It’s positive and everyone can draw whatever conclusion they wish to from it.

“Jane has really embraced the new strategy and has won a great new contract! It’s a shame everyone else isn’t as proactive as she is.”

ruins the whole impact! Suddenly we’ve got a story about how resistant and unhelpful the boss thinks the workforce are! What a waste of a good Small Story!

Equally, the thing that gives your Small Story wings is its truthfulness. If it’s not true, genuine and heartfelt it becomes nothing more than cynical manipulation.  Don’t be fooled, your people will see through that in an instant!

Please don’t ditch the Big Stories. The staff day’s fun, it’s informative and it makes your people feel they belong. Instead, add to it with a simple Small Story strategy. If you can stick to it, you might notice those mosquitoes giving way to butterflies!