Monday Mornings with Madison

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Life Skills

The Many Facets of Leadership

Imagine that a company or business is like a boat and the boat has a destination… the port of profitability and growth. On the left side of the boat are the Marketing oars. On the right side of the boat are its Sales oars. If only the left oars are rowing, the boat will go around in circles, clockwise. And if only the right oars are rowing, the boat will go in counter-clockwise circles. Even if both sets of oars are rowing, but not in tandem, the boat will not move in the intended direction very swiftly. But if both sets of oars row in tandem, the boat will move forward. If guided by someone who knows the destination, it will move toward that spot. And the faster and more efficiently they row in tandem, the more swiftly it will get to its destination. The process of getting all the oars to row in tandem, efficiently and effectively, to a particular designation is management. Getting there faster than the competition is good management. And leadership is the wind in the sails of the vessel, which can help propel it even farther and faster. If the leadership is strong and steady, the work of the sales and marketing teams is made easier, and everything glides forward quickly.

Great leaders make the difference between an average performance and an extraordinary one. Today’s leaders do many things, including coaching, mentoring, counseling and, of course, managing. Employees today expect people in leadership roles to be willing to roll their sleeves up and keep managing and facilitating. In practical terms, what does good management look like today? It is more than just someone telling someone else what to do. Continue reading

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The Many Facets of Leadership

Much has been studied, researched, written and taught about leadership. There are even entire doctoral programs in leadership at prestigious universities. That’s because, arguably, good leadership allows companies to succeed when they might have otherwise failed. And great leadership pushes companies to rise above an ocean of mediocre ones. That is why the most successful investors — think George Soros and Warren Buffet, who achieved annual excess returns 15% over the S&P for over 30+ years — spend an inordinate amount of time every day studying not only a company’s financials but also the skills and track records of the leadership at those companies. Companies with the most innovative products can still fail to thrive without well-developed leadership. To state the obvious, leadership really matters.

Also, great leadership skills are not just essential for Presidents and C-Suite executives. Great leadership is invaluable for those directing divisions, departments, teams and projects. That’s because leaders are responsible for managing finite resources as well as planning and executing direction and action. In particular, one of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to help employees develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. That is called coaching and it is a key facet of leadership. So exactly what is coaching and what makes a great coach? And is there a difference between coaching and other things leaders commonly do such as managing, mentoring, teaching and counseling? Continue reading

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The Art of Negotiating Business Deals

One of the most challenging parts of working with a new client is finalizing the business agreement. This is the process in which the parties hammer out the details of the contract. The bigger the deal, the more complex the agreement. And negotiating the final terms of a complex deal can have its challenges. In those situations, a sales professional might find himself in a position where the customer holds all the cards. The salesperson may have invested a lot of time and effort in developing the opportunity. He may have even promised his boss that a commitment was imminent. The salesperson may feel boxed in and the customer may think he can dictate the terms. That’s a losing proposition for the salesperson and his company, even if they land the deal. Business deals that start out very lopsided – a win-lose proposition – don’t bode well for a good long-term business relationship.
The goal in any negotiation should be to achieve a win-win outcome. That may sound cliché and idealistic, but it is the secret to long-term success. But if the sales professional starts negotiating from a weak position, it will be hard to hammer out a win-win contract. To chisel out a win-win agreement, a sales professional must garner some negotiating power and then use smart negotiation strategies during the process to close the deal. Here are some tips. Continue reading

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Using Chess Strategy in Business, Part 2

There are many benefits that come from playing chess. Psychologists often cite chess as an effective activity to help improve memory function. That is probably why chess is recommended in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Playing chess can also help the mind solve complex problems and work through ideas. It is also thought to increase one’s intelligence, although that’s not been scientifically proven. And the effects of chess on children – which has been correlated to children getting better grades in school — has led to chess being introduced in schools in a multitude of countries. That said, many are still intimidated by chess because it is perceived as a game for geniuses. But while chess is a thinking-man’s game — one that requires a great deal of strategic thought and tactical reflection — it is not just for geniuses and savants. Anyone can learn to play chess and improve through study and practice.
Indeed, many past and present political and military leaders – including U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Sigmund Freud, Queen Elizabeth I and II, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew, British Prime Minister Clement Atllee, Alfonso King of Spain, and Vladimir Lenin – all played chess. Many titans of industry also play chess, including Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft, Billionaire Investor George Soros, Carl Icahn, Chairman of Federal-Mogul, Peter Thiel, Co-Founder of Paypal, Jared Heck, co-founder of GroupMe and Fundera, Seth Bannon, Founder and CEO of Amicus, and Victoria Lipschitz, CEO of Grid Dynamics. In fact, Boaz Weinstein, chess player and head of Saba Capital, once said that “Chess helps me in trading, teaching me to focus on the important decisions and to accept risk.” Last week, we looked at a few useful strategies. Let’s look at some more chess strategies that can be applied to business. Continue reading

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Using Chess Strategy in Business, Part 1

Chess is one of the fairest games there is. In chess, opponents start with an identical force. The entire playing field of a chess game is out in the open. A player can see every move an opponent makes as soon as he makes it. And, in chess, no dice are used so it is never a game of “chance” and there is no luck of the draw. Moreover, there is no referee involved in chess that might “throw” a game or be partial to one side over the other.
The business world is perhaps not as fair, balanced and chivalrous as a game of chess. In business, competitors seldom start with identical workforces, and a company can easily hire a better force. In business, a lot of deal-making is done behind-the-scenes and a company might not learn about a competitor’s initiatives until much later. And, in business, a company can innovate a product or service – or how it delivers that product or service — in ways that totally change the playing field for competitors. In fact, a company can innovate to the point of actually changing the game. Think of how Uber has revolutionized short-distance transportation and how Airbnb is changing the hospitality industry.
So, in many ways, business and chess are different. That said, chess is all about strategy and tactics. The best chess players are those who have the ability to stay ahead of their opponents and strategize goals that can be achieved as quickly as possible. In that regard, running a company is a lot like a game of chess. To stay ahead of the competition, companies must think strategically and be quick to implement. That’s where chess strategy can give business leaders guidance. While many games use methods that can be incorporated into how business decisions are made, chess requires strategic decision-making, connections, timing, tactics and evaluation. Continue reading

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How to Become an Industry Insider or Influencer

In general, an “insider” is a member of any group that is limited in number and generally restricted in access. The person – by virtue of being a member of this group – has access to secret, privileged, hidden or otherwise obscure or complex information or knowledge. The insider is a member of the “gang” and hence knows things outsiders don’t, including insider jargon.
The term “Industry Insider” has various meanings. For example, in the world of securities trading, the term “Industry Insider” is generally used to describe someone who works for a publicly-traded company, or trusted advisor to that company, and possesses key information (often non-public information) about that company. They know things because they are on the “inside.” That information, if shared and/or used to influence stock trades, is illegal. The Securities and Exchange Commission considers that a form of illegal insider trading.
However, with the rise of social media, the term Industry Insider has taken on a totally different meaning. In our complicated and information-rich world, the concept of insider knowledge has grown in importance as a source of direct and useful guidance. Today, being an Industry Insider is considered a badge of honor, earning that person considerable respect and influence. So how does one become an Industry Insider, and isn’t this just a new way of saying expert or guru? Continue reading

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When Teamwork Breaks Down

It was recently reported that Usain Bolt – dubbed the world’s fastest runner – was stripped of one of his nine Gold medals. Unlike other occasions when athletes have lost a medal or award, in this case Bolt himself did nothing wrong. He was not guilty of cheating or unsportsmanlike conduct. Rather, Bolt lost the Olympic gold medal because his teammate, Nesta Carter, tested positive for a banned stimulant found during a re-analysis of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Carter and Bolt were teammates on the winning 4×100-meter team, which set a world record of 37.10 seconds. Carter ran the opening leg, and Bolt took the baton third in the race. But doping by even one member of the team disqualified the entire team – four athletes – from the competition.
Besides being heartbreaking for the three innocent athletes, this case is indicative of the importance and vulnerability of teamwork. And it is instructive about what happens when teamwork breaks down. In truth, while people tend to think that teams are the democratic—and the efficient—way to get things done, research shows that most of the time team members don’t even agree on what the team is supposed to be doing or what is most important. Getting agreement is the leader’s job, and he must be willing to take great personal and professional risks to set the team’s direction. And if the leader isn’t disciplined about managing who is on the team and how it is set up, the odds are slim that a team will do a good job. This is certainly true in Olympic sports and – although perhaps less glamorous — it is also true in business. So what do we know about teams, why they break down and what can be done to ensure they don’t? Continue reading

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Fear is the ‘Bad Word’ of Business

Even though we live in a technology-driven data-saturated world, emotion still plays a huge role in how businesses are managed and how economies function. When business leaders feel buoyant about the future, they are more likely to launch new products or expand into new markets. When they are hopeful about the outlook for business, they are more likely to hire staff, make capital expenditures to replace outdated equipment and invest in new technology. And most economists agree that the degree of optimism that consumers feel in regards to the economy and their personal financial situations is practically a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people feel strong, positive, secure and sure – whether those feelings are based on facts and concrete data or not – they are more likely to spend, hire and take calculated risks. The result of all that confidence is that it usually fuels innovation and economic growth which then fuels more optimism. It is a virtuous cycle.
If all those good feelings serve as fuel for expansion and progress which in turn generates more confidence, then what causes recessions and contractions? What causes the pendulum to swing from optimism to pessimism, breaking the virtuous cycle? One big contributor is fear. It is the curse word of the business world. Fear plays a big role in causing stock markets to fluctuate wildly. Fear often makes employers hold back on hiring even when they know they are short-staffed. Fear causes business owners hold on to old equipment and antiquated systems rather than invest in the tools needed to maximize productivity and increase efficiency. Fear often works as a paralyzing agent undermining businesses and economies. So how should leaders and execs deal with fear in business? What do we even know about how fear affects business? Continue reading

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Failures are Stepping Stones to Success

Failure and success. Winner and loser. Just what is the relationship between these concepts? Is there a vast ocean of qualities, traits, and achievements that separates failure from success? What makes a person a winner? Is success something you are, something you achieve or something you have? Do we consider someone a success because he or she has achieved certain milestones? What are those things? Education. Wealth. Respect. Fame. Power. Control. Relationships. Position.
What about failure? Does failing at some things in life make a person a failure? In truth, every person experiences at least some failures in their lifetime. Even billionaire President Donald Trump has had businesses that failed. That is just part of being human. People make mistakes. Social blunders. Professional missteps. Financial mistakes. Business miscalculations. Is it a cumulative effect? Does failing a certain number of times make a person a failure? If failing a lot doesn’t make a person a failure, then what does?
How do we define failure and success? Can someone who flopped at most everything he did for a large portion of his life later be seen as a success? There is plenty of evidence that failure and success seem to go hand-in-hand. Some of the people we most admire and respect in history were considered utter failures at one point in their life before achieving great success. Just how did those failures become successes? Is failure an essential part of the journey to success? Continue reading

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Essential Tools for Today’s Mobile Workers

Millions of professionals worldwide spend a huge part of their work life traveling. Salespeople are constantly driving from place to place, meeting with clients or potential clients or visiting job sites. Service professionals and consultants often go to their customer’s locations to provide support. Couriers and logistics companies constantly have their employees on the road. Even many dentists and doctors have multiple offices or hospitals to which they drive to daily. It is not unusual for busy execs to be ‘on the road’ half of their work week or more.
Working in a car is tough, even if it is only for part of each day. Mobile workers need to stay in touch all day. That’s not easy to do when constantly on the move. Staying connected to the Internet is key to remaining productive. That means having power, connectivity, and the ability to create, send, receive and print information… all from or in a car. Thankfully, technology has done a lot to make it easier than ever before to get online, dialed in, and powered up while on the road. Here’s how. Continue reading

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