A challenge for executives with large teams is how to be ‘effectively productive’, to not feel overwhelmed, and interact with and give attention to what is necessary. And, it’s not just ‘how to be productive’ but also what to be productive about?! I wanted to share Robert Pozen’s article, “Extreme Productivity,” with you. For me, what’s missing on the list is the importance of surrounding yourself with extremely bright people who think out of the box and are not there to echo your idea, or to be a mini-you, but rather, those who bring genuine perspective and can help direct the executive to where focus is missing. A CEO spending the bulk of their time with the investors may be tons of time spent, but is that what is most productive for the company? A senior executive has to loosen the resistances to change, and not rely on their direct reports to interact with their teams, but rather mindfully determine what to focus on and how to achieve extreme productivity. So, I think Pozen’s list starts the dialog but we need to expand on it with enthusiasm!
Review: As executives, time is one of our most valuable assets, if not the most valuable. We all recognize the crucial importance of being productive in our work. So, how do we make the most of our limited time in practice? Robert Pozen offers some insightful thoughts on this subject in his article “Extreme Productivity,” published in this winter’s issue of Harvard Business Review. Having worked in academia, government and the financial sector (he was formerly a top executive at investment giants Fidelity and MFS Investment Management), Pozen proposes six principles for how you can be more productive.
1. Know your particular strengths
- Don’t try to do everything that you can possibly do in the company. Delegate, and do those tasks that only you in your position can do. Bring your strongest skills to those projects that most need you.
2. Not about the time you spend but the results you achieve
- More time does not equal more value. Instead, when we measure success by our results, we free ourselves to become more efficient.
3. Think before you read or write
- Whether you’re trying to absorb lots of information or convey it to others, start by thinking, “Why am I reading/writing this?” Know what you’re looking for ahead of time; don’t just hope to stumble upon it somewhere down the road.
4. Plan ahead but remain flexible
- Planning saves us time, but we run into snags when we book our schedules too tightly. Leave a small window of time open each day for the unexpected developments which invariably arise.
5. Let others work independently
- Allow people to own their own space. Provide guidance, resources and support, but give employees autonomy in how they implement the priorities you lay out. This keeps them interested and encourages creativity and disruption.
6. Keep personal habits simple
- Stick to a simple daily routine: wake up at the same time, eat the same thing for breakfast, etc. Have a travel routine as well. Be boring in the small stuff; this makes it easier to simplify your work life. E.g., keep meetings short and to the point – do not waste time lecturing for hours!
In addition to these useful tips, it’s refreshing to hear Pozen talk about the importance of healthy living and work-life balance. We are at our productive peak when we live healthfully, with healthy eating, solid sleep and regular exercise. These become even more important when we are on the road. For example, Pozen encourages sleeping a solid seven or eight hours a night, plus taking a midday power nap. Lastly, by limiting our work time, a work-life balance can help us to be more productive with the time we have – and keep us happier in the long run.
What to you think!?
Please email me at info@StraTerraPartners.com or talk to me on social media channels!
We all know Steve Jobs was a hugely successful visionary and innovator. But what exactly made him so? Of course, leadership is not like a recipe, you don’t add a bit of this and a bit of that, nor are we all the same. It is in fact that difference that makes leadership special. I do, however, believe that some of the items below are learned and some you are born with. Paranoia in particular is one missing from the list below [Read more about paranoia and leadership here.] and to know where not to go OCD on the traits below which can kill teams. Knowing how to inspire while driving teams is essential. So, let me know what you think?
In “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” (Harvard Business Review, winter 2013), Jobs’s bestselling biographer, Walter Isaacson, distills the keys to Jobs’s success for us to take away and apply to our own executive practice:
- Channel your energy into a few great products, instead of a lot of average ones.
- Overcome complexity by really understanding the underlying problems and finding creative ways around them.
3. Integrate all aspects of customer experience
- Be with the customer from the beginning of the process to the end (i.e. hardware, software, associated devices, and everything in between).
4. Jump ahead when you’re behind
- See being behind not as a failure, but as an opportunity to leap ahead of others and fundamentally transform the industry in unexpected ways.
5. Prioritize product over profit
- Making an innovative product should be your primary motivation, and then profits will follow. Focusing primarily on profits will get you to mediocrity, not innovation.
6. Intuit (rather than analyze) what customers want
- Use your instinct – based on professional and personal experiences – to gauge what customers want before they even know it themselves.
7. Believe the impossible is possible for YOU
- The rules don’t apply to you or the amazing people you work with. Use empowering self-delusion to unlock your creative potential.
8. Take presentation into account
- The cover matters as much as the book when it comes to people’s impressions of a product.
9. Strive for perfection
- Push to make the product perfect on all levels, even those unseen by the customer.
10. Tolerate only the best from the people you work with
- Push people to their peak potential, but remember that it is loyalty – engendered by inspiration and passion – that keeps people around.
11. Connect face-to-face with people
- True creativity and collaboration comes from spontaneous personal encounters and discussions, not dry conference calls.
12. Combine grand vision with detail orientation
- Be able to hone in on the details and step back to the big picture
13. Bridge the humanities and the sciences
- Connect the arts to engineering: make technology poetic. This is the direction technology is headed.
14. Maintain a non-conformist, rebellious edge at all times
- Always challenge the established ways of doing things. Remember, it’s when people start labeling us as “crazy” that we know we’re truly disrupting.
Some of these principles may be more imitable or relevant than others. We may not agree with all of them. It’s up to us to decide how we choose to learn from the story of Steve Jobs and Apple. But, it’s indisputable that all of these components were necessary for Jobs’s distinct personality and path to success.
Would love to hear what you think. Please email me at info@StraTerraPartners.com or talk to me on social media channels!
The two ingredients which I think GREATLY enhance a leader’s (CEO or senior executive) ability to win are:
- Constant and Uber paranoia, combined with:
- Unconventional (unobstructed) thinking
However, I DON’T think paranoia alone is enough. That used to be Intel’s weapon — constant paranoia. A significant weapon, but not enough on its own.
Key in Bezos’s behavior is complete unconventional and out-of-the-box thinking. Such thinking is innovative, unparalleled and usually considered impossible. I have many examples to share with you, but the twothat come to mind regrading Amazon are:
1. Define and own a market when people don’t think it is possible. Start by selling books and then sell everything from all over the world. ‘Limitations’ are simply boundaries in one’s head and that is it!
2. Break conventional thinking. Why not deliver packages on Sunday? Why not use USPS versus only UPS? This is win-win for Amazon and the USPS. USPS is bleeding money, has halted Saturday delivery. is laying off thousands and closing hundreds of centers. Why not develop a win-win strategy? Many would think that USPS is a federal agency, hence you can not negotiate with them or other delivery companies would not respond, as Sunday is an impossible date to deliver mail.
Impossible to many become ‘options’ to a few, those who do not let conventional obstacles stand in their way.
Combined with incessant paranoia, that is a huge competitive differentiator.
On the downside, executives with such behavior (Paranoia + Unconventional Thinking) are very intense, often lack the ability to motivate employees and drive very hard, sometimes too hard! The ability to have these ingredients PLUS a keen ability to motivate staff, now that is the killer winning formula!
Often there is a misconception that business plans are for entrepreneurs only! Wrong! A business plan is a way to crisply and concisely communicate one’s idea with others, especially when the idea is about an innovation, a new product/service or a new concept. Over the years, whether I am sitting in a large company meeting evaluating new product ideas, or listening to pitches by entrepreneurs, a brief one page business plan is the best way to not only learn about the merits of the idea, but also to get to know the person behind the idea. You!
Why one page? The first pass of hearing an idea should not take more than a few lines. These lines not only explain the merits of the idea, but also the competitive differentiation the idea will give the company or the entrepreneur. It is not to ‘Wow’ the audience, rather to ‘convince’ the audience that the idea and the person or people behind the idea are golden and solid. This is an art which I think will benefit everyone. Schedules are busy, attention spans limited, and if in 1-2 minutes you can capture someone’s imagination, and convince them that you have the passion and can deliver, that is what is required to succeed. Whether in the boardroom, conference room or in an official funding pitch, this is an art to master.
The key elements which I propose you contain in your one page business plan include:
1. Your passion about the innovation which you are proposing. Yes, ‘passion’! If you are not excited and passionate, how do you expect the person hearing your pitch to be?!
2. Let your audience know your vision. Innovation is about having a vision and being unrestricted.
3. Why is your innovation important? Establish criticalness, reason and justification for your idea.
4. Resource and timing requirements to develop your innovation. Milestones are key. Nothing is done overnight, and interim deliverables are key. If you don’t have the resources, how are you proposing to get the resources?
5. What will your idea cost to develop? Initial funding?
6. What new markets will your innovation create? How will it increase or generate revenue?
7. How does your proposed innovation enhance competitive differentiation? In a large company, how will this set you apart from the rest?
To capture all this in one page, you need to think through your idea carefully and determine what facts you want to share with your audience. The depth and thoughtfulness of your one page business plan will also establish your credibility and passion with the audience. You may run into the key person to pitch your idea in a hallway. Imagine if you could deliver your pitch as you walk to the elevator or in the parking lot! Imagine how well the person will remember you, if you were prepared to do so. Generally, not only will they remember the idea, but also the person (and their passion) behind the idea!
A few pointers to consider:
1. Expect that your audience is very smart. This is not an arena to flex technical muscle or impress them with what you know. Rather, use this opportunity to ‘sell’ your concept. Yes, ‘selling’ is a reality.
2. Respect your audience and get the answers that you need in preparation for your business plan. Talk to sales and marketing and get answers. ‘I don’t know’ is a show stopper. Instead, consider: “This is what I have found out to date and I am looking into the following…” Do your personal market research. Know what else is out there and who is doing what. Be prepared. Step out of your comfort zone.
3. Vet the idea with some people you respect but who are not conformists. Be open to constructive criticism.
4. Be prepared for honest feedback. If you are truly passionate about your idea, you will be back pitching it for a second and third time. This is not a one time event.
5. Let your passion show. Smile when you are presenting and accept that how you are perceived is directly related to how your audience will respond to your pitch. They want to feel your energy and enthusiasm. Be infective not passive.
6. Once you have your business plan, you can share with your higher ups in electronic format. I guarantee you that they will be sharing it among the execs! Execs are always looking for the shining stars in their organization. You may not hear about it, but there is lots of traffic which goes like this: “Just got this business plan about an innovation idea from ‘John’. Pretty impressive. What do you think? How about we meet with him and review it in more detail!”
7. And most importantly: DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING! Expect the unexpected and be super prepared.
You are brilliant and have great ideas! Let people know how great you are. If your pitch is presented really well, you may or may not get funded, but one thing is for certain: Everyone will remember YOU and YOUR IDEA!
Below is a page out of the ProVoke Methodology workbook: The ProVoke Methodology Business Plan.
Are you ready?
Some say big and old organizations can’t change. Positive changes at Yahoo may show us how CHANGE is possible.
The point which grabbed my eye was , Mayer bringing a “sense of vision and urgency”:
1. Vision: Critical as staff in a large company want to know what the overall vision and strategy of the company is. That is totally different than a CEO demanding innovation, or working off of a corporate strategic script. Vision is that hunger, desire, passion to want to make the company something exceptional. Not generate more revenue (which is the model of most CEO’s) but to change the culture of the company.
2. Urgency: Setting an urgent and active pace in achieving the goals and vision. Not demanding, but rather being part of the process of speeding the pace and achieving the impossible.
To do so a CEO has to be comfortable in bringing about disruption and innovation into the company AND to lead by example.
I totally felt the hunger, vision and urgency when I saw Marissa on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in NY a few months ago. She was not acting like a old-style CEO, rather she was totally excited about the vision and the possibilities ahead. I am not a Yahoo employee, but I was totally jazzed listening to her speak…. I am delighted to see her succeeding in her role at Yahoo.
To have a successful Ecosystem of Disruption, true change comes from above and below across all change agents.
The CEO inspires the board, the employees, the market, investors and all parties involved. Mayer came in after a large number of ineffective CEO’s and brought vision, drive, passion and urgency. Imagine, if every CEO would do the same! Imagine the possibility for change. Yes, still challenges ahead and mistakes will be made, but exciting to see positive change at Yahoo!