strategy

As I wrap-up another year and begin to consider 2014, I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts around how to make your goal planning and the realization of those goals, more successful in the coming year.   Review this year What we've learned from successful...

One thing you learn quickly when you work in a large organization is that positional power doesn't actually carry the weight you think it might. When you need to catalyze resources from across the organization to achieve your strategic objectives, influence becomes paramount.

Learning the art of influencing includes understanding how to influence your peers without wielding positional power. It can mean the difference between moving closer to achieving your strategic objectives and struggling for the resources and attention you need to get things done.

First and foremost, when it comes to the art of influencing, it's important to understand where the line is between influence and manipulation. The main difference between manipulation and influence lies not in the techniques we use, but in how and why we use them.

The best analogy I can share with you from Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader: they both use the Force; one for evil and the other for good.

Where these two differ significantly is in their intent. Although the two of them both had a great deal of influence, Darth Vadar used the force for self-interest, to gain power. His intention was to fool and control people into doing and believing things for his own benefit – and no one else's. Obi-Wan used the force for good, his interests were always with teaching, helping others and building strong relationships.

So let's focus on the positive approach and talk about how the five principles of influence will help you improve your ability to get things done through the support of others:

Intention. In each situation, know what your intention is behind wanting to influence. Be clear about how your desired outcome benefits the other person/people, the organization, and you as well. A good rule of thumb: consider the other person as a potential ally. This frames the right mindset and attitude for successful influencing, especially in a situation where you may feel nervous or unsure. It also acts as a check-in to ensure that you are not letting personal motivators, like being right, or getting your own way, get in the way of influencing.

Empathy. Place yourself in the other person's shoes and work on understanding the issue or opportunity from their perspective. This requires you to drop the focus on what's in it for you and place it squarely on what's in it for them. Here are some questions you can ask to help empathize: What are their needs? What organizational forces are at work for them? What is going on for them? What common ground do we have? What drives them? Spending time considering the other person is not only key to successful influencing, but also ensures you have more than your own interests at heart.

A large portion of our team spent the day today planning out the future of our business using the LEGO Serious Play methodology. What an amazing, inspiring, and creative way to help craft the intricacies of our Wildly Courageous Decision to be the Apple of...

In the past month, I have had two unique opportunities: the first was to spend a few days in Boston with one of my clients and Frances Frei from Harvard; the second was a fireside chat with some fellow CEOs and author Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Outliers, What the Dog Saw). There were some great strategic nuggets interwoven into both conversations, and I want to share with you what I learned.

Frei is a professor in Harvard Business School’s technology and operations management unit and the chairwoman of the MBA required curriculum. Because Frei’s work focuses on how organizations can more effectively design service excellence, I was eager to hear her thoughts on organizational strategy. I was not disappointed.

Here are some key points I took away from the conversation.

Choose great over average. When you’re considering your points of differentiation as an organization the key is not to try to become five out of five on all aspects of your client value proposition; by diffusing your efforts as an organization among so many things you end up becoming three out of five (average) on everything.

Really great, standout companies figure out what they can sacrifice (areas where they are at about a one out of five), so they can truly be five out of five on the areas that count most to their customers.

Choose differentiation versus “me-too.” For true differentiation you need to do something that the competition can’t properly replicate. Consider the example of the Heavenly Bed Wars. Once Westin hotels rolled

out its heavenly beds campaign, all their competitors had to do was provide a similar quality of bed – a simple yet costly undertaking, the net result being that consumers now get better beds from all competing hotels. But each is still in the same price-competitive space: higher cost, lower margin and no differentiation. The trick is to focus on providing something to your customer that is difficult for your competitors to replicate.

[read time: 1 minute] I just spent two fantastic weeks in Italy with my wife and I think it's the first time in 10 years that I truly unplugged from work: no email (the caveat is that I did have someone on my team checking my...