Category Archives: Forward Focus

Innovation Requires Great Leadership

Crater Lake Mirror

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Innovation is an inherent gamble for any company and it requires great leadership. A great leader knows their industry and recognizes opportunities to explore new options and innovations for their business. Innovation is always a risk. A major overhaul of a product may be a disastrous failure. Failure is an important piece of success that seems to have been forgotten in our relentless drive for perfection however. All of the greatest thinkers of our time and times past knew that they would only make progress and achieve success through hundreds, even thousands, of trials that ended in failure. It would be great to be successful the first time out in a new venture but true growth happens through success and failure together. We learn a lot through our failures. Robert Brands knows this and writes about the subject more below. 

Innovation is impossible to achieve without taking a necessary amount of risk. In a world where the success rate of new product entries in the grocery business is 1 in 100, it is inevitable that every success sees failures along the way. An effective innovation leader should encourage creativity and risk taking, while also practicing a tolerance for failure.

In order to foster initiative and innovation, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you allow free research and development (R&D) time?
  • Do you invest in innovation: money, people, resources?
  • Do you celebrate failure and risk taking?

In a tough economy the willingness to take risks can wither, so it’s critical to let team members know that failure will not result in punitive measures. A strong leader practices failure management by setting and agreeing on the risk taking bandwidth or budget. It is ok to fail but that failure should be seen and recognized as a learning experience.

….More at Innovation Excellence | Innovation is Creativity x Risk Taking

It is the job of leaders to know their industry and have a vision for what the future holds for their company. This is imperative so that they are able to allocate appropriate levels of devotion to innovation. Innovation requires that teams know that failure is an option. Failure is simply a step in the right direction. Leaders must be able to project this attitude and truly believe it in order to get the most out of their teams. A team that is constantly afraid of the repercussions of failure will consistently underperform. Only through true risk-taking can you achieve innovative results. Innovation requires great leadership.


Leadership and Employee Engagement in 2013

Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place.  But there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.  ~E.L. Konigsburg

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Employee engagement should be a top priority for every leader in 2013. Studies have shown that engaged employees perform better at work. If you and your leadership team have not thought about your employee engagement strategy today and made steps to implement it then you are hurting your own bottom line. Take a look at your team as they finish up their day to gauge their well-being and make note of it. Do this for a week and then examine what you are seeing and contrast it with each individual's workload. Is there a pattern of stressed out employees struggling to finish a major launch? If so, action on your part is required. You, as a leader, owe it to your team to make their well-being a priority. Tony Schwartz discusses the benefits of employee engagement more below and at HBR.

What would contribute most to your being both happier and more productive at work? How about feeling truly taken care of, appreciated, and trusted by your employer?

More than 100 studies have affirmed the connection between employee engagement and performance, but the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study — 32,000 employees across 30 countries — makes the most powerful, bottom line case yet for the connection between how we feel at work and how we perform.

What's required now is something called “sustainable engagement.” The key factor, the study finds, is a work environment that more fully energizes employees by promoting their physical, emotional and social well-being. I'd add to that mental and spiritual well being — or more specifically, the added energy derived from the capacity for absorbed focus and a strong sense of purpose.

…More at New Research: How Employee Engagement Hits the Bottom Line

Is your engagement strategy sustainable? Are you enriching your team's lives by providing a sense of purpose and promoting well-rounded employees who are physically, emotionally and socially well? Leaders act as the catalyst for change in an organization and must be fully engaged to inspire a sustainable engagement strategy. It is a demanding task but one that reaps many rewards such as better operating margins, lower attrition rates and healthier employees. All of these improvements will be a boon to your business. Leaders must show the way and actively work to provide sustainable employee engagement in 2013 and beyond.


What is Employee Engagement?

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So you hear the term 'employee engagement' offhand several times and this last time you hear it you think to yourself 'what is employee engagement?' Employee engagement is a term that at its very core describes how much an employee cares about their work. There are differences between an employee who is engaged and one who is not that are readily visible if you watch them work side-by-side. An engaged employee is helpful and will support their teammates or co-workers if needed. An employee who is not engaged will keep track of the time and have their computer and work station shut down to make a quick exit at the end of the day. Kevin Kruse, a contributor for Forbes Magazine, brings us more information on what employee engagement is and is not. 

Definition: Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.

When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort.

…More at What is Employee Engagement? | Forbes

Employee engagement is a must-have to keep your business looking forward. Research shows that companies with engaged employees enjoy a profit margin above those without. Retaining a batch of engaged employees is one goal of any leadership team. Kruse points out that happiness and satisfaction are not what define employee engagement but I would argue that they are components that can engage employees and strengthen the emotional commitment they hold. Can you define employee engagement for your workforce? As yourself and the rest of your leadership team the question, what is employee engagement and what does it look like at our company?


Make Yourself Accountable

Army Photography Contest - 2007 - FMWRC - Arts and Crafts - Canal Path #2

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An ability to make yourself accountable for your work is a great way to get noticed by leadership. Leaders want employees who are able to determine what actions are necessary and to assess the impacts on business. Taking accountability for yourself is a sure-fire way of standing out from the crowd. This will help your prospects for growth within the company and will mark you as a future leader who knows responsibility. Ron Ashkenas writes about his experience with taking accountability measures in the workplace.

The reality is that the most effective organizations engage in continual (and sometimes brutally candid) dialogue — across levels, functions, and with customers and suppliers. For organizations to be successful, dozens, hundreds, and thousands of people have to be engaged and aligned around common goals and directions. That doesn't mean that everyone needs to move in lockstep, but it does mean that everyone needs to take accountability, to see themselves as part of the solution on the field rather than a distant observer in the stands.

So that's where accountability comes in. If you want to be part of a successful organization, you need to be part of the dialogue — to share your views, influence others, and make a difference. If you don't feel that you can take the initiative to do that, then either think about what gets in your way or what you can do differently. If conditions don't allow you to speak up and exert your influence, go somewhere else. But waiting for senior leaders or the CEO to make things better is probably not going to be a very effective strategy. It makes more sense to blame the last snowstorm.

…More at Take Accountability for Your Own Success – HBR Blog Network

It makes sense to have a success strategy that starts with accountability to help you grow in your career. Everyone can (and will) reason away failure but if you hold yourself accountable for your work then chances are you will be noticed! An increasingly dynamic economic market makes it ever more difficult to compete as constraints change and markets shift but by being flexible and accountable then you set yourself up for success no matter what the difficulties and pitfalls that lie ahead. Make yourself accountable to exhibit your value and get noticed by leadership today!


Understand Yourself to Become a Leader

The Wizard

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You must understand yourself in order to be an impactful leader able to generate change. Everyone has unique aspects to them that were shaped and molded by a number of influences over accumulated years. People may possess skills or talents that none of their coworkers knew they had. All of these tidbits add up to create the diverse person that you are today. Understanding yourself and what motivates you is one component of becoming a leader worth following. Phil Cooke tells us more about understanding ourselves and what that can do for our personal brand.

Probably the most powerful gift these leaders had was an understanding of who they were and what their talent and calling were about.

That's something worth repeating: Probably the most powerful gift these leaders had was an understanding of who they were and what their talent and calling were about.

Having an accurate understanding of what makes you unique and different is absolutely critical. For many, an accurate understanding is obscured or undermined by a lack of professionalism, bad ideas, poor taste, inept leadership, insecurity, lack of people skills, bad assumptions, and more. These sorts of things plague many leaders today and hamper their effectiveness.

What makes you different from all the others competing for your position?

…More at Your Best Brand Asset Is Understanding Yourself | Fast Company

We all grew up in different circumstances and therefore had different environments that helped to shape a unique point of view. Understanding this distinctiveness can help you get ahead as a leader because of a deeper knowledge of yourself. People intuitively know when a person is passionate about something they are doing. Exhibiting passion about something you love is a great way to engage people to follow your leadership. In order for this to happen you must know and understand yourself to become the leader you want to be.


How Leadership Can Bolster Achievement With These 5 Actions


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Here are five actions that leaders can take to bolster achievement. Achievement is frequently oberved to happen in only a moment. What is often lost in the picture of achievement is all the hard work that went into that final moment which produced a spectacular achievement. Untold hours of preparation are almost sure to precede any great achievement. David Byrd gives us five great actions that leaders can encourage in their employees to start reaping the rewards of high achieving employees.

Achievement is, again, simply doing the right things consistently over a sustained period of time, and the “sustained period of time” comes to you moment by moment, one day at a time. The quality of your daily choices and actions are measured by their effectiveness, and it is the quality of that effectiveness that determines the degree of your achievement.

Highly effective leaders achieve greatly while ineffective leaders deliver sporadic results and low quality achievement. The difference between these two groups is this: the consistent effectiveness of their actions. You have been blessed with the significant power and freedom to choose. Those goal-directed, consistent, daily choices and actions are the stepping-stones to your future. Choose today to be an effective leader who is committed to consistently effective action that leads to achievement!.

..More at Blog Archive » Top 5 Consistent Actions That Lead to Achievement

Achievement is earned through hard work and dedication. High achievers will display certain characteristics that allow them to perform better than their peers. A high achiever will be one who makes effective choices with a positive attitude. People who strive for achievement are very focused and remain accountable for their actions. When someone is able to consistently incorporate these actions into their work then they will be ready to start achieving awesome outcomes. How is your leadership doing with these five actions to bolster achievement.


Forward Focus Through Accountability

Winspit Cove, Dorset

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How often do you have forward focus through accountability? The two go hand in hand, I really like what Christina Lattimer has to say about accountability below.

Working alongside senior managers across different organisations, I realised getting things done on time and to the standard required was a BIG problem.  It wasn’t just about meeting deadlines; it was about quality of work and also lack of right actions.  I realised some people inherently didn’t quite get “accountability”.  Even worse, some managers didn’t either.

I pondered this for a long time and one by one a number of factors came together.  One day I finally got it. It was a big learning curve and one which made me change the way I led my team.  This dawning once I had it, resulted in me leading hugely successful teams which achieved great results.   What I learned was this:

People do not accept accountability because they do not see the “Why” in what they do.  Lacking purpose, they are resistant to being told what to do because what they are told to do holds no meaning. As a result they remain in their comfort zone and limit their effort.

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t think people consciously or deliberately hold that stance, but it exists and resistance shows up like this: They will say:

  • They aren’t capable; don’t know how;  don’t have the capacity…..
  • It’s too lengthy;  too complicated;  too expensive;  too messy; too confusing……

…More at The Most Important Question to Ask to Get Great Results

Accountability is another way to create forward focus. By providing the why in what your team members are doing and focusing on things going right, you are creating forward focus through accountability.




Do You Lead From the Backseat?

view from the backseat

I am reading a book on social media metrics. It’s not really a leadership book, but in the first chapter the question Do you lead from the backseat? came to mind. While introducing ideas on how we track marketing, Jim Sterne points out:

“Are we there yet?” is the question asked from the back seat. “Are we still going in the right direction?” and “Is there anything in the way?” are asked from behind the wheel and lead to business and career success.

Keep in mind that he was discussing keeping an eye on critical factors in today’s real time world. Prior to the internet assessing how a new program was going or how a product or service would do in the market was down the road a month from implementation. Today it is possible to track in real time the course corrections that need to be made. We are more able to keep a forward focus on staying on target. Sitting in the back seat and asking “Are we there yet?” is the wrong question. Are we still going in the right direction? is the question of forward focused leaders. For example, Microsoft as noted below is beginning to ask the right question.

What can we learn about leadership and followership from Microsoft? First, followership. Windows continues to guide Microsoft’s vision and generate the lion’s share of its revenue, while historically it has influenced almost every significant action that Microsoft has taken. As a result, with few exceptions, emerging market opportunities not connected with Windows or Office have not resulted in the types of projected success the company had hoped for. Microsoft was an early entrant in the search and mobile markets, for instance, but lacked the clarity, focus and business model innovation required to succeed.  The Nook partnership is another example of Microsoft playing catch up.

There is a way to grow additional revenue streams, enter new markets, and innovate at a faster pace –to resume leadership – but in order to do so, Microsoft would need to do things differently…More at Microsoft Moves from Followership to Leadership

It is interesting to note that in the above article Microsoft’s vision is lead largely by Windows. Window is behind the wheel. Now it would appear that Microsoft is turning that around and asking “Are we going in the right direction?” Leadership is moving behind the wheel.

Take a look at the questions you ask your team and then ask yourself “Do I lead from the backseat?”

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What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do Book Review

Too much to do? Join millions! Laura Stack‘s What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do takes a fresh approach to productivity with a forward focus. The book will show you 6 basic steps to help you put forward focus back into your work.

The Productivity Workflow Formula™ (PWF)

1. Determine what to do.

2. Schedule time to do it.

3. Focus your attention.

4. Process new information.

5. Close the loop.

6. Manage your capacity.

ROI is a key performance measure used in business. Stack takes ROI to the personal level asking you to look at your PROI (Personal Return on Investment). Do you know where you stand? What is important to you? What are your time wasters? Stack provides quick checklists for each step to help you get on your path to productivity quickly.

Full of useful insights and tips to pare down your task list to a manageable level while providing forward focus, add What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do to your reading list.


Musings on Leadership – Reflection


We don’t often take time to reflect in leadership. And some don’t ever use reflection as a tool. So I was excited to see Mike Myatt‘s post today:

I love history, and have always enjoyed being a student of history. Earlier this week we launched a new project: The History of Leadership. The project consists of an interactive historical timeline of the world’s greatest leaders dating as far back as 2000 BC. Since history has been recorded, so have great lessons in leadership. The ultimate test of leadership has always been, and will always be, whether or not it can endure the test of time. Time tells a story, validates or invalidates theories, positions, and philosophies, and ultimately, time shapes a leader’s legacy. While anyone can be great in the moment, few can sustain greatness over time. Put simply, there is much to be learned from viewing anything through a historical lens – especially leadership….More at Leadership & History

Reflection gives us an opportunity to evaluate where we have been and plan where we want to go. The project outlined by Myatt provides an additional line of reflection. It allows us to reflect on leaders of our past. An opportunity to find leaders we wish to further explore to learn from not only our past, but their’s.

Knowing that The History of Leadership site is still new and they are looking for feedback, I can forgive oversights in the timeline. I look forward to checking the timeline for leaders to spend some reflection time on leadership. I challenge you to do the same.

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