The trials of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and disgraced self-help guru James Arthur Ray both ended in guilty verdicts. Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 of 20 counts of corruption. Ray was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide from deaths in a sweat lodge ceremony. And though some would argue that the verdicts in both cases were never in doubt, the results could have gone either way. Here are three lessons leaders can learn from these two seemingly unrelated cases:
Seventeen days can make a tremendous difference. The date was May 25, 2011. The Dallas Mavericks became the National Basketball Association’s Western Conference Champions for only the second time in its thirty-one year history. The 17,000-plus fans were anxious for a celebration. The team held up the trophy, smiled, posed for the obligatory photo-op, and then exited the arena – leaving ESPN reporter Doris Burke looking for someone to interview.
Let the debating begin. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s revelation that he exercised terrible judgment by Tweeting an inappropriate photo to a woman he had met on line raises scores of questions for leaders. It is certain to dominate the news cycle until one of three things happens:
Right now – as you are reading this sentence – 70 percent of your staff are alienating your customers, keeping you from achieving your goals, or costing your company money that could be used for more productive uses. Scary, huh?
Values – every company hangs them on the wall and distributes them on wallet cards. It is the same for individuals. Ask ten of your friends to list their values, and at least eighty percent will use words like respect, integrity, and honesty. So how important are your values? Will you sacrifice them for the results and outcomes you desire? Are they so important that you would lay down your life – figuratively or literally – to protect them?
There are a lot of factors that could contribute to your lack of results – time, talent, resources – but for most of us the difference between excellence and mediocrity comes down to accountability. Accountability requires courage: Courage to tell and value the truth. Courage to remain keenly focused on results that matter, and courage to be relentless and unwavering as we look at contribution and behavior. The failure to stem a crisis of accountability places us on the path to mediocrity and worse – irrelevance.
Why do certain companies, brands, and even people stand out in a world where everyone is basically saying and doing the same things? For the most part, we all get it wrong. We focus on the tools – like marketing campaigns, social media, and advertising – and ignore the goal – to make customers want to do business with us. Here are three things you can do to define and deliver an experience that sets you apart:
I published a piece titled “Stupid Has Its Own Momentum” in November 2010. Since then, examples of stupid having its own momentum. have continued ... and continued ... and continued. Stupid maintains its own momentum because there are incentives to do so. Here are three powerful rewards to stay stupid:
The debate of divergent ideas consumes the airwaves. It streams across the Internet in a multitude of bits and bytes; and it populates the pages of the print media. Most important, it occupies the time, energy, and resources of our leaders. So how is the debate working so far? Are you seeing results? The absence of respect – for the process, the opposition, and the people being governed – is a prime culprit in our failure to act and deliver results.
Southwest Airlines faced a dilemma early in its operation—a cash shortage was forcing it to sell one of its four airplanes. The implications are obvious—selling the airplane generates cash for operations and cuts capacity to generate future revenue. Government leaders are facing their version of this challenge in budget meetings across the country. Should we raise taxes and fees in a difficult economy, or do we cut services at a time when they may be needed most?