Tag Archives: leadership

Consider the Stakeholders: Analysis & Decision-Making to Create Value

No one makes decisions alone. Especially in this technologically interconnected age, we are beholden to the interests and opinions of many groups of people: consumers, investors, brand enthusiasts, industry influencers… the list goes on. Each has a distinct point of view, an interest in the outcomes of our decisions, and often an investment of time, money, interest, and even reputation on the line.

When so many parties are stakeholders in the choices made by companies, brands, or influencers, how can we be certain that we are meeting the demands of our many constituent groups? How can we capture and consider the interests of our stakeholders? Enter Stakeholder Analysis – the process by which an organization can analyze the priorities and interests of various parties involved in a project or decision in order to create understanding and build consensus.
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Leading Out Loud: The TED Guide’s Public Speaking Skill Set

In a recent blog, I introduced the book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson, the “Head of TED.” In this inspiring and practical guide, Chris makes a persuasive case about the importance of public speaking for anyone with a message to share. Brand leaders, innovators, artists – all have a story worth telling and can benefit from creating an active, engaged audience for their brand, their products, or their message.

In Chris’s case, the message is that presentation literacy (the ability to present effectively in public) is not an innate power that only a few of us are born with, it’s a teachable skill that anyone can learn. That means that, with a bit of practice, all of us have the ability to make our mark and share our story with the world. I want to take a closer look at the public speaking skill set Anderson identifies and how we can put it into practice for compelling, impactful storytelling.
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Leading Out Loud: TED Talks & the Case for Public Speaking

I’ve written a lot recently about the importance of empowering employees to publicly represent your brand. The authenticity and unexpected insight that results from giving employees a platform to discuss their experiences is reason enough to share their voices. While we often turn to seasoned PR professionals to deliver our brand messages, the truth is that our audience wants to hear from us.

Consider the TED Talk, which has emerged as a leading platform for incredible insights and viral videos over the past several years. While these talks are given by subject matter experts who are generally polished in their presentation, every TED speaker has a firsthand experience to share. The humanity and relatability of these speakers is what makes their message so compelling.
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Leadership & Continuity: The Peaceful Transition of Power

This past Saturday, March 4th, 2017, was the 220th anniversary of the first transition of presidential power in the United States. I first became aware of this historic significance through the email newsletter of Rev. Tom Are, Jr., the pastor at Village Presbyterian Church. Shortly after the conclusion of our long and combative 2016 presidential campaign and election, Tom thoughtfully wrote,

“On March 4, 1797, a remarkable thing occurred in human history. John Adams became the second president of the United States. What was noteworthy on that day was the lack of violence. It was not a coup. It was not a violent overthrow. It was the peaceful transition of power. The peaceful transition of power remains a rare and beautiful thing in this world. It also means that whether grateful or grieving, we do not need to be afraid. Whether you are relieved or grieved, we are in this together. Be grateful for the peaceful transition of power and as always continue living toward God’s promised day.”

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Leading in the New Age of Influence: 3 Simple Things Leaders Can Do to Build Trust

We've now spent a few posts discussing the results of the 2016 Edelmen Trust Barometer and the global consequences associated with its findings. By now, it should be evident that the ever-growing trust disparity that exists between the “informed” and “mass” populations is responsible for a variety of effects on the government, media and, most substantially, the business sectors. Edelman explains his findings:

“…in the U.S., 70 percent of the elite population express trust in business, in contrast to 51 percent of the general population, a 19-point difference. This skepticism is clearly manifested in the perception of specific industries… as CEOs are substantially more trusted by the elite population…”

If nearly half of the general population in the United States is expressing some form of skepticism toward the business sector, leaders of businesses can benefit their companies by taking deliberate steps to establish trust. This week, let's take a look at a few ways business leaders can work to build that trust. 

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The Why Behind Your Company: The Importance of Vision in Executive Leadership

When you think about leadership, what comes to mind? 

For some of you, it may be the loud-mouthed, hard-nosed sports coach who always finds a way to win. For others, leadership connotes great heads of state: Reagan, Roosevelt, Churchill—or even stretching further back into history to leaders like Julius Cesar or Alexander the Great.

When it comes to leadership in business, I believe the most important aspect of being an effective leader is defining and carrying out your vision. Initially, our vision is the inspiration needed to undertake the challenge of building our business. Daily, it drives our team to work hard to make our businesses better. And eventually, it's our vision that interests customers and drives them to become involved with our brand. However, it amazes me how many business owners stump at the following question:

What is your vision?

The Reasoning vs. The Road Map

I often hear vision compared with a road map. When business owners begin answering the question of what their vision is, they dive into breakdowns of employee roles, budget targets and complex development plans all aligned at a certain big goal—a bit like they're driving a car on a road trip. While long-term maps like these are great and often a sign of proper planning, they don't actually indicate that the leader understands his or her vision. 

Too often, we mistake our vision for a destination, an end point of some kind. However, I tend to believe this is too narrow and simple of imagining what our vision should be. In an article in Forbes, Eric Basu, a serial entrepreneur and host of Cybernation, uses a similar metaphor to explain this notion of a vision:

“The vision is less tangible but also more important than the strategic goal.  The vision is the reason for being in the car and driving in the first place.”

Our vision resonates from what we're passionate about. It doesn't necessarily equate to a specific goal or company milestone, but it's more the reason why the company exists in the first place. Our vision involves certain milestones, countless months (sometimes years) of planning, and true grit and determination—a bit like a road map. However, as Basu argues, the vision is not the map or the city at its end, but the reason that inspires us to craft the map in the first place. 

Determine the Why 

Defining our vision in its most basic form can often be the hardest part. So, where's the best place to begin?

Begin with what you love. What inspires you and drives you? What makes the hairs on your arms stand up? If your vision is based around these roots, no matter how extreme the change or severe the road, we are more likely to persevere if our vision is rooted in fundamentals in which we believe. 

Take Wendy Kopp, founder and former CEO of Teach For AmericaWhen Kopp graduated from Princeton in 1989, she could have pursued a variety of careers and likely been successful in any of them. Instead, she decided to follow her passions. Her strong desire for equality and her connection to education guided her toward a vision: a national teaching corps designed to help students in impoverished and under-served schools.

So many challenges stood in her way with an idea like this (Kopp herself is the first to admit this), but she let none of these stop her. With her core beliefs at heart, she has watched her vision grow from 500 initial corps members in 1990 to more than 50,000 current members and alumni in 2015. Kopp had a vision rooted in ideals she believed in, which helped her follow it through to reality.

Communicate Clearly

Understanding a vision is just the beginning. Communicating it clearly to all those around you – whether they be employees, investors or customers – is just as crucial. To clearly communicate your vision, you'll need to do three things: simplify, question and listen. 

1. Simplify 

Keep it simple. A complex vision usually just means we're confused. Remember, your vision isn't some complex road map for a trip through the jungle but, more important, the reason(s) behind the trip itself . Keep it clear.

2. Question

While this may seem counterintuitive, I often think this is the most important step. Good leaders are known for more than providing great direction and giving enthused speeches. Great leaders, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, are known for their ability to ask the right questions. When Jobs founded Apple in 1976, his vision wasn't to create computers. He envisioned a world flooded with technology within its every aspect. In order to realize this vision, he constantly questioned both his accomplishments and his team's understanding of his initial vision. Eventually, this approach would lead him to the Apple that exists today.

3. Listen

This step is too often forgotten. We can only provide direction and assign tasks so often. One of the reasons we bring others on board to help us execute our vision is so they can contribute to refining and acting upon it. To be successful, we'll need the contributions of those around us. Knowledge is gained through dialogue – not monologue – and the sooner you realize and embrace this, the more successful your vision will be. 

A Collective Vision 

Sharing your vision is vital to your company's success. Your vision communicates to your team internally why they show up and externally the values and mission your company follows. When you're ready to communicate your vision, make sure you understand the how and the why. How will your vision become a reality? Why is your vision important? Beginning with these questions and using these above steps will get your team headed in the right direction. 

Al Eidson is the owner of Eidson & Partners, a business and marketing strategy consultancy, and a founder of SparkLabKC, an early-stage startup accelerator program in Kansas City. He's an expert in taking products to market and has launched more than 220 new products and ventures through his career. He's also proud of killing off a great many problematic products before they hit the market. His vision involves meaningful and lasting products through innovation.