December 30, 2006
I’ve kept many notes over the years. Some are singular ideas or quotes and others are more extensive. Here’s on of the former: “I don’t trust advice from perfect people.”
Don’t “perfect people” make you suspicious? After all, the old adage is true: nobody is perfect. But when somebody works to create that perception, it pays to be cautious around them. They’re either not perfect or they’re not human.
Most of us don’t take advice from deeply flawed people either, unless that advice is about the pitfalls of being deeply flawed. If somebody else stepped into a deep hole, the one thing you can learn from them is why you shouldn’t.
What about strangers who offer you advice? That usually doesn’t go over well with me. Unsolicited advice is criticism in disguise. We usually want to have a semblance of relationship with those people we can trust for advice.
There are some people I take advice from although I don’t know them personally. They’re not strangers per se, but they are individuals I’ve never met. What give them credibility are their experiences and insights. These people include authors, leaders and speakers. Their public record of accomplishment gives them credibility, and their advice may not have been given specifically for me, but I can still learn from it by watching, listening and reading these people.
December 15, 2006
I’ve always been interested in the study of the future and have several good friends who are futurists, but I don’t consider my self a futurist. Anybody can predict the future, but predicting it correctly is very difficult. That’s why I’ve focused more on being a presentologist.
What is a presentologist? It is someone who pays close attention to the present to determine what to do about it. Science fiction legend Williams Gibson said, “The future has already happened. It’s just unequally distributed.”
The present gives some pretty good clues to the future if we study it and consistently ask the question, “So what should I do, if anything, about this?” Another important skill for presentologists is a basic understanding of history. In many ways, things haven’t changed that much. Technology has impacted the speed and complexity of how historical themes play themselves out, but the underlying principles are often identifiable. It was Hegel who lamented, “Man learns nothing from history.” Knowing what to do about history is more important than just knowing history.
Finally, a good presentologist is less interested in what might happen than in what he or she can make happen. If leadership is about positive influence, then good leaders should be pretty good presentologists because they’re charged with making positive things happen in their organizations and communities.
December 7, 2006
Maybe you’ve seen the recent research that found that playing violent video games not only desensitized the young players to violence but actually created changes in the brain. This “rewiring”, as you’d expect, was for the worse, not the better.
At the same time we’re told that violent images and lyrics don’t have an adverse affect on viewers or listeners. But the “positive” images of advertising and jingles must affect consumers or corporations wouldn’t invest billions of dollars in creating them. Interesting paradox, don’t you think?
The mind is an important thing to influence, not just a terrible thing to waste. Personally, I think we’ve become so familiar with negative images, influences and the like that we rarely notice them at a conscious level, but at a negative level, potentially much harm is being done.
Might it be prudent to pay attention to the images and activites that affect us? Our kids? It might make us look terribly prudish and out of step with culture, but since when is following the herd an act of leadership?
Remember what Horace said a couple thousand years ago: Rule your mind or it will rule you.
November 17, 2006
If you really desire insights into how to improve your personal and professional relationships, and in the process become a more effective leader and role model, consider askingthe important people in your life these three questions:
1. Is there anything you’d like me to know that you’re afraid to tell me?
2. If so, why?
If you deal with the person’s hesitancy–fear of anger, reprimand or whatever–and can assure the other person you are willing to listen thoughtfully and respectfully, then ask this final question:
3. What would you like me to know?
Simple questions. Tough to ask. And perhaps tougher to listen to the answers.
November 9, 2006
Many people love to speak. The best communicators don’t just love to speak; they love those they speak to.
It is the ability not just to focus on people in an audience but to communicate a genuine concern for helping them, for providing information and ideas that will benefit them in their work and lives that engages. The best way to connect with people, whether in a group or one on one, is to convey a concern for what is best for them.
However, if you aren’t prepared–if you haven’t written and practiced what you’re going to say–you’ll most likely be “content-focused.” If you are prepared but are more worried about how you’ll come across than you are with the value you deliver listeners, you’ll be “speaker-focused.” It is when you are prepared and can put ego aside that you’ll be most able to be “audience-focused,” and that is one secret to great speaking.
October 25, 2006
Nobody is as good thinking alone as they are thinking with someone as good or better than they are.” Dr. Saj-nicole Joni
October 11, 2006
In a recent email, my editor, Roger Scholl at Random House, brought the following to my attention…
…By the way, I watched the Carly Fiorina podcast that is up on Amazon of her talk with the Amazon sales force – she could have been quoting DNT (You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader) word for word, it seemed to me. So much of her message was about the fact that you don’t need a title to be a leader, and real leaders help others to make a positive difference in the world around them.
My curiousity piqued, I listened and Roger was right. Ms. Fiorina states, “Leadership is not about titles… It is a choice to make a positive difference…”
Regardless of how you feel about Carly Fiorina’s tenure at HP, I have to say that I couldn’t agree more with her definition of leadership. Well said, Carly, well said!
October 10, 2006
I came across a cool site and thought it worth sharing. The Literacy Company makes available over 30 cultural literacy assessment tests based on Diane and Kathy Zahler’s book, Arco Test Your Cultural Literacy
They provide ‘literacy’ tests on a number of topics including history (US & World), economics, science and technology. What is cultural literacy, you ask? According to The Literacy Company:
Cultural Literacy is about reading… in its widest sense. It is about understanding the meaning of words based on a background of common knowledge that enables one to make sense of what is read.
So, take a few tests and if your cultural literacy isn’t quite where you’d like it, the solution’s simple; pick up a book, any book, and start reading.
September 25, 2006
Do the images of very think super models negatively affect young women? There are some in the fashion industry who say they don’t.
Do the images in advertising, whether print or TV, influence people to buy products? Billions of dollars taken from advertisers indicate that they do.
Do the violent images of computer games have an adverse affect on the behavior of some gamers? Interestingly, the same game companies that spend millions on advertising claim that the images of their games don’t affect behavior. Do you find that as contradictory as I do?
It seems the general consensus among those who stand to profit is that images can influence “desired behavior” (buying) but not “antisocial behavior” (negative actions).
What a crock…
May 16, 2006
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There are a number of good reasons to listen to what Bono of U2 fame has to say, and the least of those is that he’s a famous rock star. Being famous may get people’s attention, but it shouldn’t instantly confer credibility outside the music industry.
Bono isn’t credible because he’s famous; he’s credible because he is informed. In addition to the research he’s obviously done–and he does a masterful job of supporting his points with just the right amount of data–he’s been actively involved in the causes he promotes. He has been to Africa and seen first-hand the problems that he speaks about.
His speeches (just google him and look for both his acceptance speech at the TED Conference and his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast) are logically constructed and not the emotional rants we’ve become used to from celebs. Bono is always self-deprecating and doesn’t expect to be taken seriously because of his fame or money, but on the basis of the logic of his ideas.
He uses stories to support his premise (stories illustrate, while facts validate) and he appeals to both the logical and emotional side of his cause. He recognizes that people are persuaded differently, and that a totally logical approach will miss as many listeners as a totally emotional approach.
Having just released my latest book, You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anytime Can Make a Positive Difference, I am struck by what a refreshing example of leadership communication he provides.
I listen to Bono, and I hope you do as well.