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Category Archives: Leadership Development

Another Storytelling Device to Know

This article is about a storytelling device known as a macguffin. As you enjoy reading about how film directors and writers have used macguffins for years, possibly in some of your favorite movies, try to keep track of how many times I use the word “good” in the article below.

A Storytelling Device To Move the Plot Forward

A macguffin is described as a plot device that propels a story forward. A macguffin can be an object that is valuable in and of itself such as a diamond, an artifact or an expensive piece of artwork. Or the macguffin can be valuable in that it is an object or person of interest, such as something containing valuable data or secrets. A macguffin can also be an ideal such as power, love, or glory.

Examples of Macguffin

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Organizations Must Commit to Find and Grow Leaders

A case for more organizations to identify and grow leaders from within. How does one ever know their capacities until they’re tested?

A common complaint from senior-level management in many companies is the lack of leadership skills demonstrated by their employees, which they note as:

  • independent thinking
  • creative problem-solving
  • analytical thinking
  • effective communication

When I assisted a Los Angeles-based client with this issue, I began by looking for the future leaders within the company. I was looking for employees who might currently be underutilized, untested, underdeveloped or even unseen.

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The Immaculate Perception Myth Creates a Leadership Vacuum

Many business owners tell me that the biggest challenge they face is a “leadership vacuum” within their organizations.  They usually identify the following problems at two different levels within the organization:

  1. Their senior level managers, while competent overall, are lacking skills in one or more critical areas: knowledge of the business, capacity to lead, or ability to create and/or implement vision and directives.
  2. The mid-level managers perform their duties quite adequately but fail to demonstrate consistent capacities to think strategically, and then communicate those strategic decisions with others.

While it’s true that “you can’t send ducks to eagle school,” it has been my experience that more often than not, the managers that lack a few critical skills can be developed into fine organizational leaders and strategic thinkers. However, the solution isn’t as easy as having them sit through a training course on strategic thinking or leadership. The real solution consists of changing the driving myths of the culture in which these managers operate.

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The Risk of Avoiding Risk

I recently had the honor of addressing 700 Navy attorneys (both civilian and military) on the topic of leadership in a time of change. Immediately before my talk, the Acting Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Sean J. Stackley, addressed the audience on the main context for the event – ‘Gamechangers: Transforming the Present and Future.’

“Don’t avoid risk. You’ll get nothing done. Understand risk and manage risk.”

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean J. Stackley

It’s difficult to talk about change without bringing up the concept of risk. Why? Because of our natural human tendency, based on the way our minds function, to operate in a sameness pattern. We resist change, which generally means we avoid taking risks. The well-worn pathways of our brain’s neural networks feel as natural as our most comfortable pair of blue jeans. Why change what is comfortable? Read more »

Learn the New Rules, or Learn the New Game?

When you were a kid, you probably had a few games you cherished as favorites. Chances are your favorite games were the ones you were better at playing, and given the choice, you would prefer to teach someone your game than to learn the new game.

In a lot of ways, we are kids in grown-up clothes. And millions of us in corporate America are facing the same dilemma:

  • stick to the same game?
  • or learn the new game?

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Cacophony Requires Clarity

I recently visited Lisbon with my wife and a few close friends. It was a wonderful trip; I enjoyed the history, culture, art and architecture, and of course, the food and wine. Those who know me know that no trip would be complete without some time spent on culture and the lessons we can draw from history – especially as it relates to leadership and success. Here, I saw a great example of a powerful lesson: cacophony requires clarity.

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Why Start With the Mind for Effective Leadership

Why start with the mind for effective leadership? The video below captures the essence of Joe Caruso’s work, in less than 5 minutes.

Joe explains why he focuses on the mind at the beginning of the relationship when he approaches problems with clients. “When I hear how the individual and collective mind is processing what this problem means, I am able to bring an objective perspective to an understanding of the problem.”

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Ask Yourself, Who Do I Want to Be?

Before New Year’s Resolutions, Ask Yourself, Who Do I Want to Be?

In this time of year when we attend parties and meet new people, one of the first questions people often ask is,

“What do you do?”

This reminds me that there is a much more important question to be asked – one that not enough people ask themselves. And now is a great time of year to ask (or re-ask) the question of yourself:

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Win-Win Negotiation: Respond Rather than React

Win-Win Negotiation

“Realize that you are always in a negotiation, if not with others, then with yourself.”  – Joe Caruso

It’s not a question of whether or not you negotiate, it’s how good you are when you do. There is an inherent danger of being in the midst of a negotiation and not recognizing it as such. Virtually all of your communication with other people is a form of negotiation.

You are the only one who can know exactly what you want and what you need. You are the only one who has the bottom-line responsibility of making sure you get it. It is not about taking advantage of people to get what you want in life. It’s about win-win negotiation.

There are five basic characteristics of a successful, win-win negotiation:
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Do Your Habits and Processes Pass the Relevance Test?

In our personal and professional lives, we are creatures of habit. As we mature we tend to hold onto old habits or approaches that are no longer relevant to our needs.

If you are guilty of this natural human phenomenon like most of us are, I urge you to reevaluate your processes from time to time to see if they pass what I call the “relevance” test.

Consider this story:

A loving mother was teaching her newly engaged daughter how to cook a roast “just like Grandma’s.”

“First,” the mother said, “you have to cut two inches from each end.”

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