Three More Lessons From “The Virgin Way”

Last week I wrapped Richard Branson’s book The Virgin Way and I must say, I did not expect to enjoy the process of getting back into reading as much as I did. Branson uses some really stellar stories and examples to illustrate powerful concepts that seriously challenge the status quo (arguably Branson’s biggest MO). Here are three more lessons from the second half of The Virgin Way!

Train Them so Well They Can Leave, Treat Them so Well They Don’t Want To

On the subject of leadership in life and business, one of the threads that ties the entire book together is the concept of treating your people like family. Whether you run a business, a non-profit, or simply manage a group or people, Branson insists that treating your people right is the MOST important thing. Your people are a direct reflection of you and happy people tend to give unreal customer service, which in turn leads to happy customers which makes the staff that work with them even happier. It’s a cycle that, if started right, can yield fantastic results. Branson suggests that the best way to support your people is to empower them to solve problems themselves and ensure they have enough structure to know what they should be doing but enough freedom to go over and above.

90% of Life is Just Showing Up

Branson uses several examples of PR bumbles by CEO’s to illustrate that, whether you’re a C-level executive or a mid-level manager, being present when things are happening is half the battle of being a good leader. On one level, being around your people consistently gives you a really good idea of what’s important to them and what challenges they’re really facing (this sounds like common sense but think about how much time you really spend interacting with your boss or employees as a percentage of your day). On another level, being present when there’s a problem allows you to react much more quickly and effectively. Think about how bad it looks when there’s some sort of corporate disaster and the CEO isn’t at the initial press conference. Conversely, the leader who is on the scene immediately (even if they aren’t really doing or saying anything) tends to win the day.

Like Shouldn’t be About Making a Living, But Making Every Living Moment Count

Richard Branson is well known for his eccentric style and sometime death-defying escapades. Branson’s approach to life can be summed up in the tagline of the book: “If it’s not fun it’s not worth doing”. It’s an almost cliche idea at this point, but all throughout the book Branson hammers in the idea that every moment we have on this planet, whether through business or simply the way we conduct ourselves, should be spent embracing the things we love and making life better for other people. Time wasted can never be earned back, so putting in time to simply earn money without achieving these two ends is by all measures a complete waste.

Well there you go! I would highly recommend reading or listening to The Virgin Way (seriously, audio-books have become a game-changer for me).

whats the number one class at the stanford graduate school of business

What’s The Number One Class At The Stanford Graduate School of Business?

“Touchy Feely” Class at the Stanford Graduate School of Business has been the number one class for 45 years!

“Touchy Feely class” or interpersonal dynamics class at the Stanford Graduate School of Business was the number one class based on student voting for the past 45 years! Makes you wonder about what is taught in class, what students learn, and why students like it the most.

Could it be the real world impact a class like that has on these students? Or the complete avoidance of anything to do with emotions, love, and relationships in traditional business classes? The fact remains that understanding interpersonal relationships is one of the most valuable skills in 2017 and beyond. Ori and Rom Brafman believe is has to do with the most underrated characteristic in business, vulnerability.

Click: the magic of instant connections

I first read about Touchy Feely class in Ori Braffman’s book Click. The book is about the five principles that make people click. The first and most counterintuitive principle is vulnerability, the most underrate characteristic in business. You may have heard of Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability, an amazing Ted talk on how opening up and leading with the heart is the most effective leadership tool. (PS: I like this talk of hers even better: Listening to Shame.

Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” -Brené Brown

Maybe Stanford is on to something…

From Stanford’s website:

The ability to forge strong relationships with others is crucial to becoming a more effective manager in today’s complex, global, and highly interdependent organizations.

Technology can never replace authentic relationship building

It’ll enhance it, make it easier in come respects and more difficult in others. Technology has already changed the way we build, maintain and adapt to relationships but some things will never change. Trust, authenticity, humility, all matter No matter what changes about technology, the people behind the technology, developing it and using it still reply on human beings.

In business we rarely talk about how we’re building relationships, how we’re becoming a better team, how we’re becoming better people. But why the hell not? It’s the most important part of business. If you can’t figure out how to get along with other people it’s going to a long lonely life. People are number one, they always will be number one, no matter what technology comes along we will always have to know how to build relationships with other human beings.

How are you building your interpersonal relationship skills daily?

Stop telling people you believe in “relationship building” and “networking”, show people how are you practicing that regularly. Meeting new people, connecting with old friends, volunteering to make new friends, whatever your thing is, keep doing it! If you don’t have “a way” to grow your network, ask someone for advice, you need to start making it a priority. Start reaching out to people and connecting on whatever they want to talk about, be a good listener first. We are all learning how to communicate better, take as many opportunities as you can to be around, communicate with, and help people.

Click by ori braffman

Four Lessons From “The Virgin Way”

Recently I’ve been making a concerted effort to get more reading done. My mother is a teacher librarian so when I was a kid reading was priority numero uno, but as often happens when one goes through university “reading for pleasure” is squeezed out of the equation by “required reading”. That said, (oops, ignore that) I’m realizing more and more how little I’ve actually learned about life and business from such riveting reads as “Managing Information Systems, 1st Edition”. As a pro tip if you find you have a hard time sitting down and actually turning pages I would highly recommend downloading an audiobook app like Audible, it goes a long way. Last night I mowed through Richard Branson’s “The Virgin Way” and managed to get about half way through. I gotta say, the guy knows his stuff. As I often do, I found myself texting myself some of the best quotes and biggest ideas from the first half of the book and they eventually stacked up to the point where I had to write a blog post just to get them out. So here goes.

 

 

1.”Nobody has ever learned anything from hearing themselves speak.”

The entire first section of The Virgin Way deals with the importance of listening. The best business leaders it turns out are not necessarily great orators, but rather are extremely good at actively listening to everyone who talks to them and, most importantly, acting on feedback. Richard stresses that it’s much better to listen and say nothing than to talk and say nothing (which many people are prone to do). His advice is simple and, true to form, he summarizes it perfectly in this quote. Shouldn’t you be looking to learn as much as possible in your interactions with clients or colleagues? Are you really going to learn anything from speaking yourself?

2. “The only valuable thing on your business card is your name and your contact info.”

On the subject of “rank”, the “Virgin Way” (as Virgin staff affectionately refer to their way of doing business) deals with hierarchy in a very flat way. As far as Richard is concerned your title at the company is subservient to your ideas and your work ethic. Your name (and by association, your reputation) is a much better indication of your value. Furthermore, being able to get a hold of you directly and easily is much more valuable than the letters behind your name.

 

3. “Delegation is better than relegation.”

When it comes to leadership in management, Richard stresses the importance of handing things off to trusted people, and then trusting them entirely. The Virgin Group is made up of over 30 companies, each with their own team of C-level executives and Richard rarely gives them input on how to run their respective companies. The Virgin Way makes the firm distinction and relegation. Delegating passes the full blame or praise for decisions along with the unfettered ability to make those decisions and respond to the outcomes. Relegating in contrast passes the blame but takes away full control of the decisions, or puts the other party in a box (think: “I’m passing this along to you, pick the best bad option).

 

4. “Sometimes not knowing the correct way to do things and doing them anyways opens up the most amazing doorways.”

One of Richard’s most well-known “catch phrases” and consequently the title of his first book, is “Screw it, let’s do it!”. Think about the diversity of the Virgin Group of companies. You’ve got everything from records production, to air travel, to cell phones, to the ill-fated Virgin Cola (yes, that was a real thing). A product offering this diverse comes from jumping in with both feet, having only a “pretty good” idea of what’s below. Often times, approaching a situation you’ve never dealt with puts you at an advantage, because you’re not pre-trained to achieve predictable (and often mediocre) results. Take risks, try things, fail and learn, says Sir Richard.

I’m very much looking forward to finishing The Virgin Way tonight. Branson writes in a very personal tone, and you can almost hear the smile behind every word. It doesn’t hurt that the guy reading his audio-book has a voice like butter. Part 2 will be coming soon!

that said

Two Words You Should Never Use In a Conversation

“That said”

the Devil is doing just fine on his own

That said, is the phrase you use just before you disagree with whatever the other person said.

Example: 
Brenda: “This new martini shaker is really the bees knees! You can take it completely apart to clean it and it has a handle!”
Tom: “That said, the handle is bulky and makes it look dumb and it’ll probably fall apart because of all the different parts to it.” 

You see, being the “Devil’s Advocate” makes you sound like an ass. Stop it.

That said, maybe it’s good to be an ass every now and then?

No, it’s not.

Don’t do it. It makes you sound argumentative, you lose rapport and that person doesn’t want to talk to you anymore. When you disagree with someone, which whether you admit to it or not, that’s what you’re doing when you play devil’s advocate, you’re giving them a great reason not to ask you never time.

I heard this first from Richard Branson in the Virgin Way. He talks about how these two words should never be uttered in the context of business. The exact opposite of the 7 most important words a leader can say.

As you prepare your speech being the Devil’s advocate remember you’re going to lose all respect from the party you’re arguing with. As Seth Godin once eloquently put it, “the Devil is doing just fine on his own, he does NOT need you to advocate for him!”. 

It’s easy to disagree with people, it’s hard to find common ground where you can agree. Try to take the high road, stop disagreeing with people, you’ll be much more fun at cocktail parties!

 

The Dark Side of Social Media A Modern Day Addiction

The Dark Side of Social Media; A Modern Day Addiction

Stop listening to your fans. “Your enemies know information your friends won’t tell you.”

I’ve heard a lot of this lately… “I’m at 15,000 followers, why would I do anything different?!”, “I just got 500 likes on one post, amazing!”, or a personal favourite; “We’re doing a give away at 20,000 followers, like, share, comment, slay your first born to be entered!”. Maybe we’re over thinking it, and that’s not a good thing. “Fans” on social media networks aren’t necessarily real relationships. Sure some are, but most are superficial social passings by, meaningless in the

When validation has gone too far

I heard a story of high school students posting on Instagram and if they don’t receive over a certain amount of likes within the first 15 minutes they delete it and try again later.

Wow.

Could you imagine testing your creative in real time, then when not performing you pull it immediately? Are these students getting feedback and acting upon in hyper-speed without even knowing it?

I instantly said, “We should be doing that with clients!”

Or should we?

The more connected you are the less connected you actually are

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supermensch-the legend of shep gordon

10 Business Lessons From The Amazing Supermench, Shep Gordon


Supermench, the legend of Shep Gordon. So I’m listening to the Timothy Ferriss Podcast and this guy who Tim’s about to interview has one of the coolest introductions, Shep’s done a lot. He’s cooked for His Holiness the Dali Lama, entertained who’s-who of Hollywood, and managed some of the most amazing musical acts, then the most amazing chefs in the world. He was a brilliant story teller and had accomplished so much. He seemed content, I wanted to know more. So i bought the book, They Call Me Supermench: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll. This post is inspired by the book. I highly recommend it. Entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking, one of my favourite books this year.

This quote pretty much sums up Shep.

hero

Shep Gordon is one of my hero’s, here are a few reasons why.

1. Create history.

Don’t wait for it to happen, you can create history. Most people believe all you have is what you’re dealt, like you can change your future if you want to. What a lie! Create history. When Shep first started managing his first artist, Alice Cooper, these were his marching orders, to create history. Quite literally working with Alice they didn’t try to “market” Alice Cooper, he didn’t “advertise” Alice Cooper. No that’s what the other managers would do, if he really wanted to stand out he needed to create history. 

Whether it was wrapping an album in Panties or shooting Alice Cooper out of a cannon, Shep tried nearly everything. The first time Alice was to play in the UK they needed a really aggressive stunt as ticket sales were nonexistent. Shep got a flatbed truck with a giant billboard on the back displaying Alice wearing nothing by a large snake. Oh and he paid the driver handsomely to ensure the truck “broke down” several times in Piccadilly Square downtown London during rush hour. The driver was subsequently arrested, but they sold the show out! Create history. 

Or the time that they promised to shoot Alice out of a cannon on stage in Pittsburgh. The problem was the cannon didn’t work. The night before the big show, Shep invited media to a “pre-concert party” where they were going to demo the cannon shot, how exciting! Shep was up to something, because when the cannon fired, Alice (or a dumby, who knows!) fired but only went ten feet. Panic strikes, the star is injured! Rush him to the hospital!

On the news you’d hear of the “accident” and how Alice was hurt with “non-life threatening” injuries. He played the show the next night in a wheel chair with hospital staff on stand-by if anything should go wrong. But how could it? It was all staged, Alice wasn’t hurt at all. It worked perfectly.

Create history, don’t wait for it to happen.

Create history

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Imagine if you could

My Favourite Business Book of All Time

Maverick written by Ricardo Semler in Brazil published in 1993. A transformational business book from start to finish. Completely counter what you’d come to expect from a Ricardo Semler MaverickBrazilian industrial tycoon. I think Mr. Semler is one of the most thought-provoking, honest, most humble leaders I’ve ever come across.

Semco, a heavy duty industrial manufacturer has no rules to live by. You pick your own hours, pick your own pay, pick your own vacation times, heck you even vote on your own managers regularly! Twice a year you fill out a 30 question questionnaire about your management and division you work in.

No one has a long term contact. No one is employed longer than 6 months. Everyone’s salary is openly known by anyone who cares to know.

Semco is the most democratic company I’ve ever read about, and they did it in a 1980’s Brazilian economy. Not the beacon of sought after economies you once thought, on the contrary, Brazil was avoid by many businesses because of the government, high inflation rates, and a fast growing unpredictable future. It’s astounding what Ricardo and Semco accomplished during this period in Brazil.

How did they get it so right?

Ricardo lucked out in a sense, his father build a multi-million dollar company. He became of age and realized it would never last in its current state. Plus the fact that second generation wealth is squandered 70% of the time, Ricardo had to make a gamble.

He was courageous in his decisions but the theme throughout his career and the book was that he cared (and still cares) dearly about people. It’s so refreshing to see in someone like him in a leadership role, putting people before profits.

Telling, forcing, commanding, never works. Inspiring, helping, listening, always does.

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the anthropologist

How We Start Every Project, Being “an Anthropologist” // eps 58 #inthelab

When we start projects at StratLab we like to understand the organization we’re working with, the best way we’ve found is to be what David Kelly would call The Anthropologist. The most success we’ve had (and still have) is really getting to know an organization. Going to the Annual General Meeting, Christmas Party, Golf Tournament, Fundraising dinner, basically anything they will invite us to we’ll go. You get to know people on a different level when you see them out of the office in the “wild”. Don’t ever be afraid to get out from behind your laptop to do some hands-on research.

One of the most successful projects we worked on was with the Regina Police. It was an internal marketing strategy where we were to change their core values, vision and mission to better reflect their current culture. It took Six months longer than we thought because we really didn’t want to rush the research process of interviewing every level of different Police officer. It was amazing

From David Kelly’s 10 Faces of Innovation, the Anthropologist is the face of discovery and understanding.

To observe without judgement. To develop an empathetic understanding of the organization. You must look at the tiniest of details, the most mundane things can have a major impact on what the end consumer takes away in their experience.

From the book:

The Anthropologist is rarely stationary. Rather, this is the person who ventures into the field to observe how people interact with products, services, and experiences in order to come up with new innovations. The Anthropologist is extremely good at reframing a problem in a new way, humanizing the scientific method to apply it to daily life. Anthropologists share such distinguishing characteristics as the wisdom to observe with a truly open mind; empathy; intuition; the ability to “see” things that have gone unnoticed; a tendency to keep running lists of innovative concepts worth emulating and problems that need solving; and a way of seeking inspiration in unusual places.

Look into a company as if you were Sherlock on a case

look-into-a-company-as-if-you-were-sherlock-on-a-case

Asking questions, becoming very curious, always asking “why” and never excepting “that’s just the way it is here.” The Anthropologist needs to uncover the hidden story behind what the client isn’t telling them. Remember what Sherlock Homes said, “the devil is in the smallest of details.” -or something thing like that. The little things matter. Pay attention to the little things.

Create a company “idea wallet”. Much like your wallet that you carry money around in, your companies idea wallet is where you think and pitch ideas.

how-do-you-get-to-know-an-organization

How do you get to really know an organization? 

By asking questions of course you silly nilly!!

Any question that leads you closer to the central purpose of that organization, generally it’s not your run of the mill questions that are going to get to the bottom of things. People never simply open up to you, you must gain their trust first. Be positive, listen to their answers, and be very respectful (no judging). You need to get creative, the more out there the question is, the more people have a chance to show you their personality. See some ideas on research questions you could use.

Vuja De thinking (from Practically Radical)

Seeing a problem for the first time, through a new lens. The definition of Deja Vu is seeing something you’ve seen before in a ridiculously clear manner. Vuja De thinking is approaching problems like you’ve never seen them before. Trying to solve your organizational problems with novel solutions we’ve never thought about trying. The next time you want an “expert” to solve the problem instead why not ask a beginner to take a stab at it, you may surprise yourself!

what-your-marketing-strategy

What’s Our Marketing Strategy? Plus 8 Other Questions About @StratLab

What is your marketing strategy?

free-prize-inside-by-seth-godinWe don’t have one. Over deliver, care more, work harder. At Strategy Lab we believe in being so good at what you do that you don’t have to rely on telling others about it. We want to ensure the work we do is remarkable enough that people will inherently want to talk about it. Permission based marketing.

Pull > Push

 

Remember, we never used to buy cereal for the whole grain goodness inside, we bought it for the free prize inside! You don’t need a marketing strategy if you have a free prize inside!

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17-books-for-2017

17 Must Read Books For 2017

1. How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big – Scott Adams

creativity-is-allowing-yourself-to-make-mistakes

Counterintuitive thinking on how one attains success. It’s a fun read, he’s a cartoonist so you can imagine how much fun Scott has in a book. My favourite part was the first time reading through, he gives you some piece of contrarian advice and then follows it up with “remember, you are the one taking advice from a cartoonist”. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself.

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