May 012010
 

VALUES ARE THE KEY TO BUILDING VALUE

In previous posts I covered highlights from the outstanding line-up of thought leaders who spoke at The World Business Forum, 2009. (An Afternoon Of Concern and Contrast at The World Business Forum) One of the big observations that came out of the conference concerned an enlightened view of profit that encompasses both hard and soft assets.

More and more of today’s CEO’s now see a three tiered metric of profit as essential to building a strong and sustainable company. Dollar profit for fiscal sustainability. Emotional Profit of company stakeholders for a sustainable corporate culture and ethos. Greater Good Profit that extends benefits beyond the company for sustainable connected communities.

Now there is a study that seems to confirm that this enlightened profit perspective may do a lot more than just make a company CEO feel good. Valuing and building soft assets can actually be the key to delivering even better financial results and a healthier, stronger company. Recent research shows that CEOs who make it their business to place a higher priority on stakeholders’ interests and well-being rather than a relentless pursuit of  delivering dollar profit come out on top.

The research,entitled Unrequited Profit: How Stakeholder and Economic Values Relate To Subordinates’ Perceptions of Leadership and Firm Performance was conducted by some top people in the their field: Mary Sully de Luque, of Thunderbird School of Global Management; David A. Waldman, of Arizona State University West; and Robert J. House, of the University of Pennsylvania. Their findings are based on survey data gathered from 520 business organizations in 17 countries, including emerging markets. Here’s how the authors summed up their study.

We were testing the hypothesis that if a CEO’s primary focus is on profit maximization, employees develop negative feelings toward the organization. They tend to perceive the CEO as autocratic and focused on the short term, and they report being somewhat less willing to sacrifice for the company. Corporate performance is poorer as a result.

It turns out that this reordering of priorities and balanced perspective generate greater workforce engagement and extra effort that in turn yield significantly better operations and superior financial results. There also appears to be some risk to a CEO’s leadership effectiveness associated with a “profit above all else attitude”… the mantra of many a “hard driving” CEO. The exclusively profit driven CEO is seen as an autocratic leader and is less likely to garner employee commitment.

The values driven CEO is seen as a visionary, a motivator and is more likely to positively influence loyalty and inspire “extra effort”. He or she is viewed as a kinder, more empathetic breed of CEO superhero. This wholistic view being embraced by CEOs is Asset-Based Thinking at its best. It builds upon core asset-based leadership communication skills we call S.O.S. Leading with Substance. Sizzle. Soul. The hard assets of performance and skills are the substance…costs of entry. Sizzle is the personal style and presentation that gets attention. Soul is “why” it is personally important and meaningful….the secret ingredient that makes it all work.

I recently read a New York Times article about new values based organizations and business cultures and this bit of sage Asset-Based Thinking advice from Brandon Busteed, co-founder of Outside the Classroom really resonated with me. “Run like a business, act like a nonprofit, care to be better.”

Simple, smart, savvy advice for any business, non-profit or anyone just involved in the business of life.

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Oct 082009
 

The sky is falling….maybe

The beginning of the afternoon at the World Business Forum can best be summed up as a sobering barrage of the pitfalls, perils, and problems ahead of us. David Rubenstein, founder of the Carlyle Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, presented a non-stop litany of facts to drive home his admonition that “Just because the recession will be ‘over’ soon doesn’t mean it’s all going to be OK.” His command of the numbers and their implications was simultaneously amazing and numbing

sachs

Then Jeffrey Sachs gave us on a macro view of the unprecedented challenges we face as a result of living in a totally interconnected world, a planet bursting at the seams and not able to sustain itself, a US political system and governance gone awry over the past 25 years, and America’s ever dimming presence and influence.

Whew. Do we have anything to look forward to? Hopefully.

Two Asset-Based Thinking takeaways:

  • Vigilance is Virtue – There still are tough times ahead. Consolidate your assets…personal, relational and situational…so you’re ready to face them.
  • Cooperation and Collaboration on a global scale will be core drivers of a better future. No man is an island…positive, inter-dependent relationships are valued assets.

T. Boone Pickens: Building Value and Living Your Values

Substance. Style. Soul.

pickensThe discussion with Mr. Pickens had the feel and tone of a nice living room chat with one of your favorite uncles or mentors. The interviewer started out with a review of Mr. Pickens’ great wealth. Mr. Pickens was quick to point out that it wasn’t until he was 70 that he made his “first billion” and added that his five children and thirteen grandchildren are an equally important measure of his wealth. Now that’s a set of values that all of us should emulate.

Immediately, it became apparent that Mr. Pickens views wealth as a consequence of hard work, risk taking, passion, and resilience. Perhaps more important, he believes that building and leveraging a portfolio of softer assets is also essential: listening, connection, service, purpose, and values. He feels that CEOs must have a sense of caring and connection to their shareholders and, unfortunately, most do not, putting themselves before the good of their shareholders. Ain’t that the truth.

He really came alive when the discussion turned to his most recent venture, The Pickens Plan For Energy Independence. Mr. Pickens said he does not view himself as an environmental activist. He sees himself as being in pursuit of his Noble Cause, Security for America though energy independence…the positive environmental impact is an ancillary benefit.

Some great T. Boone Pickens Asset-Based Thinking advice:

The pursuit of your Mighty Cause and making “profit” go hand in hand. You have to change the way you see profit. It’s multi-leveled. Money. Emotional Rewards. Greater Good.

He is very proud of the fact that his Pickens Plan now has an online following of over 1.6 million people – what politicians call his “army.” He sees those 1.6 million advocates as more powerful leverage that all his billions and corporate holdings. Another example of the value that Mr. Pickens places on softer assets and his sense of values.

I’m signed up for the Pickens Plan and he’s on my Mount Rushmore of people I admire and respect.

Kevin Roberts and Building Brands – Love Me!

Kevin is the Creative Director for Saatchi, a large multi-national ad agency. In his book, Lovemarks, he very smartly discusses why brands today have to create “loyalty beyond reason” by delivering “emotionally priceless value.” Then, a brand can transform itself into a “Lovemark.” The art of creating emotional connections with consumers to build brands is not new in the advertising business. In fact, satisfying emotional needs is a “cost of entry” in today’s communications business. The major “now” dynamic taking the art of emotion to new levels are the power and control of the consumer and social media.

The Asset-Based Thinking insight in Kevin’s presentation was a simple one. To build a Lovemark, businesses have to let go of their brands and turn them over to the consumer. Let the brand speak for itself. In Asset-Based Thinking terms we call that “Losing Control to Get Traction.” This works just as well in your personal life as it does in building Lovemarks. Try it. You’ll like it.

George Lucas and Creative Innovation – Class!

George LucasGeorge Lucas capped off the day with an intimate and personal discussion of his life and his journey through the film business. He is the antithesis of Hollywood. Calm, classy, reasonable, values-based, independent…and one of the most inventive and creative people on the planet. The total package. He learned early on how to work with the assets and opportunities which present themselves.

Here are some wonderful asset-based thinking insights I heard from George Lucas.

  • Art is communicating emotions from one human to another…we need technology to enable that transfer. The value of emotional connections drives much of what he does.
  • As Yoda might say, be careful with what you hate because you might become it. – Commenting on the fact that he really doesn’t like writing scripts. He wanted to be an illustrator and make documentaries.
  • Never make your hobby your business. – Advice from dad on the importance of commitment to professionalism.
  • Practice reasonable civil discourse as the best way to get things done. Don’t yell, demand or intimidate. Enough said.
  • It’s not about writing a script. It’s about telling a story. Great advice on how to approach communication in general.

Finally, he encouraged everyone to put their passions to use for the greater good. What Asset-Based Thinkers call finding their “Mighty Cause.” George Lucas’ Mighty Cause is learning and education. He founded the nonprofit Edutopia and is using his talents and resources to study how teachers teach, find and document best practices, and share them online with the world. His vision is to create “learning machines.”

The afternoon started out with a barrage of the downside, the problems; then it gracefully moved though to a vision of upside possibilities and potential. A perfect setup for cocktails and the bloggers’ dinner.

More to come tomorrow from Day 2

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Oct 072009
 

Bloggers hubSitting in the front row in the Bloggers Hub at The World Business Forum. Wired, ready to go and surrounded by 50 of the best bloggers on the planet. A bit intimidating. These are some of the most savvy social media folks around, smart thinkers, great writers and they type a lot faster than me.

Undaunted, I’ve put on my Asset-Based Thinking lenses and will be viewing the conference with an eye towards how speakers address positive change and momentum. I’ll also be drawing on the energy and support of my fellow bloggers.

Some Asset-Based Thinking take-aways from the morning session.

Setting The Stage
Les Hinton, CEO of the Dow Jones Company summed up the past year with a quote. “If you ride through hell, you don’t stop.” He advised the audience to be vigilant and “keep on riding” since there are still challenges ahead. It’s not over yet. He was simultaneously optimistic about focusing on the future, the importance of small business and sticking to what business does best. Creating value!

Bill George & How Crisis Shapes Leaders
Bill George, from Harvard, delivered a personal and practical talk on “Leading In A Crisis” based on his excellent book, “7 Lessons For Leading In A Crisis”. Overall, he’s concerned that the aftermath of the crisis may be worse than the “storm” itself because of the jobs issues. Bill believes that leaders have been too focused on saving jobs rather than creating jobs and that small business is the job creation engine that drives our future. Amen.

Bill also said this. “Crisis is the true test of a leader and great leaders never let a good crisis go to waste”. Only by taking the crisis head on and looking deep into the eye of the storm can a leader see the opportunities on the other side. And, great leaders actively learn how to “anticipate” crisis and be ready.

His best Asset-Based Thinking advice was this. When facing a crisis one should lead by his or her True North Values. The beliefs and values by which you lead your life should be the way you lead in your business. Another humbling thought. The career you have built over 30 years can be lost in 30 minutes if a crisis is not handled with leadership and integrity.

Bill Conaty & Making The Most of The Human Resource

Bill served as head of HR at GE under the legendary Jack Welch. Together they built a World Class company built on performance based values. He underscored the need to have Human Resources move beyond being viewed ad the “pensions and picnics” to being positioned a real business partner, employee advocate and “trustee” of the company values. (love they concept of a values trustee)

Theses are the ingredients necessary to build a performance based culture

  • Passionate CEO commitment.
  • Well understood values.
  • Real goals and measurements.
  • Trust and candor in evaluations. (Trust Agents in your company)
  • Consequences for failing.
  • Always raising the bar

Bill’s best asset-based thinking advice was this.

“Making the numbers and embracing core values are the metrics of success. Too much time is spent on the number…without the values superior performance is not sustainable”

To borrow a phrase from a past election…It’s about the values, stupid. The best leaders make sure that values are deeply embedded into a company, at all levels, and that there is a clear succession plan to carry them on.

Pat Lencioni – Trust Shall Set You Free.
A real deal Team Building guru. Pat was the energizing finale of the morning. The ultimate “infotainment” speaker, Pat made transformed the simple principles of building effective teams into profound, practical and powerful insights.

He believes that for any business to maximize its potential the business needs to do two things very well….be intellectually SMART (the nuts and bolts of the business) and operational HEALTHY (The emotional & personal engagement of the business) The right balance of these two critical ingredients build a teamwork culture that minimizes politics and confusion maximizes morale, productivity and retention.

Some other pithy tips and advice:

  • Health lets a business tap more deeply into its smart side.
  • A cohesive leadership team requires both Intellectual Clarity and Behavioral Clarity
  • Don’t fear redundancy. Over communicate the clarity.

Pat identified what I believe is the “silver bullet” in enabling functional teamwork to flourish and help make a business great. Trust. Predictive trust (to say what one believes) and vulnerability based trust ( to feel free to admit shortcomings and be vulnerable)

This multi-dimensional trust helps everyone overcome their fear of conflict – not personal conflict – but debate and positive conflict over issues. Without conflict there can’t be true commitment.

Pat’s simple wisdom – Conflict with trust is pursuit of the truth. Without Trust its politics. Foster an environment of “Disagree and Commit”.

Finally, Pat made an emotional appeal to the audience to realize that as leaders they have profound influence on the everyday lives of the people they work with. He summed up leadership as a “profound ministry”. An inspiring Amen for all of us in the audience.

Lunch time. Refuel for an exciting afternoon of Jeffrey Sachs and T.Boone Pickens.

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Oct 062009
 

Positive Social Media Adrenaline Amps Up Business Events

WBF Radio City

Reporting live on Day 1 as a featured blogger at the World Business Forum (#wbf09) at Radio City Music hall in NYC. A beautiful day in the Big Apple for a Big Idea business conference.

Bloggers Hub Buzz
Even before the speeches begin one of the event’s unique features is generating a great deal of positive chatter. The event organizers, HSM get a big Asset-Based Thinking shout out for creating the Bloggers Hub. It is a state of the art resource placed right in the middle of the action that houses about 50 featured bloggers providing us with full access to everything happening at the event. The bloggers hub is new and very smart communication idea for conferences, the benefits of which are apparent even at this early stage.

Bloggers Hub Benefits That I See

  • Facilitates a friendly, open platform for bloggers to provide real time updates, commentary and coverage of the speeches of some very smart and influential leaders.
  • Serves as a micro-community of a diverse group of bloggers to connect around a common interest…live reporting and disseminating information of significance…what I call “Content of Consequence”
  • Creates an environment of mutually supportive and connected energy that feeds on itself. A special “vibe” that brings a new collective dynamic to a usually solitary writing process.
  • Provides a “streaming commentary” on topics and discussions as they happen and invites real time response and interaction from each blogger’s audience which we in turn can use as fuel for our reporting.
  • Links a network of “Trust Agents” and enables their power to apply leverage to issues and opportunities. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) describes this as the “Archimedes Effect” in his brilliant new book entitled ( of course) Trust Agents.

So, stay tuned for live blog posts, tweets, twirtpics, twitvids, facebook updates and more from The World Business Forum. Welcome to what Jeff Pulver  (@jeffpulver) has dubbed The State of Now.

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