A Dozen Profound Business Leadership Articles from 2018

A Dozen Profound Business Leadership Articles from 2018

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One of my favorite quotations is, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Like you, I consume myriad blogs, webinars, magazines and, of course, books to stay current with the wireless industry, to build business and leadership skills, to improve life-work balance, to feed various passions (ahem, bicycling, food and wine), to tune out, and more.

Yesterday, I shared a list of wireless industry articles from 2018 that strongly impacted my outlook. It included topics such as 5G, CBRS, PropTech and Smart Buildings.

Today, I’m curating a list of business and leadership development articles that resonated with me.

New Year, New Job

January is the time we make resolutions for change. Studies show the most common resolutions are health-related followed by financial and career aspirations.

So, is it time to seek a new job? In Ten Signs You’re Wasting Your Talent In The Wrong Job, Liz Ryan identifies lack of appreciation, hostile work environment, boredom and a culture of ambivalence as potential reasons to consider moving on.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge (or at least dip your toe in the water), you’ll want to ensure your resume is working for you, not against you. In just one minute, Business Insider dissects 9 phrases on your résumé that make hiring managers cringe. How many are you guilty of?

But don’t overlook the intangibles. “Grit” and “potential” (e.g., curiosity, adaptability, self-awareness) are key indicators hiring managers increasingly use to differentiate candidates as detailed in How to Profit From the Ultra-Tight Job Market Right Now (these attributes — passion and fire, a great work ethic, perseverance, loyalty, and a growth mindset — match qualities LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says his company looks for in candidates)

The Performance Review Kabuki Dance

There are three things virtually every employee encounters at the start of a new year… a higher quota or revenue goal, the company “kickoff” meeting, and performance evaluation. Unfortunately, reviews tend to induce more groans than feelings of satisfaction. Frustrations abound with practices such as once-a-year feedback epiphanies, gaming self-reviews, and a penchant toward average via bell-curve scoring, an approach Jack Welsh advocated at GE in which managers divide employees into three categories: the top 20 percent, the middle 70 percent, and the bottom 10 percent.

Steven Sinofsky counsels in Performance of Performance Reviews the importance of both qualitative and quantitative analysis, developing a system that both rates and rewards, and measuring against goals. Perhaps one of the most prescient insights is — assuming your employer is reasonable — that things work out in the end even within an imperfect performance review system.

Change vs. Change-Resistant Corporate Culture

Fortune Magazine unintentionally — or, perhaps, intentionally — pitted two corporate culture outlooks against one another. Specifically, that of a culture that embraces change versus a culture that resists change.

In Alphabet’s Guru of Googley Rigor, Adam Lashinsky writes:

As a new Googler, Porat spent some time learning the words that describe the Googley people who work in those buildings. “It’s inquisitive, risk taker, curiosity, excitement, fun, collaborative, teamwork,” she says. “We want people who are really bright, really inquisitive, really passionate, who want to make a big difference.”

Contrast that outlook to what Geoff Colvin and Shawn Tully write in With Nelson Peltz on the Board, Will P&G Finally Break Up?:

Rescuing a big, old incumbent is never easy, but if it’s to be done, the best place to start is with the culture. Inevitably it is first a blessing and eventually a curse. P&G’s titanium-strong culture — rigorous, process-heavy, proud, favoring dedicated lifers — was essential to the company’s success but doesn’t adapt well when the environment changes. It becomes a brake, not an accelerator, in a world of digital disruption and broadly shifting consumer tastes.

It’s rarely that black and white but, nonetheless, these characteristics are instructional given changing global, economic, technology and demographic influences, to name a few.

Lessons in Successful Leadership

What makes a great leader great or a successful leader successful? Let’s set aside the leader versus manager debate and, instead, focus on key characteristics and habits.

According to Art Blackman’s article in Harvard Business Review, leaders must have a baseline skillset that includes the “ability to motivate self and others, effective oral and written communication, critical thinking skills, problem solving ability, and skills at working with teams and delegating tasks.” But that’s not enough. Blackman convincingly argues leaders must have domain-specific expertise. This informs why some leaders can be led astray by the SMEs they’ve surrounded themselves with, as well as why leaders who have been successful in one arena find it difficult to find similar success in another.

Great leaders also cultivate certain habits and outlooks. My friend Gini Dietrich (sorry Gini, indoor miles still don’t count!) shares four things all successful people do including focusing on victories, never settling, visualizing and meditating, and limiting daily priorities and focusing diligently on them.

A Forbes Q&A with Melanie Whelan, CEO SoulCycle, adds trusting one’s gut when making a decision; taking time to disconnect and rejuvenate to think creatively, and overcoming fear or pride to ask for help.

Putting Your Best Presentation Foot Forward

Nearly all of us are called upon to present. Perhaps we’re in sales. Or we need to get buy-in on a product plan, strategic initiative or budget from leadership. Or we’ve been invited to share insights at a conference. Successful presenters connect with their audience and deliver a crisp message that provides value.

In sales, PowerPoint is a necessary evil. Jill Konrath takes aim at the typical boring promotional sales deck, counseling to, instead, create and deliver a rich, compelling experience. This approach eschews “about us” slides for those that engage and invite buyers to consider change. Of course, you’re asking questions and uncovering information about your buyer. A powerful and proven approach is the strategic narrative successfully used by Salesforce and other companies that navigates the “why” and the future state benefits of change.

In sports, practice and preparation (and, sometimes, luck) makes champions. The same holds true for presentations. Any moviegoer knows the first few minutes are crucial — either you captivate the audience or you lose them. Borrowing upon the Woodrow Wilson quip, “If I am to speak for 10 minutes, I need a week for preparation,” (or was it Mark Twain?), Patrick Howard succinctly shares best practices and resources for nailing the opener, as well as other tools.

If you think being a panelist is difficult, try moderating one. Done well, it comes off like a well-choreographed ballet or maestro-led orchestral perfection. That means assembling panelists who complement one another, keeping it conversational, and encouraging friendly debate among other tips from Adam Grant in the aptly-named article, How to Run a Conference Panel That Isn’t Horrible.

Your Turn

Which wireless industry articles, webinars or presentations impacted you most in 2018 — either by opening your eyes to something new, changing your opinion, or reinforcing your understanding?