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FountainBlue’s CONNECTIONs leadership scoops highlight leadership thoughts and concepts which would be of interest to the entrepreneurs and execs in the FountainBlue community, along with our original leadership posts, which were created in collaboration with the dozens of executives and entrepreneurs over the past two decades. We hope that our writings and articles help others to connect ideas, thoughts, people and concepts, that stimulate more strategic, more inclusive, more collaborative thinking and more results-achieving communications and actions. At FountainBlue, we write, coach and consult with the purpose of facilitating leadership One Conversation, One Leader, One Organization at a time.
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10 Actionable Ways To Actually Increase Diversity In Tech

10 Actionable Ways To Actually Increase Diversity In Tech | Connection |



In the last few months roughly 20 tech companies broke with traditional silences around data transparency, publicly releasing their diversity demographics.

Before then, a few companies, such as Intel, had been releasing their company-wide equal opportunity data for quite some time. But until last year, few, if any, companies had revealed their demographic data for technical occupations, in particular.

This historic trend is a laudable and important first step in stimulating open conversation and action to increase diverse representation in the tech industry. Indeed, access to such data is vital for benchmarking, for determining next steps, and for measuring progress. But it's important that efforts to increase representation in tech don’t end here.

Taking additional steps to implement meaningful change efforts is also important. This means treating these efforts like any other serious business imperative, allocating significant financial and human resources to the implementation of research-based practices, setting goals, and tracking progress. Only then will companies, and society at large, benefit from the many advantages diversity brings to innovation, productivity, and problem solving. Here are some researched-backed methods to make real progress in your diversity efforts.


While it is important to take action at all levels, shifting the focus to the pipeline often prevents companies from taking important research-based actions to change their own culture. Research clearly demonstrates that this is not simply a "pipeline problem." Company culture plays a significant role in driving women and underrepresented groups away from these jobs.


This involves moving beyond lip service and supporting these efforts in highly visible ways: personally showing up for diversity events and efforts; funding and otherwise resourcing these efforts the way you do other important business endeavors; and building in accountability metrics for managers and senior executives. As the old adage goes, "What gets measured is what gets done."


Increasing representation is not a "women’s issue" or a "person of color’s issue." It is a human issue and a business issue. When it comes to gender diversity, for example, men stand to benefit from expanding gender norms, and a great deal of research shows that society stands to benefit from including diverse voices in designing the technology of the future.


Involving majority group members is vital for true change to occur. Of course, this can be tricky if majority group members are ill prepared or do not approach these issues with a spirit of inquiry. Check out some of the latest research and resources for information on how to successfully work with majority-group advocates for diversity.


Treat increasing diverse participation like any other critical business issue. Set goals, plan strategically for how you will meet these goals, amply resource these efforts, and continually measure progress. Consider regularly reporting diversity data in the corporate annual report. To assist tech companies with these processes, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) has developed an Industry Change Model. NCWIT’s Strategic Planning and Data Collection and Strategic Planning Guidelines can help you use this model to identify research-based practices you can implement and strategies for tracking progress.


While overall numbers are important, it also matters WHAT women and other underrepresented groups are actually doing in these technical jobs. Are they able to make meaningful contributions to innovation? To assess this, consider collecting data on who is represented in leadership roles, creative and core technical roles, patenting, and so on.


According to research by the Level Playing Field Institute, more than 2 million employees a year leave their jobs due solely to repeated instances of unfairness or unconscious biases. Because managers have such a significant effect on the daily experience of their employees, helping managers address and reduce these biases can go a long way toward retaining and improving the workplace for underrepresented groups.


Additional research illustrates that subtle wording in job descriptions can deter highly qualified candidates from applying for jobs. Likewise, interview practices do not always identify the qualities that actually make candidates successful, causing companies to miss out on valuable talent. Analyzing your job descriptions and other recruitment strategies can make a significant difference in your candidate pool.


Sponsoring differs from mentoring in that sponsors advocate publicly for their protégés, making sure that their work is seen in the right places and by the right people. Women with sponsors are more likely to remain and advance in the company. Targeted leadership development programs also can help underrepresented employees navigate the "hidden" rules and networks in the technical workplace.


Unconscious biases easily slip into team meetings and informal interactions. For example, most people have been in meetings where one or two team members dominate the conversation or someone gets credit for an idea voiced earlier by someone else. These dynamics are exacerbated when one is a minority in a particular environment. Fortunately, team members can take a variety of relatively simple steps to make these environments more productive: soliciting the opinions of quieter members, making sure that a variety of voices are heard, and ensuring that individuals get credit for their ideas and their work. As an added bonus, these strategies are relatively inexpensive to implement.


While many companies have flexible work policies on the books, employees are often stigmatized if they utilize such policies. Companies should examine their performance evaluation and promotion processes for biases that subtly or overtly penalize these employees. Companies should also encourage and support men, as well as women, in taking advantage of these policies.

Catherine Ashcraft is a senior research scientist at the National Center for Women & Information Technology. She conducts research related to gender, diversity, and technology and directs reform initiatives for NCWIT’s Workforce Alliance, a consortium of leading, global technology companies and departments.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

10 actionable steps tech companies can take now to increase diversity

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The 9 Most Damaging Lies We Tell Ourselves Daily

The 9 Most Damaging Lies We Tell Ourselves Daily | Connection |

Our thoughts are more powerful than we realize, governing our expectations, our interactions, and ultimately our ability to be successful.

It's easy for delusions and lies to take root and grow, and left unchecked, they can do serious harm.

Do any of these sound familiar?

1. I have to be perfect.

Even if perfection were achievable, it's not a healthy goal; as we discussed here not long ago, perfectionism can hold you back. Remember that mistakes are part of being human--and sometimes they're our most valuable teachers.

2. My life is harder than anyone else's.

Everyone faces difficulty and crisis. It is in dealing with every challenge, problem, anddifficulty that we are able to learn and grow.

3. If I ignore it, it will go away.

Procrastination, magical thinking, and rescue fantasies may help us avoid hard truths for a while. But reality always catches up, and the longer you wait the worse it becomes.

4. I'm too young, or I'm too old.

I recently wrote about accomplishing great things at any age. At 5, Mozart was already competent on keyboard and violin, and at 76, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa. The truth is you are never too young or too old.

5. I'm just not the happy type.

There will always be difficulties, but we determine how we handle them. Remember, happiness is not something we are; it is something we become through our choices.

6. I don't judge people.

We all judge people. Researchers say we arrive at our first conclusion in less than a second. In some cases, it's ourselves whom we're judging, seeing how we measure up and fit in.

7. If I follow my heart, everything will work out.

Following your heart is good, but it should never override intellect and intuition. Aim for balance.

8. I don't have a choice.

We always have a choice. It's easy to blame others, or fate, for our outcomes, but accepting responsibility for yourself and your actions is an essential part of your humanity.

9. My worth is determined by my work.

No single facet of your life determines your worth. It's spoken in every action and word you undertake. It's who you are.

At worst, lying to ourselves can destroy us. At best, it can make life more difficult.

Let's really think about it.

What lies do you tell yourself or see others telling themselves?

How can you counteract them?

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Stop lying to yourself . . .

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Five Telltale Signs That You're a Great Leader

Five Telltale Signs That You're a Great Leader | Connection |

They say that great leaders are born and it is a quality that cannot be taught. Even at an early age, some children have a unique ability to command attention and lead while others exhibit follower, introvert or supporter qualities. Often times, the leaders, at an early age, become the managers and leaders in organizations later in life.

It would be preposterous, however, to say that all the five year-olds who demonstrated leadership qualities in your kindergarten class now have a corner office and play golf every Tuesday. Truth is that not all people who have leadership qualities make it into a leadership role in their career - and we can all name managers in the corner office that certainly do not belong there. Organizational psychologists say that employees do not quit a company; they quit a manager because they simply do not see a favorable outcome in working for that manager. Looking across different industries, there are several qualities that make managers great and thus are a true asset to the organization.

Lead by Example – Managers may conduct themselves with a “do as I say and not as I do” attitude. This includes showing up to meetings late, being ill prepared for meetings, being disrespectful to underlings or demanding that others complete reports or slides for a presentation that he/she will be presenting. Your employees look to you for leadership. When a manager behaves in a matter that is anything other than a leader, respect can be easily lost with little chance of restoring it.

Set Expectations – Too many times employees are not clear on what is expected of them. The last time some employees may have seen their job description was when they applied for the job. Most employees get an orientation, but it never really speaks to the expectations of their specific role. Managers need to regularly meet with their employees and set what expectations and goals are for each employee. Regular and frank feedback, both good and bad is needed so employees understand what they are measured against as well as how to adjust their skill set and ability to execute based on the current state and current needs.

Be Genuine – One of the biggest complaints of employees is that their manager is too busy “managing up” or playing the game rather than managing their business. It is as important for a manager to be real with his/her employees as it is to be a leader. One recent horror story I heard was of an employee who asked for and received permission to work remote several days a week since she had just adopted a child. Within the course of one business quarter, the manager reversed her decision putting the employee in a horrible position of choosing between her job and her child. At the same time, this very manager worked remote every Friday. Employees are real people and they have lives outside of work that can impact work. Sickness, divorce, family issues and loss of a loved one are all real life events. A good manager recognizes this and works with the employee to find the best solution that can help mitigate the issue and where both work and personal needs can co-exist. Working with the employee will create less impact at work while also rewarding you with an infinitely more loyal employee than before this life event.

Support Your Staff – Investing in your staff is more than simply sending them to a development class. One of the questions I routinely get is what I look for when hiring an employee. I always look for someone who knows something more in an area than I do. Creating an arsenal of relevant team talent not only strengthens your group but it also motivates your direct reports because of their subject matter expertise. When a direction is taken that is agreed upon by your team, it is essential that you, as the manager, back-up your employees. The worst outcome is when an employee has reason to believe that his/her manager has their back only to learn that the leader has waffled in order to be a player in the political corporate game.

Remember Your Roots – Not long ago, I met Robert Herjavec - a multi-millionaire featured on the well-known TV show Shark Tank. At the event, Robert was undoubtedly the most successful and wealthy person in the room. It stood out (to me) to see vice presidents from various companies carry themselves with all the bluster and swagger that they could muster while Mr. Herjavec carried himself as an average “business-man”. He never forgot his roots or where his family came from. We all can recall our first day on the job, our first junior position and reporting to managers both good and bad. As a manager, remembering your roots and treating your directs in the way you would want to be treated yields better results than intimidating, alienating and de-motivating employees that mostly want to do the right thing for themselves and for the company.

Your employer saw something in you and you in them – which is why you are now working for them. If you manage staff, you have the added responsibility of training, motivating and managing your staff to produce stellar results. While you rely on your “directs” to get the job done, they rely on you to lead. Are you doing the right things to promote success of your staff, your company, and, in turn, you?

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Lead by example, set expectations, be genuine, support your staff, remember your roots

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Apple & Google: This Is Not Middle School. Play Nice. | John Battelle | LinkedIn

Apple & Google: This Is Not Middle School. Play Nice. | John Battelle | LinkedIn | Connection |

I’m the father of three children, and two of them are girls. And while my first was a boy, and therefore “broke me in” with extraordinary acts of Running Headlong Into Fence Posts and Drinking Beer Stolen From Dad’s Fridge Yet Forgetting To Hide The Bottles, nothing, NOTHING, prepared me for Girls Behaving Badly To Each Other Whilst In Middle School.

Those of you with girls aged 11–14 know of what I speak: Middle school girls are just flat out BADASSES when it comes to unrepentant cruelty — and they are almost as good at forgetting, often within a day (or an hour) the rationale or cause of their petty behaviors. On one of my daughter’s wall is a note from a middle school friend. It says — and while I may paraphrase, I’m not making this up — “Hey Girl, I’m so glad we’re best friends, because I really hated you before but now we’re best friends right?!” And my daughter *pinned this* to her wall — her ACTUAL wall, in her bedroom!

Anyway, every so often girls in middle school end up squaring off — and the result is an embarrassment of small-minded but astonishingly machiavellian acts of cruelty. Little lies are let loose like sparks on a pile of hay, and soon a fire of social shunning rips through the school. Invitations are made, then retracted vigorously, and in public. Insults are veiled as compliments, and a girl’s emerging character strengths — a penchant for science perhaps, or a love of kittens for God’s sake — are expertly turned against her.

But this post isn’t really about middle school girls. Because we all know middle school girls — with love, patience, and copious wine (for the parents) — eventually grow up and out of such behavior.

Apple and Google? Not so much. And as an avid consumer of both these company’s products, I’m tired of it.

It’s the little things that pile up, the unnecessary lies and petty inconveniences. Like the fact that you need to install a javascript or browser extension to make Gmail the default mail application on your Mac. Because, you know, everyone knows how to do that. Or that you need a third party app (and a degree from General Assembly) to make music and movies purchased on Google Play work in iTunes, or vice versa. Or that Apple won’t let Google index apps in the iTunes store, because, you know, that Google mission of making the world’s information useful and accessible sounds suspicious, right?

Or — and yes, this is the one that pushed me to write this post — that you have to follow an utterly convoluted five-step process just to make group texting work between iPhones and Android users — only to learn it doesn’t really work every time, and in fact, if you’re expecting an important text from someone with an iPhone, well, you better just man up and buy a f*cking iPhone too, loser.

I’m not even scratching the surface of the bullpucky these two companies are putting us through to create “user lock-in” and discourage consumer choice. I mean, we gave up on the easy stuff, like, oh I don’t know, a universal power cord that can charge any phone. Because, you know, why have standards when you can take forty bucks from some poor loser every time he misplaces his charger? Or, if you wanted to change your default browser to Chrome, you had to root around in Safari to do so (Google has since gotten around this)? And don’t get me started on Apple Contacts and Calendar…and getting them into Google’s universe. Yeah, it’s supposed to work. And no, it really doesn’t, not so much, and not so well. I’m six months and thousands of dollars into trying to make that work. Um, Google — tell me please why there’s no Google Calendar app for iPhone? Is it because…you know, Apple’s not cool anymore? Gah.

I bet I’ve missed tons of examples, but given the state of diplomacy in the Apple and Google worlds, I’m not expecting a solution anytime soon. The two companies clearly don’t want to play nice — Apple’s DNA is to lock you into their pristine, walled garden user experience, and Google certainly isn’t eager to encourage Android users to interact with iOS. Apple has kicked Google out of the default position for mapping in iOS, and many expect search to be next. The walls are getting higher, and the middle school girl behavior is likely to get worse.

To Apple and Google, I say simply this: For the sake of folks who love both of your product lines: Grow up. Please!

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Will the worlds of Apple and Google converge or will the line be ever in the sand?

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Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: A Beautiful Constraint

Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: A Beautiful Constraint | Connection |

Typically we look at a constraint as a negative. A problem to be solved. 

But what if a constraint was the gift that opened up previously unimagined possibilities? What if a constraint was the gift that took you to the next level? 

Authors Adam Morgan and Mark Barden remind us in A Beautiful Constraint that Google’s home page is as simple as it is because that was the limit of Larry Page’s coding ability at the time. The overall-wearing hero Mario is as colorful as he is because of the challenges of eight-bit technology. And which of us would be using Twitter at all today if it had a limit of 14,000 characters rather than 140? 
We are all faced with the challenge of growing within the constraints of time, resources, method and /or people. Sometimes constraints are imposed on us and sometimes we benefit by placing constraints on ourselves. “We are living in an era of extraordinary people rewriting our sense of what is possible. They make an unarguable case that a constraint should be regarded as a stimulus for positive change—we can choose to use it as an impetus to explore something new and arrive at a breakthrough. Not in spite of the constraint, but because of it.” 
Organizations of all types—business, churches and schools—and people from all walks of life would benefit from understanding how to reframe a constraint into a better way of doing something. 
We begin the process by creating the right mindset. We need to increase our ambition relative to the constraint not to scale back our ambition to satisfy the constraint. That’s victim mentality. And that’s usually where we begin. Better yet, we can try to find a way to neutralize the constraint so we can deliver on our ambition. But the authors have created a path for us to become transformers—to find a way to use a constraint as an opportunity, possibly even increasing our ambition along the way. 
Often transformers will impose constraints upon themselves to force themselves to unearth different, possibly transformative strategies and solutions. This helps to reducepath dependence or the assumptions and ways of thinking about solutions that define “the way we do things around here.” “Today’s path is really yesterday’s path.”We must examine all of the ingrained habits that may stand in the way of our being able to see and realize the possibilities in a constraint. 
To bind our bold ambition to a significant constraint we have to ask a propelling question. The kind of “what if…?” question that forces us to think and behave in a better way. “If we don’t ask propelling questions of ourselves, someone is going to ask them of us, and by that time we will be behind the curve.” 
To answer a propelling question we need to answer not with a “we can’t because” statement but with a “we can if” statement. It focuses the nature of the conversation on how something could be possible and not on whether it would be possible. 
Then we get resourceful. What stops us from being more resourceful is the way we think about resources. We tend to think of the resources available to us as the ones within our immediate control. But there are all kinds of resources outside of our immediate control. One method is to create shared agendas. “We, who might appear to have little, need to help them see that we have what they want.” 
There are organizations that routinely embrace constraints to make themselves better. The beautiful constraint process cannot be managed, it must be led. “When making constraints beautiful, motivation is method. Breakthrough happens when a propelling question meets strong emotions. Without activating the right emotions, it will be too easy to regress to the victim mindset.” 
The authors note that “if we are heading into a more constrained future, then how we manage those constraints will determine how we progress.” As a leader, steering your organization towards constraints sooner rather than later, is an important source of competitive advantage. Raising the level of ambition alongside a constraint encourages growth and learning—both individually and organizationally—because it causes us to reexamine our current paths, assumptions, and ways of thinking. 
A Beautiful Constraint is a outstanding book with inspiring examples that will spark your imagination to create your own beautiful constraint. It should be standard issue to every student as the thinking described here will serve them well in life. 
What constraint will you go and make beautiful? 

Linda Holroyd's insight:

How can the constraints holding you back be leveraged to your advantage?

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My First 90 Days: The Secret to Chasing Rabbits

My First 90 Days: The Secret to Chasing Rabbits | Connection |

When I was a small child, my granddad and I would sometimes go for walks in the early morning. He said we were picking mushrooms, but I don’t remember us actually picking many. I suspect that it was his cunning way of making time for us to be together.

On those walks, we used to see quite a bit of wildlife such as foxes, badgers, deer and rabbits — hundreds and hundreds of rabbits. I would chase them, and, of course, they would simply scatter ahead of me. I never got close. But, I do remember him telling me some time later that the secret of catching rabbits is to concentrate on one at a time.

Sometimes this applies to business too, especially as you take on a new role. It’s tempting to try and fix every problem, to make every improvement and to overcome every challenge all at once.

I recently counted that I had covered about 17 roles in my 28 years since leaving the university and would say that a few years ago my approach was just that — jump into a new job and watch the rabbits scatter before me. Eventually, I would come to grips with the role, but after I had caused confusion, inadvertently upset some people and made lots of changes, often the wrong ones.

I remember joking a few years ago with my then-teenage son Andrew that we would be cancelling our Internet service because we didn’t need it as he appeared to know everything. Andrew is now 25 and is humble and hardworking. Like his father before him, he is realising that the more you learn, the more you understand just how little you know.

So, going into a new role for me is all about listening and learning — taking the time to understand the issues, getting to know the people, appreciating the history and, ultimately, choosing which rabbits to pursue in which order.

When I assumed the role of CEO at Wood Group, I was asked what my strategy would be for the business. Luckily, I had worked in the business for 18 months, so I was able to say that my focus areas would be Core Values and collaboration. I didn’t have a fully formed strategy because I didn’t really understand the role in-depth. In fact, it was nearly a year before I was ready to set out any form of strategy.

It takes time to get to know people — to understand their style, their motivators, their fears and aspirations.

It takes time to understand business issues beyond the superficial — to get into the detail and to ask the silly questions that you are allowed to ask when taking on a new role.

It takes time to recognise the significance of different parts of the role and where you can have the biggest impact. Often, the obvious answer is the wrong one. It takes time and experience to realise this.

Sometimes, change needs to be a big deal. Sometimes, several small steps can achieve the same thing. The secret is to make the change without interrupting the business and to make sure your people are included.

If no one is following, it’s a fair bet that you are not really leading!

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Concentrate on one rabbit at a time

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How to Get People to Do What You Want

How to Get People to Do What You Want | Connection |

My mum always told me, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can vinegar.” In other words, people respond better to rewards than punishments. As a leader or a marketer if you want an employee or a customer to change behavior, research says the best thing to do is give them positive reinforcement when they do what you want.

Several studies conclude that positive reinforcement is the best way to encourage better behavior. Two new studies examine these concepts more and give us better insight into why this works well.

Study #1: Punitive Consequences Encourage Deception

A new study by the McGill researchers indicates that kids lie to their parents when they face punishment. When encouraged to tell the truth about misbehavior without punishment, however, kids tell the truth. Victoria Talway, a Child Psychology Professor, studied four- to eight-year-olds, where participants were told not to peek at a concealed toy when the adult left the room. If the kids were told there would be a punishment, kids who peeked would lie about it. If they were told not to peek but if they did telling the truth would help the situation, they confessed to peeking. Talway’s conclusion was that kids lie to appease adults.

If you threaten your employees or Customers with punitive action when they do something you don’t want, you are potentially encouraging them to lie to you. While you certainly aren’t their mom or dad, they might want to appease you anyway. Unfortunately, you have two problems here. First, they are still doing what you don’t want. Second, they are lying to you, destroying the relationship of trust you need to have a good experience with them.

Study #2: Rewards Work Better Than Fines

Daniel Pink is a host of Crowd Control and wrote several books on human behavior. He examined what is the best way to discourage minor law breaking. He defined minor law breaking as speeding, jaywalking and parking in handicap spaces. Each of these offenses traditionally is enforced with a fine sentence. What Pink discovered on his show was offering incentives to comply with the laws was far more effective than the threat of fines at getting these wayward souls to change their lawbreaking ways.

What he discovered was that by rewarding those not speeding, he reduced speeding on the roadway by one-third. He had similar results of improvement for other experiments in jaywalking and handicapped parking places.

Your Customers have behaviors that cost your organization money. An excellent example is those Customers that still want a paper statement. The costs associated with sending a paper statement are enormous for an organization, while electronic statements are much less. When Customers get charged for a paper statement, it’s annoying and generates negative feelings toward the company, and rarely encourages them to do what you want. If you reward Customers for making the switch to eStatements, however, they are far more likely to make the switch and have positive feelings for doing so.

Positive reinforcement is the key here. Human behavior is driven by many factors, not the least of which is emotional rewards and positive feelings. Play this tendency to your advantage is the way to harness the power of human behavior and use it to get the results you want—and have them thank you for it afterward.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

The merits of positive reinforcement

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Customers Must See You As a Leader, Not a Salesperson | Donnie Bryant | LinkedIn

Customers Must See You As a Leader, Not a Salesperson | Donnie Bryant | LinkedIn | Connection |

Positioning yourself as your customers' leader (and speaking with the voice of authority that comes with it) creates one of the biggest opportunities for business growth I can think of.

According to John Maxwell, "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." If that quote describes you, this message is for you.

If you have clients and customers that you take good care of, you're already leader. Now you have to work on positioning yourself as their leader. That doesn't always come naturally.

Here are a few quick thoughts on business growth through customer leadership.

Ask Not What Your Customers Can Do for You…

Last January, Simon Sinek published a book called Leaders Eat Last. I haven't read the book yet (shame on me), but I remember how the title instantly caught my attention when I first saw it. Those 3 words flesh out the idea that leadership is all about serving others, not about getting other people to follow your commands. (The term servant leadership is somewhat redundant for that reason.)

This is part of the burden of leadership — putting others before yourself is the right thing to do. This means:

  • offering products and services that your customers want and need, not necessarily what you think is cool right now
  • a strong commitment to quality and
  • gutsy guarantees and service after the sale

These will make you a better leader and they will ultimately make your business more profitable.

Leaders Are Architects

To a certain extent, leaders define reality for their followers.

  • They create a vision of what’s possible, painting a mental picture of all that life can be, all that it should be (at least in a given area).
  • They empower their followers to take action.
  • The give them the education and/or tools to make it happen.
Leaders Lead

Education and inspiration are important, but a leader has to go beyond that stage. He should lead by example. He does everything in his power to get his followers to do what he knows is best for them. He holds them accountable to what they’ve committed to do.

It’s one thing to teach your followers about eating healthy food. Educating them is definitely a good thing. But what do they gain if they keep eating junk? It’s a leader’s job to do everything he can to help them make the difficult decision to change.

Leaders can’t cower back. They have to keep pressing forward. Even when it’s dark. Even when they’re unsure of their own qualifications. Their followers depend on them!

Action Steps

1) Decide to adopt a leadership mindset in your industry, your office, your city. Make a commitment to pursue excellence and use whatever influence you have to help your pack move toward a better result in some area.

2) Remember — it’s not about you! Putting the best interest of your followers ahead of your own interests is the right thing to do.

Leaders may chose to eat last, but good leaders will still have plenty on their plates.

3) I’d like to point you to one of the documents that helped crystallize a lot of my thoughts on this topic. It’s an old newsletter article from Jay Abraham on what he calls the strategy of preeminence. If you’re familiar with Jay, you’re familiar with this concept. In this PDF, he covers some specific thoughts that I promise you’ll find enlightening. He’s giving it away for free at his website, no opt-in required. You can download it here.

It’s 4 pages long. Well worth taking the time to read, think about deeply and apply to your business (and life).

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Leaders are genuinely customer-focused before, during and after a sale

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The Joy of Middle Management

The Joy of Middle Management | Connection |

So you’ve finally made it to middle management. You’ve arrived at that magical place where you are responsible and accountable for the performance of a team but you still have limited authority and influence in your organization. Welcome to the Danger Zone!

Why is it so dangerous? Because, if you are not careful, this is where careers come to die. At least that’s the conclusion of Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. In a recent Harvard Business Review article called Why Middle Managers Are So Unhappy, they discovered the unhappiest employees are, in fact, middle managers.

They looked at data from 320,000 of the most unengaged and uncommitted employees from a variety of organizations and focused on the bottom 5%. They wanted to understand the driving factors behind the most disgruntled employees. What they found were people who were “stuck in the middle of everything.”

The most common profile for employees in the bottom 5% was:

  • They work as middle managers
  • They earned a college degree, but not a graduate degree
  • They have 5 to 10 years’ tenure
  • They receive a good (as opposed to a superior or a terrible) performance rating

The truth is, it can be tough if you find yourself “stuck” in middle management. It can lead to frustration and disillusionment, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you have made it to middle management, it’s because someone thinks you have what it takes to lead people and that’s one of the greatest honors bestowed upon any individual. So how do you avoid getting “stuck” in the middle?

Let me suggest five things you can do as a middle manager to avoid becoming an unengaged, uncommitted, unhappy employee:

Contentment. One of the biggest causes for frustration for middle managers is the desire to be promoted to the next job. I’ve seen many managers so focused on trying to get to their next position that they never actually do their current job. Be content. You’ve been asked to lead people, lead them well. Enjoy your time as a middle manager.

Excellence. While you are in middle management, be excellent in everything you do. Instead of focusing on your next job, set your sights on mastering this one. If you can build a reputation for performing at a high level with a smaller organization, you will likely be considered for larger role.

Education. Mastering your job means learning everything you can about being a valuable leader in your company. Use your time as a middle manager to continue to educate yourself. Read business books, take courses that will strengthen your weaknesses, complete an advanced degree, complete an industry certification, join industry groups, volunteer for challenging assignments, or find a mentor in your company to learn from. Most companies offer a variety of ways to continue your education, take advantage of them all. The more you know, the more valuable you will be for your company.

Commitments. Become a trusted performer in your organization. Senior managers are looking for people who get things done. They are looking for leaders who do what they say they are going to do. Build a reputation for meeting your commitments and honoring your promises.

Exploration. Use your time in middle management to figure out where you get the most satisfaction out of your work. Is it executing a large project or landing a significant order? Is it leading a kaizen event or executing a new marketing strategy? Is it becoming a functional expert or focusing more on general management? Expose yourself to as many diverse opportunities as you can to learn what you really enjoy doing. This will help prepare you for what you really want to do in your next assignment.

Middle management doesn’t have to be a place where careers go to die. With the right attitude and focus, your time in middle management can be the best years of your work life. It’s a time where you can master the art of leading people, learn to perform at a high level, continue your education, build a reputation for meeting commitments, and explore what you really enjoy doing. The key is to become a trusted and valuable asset to senior management. Does it mean that doing these things will get you promoted to the next level? Maybe or maybe not. What it will do is give you a lot more satisfaction in your job and keep you away from that bottom 5% of unengaged, uncommitted, unhappy employees.

So, what do think? Is it possible to avoid getting “stuck?” Are there other things that can be done to avoid the middle management trap? How much does your boss or company influence your ability to continue to grow? What options do you have if you find yourself stuck?

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Be content. Be excellent. Embrace learning opportunities. Manage commitments. Explore your options.

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Something From Nothing

Something From Nothing | Connection |

I live in Silicon Valley, where tech entrepreneurs rule. It’s a world where being smart and working hard are a given, and being creative and resourceful are regularly rewarded. And being able to make something from nothing sets you apart.

Although I’ve spent the last two decades working with tech start-ups as an employee, consultant, vendor and adviser, I started from humble beginnings. Born in Hong Kong, the second of four children, our family of 6 immigrated to San Francisco to stay with my aunt with $20 in our pockets and no job. I learned at the age of 5 about the value of friends and family, the rewards of hard work, the promise education provides, and that the opportunities are available for the hard-working, passionate and creative.

Today, I feel my parents beaming down on the four of us kids from above, proud that we are the educated, independent and good people that are we. In working with the wide range of tech leaders and companies over the past two decades, I’ve also learned a thing or two about creating Something From Nothing.

  1. The opportunities are there for those who can see ‘something’, when so many others don’t.
  2. That ‘something’ must be about what-the-customers-want, not about how sexy the technology is.
  3. Because we are emerging from an Age of Information to an Age of Personalization, technology will be a key part of creating individualized ‘somethings’ for the customer.
  4. Creating ‘something’ takes skill, persistence, creativity, flexibility, and so much more.
  5. Leaders at all levels must ever focus on building momentum, creating positive energy. Standing still, no matter how profitable, is choosing complacency, and others who are more mobile and flexible will achieve that edge.
  6. Choose people to work with who are ethical, talented, and hardworking – in that order.
  7. Choose customers, partners, investors and other stakeholders carefully. Communicate transparently, clearly and regularly to continue to build a win-win, long-term relationship with all.
  8. Your internal team must be working together to meet common goals. Dissenters, no matter how talented, are not worth the investment of time and money.
  9. No matter where you sit within the organization, know when and where you fit best, and know when you should move yourself from one place to another as the company grows. Know also how others fit within the organization and how that is impacting the organization. And if you see a misalignment, do something about it.
  10. Knowing what-you-do-for-whom may change with the times. Knowing what-technologies-work-today may not be the answer tomorrow. Knowing who’s the right customer/partner/investor/staff member/etc. today may not work for tomorrow. Being fluid and managing each of the situations above, and whatever else may arise, while maintaining relationships with all, will separate the winners from the wanna-bes.

Those are my thoughts based on my experience coaching executives and advising start-ups. What are yours?

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Be a hero. Be part of creating something from nothing.

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Jack of All Trades or a Master of One? Generalist or Specialist?

Jack of All Trades or a Master of One? Generalist or Specialist? | Connection |
Generalist or Specialist?

How you manage your career depends on whether you are a generalist or specialist.

When I started my career in the 1970s, large corporations valued generalists. In my 22 years of working for IBM, they let me take a variety of career paths. It also suited my personality, because I have a lot ofvaried interests. After a few years in a job, I would get bored and wanted to do something new.

IBM allowed me to work with a lot of leading-edge technologies that are still around today. Some of these included:

  • Word Processors – I worked with early word processors even before the IBM PC was released.
  • 3D printing – I was working with early 3D printers in 1989.
  • HTML and Internet Applications – I was designing Internet applications in the 1990s, long before it was common.
  • Advanced Router Design – When I left IBM in 2000, I developed curriculum to teach major equipment manufactures how to design next generation routers and switches.
  • High Definition Video – In 2007, after spending a couple years teaching high school math and working in the non-profit arena, I went to work for a HD video conferencing start up developing a training and certification program.

I am a generalist. I have enjoyed working with a lot of different technologies and methodologies. My challenge was that I got bored about every three years and wanted to move on to something different.

Specialists Rule

A fundamental shift started about twenty years ago. As technological change sped up, the need for specialists increased. Starting in the mid 1990s, I saw many move on to become specialists—and they were generously rewarded…for awhile. If you developed skills and became a specialist in an area that was in the early adoption phase, you could make a lot of money, again, for awhile. That was only true until others developed those same skills. The key was to identify correctly which skills would be desirable to have a year or two ahead of the demand.

This is easy to see in the world of technology, but does it apply elsewhere? YES!

In the world of Human Resources, you could be a generalist or a specialist in recruiting, compensation, benefit programs, diversity, HR IT, etc…

In the world of sales, you could be a generalist or a specialist in B2B or B2C, Internet sales, Channel sales, etc…

The challenge is that, if you are a specialist, your skills may not be valued in 5, 10 or 15 years. Let me give a few examples of skills that have become obsolete:

  • Experts in direct mail (snail mail) marketing – With the exception of credit card offers, what industries still market through direct mail?
  • Travel agents – When was the last time you talked to a travel agent? Fifteen years ago, this was still a valued skill.
  • Specialists in the complex process of laying out news print for your daily newspaper – When did you last pick up a paper newspaper?
  • Photo-Journalists – Why have photo-journalists when everyone has a camera?

These were all valued skills just a few years ago.

What if I am a Generalist?

Generalists are typically more valued in smaller organizations. Small organizations typically cannot afford to hire a lot of specialists. I have a client who is a marketing generalist. She like to write press releases, e-mail marketing, social media, direct mail, creation of collateral,….. You will be more valued in smaller organizations who need their employees to wear a lot of hats.

What if I am a Specialist?

Specialists need to stay on top of their areas of expertise and be willing to move when their expertise becomes a commodity or obsolete. This requires vigilance and the willingness to move with industry trends. You must be aware of disruptive trends in your industry.

Examples of Disruption

Taxi and Limousine Services – Will LyftUberSidecar or even Google’s Driverless car make these businesses obsolete?

Local Television News – When did you last watch the evening news? The local news programs are still around, but will they be in ten years?

Cable Television – Why have cable television service when there is Netflix, Hulu, etc?

Facebook Marketing – Will Facebook be relevant in 10 years? It did not exist 10 years ago and may not be relevant in another 10 years.

Give it some thought.

Are you a generalist or specialist?

Are you prepared for disruptive change that is coming?

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Whether you are a generalist or a specialist, be prepared for the disruptions ahead

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Why Every Professional Needs to be a Salesperson

Why Every Professional Needs to be a Salesperson | Connection |

All of us do some kind of selling everyday, in both our personal and professional lives! Now, think about what would happen if you just admit this fact, embrace it and get better at selling.

In the early stages of my career, I used to get offended when people told me that I was a good salesman! I used to think of Vinny working customers at his used car lot and didn’t really want to associate myself with that particular persona. Maybe these compliments were backhanded at times, and at other times, maybe I mistook even genuine compliments to be backhanded. But as my career progressed and as I moved towards leadership roles, I really discovered how valuable my sales skills were. These skills weren’t always exercised in the context of selling products directly (though that was a large part of it); often it was selling investors, advisors, mentors, and even family members on my vision. Once I realized how essential sales was to being an effective leader, I fully embraced this attribute and doubled down to become an even better salesman.

In the very first all-hands meeting for 2015, I announced to my team at 9Lenses that I will be honing my inner salesman every day, and so should every single employee at the company. I explained that from Product, to Customer Success, to Marketing, to Engineering, every member needs a healthy dose of salesmanship in his or her role.

When you really think about the statement, “every professional is a salesperson,” you’ll realize that it is truer in today’s business world than it ever has been. You might not even be in the sales or business development department of your company, but you can still be a skilled salesperson, and everyone of us actually has to be great at sales. Think about the explosion of content marketing or the way business deals are closed at never-before speeds. How do you really cut through the noise both as an individual and as a business? How do you stand out from the crowd and really close the deal – be it getting a blog post noticed, getting the job you always wanted, getting your CEO to believe in the blueprint you have developed for a new product feature, or signing on the dotted lines of a million dollar contract?

The Five Characters of Great Salespersons

  1. Fire in their bellies that makes them go after what they want! They are tenacious.
  2. True passion for what they do
  3. Know their value proposition really well. Know their elevator pitch and probably the elevator pitch for their elevator pitch!
  4. Are extremely perceptive of what other people feel
  5. Emanate an energy that is infectious

If you closely observe these sales people, they do not fall into the category of conventional “salesmen” who have a large network of connections or a bunch of textbook gimmicks up their sleeve to sell an offering. These are the people from whom we learn that to sustain success in sales, you need to be genuine and have infectious energy that makes people notice and interact with you.

For Businesses
Your business can have 20,000 employees or just 10 – the numbers don’t really matter. What matters is that your workforce needs to understand that each and every one of the employees is a brand ambassador for your business. And it is even more crucial for you as a business leader or entrepreneur to understand this, too. From the intern who spends summer break gaining work experience at your business to your C-Suite executives, every single member of your business is selling for you both directly and indirectly.

Tighten your company’s messaging; let every employee know your company’s elevator pitch, and most of all create a culture that keeps your employees engaged and happy! While it is true that you cannot keep every employee happy, show them that you are trying hard to make the workplace better for them. It is not just your sales department, but your entire workforce that is your biggest asset for selling your company’s brand and offerings.

For Individuals
We have all been in positions where we really need to sell! Attending job interviews, vying for a promotion, selling your Op-Ed to a publisher, or even trying to sell a bowl of salad to your child who is a picky eater – we sell every day. It’s time for every individual to get good at selling; and even more so in a professional environment where the landscape is changing rapidly. Yes, we still do have mammoth conglomerates, but we also have a never before number of startups, freelancers, and contractors..

As consultants, product engineers, designers, authors, or UX designers, you need to sell through your passion for your work. Show leadership and ownership at every step of the way. By embracing the five characteristics of a good salesperson, you will succeed at being your own boss and keep your phone ringing off the hook.

The only real way to get better at selling is to sell every day and be very conscious of the fact that you are indeed a salesperson! Just like I vowed to hone my inner salesman, I urge you all to do so as well in order to succeed in the extremely competitive marketplace. In conclusion, I would like to add that all the world’s a marketplace, and we are but salesmen and saleswomen! Go get it!

Linda Holroyd's insight:

No matter what your role is, have passion, be tenacious, know your value proposition, project an infectious positive energy, and be perceptive of what others feel

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My First 90 Days: Slow Down As You Get Up to Speed | Beth Comstock | LinkedIn

My First 90 Days: Slow Down As You Get Up to Speed | Beth Comstock | LinkedIn | Connection |

It’s tempting for executives to think that they’re hired into new jobs to take action. Get the house in order. You know, lead. It may well be that you’re there to make changes, but in the first 90 days, your job is to slow things down. Listen. Learn. Communicate. Repeat. Here’s what I recommend for starting out a new job right.

Day 1: There may be an announcement release, but it’s critical to craft your own story about the new role. The outline for my first-day script is usually something like this:
Why I am excited to be part of the team and company.
What I have been hired to do and what I understand about the team’s mission and past accomplishments.
Ask for help: I tell the team that I have a lot to learn and that I will need their insights to educate me about things I don’t know.
I share a bit about myself and how my experiences make me the right person for this role. It is important to share personal information so people know you have a life outside the office and understand that they have one, too.
To conclude, I explain my work style and philosophy, the best ways to connect with me, and general rules of teamwork and engagement. I ALWAYS explain that I will be asking a lot of questions, and that no one should read anything into what I am asking or not asking.
Days 2-5: Schedule one-on-one meetings with your direct team to build relationships fast. Reach out to your extended team — ideally in person, but by teleconference if necessary. Connect with key peers. Introduce yourself to important customers, asking for time to meet in the next 60 days.
Days 6-45: Launch your “listen and learn” tour. It may seem a bit clichéd, but humility plays a lot better than overconfidence. I used to think that my job required me to move with ruthless efficiency at all costs. I was disabused of that notion the day my boss, Jack Welch, hung up on me in the middle of a conversation. He was trying to drive home the message that I was too abrupt and didn’t take time to get to know people and their concerns.
Meet with as many relevant staff, peers, customers, vendors and industry experts as possible. Decide if it makes sense for others from your team to join you. Those casual moments waiting together at the airport are good for relationship-building.
Key questions for customers include: What do we do well? What do we need to improve? What are your biggest pain points that our team can help solve? How do we work well together? What have you already tried?
You also have to engage in the existing operating rhythms. These will likely be some of the longest and busiest days of the job. Practice patience and take time to communicate what you’ve learned.
Days 45-60: Craft a hypothesis. By now you should have a good idea about what it will take for you and your team to win. Start vetting it with the team and stakeholders.
I’m a big believer in performing a few symbolic acts during this period to give insight into your leadership style and keep things moving while you’re coming up to speed. Do something that gets people’s attention, but make it meaningful. Bring the team together to redefine their purpose and mission, cancel meetings or work that adds little value, form an employee or customer advisory council. Find ways to show that you get it.
Days 60-90: Fine-tune and launch your activation plan. Communicate the strategy, expectations accountability and operating rhythms to make it all work. In some ways, this is the true beginning of your job, and it only happens once you’ve done the hard work of building relationships. But you’ll never grow out of the need to listen, learn and communicate.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Insightful thoughts from a great leader on how to succeed in the first 90 days

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I Was Burglarized. It Led To My Startup's Acquisition.

I Was Burglarized. It Led To My Startup's Acquisition. | Connection |

Business was booming.

It was March of 2012, and the company that I started in college had been up and running for over two years, slowly but steadily increasing headcount to a team of about ten. Our modest three room office was bursting at the seams, so we decided to expand.

And expand we did. We went from 1,200 square feet to over 5,000. We had six private suites, a conference room, a large open area, and a huge attached warehouse/garage, which we used to park our cars in during the one or two annual rainy days in San Diego.

We were happy, content, and prosperous. Then, that all changed in an instant.

“Hey Greg…” said one of my employees as I answered my cell phone from home on an early spring morning, a tangible nervousness in his usually confident voice.

“You didn’t happen to take all of the computers home, did you?”

“What do you mean?” I responded, hoping that I had misheard him speak or that I was having a nightmare. My gut knew what his words meant, but my mind wouldn’t let me reconcile with reality just yet.

“Well” he said, “All of our computers are gone, and…”

He stopped.

“And there’s a broken window in the conference room.”

He didn’t need to state the obvious. We’d been burglarized. I felt like I just received news that a family member had died. My mind turned into a dizzying fog that wouldn’t burn off until the end of the day. I knew the implications that this would have; the time, money, and stress of recovery. I hopped in my car and hustled over to the office, eager and unrealistically hopeful to find it would be just a practical joke.

My passenger seat was glaringly empty on the ride there. For years, I had always taken my laptop home with me for some evening work, and thrown it on the adjacent seat. Today, it was not there. Only two days prior, I decided to start leaving it on my desk at the office when I went home for the day. What unfortunate timing.

When I arrived at the office, all of the employees were gathered in the parking lot. They didn’t want to go inside, so as not to contaminate the crime scene. Instead, they were all staring at the painfully obvious unsecured point of our office, a small window in the conference room obscured by foliage.

I unlocked the front door and made my way inside. Instantly, the place that I revered with so much enthusiasm, so much warmth, so much potential, was now just a symbol for humanity’s darker side. Sure, my name was on the lease, but this wasn’t my place anymore. It’s new owner was unknown, cloaked in the darkness and anonymity of the criminal world. He’d signed his name not with pen and paper, but with cigarette ash, blood from the broken glass, and fingerprints.

We couldn’t believe that this particular baddie had been so callous, so bold, so daring as to actually light up a cigarette inside the office, seemingly halfway through the job. It was a minor thing, but it represented so much more. He had taken his sweet time, not concerned with the worries that law abiding citizens have, like morality, punctuality, and civility. By not wearing gloves and leaving his fingerprints behind, it was like he wanted to get caught, as if being a burglar was a weighted burden that he hoped somebody else would remove from his shoulders by no choice of his own. Getting caught could do just that.

We felt particularly violated when we discovered the single only other thing missing besides the computers. My then girlfriend and now wife had a small stash of candy in her desk drawer. It was gone. This perplexed us. Why go through all this risk, and steal all of these pricey items, only to waste time nabbing a sweet treat? It felt uncomfortably personal.

Power cords and keyboards were scattered about the office like the guts of a gazelle that was feasted on by a hungry pride of lions. Various electronic accessories were strewn about like a breadcrumb trail to the window, the final point in time and space where the computers went from ours to not ours. The broken window was like a portal into the vacuum of space; once something had gone through it, it was never coming back.

The crook had at first attempted to pry open the window with a screwdriver before resorting to a good ol’ rock.

All but one of our MacBooks and iMacs were gone. Nine computers in total were taken, including three of my personal devices, one of which dated back to my high school age. The photos and memories that I had on those older machines had, sadly and regrettably, not been backed up. The fate of their contents were now at the mercy of the individual who was responsible for this mess.

After slowly letting the reality soak in, it then hit me.

“Please, not the server.” We had used an Apple Time Capsule as a way to store and share files amongst our team. Nearly all of our company’s intellectual property was on there. Documents, proprietary works, critical files and folders all lived on here. Almost literally, the entire value of our company was stored in a six inch by six inch plastic and metal box.

I opened the door to the server room slowly. It had been bad enough that the computers were gone. I didn’t know if I could take it if this too was gone. The door creaked on and the light came on. Like the lone survivor of a battle in war, the Time Capsule was there, still running, it’s little green light telling me that everything was OK, at least in its own digital world.

The policeman that was on the job was of the classical stereotype — slightly overweight, middle age, and unwaveringly confident that they would catch the crooks. After all, blood and fingerprints had been left behind. Blood and fingerprints! The suspect may as well have signed a guilt admission at the crime scene, right? Plus, this was the third incident at this property in just the last few months. If they were linked as we imagined, the abundance of evidence collected between the trio of crimes had to help things.

“We’ll get these guys, no problem”, the police officer stated without hesitation. Over my youth, I’d been given this reassurance before with stolen bikes and CD players that were never returned. I knew the likelihood of justice this time was still slim. I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.

But wait! The company a few doors down sold security cameras. Perhaps they had some incriminating footage. Anticipating we had the secret sauce to bring due justice to the incident, we headed over to see what we could find.

Our gracious neighbors poured over the tapes. They found something, but it wouldn’t be much help. A black SUV, possibly a Toyota 4Runner, left the driveway at around 2:00 AM. This was likely the criminal’s ride, but alas, the quality of the image didn’t provide any material information that would get us any closer to solving the mystery and getting our computers back.

Then, like a Wizard who just discovered time travel, I proclaimed loudly and enthusiastically,“To the cloud!” I was, of course, referring to Apple’s iCloud, specifically the tracking feature that I had implemented on all the computers. In theory, I would be able to see the location of all the machines. I fired up the app on my phone, optimistically hoping for a smorgasbord of dots on a map, indicating the locations of my stolen goods. Refraining from rubbing my hands in a sinister fashion, I felt like I was now the criminal mastermind.

But alas, iCloud’s “Find My Mac” feature has one critical flaw. The computers need to be powered up and connected to Wifi. Unless my assumption was off, it was unlikely that the smash-and-grab artist was going to take these home and start browsing Pinterest. Like the security footage, this route would also prove to be fruitless. I began accepting the fact that Mac wasn’t coming back.

My insurance agent met me at the office, and we began the process of initiating a $15,000 claim. He noted that it could take up to two weeks to get the check. Until that time, we’d be sans technology and consequently, unable to earn revenue. Since we’d just plunked down a hefty sum for the new office, we didn’t have the cash in the bank to procure a new fleet of shiny new Apple computers. We’d have to improvise.

At an earlier time in my life, a wise family member once told me something when I was struggling through a relationship issue. “Greg, I know what you are going through. It’s tough. But I’ll promise you this much. One year from today, I’m going to treat you to a cup of coffee, and you’re going to tell me how this challenge ended up being a blessing in disguise.”

One year later, I would indeed meet him for coffee. As he predicted, all was well. He was right, the hardship had been worth it. I would have to apply this same conviction to my current struggle.

To get through this bump in the road, I had to let some good team members go. As painful as it was, we just couldn’t afford the payroll without any earnings coming in. For those who voluntarily stayed, they understood the challenges that lay ahead. The team and I huddled in the conference room with the broken window, which was a stark reminder of the obstacle we’d been presented with. White board markers appeared, judgements for silly ideas disappeared, and we got to brainstorming. The topic at hand? Simple: “What do we do for two weeks without computers?”

After a few hours, we came to one conclusion. We had to change the business model. We had to go from a people-first service, to a technology centric approach. We had to build the system to run itself, without us there to intervene. We had to create a product, as opposed to a service. Using the extra computers we could borrow from friends, family, and employees, we got to building. Over the first weekend, we had hammered out most of the critical components, and a press release would follow early in the week.

We launched. All was working. Users were digging the new approach. Top line sales did slip 20%, but labor was down more than 50%, giving us a net gain. We had a long road to go, but we were showing signs of recovering. My tension started to subside.

I started to look on the brighter side. It could have been a lot worse.

The Time Capsule could have been stolen and the sole surviving Mac could have been grabbed. We did have insurance, so we would be made financially whole. Thankfully, my friend and insurance agent had only recently convinced me that such protection was a smart move. Only a few nights earlier, my wife had been in the office until midnight alone. I was grateful that she was safe and sound, and that the criminal’s schedule was misaligned with her’s.

Then, less than a week after the incident, I got one of the most surprising emails of my life. The sender indicated that he had seen our new business model that we announced, and would like to discuss an acquisition of our brand. He was none other than the owner of the company I had ruthlessly competed against for the last two years.

As an indirect result of the break-in, we were now being acquired.

As we began gearing up for the sale, my wife and I decided that fresh new surroundings would be an effective way to put this ordeal behind us. After the sale of the company was finalized, we wouldn’t have any specific need to be in San Diego anymore. Much of our family resided in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the region had attracted me due to it’s ecosystem for startups and tech. One good friend even encouraged me to pursue my passion and relocate to “Entrepreneurial Candy Land.”

We packed our things and moved up north. I didn’t know anyone at all, so I decided to be incredibly proactive in pounding the pavement. I attended any meetup or event that I could, eager to meet new folks that were interested in the same things I was. At one such event, I would meet a fellow techie, and we quickly discovered we were both into racing and cars. I’d just finished filming part one of a racing TV show, so I was excited to chat about it.

Over the next 18 months, we continued to get to know each other better, conversing about our three shared passions; cars, startups, and dogs. Then, the time came when we were both aligned on bandwith, vision, and timing. Both of us were obsessed with all of these new “on-demand” services popping up like UberInstacart, and Homejoy. We thought it would be pretty cool to create a place where people could discover and discuss these new products. In October 2014, we launched Whttlto the world, which would help users whittle down all of their local options for top-tier services.

Now, looking back thirty months later, I can confidently say that the burglary was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It was the catalyst that led to a chain of events that included selling my company, relocating to San Francisco, meeting my cofounder Tim, and starting a new company.

I couldn’t be happier. Every day, I get to work with startups to help spread the word about their awesome new products and services. It’s exactly the role I dreamed of having years ago.

And what would I say to the burglar, if I ever met him?

“Thank you.”

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Find the silver lining in every challenge

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Why diversity matters | McKinsey & Company

Why diversity matters | McKinsey & Company | Connection |
We know intuitively that diversity matters. It’s also increasingly clear that it makes sense in purely business terms. Our latest research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.

While correlation does not equal causation (greater gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership doesn’t automatically translate into more profit), the correlation does indicate that when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful. More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity—for example, in age, sexual orientation, and experience (such as a global mind-set and cultural fluency)—are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain such diverse talent.

McKinsey has been examining diversity in the workplace for several years. Our latest report, Diversity Matters, examined proprietary data sets for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In this research, we looked at metrics such as financial results and the composition of top management and boards.1 The findings were clear:

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 30 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set (that is, bottom-quartile companies are lagging rather than merely not leading).
  • In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.
  • Racial and ethnic diversity has a stronger impact on financial performance in the United States than gender diversity, perhaps because earlier efforts to increase women’s representation in the top levels of business have already yielded positive results.
  • In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.
  • While certain industries perform better on gender diversity and other industries on ethnic and racial diversity, no industry or company is in the top quartile on both dimensions.
  • The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and the same country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.

We’re not suggesting that achieving greater diversity is easy. Women—accounting for an average of just 16 percent of the members of executive teams in the United States, 12 percent in the United Kingdom, and 6 percent in Brazil—remain underrepresented at the top of corporations globally. The United Kingdom does comparatively better in racial diversity, albeit at a low level: some 78 percent of UK companies have senior-leadership teams that fail to reflect the demographic composition of the country’s labor force and population, compared with 91 percent for Brazil and 97 percent for the United States.

These numbers underline the work that remains to be done, even as the case for greater diversity becomes more compelling. We live in a deeply connected and global world. It should come as no surprise that more diverse companies and institutions are achieving better performance. Most organizations, including McKinsey, must do more to take full advantage of the opportunity that diverse leadership teams represent. That’s particularly true for their talent pipelines: attracting, developing, mentoring, sponsoring, and retaining the next generations of global leaders at all levels of organizations. Given the higher returns that diversity is expected to bring, we believe it is better to invest now, since winners will pull further ahead and laggards will fall further behind.

This article is adapted from the report Diversity Matters (PDF–946KB).

About the authors

Vivian Hunt is a director in McKinsey’s London office, where Dennis Layton is a principal; Sara Prince is a principal in the Atlanta office.

The authors would like to thank Andrea Alexander, Mauricio Arnau, Lori Dobeus, Kirill Dushkin, Lauren Miller, and Katie Smith for their contributions to this report.

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Here's the data on why gender and racial diversity matter within companies

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In Search of Meritocracy

In Search of Meritocracy | Connection |

Don’t you hate it when bad things happen to good people, especially when good things are happening to bad people?

I’m the first to say that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are all relative things. Today’s victims may be tomorrow’s offenders and vice versa. And also that things are not always the way they appear, and things happen for a reason, etc.

However, as a coach, I hear about injustices all the time! Each time, I’m affronted and appalled at what people are doing to each other. And each time, I think about what could that person do about it, what could teams do about it, what could companies do about it, and if we all worked together, what could do all do together to tip the scales more toward meritocracy and away from political games.

With those thoughts in mind, and with the intent that we each do our small part in shaping what happens to us and those around us, here are my thoughts on what we could do about it.

  1. Intentionally not including someone who-should-be-in-a-group, in an e-mail, in an outing, in a meeting, etc., is a negative incentive or punishment and does not support a meritocracy. Instead, it’s far kinder and less work to opt for direct and transparent communication about why you or the group are leaving someone out, no matter how difficult the conversation. (And if there is no reason to intentionally leave someone out, examine why you and the group are doing so, and what the potential up-sides and down-sides are for doing so.)
  2. Not saying something directly to offenders, and rousing othersto pit against those-who-left-you-out (or whatever other wrong was done to you) is an unproductive use of time and energy. Have a direct conversation with offenders and seek to understand. (Seek help if you need it after you’ve tried the direct approach.)
  3. Intentionally withholding information and resourcesfrom others within the organization, even if they are from competing internal teams, is an unproductive use of time and resources. Find the win-win in working together collaboratively
  4. Intentionally mis-representing someone’s actions and wordsto their dis-credit, whatever the reason, is more a reflection on you than it is a reflection of them. Others will discover this quickly and be wary of all that you say and do.
  5. To do an about-face on a decisionbased on pressure from others (rather than on facts) is disloyal to the direction and people you first adopted *and* to the new direction and people you’re leaning toward. Make the right choice based on facts and merit and stick with it.
  6. There is no excuse for telling bold-faced lies. And using ‘data’ to back up the lies doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lie. You may win a battle here and there with these lies, but never the war. And the lies will catch up with you. Plus you have to live with yourself, regardless of whether they do.
  7. Purposely mis-understanding the intentof someone’s communication to their detriment or to your benefit is a form of a lie. See #5 above.
  8. Taking credit for someone else’s workis a form of a lie. See #5 above.
  9. Assigning or manipulating someone else to do the work and taking the credit for itis worse than #8 above.
  10. Pretending to be someone’s friend and taking advantage of the friendshipis a lie upon a lie. Need I say more?

I hope that this post helps each of us take steps in search of meritocracy within a business, no matter where we sit in the totem pole, no matter how we are directly or indirectly affected by the actions of others.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Create a culture of meritocracy

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The Only Two Secrets You Need To Know

The Only Two Secrets You Need To Know | Connection |

A few years before he wrote Freakonomics, Stephen Dubner wanted to follow me around. To shadow me so he can find out how depraved I was.

"I'm writing a book about the Psychology of Money. You're going to be the first chapter." He wanted to write about someone who made and lost millions and psychologically was a total wreck.

He came to my "house-colding" party. I was losing my house in NYC and about to move 80 miles north to the only place I could afford. A house 1/3 the size. 

We were all depressed at the party. Well, my ex-wife said, this is it, as the elevator opened for the last time. My oldest daughter was crying. The house was empty. Stephen was writing in his notebook.

Then he came and visited me upstate a few weeks later in our broken down house at the time. We started playing Backgammon. We began a match in 2002 that is still ongoing. It's a match of matches. We play to a 100 each match. I think the score is 2-1 in my favor but he's about to make it 2-2.

He stopped writing on this book because his article about an economist in Chicago got very popular and he got a book deal because of it.

The day before Freakonomics came out, Stephen was depressed. "I don't know what I'll do if this book doesn't work out," he told me while we were playing.

"Don't worry," I said, "it will be a bestseller." I had read a copy. I had no idea if it would be a bestseller or not. I was just being nice.

A few days later he calls me up. "Look at the Amazon number."

Holy S&&&! It was #2. #1 was a Harry Potter book. For the next year or so or three, Freakonomics was #2 or #1. Going back and forth.

I don't think there's been a non-fiction book like that since. So consistently in the top 2. After that it was a franchise: two more books, a game, a movie, a blog, a radio show, a podcast.

I've read and re-read all the books. But I've probably read the first book over ten times. I think I know why it's a success. And I think the two reasons why it's a success can be applied to business, relationships, writing, all creativity. Everything.

#1: AHA!

There's an example in the second book of how monkeys learned how to use cash to pay for sex. The first case of animal prostitution?

That's an AHA! It's not enough to say "monkeys learned how to trade". This would be interesting, but not ten times as interesting as any other fact about monkeys. But sex and monkeys and prostitution is ten times as interesting. It's an AHA!

In the first book, they break down the economics of a crack gang and explain why so many crack dealers live at home with their mothers.

This is an AHA! It's not like saying "Crack dealers end up in jail more than other types of drug dealers".

What is an AHA! moment?

It's saying or doing something that is ten times more than expected. As an example, Daniel Kahnemann has written that after someone makes $75,000 then their happiness starts to even out if they make more than $75,000.

A non-AHA moment would be, "that's not true. It depends on where they live." That might be a smarter way to put it but it would not be AHA!

AHA! might be that after $1,000,000 a year people become more and more miserable. And that $10,000,000 a year they become suicidal.

I'm not saying that is true. Who knows? I'm just saying that's a ten-time addition to the original statement.

In business, you can't offer a "cheap Uber". That's a small improvement over Uber. Who cares? What would be interesting is if Uber can pick up my laundry and groceries and even my prescriptions at the pharmacy. That's an AHA!

I went to Best Buy to get a new phone this year. The upgrades were so meaningless that for the first time in ten years I didn't get a new phone. No AHA! But if they told me, "the battery life lasts for two weeks instead of one day" I would've paid any amount of money.

In relationships you can't be slightly more handsome or interesting than her last boyfriend. They broke up for a reason!

You have to show where you are 10 times better. If the last guy never returned her calls, then you can write love letters AND return calls. AHA!

As Steve Martin once said when his career was taking off, "be so good they can't ignore you."

In anything you want to be good at, go for the AHA!, not the HO-HUM.

#2: Secret Origins

My favorite comic book as a kid was a DC comic called, "Secret Origins". Each issue was the secret origin of a different superhero.

It's not enough to know that Batman is a good detective and is rich. It's important to know that his parents were killed right in front of him.

He's probably psychologically disturbed and constantly seeking revenge so he wears a skintight suit and gets pleasure beating people up.

In Freakonomics, they don't just present a bunch of bland research. For every scientist whose research they discuss, they first get right to the heart of what the scientist's personal story is:

why was he interested in monkeys who pay for sex? Why is he interested in the amount of methane gas that cows give off. Why is he interested in the IQs of people who spell their names wrong?

What was Stephen's secret origin? When he was nine years old singing in a Catholic church choir with his religious parents, his dad collapsed of a heart attack and died.

Then he realized his parents had converted from Judaism and he started exploring this new religion for him - perhaps an abstract quest for the parent he lost.

The book that resulted, "Turbulent Souls" became a bestseller.

When Stephen was following me around, he called all my relatives and people I had worked with to find out who he was following, but from their perspective.

If something (a business, a relationship, a book, a character) is important to you, find out who they are. Don't ask them WHAT their work is. Ask them WHY their work is. Ask them WHO their work is. Ask others about them.

Find where they are most disturbed because that fissure in the surface is where the earthquakes will come from.


Every single one of us, without a single exception, has gone through a period of enormous stress and sadness in our lives. This is the knife that shapes our futures.

Without understanding these moments, we miss the entire picture, we miss the subtleties of the work of art that each one of us uniquely is.

Look around at the people in your life. At the friends and family, but also the people you encounter.

An archaeologist doesn't dig with a shovel. He digs with a spoon, extracting tiny pieces of dirt and artifacts that might represent centuries of lives and loves over millimeters of dirt extracted.

An archaeological dig can take years. So can a friendship. So can a love. So can a business or a work of art. The secret origins of the people all around you are like these archaeological digs.

Dig far enough and you'll hit oil that will energize the relationship forever.


When Stephen finished Freakonomics, he sent me the first chapter about "The Psychology of Money" which he decided never to write. The chapter about me.

"The [well known] Magazine might want to make this the cover story," he said to me. Would you mind?

I read it and some other members of my family read it and they didn't like what he said and I had to tell him no.

Instead I have his invaluable friendship, so I am the net winner. And I get to crush him in Backgammon.

Everyone has an AHA! in them. And everyone has a secret origin.

When I look at you, Claudia, every day I try to AHA! you. I keep trying to learn more of your secret origin. And the more I find, the more I love you.

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Go for the AHA, not the HO HUM

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Our Time Is a Gift

Our Time Is a Gift | Connection |

Our time is a gift. I worry that we take it for granted. Roughly 73,500 years ago, humans were migrating from Africa towards other parts of our planet. The Sumatera volcano exploded, changing Earth’s climate. All but a few thousand humans perished. Our race nearly ended, due to natural causes.

Our time is a gift.

In the whole of human history, people have never had it this good. In developed countries, many citizens control the climates within their homes and workplaces. We sleep in comfort, away from pests and predators, with plenty of food and pretty good medical care.

Even many of the less fortunate among us have access to public education and transportation, shelter, and enough food to survive.

Today, many eight-year-olds have free access to more information than the most educated leader of generations past. We also have a growing range of tools to help us gather, analyze, understand and act upon this information.

But we forget that change is everywhere, and we lull ourselves into believing that our safe, secure lives will last forever.

Our time is a gift.

My purpose is not to scare you into a cave. It is to remind you that the entire human race has struggled to get us to this point. We have an opportunity – and it may be brief – to make them proud.

We can think of ourselves as a single race united by mutual respect and common purposes. Or we can be selfish clans fighting for dominance while our opportunity ticks away.

We are a resourceful people. I have faith that all problems have solutions, and that our opportunities outweigh our challenges. But there is one thing we must never forget.

Our time is a gift.

We must be humble.

Generation after generation of humans believe they have all the answers. Sadly, many societies hate – and fear – ideas that challenge conventional thinking, the ones that provide a glimpse of what the future will truly be like.

In other words, those visionaries who can actually predict the future tend to be ridiculed, marginalized or murdered.

Just ask Galileo, who was sentenced to lifelong house arrest for promoting the ridiculous idea that the earth revolves around the sun.

Or consider our first American president, who was unfortunate to live in a time when bloodletting was a mainstream medical practice. In 1799, George Washington had a bad sore throat, and in treating this malady doctors drained roughly 125 ounces of Washington’s blood in 24 hours. (He died.)

I guarantee you that some of our mainstream practices will seem equally awful in retrospect; the problem is we don’t know which ones.

Approach life with an open mind. The greater your tendency to argue from a set position, the greater the likelihood that in retrospect you will be viewed as a well-meaning dolt.

Be generous and expert, trustworthy and clear, open-minded and adaptable, persistent and present.

Our time is a gift. Act that way.

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This post gives you a broader perspective and greater appreciation for all we have.

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The Characteristics Of The Most Successful Teams

The Characteristics Of The Most Successful Teams | Connection |

The best teams share two common attributes, according to MIT research:

  1. Relatively equal contribution by each member
  2. Members with high emotional intelligence.

The first characteristic makes sense. A team led by a single dominant person will perform according to the strengths and weaknesses of the (benevolent) dictator. Another team in which the strengths of one member complement the weaknesses of another will certainly be stronger.

The second quality, high emotional intelligence, while talked about quite a bit in interviewing training and management training, surprised me. But understanding and anticipating others’ feelings seems to the lubricant to help teams achieve greater performance. Amazingly, emotional intelligence impacts team performance as much when working remotely, by email or Skype, as in person.

Interviewing for emotional intelligence can be tricky. After all, how can one reliably measure it in a 45 to 60 minute interview? Well, there’s a test for it. A Harvard research lab has published a 60 second test called “The Reading of the Eyes,” that asks respondents to gauge the emotion of a person using only their eyes, and this ability is highly correlated to emotional intelligence. I scored a 30 of 36. My wife, who is much smarter than I am, scored a near perfect 35 of 36. On the whole, women tend to score about 0.5 points more than men.

Both of these characteristics share one behavior in common: listening. Equal contribution from team members requires actively listening and considering other points of view. Interpreting feelings is listening of a different kind, less factual, more emotional.

The data proves what some have known for a long time: “The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is so we may listen more and talk less.” (Epictetus)

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Equal contributions, high emotional intelligence

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Fueling the 21st Century Economy | Reid Hoffman | LinkedIn

Fueling the 21st Century Economy | Reid Hoffman | LinkedIn | Connection |

President Obama covered a lot of ground in his State of the Union Address. Childcare. Education. Tax codes. Terrorism. Cybersecurity.

And the theme that ultimately unites all these different areas, no matter how unconnected they may seem sometimes, is something the president touched upon too: The world – and America right along with it -- is shifting from a 20th century economy to “a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before.”

At the moment, America is ably navigating this shift. As the president noted, we’re in the midst of strong job growth – 11 million new jobs over the past five years. In part, America’s strong economic performance is being driven by lower energy prices - the United States is now the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

But as crucial as natural resources like oil and gas have been to America’s economic recovery, we’re living in a 21st century economy now. And in a 21st economy, thanks to increasingly powerful distribution networks, information and goods can get commoditized in record time. Even entire industries can become commoditized. In this kind of highly connected, highly mobile economy, innovation matters more than ever. And innovation arises out of human capital – people. In the 21st century economy, which is itself an outgrowth of what I call the Networked Age, prosperity flows toward countries that have the most creative and adaptive workforces.

President Obama understands this -- and that’s why his vision of America and middle-class economics emphasizes faster Internet access, more affordable higher education, and more apprenticeships.

In short, the president called for investment in connectedness and collaboration.

As a country and as individuals, this is exactly what we should be doing. While global competition and rapidly evolving market conditions have turned the notion of lifetime employment into a 20th century artifact – a topic my co-authors and I address in greater depth in The Alliance - the technologies and platforms that power the Networked Age are creating unprecedented opportunities for all Americans to increase and enhance their economic choices.

Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Kiva give aspiring entrepreneurs access to capital that traditional banks can’t match. Plug-and-play ecommerce platforms like eBay, Alibaba, Etsy, and Shopify give anyone a chance to sell goods to customers around the world. Sharing economy platforms like Airbnb and RelayRides help people leverage underutilized assets into new revenue streams. LinkedIn gives people the opportunity to hone a professional identity, deepen their relationships with allies and potential allies, and tap into a rich web of real-time information that can help them navigate their careers with greater insight and strategic intent.

The Networked Age rewards specialized skills – the 21st century economy needs software developers, data scientists, and support specialists. As President Obama underscored in his speech, two out of three jobs will require some higher education by the end of the decade. To address this fact, he wants to make community college free, just like high school.

While this may be the right path for some, other options are evolving rapidly as well. Many of the specialized skills that employers are currently seeking don’t actually require four-year or even two-year degrees. Dev Bootcamp and many similar organizations are teaching programming and other high-tech skills in concentrated programs that last just ten weeks. Coursera, Udacity, and EdX are offering an ever-widening range of free or low-cost online courses that teach relevant 21st century skills. All of these options can help broaden access to digital opportunity and make the high-tech world more inclusive and more diverse.

To make the 21st century economy work for everyone and ensure broad-based prosperity, we need big Internet pipes – the Networked Age depends on bandwidth. As the president noted, we need to “build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

Unfortunately, the average Internet connection speed in the U.S. today is only around 10 Mbps. For those of who remember the dial-up era, that may seem incredibly fast. But if we truly want to realize the benefits of online education, telemedicine, and all the other promises of a more immersive and three-dimensional Internet, America should increase its average bandwidth capacity by orders of magnitude. 100 Mbps needs to be the new normal.

At the moment, there are more than five million open jobs in the U.S. One way to decrease the “skills gap” that underlies this statistic is through apprenticeships.

Recognizing how effective apprenticeships are – across the U.S. 87 percent of the people who successfully complete formal apprenticeship programs find a job in their field, with an average starting wage of $50,000 – President Obama has made it a goal to double the number of people who are registered in official apprenticeship programs. Last year, he earmarked $100 million for the American Apprenticeship Initiative, a program that will issue grants designed to spur the development of apprenticeship programs in high-growth industries like information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

As I’ve covered in the past, employers have shown that they highly value internships – one 2013 poll revealed that they view “an internship as the single most important credential for recent grads.” In other words, relevant, proven experience matters. And formal apprenticeships, which typically last longer than internships, feature more specific training, and pay participants, are another effective and reliable way to help people acquire skills that employers truly value.

So I hope President Obama will continue to seek opportunities to expand programs like the American Apprenticeship Initiative. And, similarly, I encourage business leaders and employers to seek out opportunities to partner and participate in such programs. At LinkedIn, for example, we’ve created a program to help U.S. veterans find employment.

The 21st century economy thus far has been fueled by collaboration and networks of alliance. In his call to “bridge divides” and “unite in common effort,” it’s clear that President Obama recognizes that we are, thanks to the Networked Age, more tightly connected than ever before. This creates new tensions, but it also creates new opportunities to work together in ways that benefit us all.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Let's work together to bridge divides

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Study: The Most Important Characteristic In A CEO Is…

Study: The Most Important Characteristic In A CEO Is… | Connection |

What’s the most important characteristic in a CEO?

Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, conducted a study to find out exactly that. And what they found was surprising – the one characteristic that correlated most directly to an executive’s success is… drum roll please… “learning agility”.

I’m going to guess the first question that comes to your mind, directly after the eye roll that comes after hearing a quintessential corporate buzzword like “learning agility”, is “what the heck is that”? Well, The Wall Street Journal asked Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison that question, and this is what he said:

“It comes down to people’s willingness to grow, to learn, to have insatiable curiosity,” Burnison told The Journal. “Think about the levers of growth that a CEO has. You can consolidate, or tap [new markets], or innovate. When it comes down to the last two, particularly innovation, you want a workforce that is incredibly curious.”

That makes sense. The companies that thrive in today’s quickly-changing world are companies led by someone is always on top of how the world is changing and then able to adopt their company to those changes.

That raises two more questions, one for employers and one for employees. For employers, how do you find out if a person has a lot of learning agility? And for employees who want to move up, how do you improve your learning agility?

Well, there are answers to both.

How Do You Determine How Much Learning Agility A Person Has?

The Wall Street Journal wanted to know how Burnison determines a person’s learning agility. He said it comes out by asking the right questions during the job interview.

“I like to ask questions that explore somebody’s thinking style,” Burnison told The Journal. “Practically speaking, it would be, ‘hey, we are struggling with this kind of problem, how do you think about it?’ Rather than, a candidate saying, ‘this is what I did for this company or that company.’ It is more to engage in a dialogue and a probing about how we think and how the candidate thinks. That’s what we are trying to get to.”

Hearing Burnison’s answer, it sounds very similar to Warren Buffett’s hiring style. Buffett, much like Burnison, gives candidates hands-on activities, like asking them to give a presentation on the spot or even puzzles, to capture how they think.

People with strong learning agility will be able to answer spur-of-the-moment questions with logical, thought-out answers. People who lack it will regurgitate past experiences, instead of adapting to what the situation calls for.

How Can You Improve Your Learning Agility?

Part of learning agility is innate, there’s no question about that. A smarter person is going to naturally have a more agile mind than a less-intelligent person, much like a great athlete is going to be more physically agile than a less-gifted athlete.

That said, learning agility is both a skill and a mindset. It is a skill in that it can be sharpened through a lifelong dedication to learning and reading, as the more the brain is confronted with new ideas, the more apt it will be to deal with them.

It is also a mindset. Often, when we are confronted with something new, our first instinct is to reject it (I know I do this). It is critical to suppress that instinct and be open-minded about a new concept, rather than making any excuse to justify your existing line of thinking.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Encourage your mind to be agile - it's both a skill and a mindset

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Why Leaders Lack Emotional Intelligence

Why Leaders Lack Emotional Intelligence | Connection |

Over the past century, the heartless, no-nonsense CEO has become something of an icon—and a cliché—in American society. Hollywood would have us believe that the Machiavellian chief exec is still alive and well. Whether it’s the Donald from The Apprentice or Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock, these eat-the-weak-for-breakfast-types seem to be as powerful as ever.

But that’s just TV, right? How about in the real world? Do businesses still allow these inhumane relics to survive?

To find out, we analyzed the emotional intelligence (EQ) profiles of the million-plus people in our database—workers from the frontlines to the C-suite. We discovered that the answer is yes, organizations today do promote the emotionally inept … except when they don’t. Allow me to explain.

We found that EQ scores climb with titles from the bottom of the corporate ladder upward toward middle management. Middle managers stand out with the highest EQ scores in the workplace because companies tend to promote people into these positions who are level-headed and good with people. The assumption here is that a manager with a high EQ is someone for whom people will want to work.

But things change drastically as you move beyond middle management.

For the titles of director and above, scores descend faster than a snowboarder on a black diamond. CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace.

The trick is, for every title in the graph above, the top performers are those with the highest EQ scores. Even though CEOs have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace, the best-performing CEOs are those with the highest EQs. You might get promoted with a low EQ, but you won’t outshine your high-EQ competition in your new role.

The higher you go above middle management, the more companies focus on metrics to make hiring and promotion decisions. While these short-term, bottom-line indicators are important, it’s shortsighted to make someone a senior leader because of recent monetary achievements. Possibly worse than metrics, companies also promote leaders for their knowledge and tenure, rather than their skill in inspiring others to excel.

Companies sell themselves short by selecting leaders who aren’t well-rounded enough to perform at the highest levels for the long term.

Once leaders get promoted they enter an environment that tends to erode their emotional intelligence. They spend less time in meaningful interactions with their staff and lose sight of how their emotional states impact those around them. It’s so easy to get out of touch that leaders’ EQ levels sink further. It truly is lonely at the top.

Whether you’re a leader now or may become one in the future, you don’t have to succumb to this trend. Your emotional intelligence is completely under your control. Work on your EQ and it will boost your performance now. Your effort can also ensure that you don’t experience declines as you climb the corporate ladder. Even if your employer promotes you for the wrong reasons, you’ll still outperform your contemporaries.

To help you get started, here are some of my favorite EQ-boosting strategies for leaders. They apply to anyone, so give them a try, even if you’re not a leader (yet).

Acknowledge Other People’s Feelings

Assertive, action-oriented executives don’t exactly ignore other people’s feelings. What they tend to do instead is to marginalize them or “fix” them so that they don’t get in the way of action. While some have suggested that this is a predominantly male problem, it can more accurately be described as a “power problem.” People who fail to acknowledge other people’s feelings fail to realize that lingering emotions inhibit effective action. So the next time you notice someone on your team expressing a strong emotion, ask him or her about it. Then listen intently and play back what you have just heard in summary form. By validating their emotions, you’ll help them feel understood so that they can move forward without hindrance.

When You Care, Show It

This might be the easiest thing you can do—as long as you actually do it. Good leaders always notice when people on their teams are doing good work, but they don’t often show it. When you appreciate something that another person does, let him or her know about it. Even a quick email or pat on the back goes a long way in this regard. There are people who do great work around you every day. Don’t put off letting them know how you feel about it. Your praise will build fierce loyalty and inspire your people to work even harder.

Watch Your Emotions Like A Hawk

The techniques above are extremely effective, but both require an awareness of your own emotions in the moment. You may think you have a world-class poker face, but if you’re like the average executive, your weakest self-awareness skills are “understanding how your emotions impact others” and “recognizing the role you have played in creating difficult circumstances.” In other words, you would become a much more effective leader if you obtained a better understanding of what you feel, when you feel it. Practice this by taking notice of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors just as a situation unfolds. The goal is to slow yourself down and take in all that is in front of you, so that you can understand how your emotions influence your behavior and alter your perception of reality.


I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and improving your relationships. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. The pressure that leaders are under often makes them feel as if they don’t have time to sleep, but not taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

Quash Negative Self-Talk

A big step in developing emotional intelligence involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

Bringing It All Together

Is your employer perpetuating this trend, or are they bucking it by developing high-EQ leadership? Do you know high-EQ leaders who outshine the rest? Share your experiences in the comments section below, and let's have a conversation about this important topic.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

The best performing CEOs have the highest EQs . . . need we say more?

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Why Most CEOs Should Be Fired or Reprimanded | Rick Conlow | LinkedIn

Why Most CEOs Should Be Fired or Reprimanded | Rick Conlow | LinkedIn | Connection |

Many CEOs are seriously underperforming, and should be fired or reprimanded. See the CEO Balanced Scorecard below. How would you grade their performance?

CEO Balanced Scorecard
  1. A Survey of Trust in the Workplace found that nearly half of employees lack trust in their senior management, and they are the least trusted group in companies.
  2. 50-67% of leaders fail, according to management derailment studies, mostly due to "poor people skills".
  3. Pew Research shows that 70% of people don't believe business executives add very much value to society.
  4. Gallup shows that 87% of employees are disengaged in the workplace.
  5. CEO pay worldwide had risen astronomically. In the US, employee pay is 354 times less than that of their CEO. From 1978 to 2013, CEO pay rose, with inflation-adjustment, 937%--more than double stock market growth and astronomical to the pitiful 10.2% gain by employees.
  6. The American Customer Satisfaction Index was 74.2 in 1994. Today it is 75.6.This a gain of only 1.4 points or 1.9% in 21 years.
  7. US companies have $2.1 trillion dollars stashed overseas. According to Robert Shapiro, founder of Sonecon, since 2002 the media American income has actually decreased 6% and 2/3 of American workers have seen their incomes fall 15-35%.

How should these CEOs be rated?
 Most others I have talked with would give them a D or F. Is it surprising that workplace attitudes around the globe are in the toilet, and that the prospects are not much better? That’s not good news for employees nor for economic growth or opportunities. The average CEO tenure for Fortune 500 companies is 9.7 years. I wonder--if YOU had poor performance like the above, would you would last that long?

Examples of the CEOs that fit the above mold are:

  • Tim Armstrong, CEO and Chairman of AOL manages a company going nowhere, and it is epitomized by his bungled handling of babies and health care costs.
  • Rex Tillerson, CEO ExxonMobil, has an elitist attitude, seen when his company uses fracking everywhere but he doesn't want it near his home.
  • J. Paul Raines, CEO of GameStop received significant compensation gains despite weak company earnings.
Why are so many leaders seemingly oblivious to their leadership problem?

It’s rather simple.

  • They are out of touch, and spend too much time in the board room and not enough--or any--time engaging employees or customers.
  • They are arrogant. Few listen to the counsel of others, and they are convinced that they have the best ideas.
  • They are greedy. Their goal is to raise their stock prices or profitability, so theymake more money. We have seen too many in the news, falling from grace because they wanted “more” and attempted to take it.
  • They truly don’t care. They don’t believe in the value of people, and they run the business by the numbers, not by what is also good for employees or customers.
What should leaders or companies do?Change. They need to rethink their approach to regain trust from the public, customers and employees. I recommend that CEOs:
  • Forget their formal training and education. When you review MBA curriculums, only a small percentage deals with leadership skills such as team building, coaching, employee engagement, conflict resolution, or communication skills. I recommend that they attend at least two in-depth leadership skill programs a year.
  • Get out of the office and spend time with and listen to customers, to learn what the real issues are in their business.
  • Communicate with employees in their environment, and learn the best practices for employee engagement from Fortune magazine's top 100 companies.
  • Invest in employee development and training. All the research shows that the best companies do this and that the payoff is significant in morale and performance.
  • Add employee- and customer-driven oversight for their businesses, besides the governance of the board of directors. Too many boards are nothing more than other company executives or past executives that are empathetic to the CEO. How else could CEO pay and golden parachutes grow so large?

Most companies today have employees that are paid mercenaries, not spirited patriots.
 If CEOs change as described, they will learn to capture the hearts and minds of employees, and their scorecard above will significantly improve. In addition, the Holy Grail of business--profit--will also increase.

I realize that there are better CEOs than I have described. I have met some of them,one being Ken Hicks, former Chairman & CEO at Footlocker. He’s turned that company around with a clear vision, a customer focus, employee involvement, and through a humane process. Another is past President of Medtronic, Bill George, who has written the book, Authentic Leadership. Few leaders valued employees and customers like he did. When he led Medtronic it was a company with a heart.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' Leadership, then, is not about job titles, profit or stock prices. It's about positively influencing and uplifting other people's lives, and when you do that well a business will succeed.

Do you want to benchmark your career with the habits of highly successful people? If so, check out this complimentary inventory and guidebook:Success Practices.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Find CEOs who are humble, passionate, and truly care about the people and the business, but also care about the money the company and their people make. They should be richly rewarded as a result.

Ian Berry's curator insight, January 20, 6:30 PM

Love Leadership is about people not your paycheck

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What Trust Really Means, and What You Should Know to Build Trust

What Trust Really Means, and What You Should Know to Build Trust | Connection |

We often toss around concepts without a clear understanding of what the words actually mean, and how to bring the construct to life.

Take trust – a much sought-after, desired quality leaders want, and employees desire of those they follow (or not).

Being trustworthy is about:

  • Deserving confidence
  • Being dependable
  • Being reliable
  • Doing what you say you will do

As importantly, how does a leader behave?

We might trust someone because of their position, but that’s not all too common these days.  It’s more likely that a leader needs to earn our trust.  According to the IABC Research Foundation Study, “Measuring Organizational Trust,” communication is one element of trust-building.  I’d argue that it’s a foundational element.

Trust-building behaviors include:

  • The first step is for the leader to be visible so an employee can form an impression of him or her
  • The leader must communicate honestly, admitting problems or issues that need to be addressed.
  • When problems occur, the leader must communicate quickly, even if he or she does not have all the answers.  This is about how you handle communications when things go wrong.  The best strategy is to share what you know, when you know it.  And, what you don’t know, too.
  • The leader must engage in two-way dialogues with employees, giving them the opportunity to ask questions, get answers, and voice concerns.
  • Most important, a leader must follow through on his commitments and promises.  Actions must be consistent with words.  When follow-through is not possible, the rationale needs to be explained.

Sounds simple, right?  Easy to describe; more difficult for leaders to put into practice.  Those who do reap the benefits of employees who are more engaged, and feel even better about how they lead and the results they achieve.

Which of the behaviors to build trust get in the way for you?

-David Grossman

Linda Holroyd's insight:
Trust is something hard-earned and easily lost. Take note on what it is and how to gain and retain it.
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Jobs in 2025: What you or your kids will be doing in a decade | Mihir Shukla | LinkedIn

Jobs in 2025: What you or your kids will be doing in a decade | Mihir Shukla | LinkedIn | Connection |
Many of today’s jobs won’t be here tomorrow. In fact, they’ll disappear to the tune of over 100 million by 2025, according to McKinsey reports. [i]

It’s an alarming statistic. And, like many of you, I find myself unsettled. In light of information like that, I can’t help but wonder: What will the jobs of the future be like? What will we be doing? What will our kids be doing? But before we think forward, think backward.

The job market is a recycling machine—creating new jobs, sometimes stemming from the destruction of the old ones. Word processors, typists, telephone operators, and proofreaders are largely a thing of the past now. Meanwhile, a vast number of high-paying jobs that are commonplace today— computer/systems managers, computer software engineers, and financial advisors and analysts— didn’t exist 30 years ago. This trend will continue as robotic technology advances, particularly when it comes to back-office jobs that require less of the “human touch.” (My previous article “The Next Industrial Revolution: How Software Robots are Helping Us Be More Human” goes into more detail about this).

What will the jobs of the future be like? I see future employment being based on 3 key human qualities: Our ability to use our intellect for complex problem solving, our need for more immersive experiences and entertainment, and our ability to empathize with others.

The rise of the predictive economy

Our current economy is a reactive economy. We have built fantastic institutions like insurance companies, urgent care centers, auto body shops, and more based on our reactions to accidents and medical crises, as well as our needs and wants. Reliance on these institutions is the best system we have as of now. It’s good for today, but it will not be acceptable for tomorrow. Companies are already taking this change into account. Amazon, for instance, has been laser-focused on getting us anything we want as fast as humanly possible, but as “get it fast” becomes yesterday’s news, “get it without asking” is what’s happening today, as is evidenced by their subscribe and save model.

Tomorrow, we will live in a “predictive economy—one that doesn’t wait for things to happen. We’ll look at home automation—already making its way into modern residences today—and determine how our inanimate house can become increasingly animated, anticipating our comfort needs and patterns. We’ll make it possible to predict what days of the month we will need certain amounts of paper towels or coffee grounds to appear on our doorsteps. Once a few places embrace the predictive economy, suddenly our current reactive method will seem inadequate everywhere. We’ll question why car accidents or heart attacks happen, and determine that they don’t have to. We’ll look at problems like food waste or hunger and find ways to use local food at its peak time, or ensure that people worldwide have meals to eat.

Looking at a snapshot of the job forecast for the year 2022, it appears that many jobs could have elements of the “predictive economy,” and will fit into industries such as services (of all kinds), healthcare, and retail. In each of these areas, as devices are reimagined through the lens of the predictive economy, a new wave of engineering, design, and services will emerge. Companies like Whirlpool could become the next Apple. Dishwashers, vehicles, wearable technology, new medical devices and systems—all will require scores of people to conceptualize, design, mass produce, market, sell, implement, and service these new products, i.e., a new workforce. And it will take teams of analytical, predictive workers and new service delivery standards to deliver the outcomes that customers will get accustomed to—and will demand.

The economic and cultural impact will be nothing less than astronomical.

The increase in immersive experiences and entertainment

As time has shown, with increased productivity, and as mundane or repetitive tasks are reduced with modern inventions, we tend to have more time for richer experiences, like travel, and all types of entertainment. (The average American spends 5 hours a day watching TV, for instance, while the crockpot cooks dinner, and the Roomba vacuums the floor). In addition, we no longer necessarily have a hard and fast separation between entertainment and work; archetypal 9-5 hours are disappearing, and we entertain ourselves during traditional “non-entertainment” activities, playing on phone apps while we wait in line at Costco, for example.

I see the second biggest technology transformation coming in entertainment and leisure—something for which our society has an almost infinite appetite. Entertainment will be woven in everywhere, including in the machines and devices we use on a daily basis. You’ll be able to choose the color and even pattern of your self-driving car for the day, and then spend your hour commute sitting back and enjoying an interactive experience on the way home; in malls, you’ll have virtual reality-based theme parks. Surfaces of all kinds will become screens. Your home theaters will let you experience movies, music, and television in an increasingly kinesthetic way.

These new entertainment devices, new methods of delivering entertainment, and increasingly interactive experiences will lead to a much bigger industry and higher paying new jobs. Since we’ll have new opportunities for entertainment wherever we look, we’ll fittingly have new jobs to drive the authenticity of those experiences. The person in the entertainment job of the future will be a cross-functional asset. Perhaps a virtual-reality rock climbing experience under production will require a rock-climbing expert. Someone currently working at an indoor rock-climbing arena for $15/hour might end up with a $200K job directing this virtual experience to ensure authenticity of experience. Or perhaps someone with a marketing degree who has, as a hobby, become proficient on a musical instrument might end up working on viral campaigns for virtual music lessons. The possibilities for professions in future entertainment are as limitless as our appetite for entertainment itself.

A world where you exercise empathy like you exercise stock

We’ve considered analytical and recreational areas where job opportunities will arise, but what about something closer and deeper to our being? In considering the traits inherent to humankind—those that can’t be automated—empathy continues to come to mind for me. It is a trait we will always possess. In today’s world, charitable organizations have done vast amounts of good, but as we look at the future, there is still so much more that needs to happen. It is in tomorrow’s pursuits to better the world we live in that I see the potential for another type of workforce, energized by empathy and fueled by data.

Until now, commercial analytical tools and methods were only available to a select few for select purposes. With the rise of predictive devices, there will be vast amounts of data available for every aspect of life, including charitable causes. Very soon we will be able to measure the cost of saving lives, or the cost of educating a person, or the cost of saving a carbon emission. We have Social Performance Measurements (SPM), but they will be standardized, and an “empathy exchange” will be born. Such an exchange would allow you to “invest” in a charity that has, for instance, a lower cost of saving a life. If you decide to invest $1000 in saving a life, it will be as easy as buying a stock. Or if you have more to invest, perhaps you’d diversify your portfolio, investing 40% towards education, 20% towards green initiatives, 30% towards medical research, and so on.

An empathy exchange will enable billions of dollars of capital flow and a model for optimal talent allocation for the purpose of “making a difference,” which will energize a very different workforce that many will choose to engage in. It will drive social performance, with some of the same efficiencies of a capital system where some charitable work processes can be done offshore. Investments in an organization that can, for instance, predict and quell the spread of a pandemic will lead to jobs to accomplish that mission. Professionals might find themselves working on immunization delivery, assigning medical personnel to various regions, following up with patient records and analyzing the data, public education, and more. These jobs will be the product of empathy, and the desire to make a difference.

History has proven it again and again: With the dawn of new technology comes the dawn of an era of new employment possibilities. Rather than fearing the future, embrace what good can and will come. It will be tremendous to see the impact on society and how the human race will evolve—yet again.

Mihir Shukla drives strategy and execution as CEO of Automation Anywhere. A visionary in the robotic process automation (RPA) space, his passion for innovation has inspired Automation Anywhere to create groundbreaking technologies that have redefined the automation landscape. In the past, Mihir has held leadership roles in Internet, e-commerce, and wireless markets at the forefront of innovation.

Linda Holroyd's insight:

Predictive economy, immersive experiences and the need for empathy to impact jobs of the future

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