We look up to people who face challenges. We admire those who go through darkness and still come out smiling. We respect those who are face adversity but are still capable of compassion. We revere those who rise above their problems and even thrive. Those problems are what made them stronger and wiser. Problems are not only what inspire us, but also what makes us inspiring. To identify a problem and tackle it, with a head held high, speaks to grit and growth. A life without problems is empty. There would be no growth.
It is normal to wish for a problem-free existence. No one wants to deal with challenges, especially those that are depleting and destructive at work. We think life would be better without trials and problems. But that is just not true. While it is both easy and natural to hate problems and troubles, such challenges are just misunderstood. Problems and troubles force us to be creative, determined and courageous. Problems force us to be strong and influence who we become. Struggles are stepping stones to innovations and lead to the creation of better things and better people. In fact, that is what life is… a series of trials that must be faced and problems that must be solved. If we look at problems this way, they cease being burdens that we don’t want to deal with and become exciting opportunities. By embracing problems as gifts, business becomes a lot less taxing and a lot more exciting. And we if find the best way to tackle problems, then we become really effective and efficient. Isn’t that really the ultimate goal for 2018? Here are the steps to becoming a skilled problem-solver for the year ahead. Continue reading
From the earliest age, we are taught to avoid trouble. Our parents teach us to sidestep difficulties and dodge danger. As we grow up, we learn in school to circumvent trials and elude strife. The savviest entrepreneurs are experts at evading challenges and finding the easiest and fastest ways to get things done. Let’s face it, we all try to avoid problems like the plague. And when faced with a problem, most people will wring their hands and lament in frustration. Problems are just hindrances that obstruct our path and keep us from getting where we’re going. Or are they?
Here’s the thing about problems. Because problems irritate, they eventually push us toward efforts to solve the problem. Thanks to our creative, sentient brains, humans are prone to search for solutions. The goal of solving an existing problem is the same for all types of challenges even if the solutions come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and levels of complexity. When faced with a problem, people have used problem-solving strategies to create something new or innovate an existing idea in order to tackle these challenges. In this way, problems have led to inventions that have changed the world. Thus, problems are the pesky matches that spark creativity and spur innovation. In which case, shouldn’t every company be looking for problems within the business? And shouldn’t every aspiring entrepreneur be searching for problems that are just begging for a solution? That’s right, to change the world, we all need to be looking for problems. Continue reading
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
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
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
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
When organizations hire employees for key positions, they want superstars. They want rainmakers and movers-and-shakers. Basically, they want A Players. They certainly don’t set out to hire 10% A Players, 80% B Players and 10% C Players. But that’s what most companies have. Still, it is fair to say that no recruiter ever hired someone knowing he would be a C Player, nor could he have known with certainty who was an A Player and who was a B Player. If only 10% of the employees at most companies are A Players, then clearly HR departments are hiring lots of B and C Players. That implies that it must be hard (or should we say nearly impossible) to distinguish between A, B and C Players.
The truth is that it is a challenge to distinguish between A, B and C Players. But when hiring for key positions, spotting A Players is essential. Certainly, companies more capable of spotting and hiring A Players for key positions will likely grow and thrive. A Players are the ones most likely to deliver creativity and innovation. They are the ones most likely to drive productivity, growth, and sales. They produce results. By the same token, it is reasonable to conclude that companies that have trouble identifying, hiring and keeping A Players will likely be less successful. So how does a manager spot and hire the A-list for his roster when they are not only hard to spot, but also when every other company is vying for the same top talent? Continue reading
Employees are the most valuable resource of any company. From Apple to DeBeers to Walmart, employees are the ones who lead, manage, create, innovate, implement, interact and engage with others on behalf of the company. Only in the smallest companies do the owners perform the majority of the work. In most other companies, employees do most of the work that generates profit. For that reason, recruiting and hiring individuals with the skills and qualities to fit specific openings is the hardest thing any company does… even in the most successful organizations. And it doesn’t matter if the position is an entry-level receptionist, a seasoned salesperson, a highly-technical professional position, or C-Suite executive. Each opening has an ideal set of skills and qualities that would be the best fit for that job at that company. But the more remarkable the skills and qualities needed in an employee, the harder it is to find the right person to fill that job.
Given the importance of employees, one would think that companies should seek to only hire the most talented and successful candidates for every opening. They are often referred to as A-Players. But in reality, it is neither practical nor necessary for every employee at a company to be an A-Player. The truth is that not every opening at every company requires an A-Player and most of the time B-Players are a better fit for the majority of openings. What’s the difference between an A-Player and a B-Player (and what’s a C-Player)? When is it essential to hire A-Players? And how does one tell the difference between the A, B and C-Players when they apply for a job? Continue reading