Leadership default creates uncertainty

Everyone, right, left, middle and overseas is upset with the political leadership of the USA.

The Debt ceiling game has placed our country, and the world, on the precipice of economic calamity.
For what? A principled stand perhaps.
Or a misguided notion of what the debt and debt ceiling represents?
The debt represents money already spent in the past.
We don’t and shouldn’t have to vote for it again.
The US pays its debts.
To not pay would be bankrupt – not only financially but more importantly who we are.
We fulfill our financial obligations
The full faith and credit of the USA should not be put dangled as a political chip.
It’s irresponsible and has already lost tens perhaps hundreds of billions and delayed job creation.
Dealing with the deficit and spend should be addressed but this 11th hour game on the
debt ceiling is dangerous. Holding the credit worthiness of our nation like a hostage
is bad politics and inept leadership. Uncertainty drives fear and contraction.
This is not about leadership style or bipartisan leadership.
It’s about structures – the forces that drive behavior – 
like requiring a vote to raise the debt ceiling when its already been voted upon
when the spending program was initially approved. This is 
crazy making and leads to brinkmanship.
The system’s rules produce the disadvantage in the negotiation.
Leaders have defaulted on structuring for success, instead we have
structures that produce uncertainty.
The role of government is obviously debated, hotly at times, and this is one of those times.
If companies are not going to invest in job creation, then government has a role.
The really important advantage-making opportunity is putting the good people of America
to work. Finding core industries and investing in them. Setting up policies to create jobs
here in the USA. Public and Private working together. This is the free enterprise system that
works in the United States. Like the successes of NASA and
the transcontinental highway system etc.
What we have in this country is a jobs deficit.
Create demand and the country will be fine.
Consumers drive 65% of the demand.
This requires investment by both private and public entities.
Austerity does not create jobs.
Jops will beget more demand which will beget more jobs.
Let the begetting begin!
Divided government has undermined job growth rather than thwarted political overreaching.
Leadership around job growth is now the order of the day.
I trust President Obama will turn his attention to Job 1.
I hope the Congress will move on this ASAP.

Captain Picard on entrepreneurship


spoken from the helm of the Spaceship Enterprise

And from the commanding vantage point on planet Earth, W.H Murray of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition spoke on creating and initiative:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. 

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’”

There is leverage in engaging now.

Picard, Murray, Goethe embody the heart of Advantage-Makers

How did Ken Kec do it?

How did Ken Kec do it? (got 4 minutes? Here it is)


Last week, I asked if you were Ken Kec, metaphorically. Are you the person in the room to whom everyone listened?

The person who put his/her finger on the essence of the issue that was non-arguable. Ken had command presence, not in ordering people around, but he had command over the issues – including the customer issues and political issues inside the company.


So how did Ken Kec do it? Was Ken simply smart or was there a secret sauce? If you recall I said that it wasn’t just that Ken was a sharp guy, it was the nature of his intelligence, in particular, his shift intelligence that mattered. Ken shifted. He shifted the questions, he shifted time, he shifted interactions, he shifted perception and he shifted structures. Its easier to remember the acronym QTIPS (question, time, interaction, perception, structure) for each shift.


Let’s pull back the curtain and see behind the scenes what really went on.

Here’s how he did it.

He removed 2 mistakes people make and added 5 shifts that create advantage, and he did it in every situation.

Let me tell you what he didn’t do and you shouldn’t either.

On the don’t do list,

1) He didn’t obsess about unnecessary details, and

2) He didn’t wax platitudes about abstract white space.

If you think this is marginally important, listen to the discussions at your next meeting and you will find time wasted toggling back and forth between obsessive details or abstract pontificating. If you are doing this it won’t help you get to the essence fast.


This ability to shift to the right content level, that is, what is relevant, can make a huge difference in your meetings and in your approach. During one strategy session, we made signs that people held up when the group got off target. The signs said, Obsessive Detail, Abstract and Very Obsessive Detail. It made for both an amusing and informative strategy session. The meeting accelerated.


What Ken did (on the to do list):

1) The first task in his mind was creating a strategic framework to understand and solve the issue. To do this, to get to the essence he focused his mind on patterns, repeated tendencies. And the patterns he was looking for were the patterns of interaction – between people, between the customer and company. You could say he was looking at the ecology of interactions, a supply chain of interactions. What worked and what didn’t. The relationships between key elements and people. And what kept repeating itself. Ken was intent on determining the real forces at play, and shifting interactions to change the game.


2) Next Ken established a hierarchy of importance. What mattered in this specific situation?When people say you need to be more strategic, that actually means you have to think hierarchically. Not who’s who in the office hierarchy but what’s most important relative to the stuff that people care about. For example, which is more important in this situation, profits now or long-term business relations. And if both are important which is more important or what percentage of each? Ken made structural calculations.


3) Now Ken did not just accept the givens, he questioned the givens. That’s the basic Shifting the Question aspect of those who have high shift IQ’s. This can be tricky because we live in an assumptive world. It’s like water to a fish; it only realizes when it is out of water. We can be better than fish on most days. Most of our solutions are too small, we can play bigger by penetrating questions that lift us out of the existing sea of expectation. We can frame the issue in a new light. By noticing the patterns we also can begin to question the recalcitrant patterns as Ken did.


4) Having questioned the givens he began to think about the options, not a laundry list. He knew what the variables were and could be both creative and practical. For example, if the variables were price, quality, technology and time to market he would move those around in terms of where the big win was for them. As a result he could determine the tendencies for movement and more significantly the momentum tactic. Ken thought both inside the box and out of the box. That’s tactical shifting.


5) And finally, knowing the patterns of interactions, the hierarchy of importance he shifted perceptions to influence the outcome. Ken penetrated into the decision triggers of his ‘target audience’ and delivered a non-arguable case. Ken was not just a good sales guy, he was someone who really put on his thinking cap while others were making noise, thinking they were thinking. And he delivered the message just at the right time.


So quick review, Ken set a strategic framework; spotted the patterns, established a hierarchy of importance, questioned the givens, generated options, influenced perception and at the right time.


Are you similar to Ken Kec? I hope. If not, you can learn to think, perceive and influence like Ken Kec by improving your shift IQ. Ken wasn’t born with these habits; he acquired them and refined them. Ken studied how to shift the odds in his favor. If you want to shift the odds in your favor you can too.


There is no time like the present to create the future.

Next time, you might be the person in the room to whom everyone listens.

Are you Ken Kec?

Many years ago I was consulting to HBO & Co., no, not that HBO, the healthcare software corporation.

Their National Sales V.P. was Ken Kec, a Czech with a great sense of humor. But more importantly,
in the middle of a debate he was the person in the room everyone listens to. And not because he was
the V.P. Ken would sit and listen himself. After he heard the diverse opinions of the issue, he would
lean forward and say, “so the net, net of this is …” And after he delivered his “net, net” proclamation, people
 got on board quickly.
He had netted out the issue, done the math, knew which way the wind was blowing – all those mixed metaphors
Are you the person in the room everyone listens to? When you speak do others listen?
The person in the room everyone listens to, whether an exec or a front line customer support is
the Influence Champ. This is more than simple persuasion techniques or position of power. It requires substance as well as sizzle.
If you are not the person everyone listens to you are limiting your career.
Ken’s ability to tactically shift to get to the essence of the issue and tactically influence others was key. Just a small adjustment could change the game.
You see, Ken knew how to shift the game and see what was really going on and be able to create viable options and solutions that others didn’t see. As an Advantage-Maker he shifted the odds in his favor.
In one consultation we collaborated on changing a $200,000 deal into a $2,000,000 deal in less than 24 hours.
Ken was undoubtedly intelligent. However, it was the nature of his intelligence, in particular his shift intelligence that matters to us. Shift intelligence is something we can change. The first task in Ken’s mind was creating a strategic framework to understand and solve the issue. He not only gathered the facts, he garnered the underlying forces at play, and questioned the givens.  Ken was able to face obstacles and shift the question, that is, frame the question in a new light.
Do you know Ken Kec or Ken Kec’s?
Because if you do, get real close to them.
And pay even closer attention to how they frame issues.
Next time, you might be the one who everyone listens to.

Social Network:Facebook

I live a few blocks from Facebook. I play a bit on Facebook. Tonight we went to see the Social Network movie all about the inception, the originality of the social network medium and growth of Facebook, and mostly the founding genius Mark Zuckerberg. The reports of fiction or non-fiction and type of personality are intriguing as a separate storyline.

As we sat and watched the movie – great acting by the way –  I wondered about the audience. Everyone there has been touched by Facebook. There were executives of Silicon Valley companies, VC’s, current employees of Facebook, former employees of Facebook, techies, geeks, psychologists, grad and undergrad students, entrepreneurs and probably a technical genius or two who could be creating the next great device the way Zuckerberg created Facebook. That’s Silicon Valley and the Social Network.
Whatever the truth, Zuckerberg’s genius was paramount even as his own introverted behavior reveals the usefulness of a technology that creates a social network. To be clear, Facebook is a tool of the 21st century for all people across the planet for personal, professional and business relations. It is transformative.
Today Social Network took an even bigger step forward for not only the local audience within a mile or so of Facebook but for the audience of people who only hear about and play a bit with social media.
I think the movie, Zuckerberg’s prototype of the socially awkward, technical genius, and his demonstrable advantage-making talent will inspire entrepreneurs and advantage-makers to act on their generative talents and aspirations

1-800 Contacts: a great example of advantage-making that pays off instantly

This is not an ad. It is a note to say thank you to both 1-800-Contacts, the business, and to Jennifer, the service representative, in particular. And the thank you is specifically an appreciation of their individual and business Advantage-Making culture and skill.

I was calling to re-order my contacts. A small chore, but I had been putting it off. Getting put on hold, fumbling for eye Doc information is not my idea of something I look forward to, so I procrastinate.
One of the easiest ways to spot advantage-making is how the front line service people interact with their customers. Most of us have encountered doing business with people who are overworked, tired, frustrated, under ‘attack’ like at the airline counter. This seldom ends well.
Advantage-making goes beyond just finding a nice person – that is always a good start. And Jennifer certainly is that. When I recently re-ordered my contacts I was reminded and really appreciated what it was like to be in good hands. People who are solving your problems rather than putting up road blocks and obstacles, and when its done well it almost seems invisible.
That is exactly the service and solution that Jennifer from 1-800-Contacts provided for me. And the kicker is i ordered a years supply instead of the usual month or two supply. So they benefitted by helping me. And it wasn’t just the price, which added to my appreciation. This wasn’t life changing, but it was life enhancing. It really was the oft used phrase but seldom believed, ‘it’s a pleasure doing business with you.”
The owners, leaders and company obviously gave her ways to solve problems in advance, anticipating people’s concerns and providing a solution that I would want without adding to my burden. If you want to know how to set up a customer facing business that keeps customers coming back for more, and ordering higher amounts then i would suggest you check out 1-800-Contacts.
And again, thank you Jennifer.

Putting yourself at a disadvantage

Part of what drove me to write The Advantage-Makers is what I perceived as unnecessary waste of effort and opportunity. Many people put themselves at a disadvantage, and they do so unwittingly.

You can be a leader, a mom, a dad, a brother or sister, a fireman or police officer, whatever your career or family roles there are advantages and disadvantages that will come your way.
When you meet an obstacle, whether expected or unexpected, how do you respond?
When you meet an opportunity, whether expected or unexpected, how do you respond?
While true disadvantage exists, and some people have it easier than others from the start, the annals of history are replete with the lives of those who were at a disadvantage in which the odds were against them and they won anyway. The reverse is also true. People who had all the advantages blew it.
Many people don’t realize that their relationship with obstacles determines the outcomes, the experiences they have in life. We all encounter obstacles and we are often called upon to do more with less.
Likewise, many people don’t realize their relationship with opportunity determines the outcomes, the experiences they have in life. We all have opportunity knocking on the door, but how do we answer?
No one I know wittingly puts themselves at a disadvantage. They do so unwittingly.
The first step then is to recognize or spot the action that puts you at a disadvantage.
That’s what the Five Shifts of Advantage-Makers is all about.
You can perceive the pain, but can you perceive the solution.
Shift the odds in your favor. Change the lenses you are looking through.
Shift the question and you will perceive answers you didn’t know existed.
Shift time and you will find leverage where none existed before.
Shift interactions and people will do unexpected good things.
Shift perceptions and you will influence people rather than be controlled by them.
Shift structures and you will set yourself up to succeed.
Today, simply practice shifting the question.
You can do so by having the following question as the background for your events:
What are the opportunities here for someone, perhaps even me?
You might be surprised to realize that obstacles and opportunities are often in close.
So instead of putting yourself at a disadvantage, place yourself at an advantage.

Have you been overlooking opportunity right in front of you?

Some advantages are created organically, while others are by design.

Organic solutions are created in the natural course of events – think cup to hold water, and answer the question: i need something that will …., what could do it?
Design solutions are by intent and strategic – think smart phones, bluetooth or apps for the mac, and answer the question, i want to create …., what will make that work?
Both organic and design solutions work as advantage making approaches. Organic solutions can be spotted but must wait for a situation to emerge. Design solutions can be found as well with a proactive opportunity spotting approach.
A Start-Up business may begin with a design solution and then while it is developed and developing organic solutions can be found by the team.
The critical point is spotting the opportunity whether it emerges or is by design.
Alexander Fleming was doing an experiment in his lab and when he returned from a short vacation he found
a mold formed on his petri dish ‘ruining’ his experiment. But instead of tossing it out, he shifted from this is a
problem to this is a solution to killing the bacteria.
Fleming said, “When i woke up just after dawn on September 28th, 1938, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer.” But that is what he did in discovering penicillin.
Would you have had the opportunity spotting mindset that Fleming had?
Are you tossing out a solution that could revolutionize your work or at least make a difference?

What advantages does your leadership really provide?

“If you are not creating advantages you will probably lose to someone who is”

The entire effort of your leadership ought to be targeted at creating advantages.
Advantage-Making Leaders create advantages that:
1)  encourage followers,
2) influence outcomes,
3) create forward movement, and 
4) increases opportunity
When your boss, colleagues and people who report to you think of you what is the first thing they think? 
In the back of their mind, do they feel you encourage people, influence perception so people say yes to your request, make things happen that otherwise couldn’t happen, spot opportunity and are ready willing and able to take advantage of situations?
Advantage-making leaders create victory in spite of their circumstances. 
Obstacles are not stopping points, but triggers for using your ability to create unexpected solutions. 
A Silicon Valley tech V.P. was working on an initiative that required cross functional commitment and engagement. He found that his peers refused to move forward whenever an obstacle arose. They just stopped, even as their stopping was making it more difficult to meet the deadline. And they didn’t call, they just kept finding more questions. Details, in this case, were not going to make a difference. 
When there are obstacles to you stop and wait, do you complain for more than a few minutes, do you ask more and more questions when the answers won’t really make a substantial difference, or do you, as this V.P. said, ‘Refuse to Lose’? 
He was not saying there is no failure, he was saying there is always something to learn and move forward, to at least take engage. 
Advantage-Makers are often thought of as high risk takers, but they are really doing their best to actively penetrate to the heart of problem and more importantly, to the heart of the solution, that often appears like a big risk to those who decide based upon probability rather than possibility. 
While some obstacles actually are mountains, most are just pebbles that someone has thrown at you when you know how to play the game of advantage-making.
What advantages does you leadership really provide?
I’d love to hear

Recovery is in the winners hands

The recovery required both structural and perception changes.

A number of structural changes have been designed and implemented.
And these forces will continue to  work in the midst of uncertainty
But what can you do?
This is tough but the question now for the economy, and your personal economy
is what energy do you associate with?

With the winners or the losers.
Winners resonate a can do mentality, they are proactive. They don’t deny reality but they don’t play to the naysayers.
Who do you want to do business with? The naysayers or the resilient who perceive the opportunity that others don’t see?
It’s time for each of us to influence the perception that we can do and will do.
Perception drives behavior and controversy gets headlines.
We are beyond predominantly structural problems.
I do believe we must keep the stimulus flowing.
Best remedy for you individually is find ways that are working for you.
Small, medium or large.
Don’t buy the naysayers
Shift the game. Your personal energy is what people first notice.
Shift the question with potential customers. Instead of what can you do for me, ask What can I do for you now?
I can attest to the reality that shifting your energy shifts the interactions fundamentally, and our ability to perceive opportunity