The Art of Possibility: Rule Number 6

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “Kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again 20 minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and a n apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so god damn seriously.’” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”

           “There aren’t any.”   

~ from The Sixth Practice in The Art of Possibility

 

I’m re-reading The Art of Possibility by Dr. Rosamund Stone Zander and Boston Philharmonic Conductor Benjamin Zander. The chapter, Leading from Any Chair, discusses the “silent conductor” in all of us – the importance of leading from wherever you are in life or work. We don’t need to be managers, CEOs, and senior executives in order to lead. Everyone can be a leader, regardless of age or position. We lead by helping others do their best. If we know how to perform a task, we demonstrate and explain the process to another person trying to learn it. We don’t wait for “the boss” to tell everyone how it’s done. We don’t hold back from showing someone else because we want to be better than him or her. We help them learn so we can all do our best. In this manner, we are all leading as “silent conductors” from any seat.

The art of being a “silent conductor” is to listen and watch for passion and commitment from others. In The Art of Possibility, Zander suggests the leader look in the eyes of those individuals and invite them to share. Speak to their passion. Ask yourself, “who am I being that they are not shining?” That gives you, as the leader, the opportunity to be a “silent conductor”, to ask for feedback, and pass the leadership baton.

Even children can be leadersIn The Art of Possibility, the chapter on Rule Number 6 is about humor and lightening up. Often we take ourselves too seriously. As leaders we frequently try so hard to prove our worth, to succeed against all odds, to be better than everyone else, we forget that the goal is “together we all win”, not “I win, and therefore you lose.”

Our “Calculating Self”, as Zander calls it, wants to survive in a world of scarcity. It’s the voice that tells us take actions that get us noticed, to be strong, to be right, to win at all costs. It’s the voice that drives us on, always striving for something just out of reach. We’re never satisfied.

It takes many forms: the parent who acknowledges his child’s B+ and says, “That’s good, but with a little more work, you could have gotten an A.” Or the boss who tells his people, “I expect your work to be perfect; regardless of what it takes to achieve that.” Or the educator who tells her students, “Follow the outline exactly without deviation.”

Rule Number 6 reminds us to “lighten up” and stop taking ourselves so seriously. There are many paths to success and we each have different approaches. Rarely is there only one “Right Way”. So when you find yourself falling into the trap of the “Calculating Self”, stop and ask yourself:

What would have to change for me to be completely fulfilled?”
“What new possibilities might emerge if I were to change my thinking?”

Is it the situation or the people you are with? Is it an expectation you have that others can’t live up to? What change will bring about peace of mind to you and to others? Perhaps it’s merely to interject a little humor into the situation.

Laughter is a powerful tool for dispelling tension and opening up possibilities; such as . Zander’s comment to the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra when they were practicing Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. The students were tired and tense, having just taken standardized tests, and were missing notes and key entrances in the music. He said, “Take it straight through the second movement, and NO MISTAKES. If you make a mistake…..a five-hundred pound cow will fall on your head.”

And that’s what The Art of Possibility is all about….seeing possibilities where none seem to exist. You can find the book on page 4 of our Strategy Book Store.

The CFO Role – Cost Control or Value Added?

By Eric A. Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International

There are some interesting future trends to be tracking regarding the the CFO ROLE and the business domain he/she leads. Technology and in particular shared technology is one of the key drivers in how their role will be changing over the next ten years.

cross fuinctional teamsShared data and cross-functional training give employees and their teams more real-time access to data and the acumen to use the information, they can assess the financial impact themselves, instead of relying on finance to do it for them. The consulting group, Accenture, estimates that by 2020, “more than 80% of traditional finance services will be delivered by cross-functional teams.

Traditional communications and control centers are becoming more nimble and responsive. They are consolidating previously separate in-house financial reporting services such as compliance, treasury and investor relations. This is resulting in task-specific professionals being able to better focus on optimizing their areas of responsibility in support of their company’s strategies.

How is your business reacting to these changing trends? Is your CFO more involved in creating and driving strategy? Are new technological and cross-functional training tools being deployed to stay ahead of the competition? Have your systems become too complex, creating new “siloed” systems? Does your CFO understand how to deliver strategic initiatives through project and program management? Does your organization have the core competencies to transition from transaction-based activities to value-added tasks?

All of this implies a shift to finance teams being more involved in planning and analysis with more advanced digital platforms. A key outcome is reduced complexity, increased productivity and reduced costs.

The strategic impact of these trends significantly affect long-term growth and viability for all types of organizations. As you consider how you might address the challenges of these trends, one valuable solution is to evaluate your organization’s competencies to address these challenges and take steps to improve skill sets, create strong cross-functional capabilities and deploy the needed technological tools.

For further details on this topic you can click here to read an article in CFO magazine.

Employee Engagement Still Needed

Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeways: Employee engagement is still lacking in organizations. Job satisfaction numbers have not changed much since 2010. More than 85% are actively disengaged and have no passion for their jobs.

Employees at workIn 2010 I published an article (Employee Satisfaction a Critical Component of Success) about how employee satisfaction is directly tied to productivity and organizational success. The research then stated that the majority of workers are actively disengaged from their work, and only 25% felt a strong attachment to their employer.

Recently, I read an article written by Eric Siu of the Globe and Mail in Canada, “How to Ïncrease Employee Satisfaction for the Long Haul,” and it states that “a Gallup report demonstrates that 63 percent of employees are ‘not engaged’ in their jobs. This essentially means that 87% have no passion for their jobs,” he says.

It looks as though little has changed in five years, and my article is still relevant.

Siu’s article goes on to state that many factors contribute to employee satisfaction, and that employees are most satisfied when their four core needs are met: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

I addressed these in my article, too, focusing on elements from Matthew Kelly’s book, The Dream Manager and using the Haines Centre’s Systems Thinking Approach to help employees create a plan to accomplish their dreams. In Kelly’s book, he demonstrates how helping employees achieve their inner most dreams actually has a positive impact on their work. Whether the dream is to own a house or participate in the New York Marathon, he cites examples of company successes when they helped employees achieve their personal dreams.

The book impressed me enough to create a special planning model and Employee Satisfaction Assessment which are described in my article. Having read Eric Siu’s article, I see that it still has relevance today. You can download my article from our website to delve further into this issue. Matthew Kelly’s book is also available through our Amazon bookstore, also on our website.

After you read the article, please let me know your thoughts. Connect with me on LinkedIn if we aren’t already connected. Just let me know in the message that you’re following up about the Employee Satisfaction article. Or send me a message through LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Obamacare is Right Around the Corner

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International.  September 27, 2013

Takeaways: Obamacare will impact individuals and business alike. Small businesses in particular face some unique challenges. National Federation of Independent Business offers information about the impact of the national healthcare reforms.

Oct 1 kicks off the enrollment period for January 2014 implementation of Obamacare health insurance reforms. Are you prepared? Now is the time to consider the ramifications for your business before 2014 unfolds.

Regardless of whether your business operates with fewer than 50 employees or more, the new healthcare laws will affect you. This is especially important for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and could impact your expenses – especially if you haven’t offered health care insurance before.

The National Federation of Independent Business created a webinar in March 2013 which explains the implications for small businesses. Click below to watch the webinar or visit the website to download the slides.

Businesses with less than 50 full time equivalent employees (130 hr/mo or those with Full Time Equivalents defined as total monthly Part Time employees divided by 120 hours) are not mandated to provide insurance or pay penalties. But business owners with multiple small businesses will be aggregated into one large group. If those employees are greater than 50 then they will be required to offer insurance. By 2016 this aggregated market expands to businesses with less than 100 employees and those are subject to all the health insurance reforms, as are individuals, too. You’ll be paying for all the changes one way or another.

Enterprise Strategy Management Best Practices: Using software tools

By Eric Denniston, Denner Group International – April 2013 (Lead – Think – Plan – Act)

Takeaways: Criteria for an integrated enterprise strategy management tool. Using a software tool for greater success and higher performance in tracking, managing and executing strategic initiatives. Reinforcing the importance of linking strategic tasks and cascading projects up and down the organization. Leveraging buy-in and stay-in with a flexible and scalable shared communications resource.

What tools do you use to track and control your strategic objectives? Are they doing the job you want and need? Every organization must constantly revisit its progress and performance on satisfactorily completing its strategic objectives. Depending on the size of the business, one or more people are responsible for creating, overseeing and shepherding this process. This is more compelling perhaps to larger organizations, due to the need to coordinate larger numbers of employees and numerous teams whose projects are often interconnected. However, even small firms need to be disciplined about measuring progress. Many different software tools are typically employed in this effort, starting with simple documents, spreadsheets, meeting minutes and, very likely, project management files. Enterprise strategy management best practices, however, suggest the need for software tools to facilitate the tracking of strategic initiatives.

Often these tools lack the integration necessary to achieve the most critical desired outcomes for the use of these tools. Perhaps you will agree that those most critical goals include:
1) document goals and processes,
2) track progress, and
3) share information

Might you also agree that using these software tools intends to achieve some secondary objectives? These might be some shared behaviors and practices in using the tools, creating a greater understanding of roles in supporting the strategies, linking projects and sub-projects to better track “soft” measures, and aligning tactical, or short-term, objective with the longer-term strategic initiatives.

All the above goals are then subjected to benchmarks and measures to help managers track progress and make adjustments as necessary. Only now we have to ask ourselves: How do we use these tools in a manner that really fulfills these three primary goals?

The likely answer is that we can document the goals, and possibly articulate the processes to track progress and share information, but does that really achieve what we need? Usually it does not.  The bigger challenges are the difficulties in:
•    driving and maintaining alignment,
•    sharing information,
•    improving accountability,
•    fostering efficiency, and
•    enhancing transparency for your stakeholders

Without an integrated tool that brings all this together, these are frequently overlooked or only partially addressed.

Linking initiatives

There are two key issues to address on linking initiatives. One is to create the links up and down the organizational levels and cross-functionally between departments and divisions by identifying which ones need to collaborate on each initiative. The next one is to create the structures, or processes such as reports or meetings, to support the feedback needed to keep people informed in an efficient and timely manner. This is one of the biggest challenges for those responsible for keeping strategies on track. The value in accomplishing this effectively is the resulting ability to react more nimbly to necessary adjustments and do the fine tuning that can really impact performance and therefore the bottom line. Keeping the information flow timely from the bottom up and from the top down and across functions is one of the most powerful accomplishments managers seek in driving strategies.

Best practices in the strategic planning process call for documenting these linkages. And it is a really tough challenge to track and manage them. You might recall the reports and Excel files mentioned earlier which present a challenge in keeping them updated when many individuals and departments are involved. What we want is to create and deliver reports in a timely fashion. Most tools fall short in supporting this in a simple and seamless manner which is so critical for helping everyone perform at the high level desired. Let’s explore what might make an integrated software tool for this valuable.

One tool that links strategies and projects really well is Y-Change.

Criteria for an integrated tool

It should be multi-user. It should support the needs of all management levels to access the level of detail that each requires. It should support existing tools, such as spreadsheets and other digital materials and data. It should support the specific structures and processes your organization has for managing strategic and tactical goals. And it should improve productivity and accountability. I have evaluated three such tools and from my perspective one tool that links strategies and projects really well is called Y-Change: an Enterprise Strategy Management solution.

I have used the Y-Change Enterprise Strategy Management suite, and really like the fact that it is structured to accommodate my systems thinking focus on strategic management. It is the software platform within which those who are accountable for creating, managing, measuring, monitoring, guiding and adjusting strategic and tactical objectives in an organization are better able to perform those duties. Having a multi-user application like this to manage the various levels of accountability within strategic initiatives, and being able to link tasks across projects and strategies, is most helpful in performing quick reviews and obtaining status updates. In addition, the tool makes it possible to link to other data files from other applications that contain more detailed information. Sometimes this means simply opening a file from another application to review the data, and in some cases, actually import that data into Y-Change.

From within the application I can launch email messages to individuals and groups to keep people informed of progress, or lack of it, focus on specific initiatives, request feedback and relate to the measures everyone agreed to. This means a quicker response time to adjustments in the related tasks.

Perhaps of greater relevance to upper level management, the strategic initiatives can have their interconnected actions linked across two or more core strategies, providing both a documented and visual cascade of actions and accountabilities down and up through the organization.  How people support the organization’s broader strategic objectives can also now be incorporated into performance reviews much more easily.

Maintain a culture of strategic focus

This is a great help in preventing actions, good and bad, from being overlooked, and in uncovering mistakes and diversions from the strategic objectives in real time. It is an ongoing challenge for those responsible for driving strategy in an organization to maintain a culture of strategic focus combined with operational flexibility to sustain high performance. This tool excels in helping do just that. The tool allows for customized views for different levels of management which provide either detailed or summarized views of performance. With this feature, managers at all levels are better able to measure, track, manage and adjust their and their team’s work toward the organization’s key objectives. In addition, this tool supports the cross-functional collaboration required to really sustain a high level of strategic and tactical performance.

Linking the various initiatives further supports the management of business unit portfolios and projects. The integration of the shared objectives provides transparency in the review and reporting processes needed.

The Y-Change Enterprise Strategy Management tool is uniquely suited to helping the organization’s leaders and teams create buy-in to the shared vision and support stay-in. The tool provides easy access to key and current pieces of information and reinforcement of vital concepts, like the vision, mission and values of the organization. This shared resource also provides controlled universal access to data by adjusting permissions access levels and limiting the capability to edit data as appropriate.

In essence, the Y-Change Enterprise Strategy Management tool helps to raise organizational competitiveness by helping employees at all levels become and stay engaged in the shared organizational vision. It helps them stay focused on those tasks and actions they need to accomplish that will more effectively reach the desired objectives. This means higher productivity, lower costs, faster communication, plus greater transparency and accountability.

If you would like to learn more about this tool or request a demonstration please contact me at eric@dennergroup.com.

About the author: Eric Denniston has a background of 30 years business planning and strategic management consulting on an international level. Working with non-profit and for-profit organizations, he has worked with leaders on corporate governance, leadership development, business planning, and strategic management challenges. He has also trained sales development and technical teams. His business planning activities include global businesses, resort, hotel and residential development and international healthcare projects. A native of Mexico he is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Email: eric@dennergroup.com – Website: dennergroup.com.

10 Tips for Successful Virtual Meetings

Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   June 2013

Meetings are a necessary part of business whether we like it or not. More and more frequently people are meeting via the computer with counterparts who may be spread across the globe. This requires key skills to ensure these are successful virtual meetings. Some are standing meetings that occur every Monday or Friday. Others are ad hoc meetings, scheduled around a specific topic or project.

If you’re a project leader, you may find these tips helpful for holding successful virtual meetings. Many also apply to face-to-face meetings.

  1. Use video. If possible, engage webcams. This makes it possible for people to see one another and feel like they’re in the same room. Skype premium limits video calls to 10 people at once and all must have a Skype account.  Google Hangouts lets you have up to 15 people on a video conference at once. GoToMeeting allows up to 6 to video conference at once. Another option is ooVoo.com which allows you to have up to 9 video participants at once, but the free version comes with ads. Choosing the paid version eliminates this.
  2. Know why you’re meeting. Having outcomes or a purpose for the meeting ensures that everyone understands why they need to attend or even IF they need to attend. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to hold a meeting just because you always meet on Mondays. If there’s no purpose or reason to meet, cancel the meeting.
  3. Have a written agenda. Even though you’re meeting virtually and using webcams, it’s still important to have a written agenda and share screens. That way you can stay on track and/or get back on track if someone takes the conversation off topic.
  4. Put the expected outcomes at the top of the agenda. State the purpose of the meeting at the outset, and make sure everyone understands what that purpose is. You can always refer back to these outcomes if the conversation evolves into something else. And circle back around before you end the meeting to ensure that everyone agrees the outcomes were met.
  5. Set a specific time limit and stick to it. Everyone will appreciate your sticking to the timeline, and even ending the meeting early. The more frequently you do this, the greater likelihood you have of getting people to show up. They know what to expect and that you will keep the conversation moving. They will also be more willing to stay longer at times when it’s necessary because it’s not the norm.
  6. Take notes or have someone else take notes. As the meeting organizer, you can choose to take notes while sharing your screen or ask someone else to do so. Letting people see the note taking helps keep them engaged and lets them correct any misunderstandings in the moment. If you assign note-taking to someone whose screen is not being shared, allow time before ending the meeting to review those notes and make any necessary corrections.
  7. Schedule the next meeting before you end this one. Since you have everyone online already, chances are they have their calendars handy. Get agreement on the next meeting, if one is necessary, and then send out the meeting announcement shortly after this meeting ends. That prevents it from getting lost in their email box during the course of the week. Send out reminders with a link to the online meeting at least once more before the next meeting.
  8. Agree on who needs to attend. It may not be necessary for everyone on the team to attend every meeting. Depending on the agenda topic, it may only be necessary for IT folks to be present at one meeting, and marketing or operations folks at another.  If you do hold meetings with various team members and not the whole team, then schedule periodic meetings with the entire team and have the various team members report on their areas of expertise. This brings everyone up to speed on the whole project rather than just their portion of it, and ensures everyone is still working towards the same outcomes.
  9. Identify action items and accountabilities. Clearly list the actions that will be taken between meetings, along with the individuals responsible and dates by when they will accomplish them. This helps to move projects along, and gain commitment from team members.
  10. Follow up. As the team or project leader, you need to follow up with your team through emails and phone conversations to ensure they have the tools they need to complete the actions they’ve been assigned. This is an opportunity for you to also answer any specific questions they may not have asked during the meeting, or to assist with any roadblocks they may have encountered in executing their tasks.

BONUS TIP: Thank everyone for their participation. This one is so often overlooked. When people step up and volunteer to take on specific tasks, thank them for doing so. This helps to build team spirit and make people feel that their time and expertise is valued. Don’t go overboard, and be genuine about it.

Meetings are only successful if the outcomes are accomplished. Holding good meetings, keeping everyone informed, sticking to agendas, and following up with individuals between meetings are important task for the project leader.

Leaders – Are They Born or Made?

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International  5-17-2012

Takeaways: Leaders can be developed although being born with the key talents gives one a head start. In-born qualities may only emerge through training. If no training is provided, then those qualities may lay dormant. Those who believe leaders are mostly born tend not to invest in leadership training programs.

Leaders-Steve JobsAccording to Psychology Today, the research estimates say that leaders are mostly made. What do you think? In response to a poll on LinkedIn in June 2012,  54% said leaders are trained, while 46% said it’s an innate talent.

The fact that leadership skills can be developed is good news. However, the research suggests that there are some innate talents that are key to making a good leader.  These include:

  • extroversion – the ability to easily connect with others 
  • assertiveness – being unafraid to state your opinions
  • risk-taking – being bold and willing to stick your neck out
  • intelligence – being smart and analytical, but also
  • social intelligence – having an understanding of social situations and interactions

This doesn’t mean that introverts don’t make good leaders. They do. However, they need to create a self-development plan to gain the skills they need to lead teams well.

Leaders are Born – a Dangerous Concept

The idea that leaders are mostly born is a dangerous concept, according to Psychology Today. Executives who believe this pay less attention to implementing leadership development programs. They tend to think that those with the “right stuff”, the natural talents for leadership, will create organizational success. But that’s not necessarily true.

Another reason why this is a dangerous idea is that those in-born qualities may only emerge through learning. In a recent study Psychology Today conducted, they discovered that while extroverts have higher leadership potential than introverts, that wasn’t necessarily the case when it came to social intelligence and effective communication skills. Those are learned skills.

Consequently, it’s best to focus on leadership development first, and take the necessary steps to grow the leadership talent within your organization, rather than only look outside for talent.

Team Motivation Starts with You

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   11-18-2012

Takeaways: Team motivation starts with the manager who must demonstrate self accountability, and modelling the right behavior. He she should also share the big picture, and provide timely feedback, among other things.

From an article by Steve Tobak / MoneyWatch / November 12, 2012

While all business leaders and executives have their own methods for inspiring staff, most would probably agree that there are common ways to ensure employees are challenged, inspired and motivated to do their best work. Here are Steve’s top 10 ways to motivate your team:

Exhibit flawless work ethic. Lead by example. If you work your tail off to get the job done and exceed customer expectations, employees will emulate that behavior. Likewise, if you screw around, they’ll follow that example, too.

Indoctrinate them with the big picture. Everybody wants to be part of something big. They want to know why their work matters. Make it important to your people by telling them why it’s important to customers.

Hold yourself accountable. Goal-setting in most companies is ineffective — executives make big bucks no matter what, or there’s little or no follow-up. When management holds itself accountable, it’s a lot easier to do the same with employees.

Provide genuine, real-time feedback, good and bad. This is one of the hardest things for any manager to do, especially the negative stuff, but it’s also one of the most critical and effective management tools.

Promote their accomplishments and take the heat for their failures. Period.

Give them what they need to do the job. Provide the tools, training and support they need to be effective; keep management off their backs; then get out of the way.

Challenge them with as much responsibility as they can reasonably handle. It’s human nature to want to achieve things. Show you have confidence in them by setting a reasonably high bar and allowing them to succeed or fail on their own.

Communicate. Tell them what’s going on as openly as you can within reason and without unduly burdening them with confidential information they shouldn’t or don’t need to know.

Be as flexible as possible without impeding team effectiveness. If the priority is to get the job done as a team, that doesn’t mean everyone has to operate exactly the same way. People are individuals. They need some freedom to do their best.

Be human. Show some empathy, humility and a sense of humor. It will go a long way.

Social Networking Pros and Cons

 By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    6-16-2011

Takeaways:  Social networking mini-breaks help relieve boredom, increase productivity, and encourage team building.

Social Networking at WorkAccording to a 2010 study by Brent Coker, “Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing,” workers who social surf up to 20% of their total workweek actually increase their productivity 12%.  These mini-breaks from the mental challenges of work relieve the brain of tedium and help to clear the mind.

The above study was cited in the June 2011 Costco Connection magazine. According to the study. researchers found that participating in social networks online actually helps build additional knowledge to help further company growth.

The article also quoted a Costco member as saying, “Use of social media is essential to team building, well-being and a sense of collective purpose, especially in smaller companies where staff may be isolated at different sites.”

Social networks are also a quick way to get answers at work. I recall a technical computer problem I had that I spent hours trying to resolve, including support calls to Microsoft, with no success. I posed a question on LinkedIn and within minutes, received the right answers from several high level technical experts which helped me resolve my issue.

Some drawbacks

Allowing staff to openly use social media can lead to leaks of confidential information, poor brand image, and even customer service concerns. The article cites the example of Pro footballer Antonio Cromartie who was fined $2,500 for “breaching NFL rules for tweeting that the poor food served to players on Virgin Atlantic was linked to poor performance.”

According to the article, Deloitte’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace survey found that 74% of employed Americans say damaging a brand’s reputation like this is easy. Consequently, it’s important to have a social networking policy and ensure that all staff understand the parameters of that policy.  Check with your Legal Department before implementing it, though, since monitoring employee social networking activities raises legal questions about employee privacy vs. company rights.

Click here to read the full article.

Three Success Factors Affect Innovation

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    5/17/2012

Takeaways: Following the three key success factors of finding opportunities, mobilizing support for them, and seizing those opportunities, organizations stay open to change and create a culture of innovation.

In their book, Seeing David in the Stone, James B. and Joseph E. Swartz identify the 12 actions of the great innovators and achievers throughout time.Success Factors: Finding & Seizing Great Opportuniti9esThese are broken into three areas, each with a set of four actions:

  • Finding Great Opportunities
  • Mobilizing Support
  • Seizing Great Opportunities

In Finding Great Opportunities, one of the keys is to differentiate yourself for opportunity. What is meant by this is to understand your passions and talents, and see where the potential rewards might be in those areas. Then search within them for opportunities where all three are high.

Three Key Success Factors:

  • Be passionate about something
  • Be good at it
  • Potential rewards are high

For example, young Einstein became a telegraph operator because he had a passion for that, he was good at it, and it was the latest technology of his time.

Another characteristic of great achievers is that they never stop searching. An example the book cites is the story of Colonel Sanders.

All his life he moved from sales job to sales job and paycheck to paycheck. At age 65 he found his opportunity when he moved to Corbin, KY to run a gas station. To increase sales, he started serving his special fried chicken. Business boomed until a new interstate highway bypassed Corbin.

He decided that his passion was cooking, he made better fried chicken than anyone else, and he loved to sell – Kentucky Fried Chicken was born. He traveled the country calling on restaurants. He would cook each owner a batch of chicken, then sell a franchise. Ten years later, at age 75, he had 600 franchisees. He never stopped until he found a way to differentiate himself from the crowd, and when he did, he found tremendous opportunity.

Another key differentiator is being willing to change the ways in which you differentiate yourself. When one of the three key success factors is no longer valid, you have to be willing to change in order to achieve greatness yet again.

Organizations can become great when they are led by people who themselves have learned to differentiate themselves personally and follow the three key success factors. By creating that focus and being willing to alter course when one factor is no longer valid, an organization can continuously improve and renew itself.