The Power of Gratitude

7 09 2013

When a thank you is more than a reflex gesture it can make a powerful and lasting impact.

A friend–a normally very cynical friend–received a thank you note from Beth Stern he can’t stop talking about.

First some background: When they were still dating in 2002 Howard Stern and his wife Beth got their English bulldog Bianca.


Howard is a radio personality, America’s Got Talent judge, and the king of all media. Beth is a model, TV personality, author of the bestselling guide to choosing and caring for canines Oh My Dog, and an extremely active spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption agency.

Let’s just say that if this was a trial, all parties would immediately stipulate her credentials as an animal lover and activist.

Sadly, Bianca the bulldog died in July. North Shore set up an In Memoriam page to mark Bianca’s passing and recognize her efforts as a spokes-dog and fundraising calendar model. Since the shelter is a non-profit charity that relies on donations to fund its operations, the page also includes a link visitors can use to make a donation in Bianca’s honor.

According to North Shore, hundreds of people have done so.

My friend is one of them. He gave a contribution, felt good about it, and–as we often do when we make charitable donations, however heartfelt–he forgot about it.

Until he received a card in the mail.

On the cover of the card was a photo of Bianca. Inside was a handwritten note from Beth. Her thank you wasn’t canned or formulaic; she was obviously touched by his expression of sympathy and donation and took the time to reach out in a personal and individual way.

“I still can’t believe it,” he says. “I’ve donated to plenty of causes. I’m not looking for recognition, even though I appreciate when an organization sends a thank you card. But for her to take the time to handwrite a note to someone she doesn’t even know and will never meet… that just blows me away.”

It was a simple gesture, one he and hundreds of other people will never forget, since Beth personally thanks everyone who makes a donation in Bianca’s honor.

It’s also a simple gesture that provides a great business lesson.

Say you land a new customer. Appreciation is the one thing that should never be scaled or automated. If you’re truly grateful (and you should be!) why not take the time to personally express your gratitude in a heartfelt, genuine way?

You’ll be memorable, if only because so few people do. And you’ll spark a real connection and take a huge step towards building a lasting business relationship.

A sincere thank you isn’t just good manners–even though good manners is reason enough.

It’s also good business.

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden



The Best Talent Is Bringing Out Talent in Others

4 09 2013

“A superior leader is a person who can bring ordinary people together to achieve extraordinary results.” Many years ago, an entrepreneur told me that. He was right.

But this isn’t just true of leaders. It’s true of all human beings.

I’ve come to believe that the most valuable talent is being able to recognize hidden skills that others possess. Why? There’s only one you, and you only have so much time. But if you can bring out the best in others, you gain remarkable leverage.

So very hard…

I’m not just talking about recognizing talent. I’m talking about being able to recognize a look in someone’s eyes that tells you something valuable is burning inside that person.

I’m talking about realizing that if you take Jake’s drive, mix it with Julie’s intelligence and Dave’s creativity, then you will transform three mildly effective people into a spectacular team.

I’m talking about looking past what’s “wrong” with others, and instead seeing what’s special about them in very pragmatic and actionable terms.

How do you do this?

Here’s a short list of ways you can bring out the best in others:

1.) Let your gaze – and your attention – linger. Instead of rushing past a person, or barely acknowledging their existence, you could choose to stop and really look into their eyes. Look at their body language. Consider what they are NOT saying and NOT doing. Ask yourself why.

Consider two possibilities. One is that they have more value to add, but are unwilling (yet) to show greater initiative. Another is that they lack the confidence to utilize their “hidden” talents in a public fashion. Then look for ways to offer motivation and support.

2.) Magnify the quietest voices. Money, power, and influence often flow towards the loudest voices in an organization – but sometimes the quietest voices possess the best answers. Can you think of a way to magnify the quiet voices?

For example, I once visited an organization and was greeted by dozens of outgoing, warm people. But one young woman sat quietly in a corner, studying a book. It turned out she had recently moved from China, and did not yet have a strong mastery of English. But she was a genius, had performed at Carnegie Hall as a teenager, and had both a broader and deeper perspective than virtually everyone in the room.

Think about ways you can identify and encourage these quiet gems.

3.) Mix things up. Watch for opportunities to create non-intuitive combinations of people, ideas and circumstances. You can do this through social events, discussion groups, or even a carefully orchestrated meeting. You can do this by introducing people via email, and giving them a reason to interact.

Many times, we make the mistake of waiting for others to initiate change. You might be thinking: this isn’t my job, I’m not head of the department/division/company. Anyone can do this, and no matter who does it, that person is cultivating the amazing skill of bringing out the best in others.

4.) Look past your own biases. Most of us are drawn to certain types of people. They might be like us, or they might simply be people who like us.

If all you do is to follow your natural instincts, then you will be blind to most of the talent on Earth. You need to cultivate an appreciation for people who think, act, and feel differently than you. This is a tremendously difficult challenge.

One way to start is to make others feel important by listening, really hard – with 100% of your attention – to what they have to say. Then repeat back what they told you, so that they know you understood. It’s a small step, but an important one in the right direction.

If you only interact with people who are within your comfort zone, you will seldom achieve anything great. Almost by definition, spectacular progress requires disparate ideas and talents to come together in unprecedented ways.

Become one who cultivates talent in others. It will enrich your life and supercharge your career.

Thanks for reading this.

About Bruce: For nearly two decades, Bruce Kasanoff has advocated the idea that companies should help individuals – both customers and employees – get what they want and need. He is the co-author with Michael Hinshaw of Smart Customers, Stupid Companies and author of Making It Personal. You can download his free ebooks at

Follow@NowPossible on Twitter.

Image credit: This is complicated. Some years ago, I photographed a single string, rotating, and superimposed that image on a photo of a woman. I have no idea who took the original photo.


Simple Acts of Kindness as a Leadership Tool

3 09 2013

by Michele Price

In a world of constant changes, whether in our family or professional lives, everyone appreciates the salve of kindness.  How can we find continued ways in which we can express and share kindness to better each others experiences?

Being an interviewer at heart, I have found asking good questions will lead you to better answers.  Like my mentor Tony Robbins teaches; if it is better results you seek, then you need to ask better questions.  With this in mind, my post today will revolve around us asking ourselves better questions and lead our brains to uncovering answers that benefit all mankind.

1. Saying with genuine interest

How are you today?

2. Asking from a place of love

Can I help you?

3. Looking with your heart

Where do you want support?

4. Envisioning with your inner eyes

How can I see your perspective?

5. Shift the anger and proclaim kindness

Can I see past the situation with love?

6. Human relationships thrive on kindness

Where can I offer up generosity?

7. Looking through the pain

What door can we open to provide illumination?

8. When selfishness generates kindness: a quick leadership lesson

Can I take that on for you?

9. Reputation for kindness is deeper than words

How can I give the experience?

10. Combining Faithfulness and Kindness

When is quiet peacefulness welcomed?

11. Kindness is its own motivation

I serve myself while serving others

12. Kindness can feed the soul

I can choose kindness when fondness is out of reach.
When will we each make the choice to be kind in our journey through both our professional and personal lives?

Will we be willing to look at our behaviors in a honest way with kindness?

Bashing ourselves usually is what keeps folks from wanting to be honest.
How can you support yourself in this self discovery mode?

Where will you play a role in using Kindness in your business as well as personal life?

As you can see this topic brings up a lot of questions, which is good, it gives us space to explore and evolve together.

You ready?

Michele Price is the host of Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio and Women in Business Radio. Being a natural creator of strong, loyal, and profitable online communities, bringing the power of PR, interactive marketing, and social media to local businesses, literary talent, and speakers is how she serves in her business. Michele has been an entrepreneur for 30 years and she has used creative marketing since the 80‘s, before we had social media platforms. Michele gives emotionally powerful keynotes on community building marketing, Mobs with Megaphones ™ online branding and Viral Velcro ™ social media communications. Michele won her first Toastmasters speech out the gate and now focuses on delivering messages that hit home for businesses.


Profit and Values: Unitus Seed Fund

2 09 2013

Essay by Will Poole, co-founder of Unitus, a venture capital firm focused on accelerating innovation and positive change. Unitus Seed Fund is unequivocally committed to delivering both profits and social impact for our investors. We’re confident that this is the only way to drive sustainable positive change for low-income populations. Our model for delivering profits is described more fully in our private placement memorandum and other investor materials. There are three ways in which we maximize the positive social impact of the seed investments we make:

  1. Company Selection. We invest only in for-profit companies that primarily serve a largebase of the economic pyramid (“BoP”)populations, providing product and services that improve their lives. We do not invest in entertainment, vice purveyors, or any company we do not see making a sustained commitment to positive social impact to the BoP through their operations.
  2. Impact Metrics. Working with the CEO of each portfolio company, we develop a small number of measurable impact goals which are monitored at least quarterly. These goals are closely aligned with their business operations and success. For example, a village education services company tracks how many students are enrolled and whether they are reading at grade level.
  3. Policies to Align Values. For every investment made in 2013 and after, we have discussed and agreed on a set of core company policies and guiding principles which are memorialized in various corporate documents, employee handbooks, and policies.

Company Selection and Impact Metrics are self-evident. To ensure values-alignment with each portfolio company and execution of appropriate policy and adherence to principles, our investment documents  include affirmative agreements by each portfolio company as follows, which we call the “Profits and Values Approach“:

  • include the Profits and Values Approach in all business strategies and operations;
  • acknowledge that compliance with the Profit and Values approach might not lead to long-term profit maximization and/or could impact ultimate economic value for shareholders;
  • ensure a continued focus on providing goods and/or services that primarily benefit the BoP;
  • provide USF with reasonable access to all information necessary to monitor and evaluate the Company’s compliance with the Profit and Values Approach and attainment of social impact goals;
  • conduct the Company’s business operations in accordance with assessments of all environmental, health and social risks, including efficiency in resource usage, prevention of pollution, and ensuring community health, safety and security;
  • follow responsible employment practices such as payment of fair wages; providing appropriate insurance coverage; ensuring prohibition of child labour; providing equal treatment of men and women regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation; offering clean and safe working conditions; and
  • comply with principles of applicable laws; pledge not to accept or offer bribes including requiring employees to pledge to do the same; be transparent, ethical and accountable, including adhering to the principles of good corporate governance, in all business operations.

We’re confident that by focusing on both profits and values with companies that have been carefully-selected for their potential to deliver positive social impact to large BoP populations, we and our ecosystem partners will drive a wave of sustainable change that improves the lives of millions of people in India.

Will Poole is a Social Technologist and angel investor, focused on improving ecosystems that bring social and economic opportunity to low-income populations.  He serves as Chairman of NComputing, a leader in low-cost, low-energy computing and co-founded Bangalore-based Pengala Learning, whose mission is to change the way India learns.  He leads Social Venture Partners Seattle’s initiatives around social entrepreneurism including Social Innovation Fast Pitch, serves on the investment committee of the W-Fund, co-founded SVP Bangalore, and serves on three nonprofit boards. Will was previously a corporate vice president at Microsoft where he led several businesses, including Windows. His career started by founding two startups at the dawn of the PC era, working in the early days at Sun Microsystems, and pioneering e-commerce at eShop which was acquired by Microsoft in 1996. Will advises Western Governors University and Brown University on technology and is a Trustee of Bainbridge Graduate Institute. Will received a degree in Computer Science from Brown.

One Leadership Skill That Will Set You Apart

1 09 2013

This skill probably isn’t one you’ve ever thought about developing–and that’s a big mistake.

I recently wrote about control freaks, and was surprised by the feedback I received regarding one suggestion–to be more vulnerable. For many, vulnerability signifies weakness and incompetence. They believe it has no place in leadership where authority and strength must be maintained.

I worked with a founder-turned-executive for several years, encouraging him to be more vulnerable. He is a brilliant visionary and leader. However, he had a bad habit of hulking up when he felt fear or insecurity. Rather than be vulnerable and reveal his self-doubts, he would let his emotions (and the underlying shame) morph into an aggressive force field to keep people out. Unfortunately, it only served to shut out the people whose support he needed most.

I told him, “You don’t have to be vulnerable with everyone–that would be exhausting–just with people who matter. Your family. Your business partners. Your girlfriend.”

Leadership gurus have extolled vulnerability’s importance and TED talks have espoused the power of vulnerability, but what exactly is it? And why do we humans collectively suck so bad at it.

Vulnerability is taking a risk, stepping into the emotional unknown, and exposing who you really are. You’re comfortable showing your deficits as well as your assets.

Vulnerability is when you can admit you’re wrong and take responsibility for your part in a conflict. By claiming your role in the dysfunction, you are better positioned to de-escalate a situation and to work toward a resolution.

Vulnerability is when you can give honest appraisals of a person or situation. Saying what you really think isn’t always easy. If fortified with compassion, however, it can be the quickest route to building trust with another person.

Vulnerability is when you can encourage others to be better than you. You aren’t intimidated by another’s big success. You’re inspired and challenged by it.

Vulnerability is recognizing when you’re having an emotion and naming it. It’s the opposite of posing.

Vulnerability goes a long way to build trust and loyalty, create stronger connections between partners and teams, and mitigate conflict. So why is it so damn hard?

Simply, it pushes us into the unknown and primes us to experience one of the hardest emotions there is–shame.

Shame is that emotional punch in the face the moment when your worst fear is realized. You know the moments.

In a conversation with someone, she off-handedly verifies the thing that you’re most insecure about. There it is. It’s out. Your cover is blown. The fear that you’re not smart enough, successful enough, thin enough, caring enough, or whatever enough is, in fact, true and being exposed right at that moment.

Or, you’re new to a company or social group and have no idea what to do or how to act. Your deepest insecurities are out in full force. The insecurity you feel is a form of shame. The posturing you do to cope is a way to slam the door on vulnerability.

What you do in these moments has the potential to set you apart as not only a great leader, but also a great person.

There is one caveat. Some people are just not safe to be vulnerable with. They will distort, minimize, or use it against you later. Decide who has earned your authenticity and trust. Then lean into vulnerability by being honest about what you’re feeling. Find the humor and laugh at yourself. Empathize with everyone else’s crazy insecurities. Take a risk. Be open.

Because most of us suck at it, if you can master the art of vulnerability, you have a distinct advantage. It may very well be the one leadership skill that endears you to others, creates unwavering loyalty, and sets you apart from the pack.


Shelley Prevost is a co-founder of Lamp Post Group, a venture incubator in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She curates kick-ass cultures by infusing principles of positive psychology in her role as Director of Happiness. @thegladlab


Mindfulness Helps You Become a Better Leader

29 08 2013

By: Bill George. Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, I have sensed from many leaders that they want to do a better job of leading in accordance with their personal values. The crisis exposed the fallacies of measuring success in monetary terms and left many leaders with a deep feeling of unease that they were being pulled away from what I call their True North.

As markets rose and bonus pools grew, it was all too easy to celebrate the rising tide of wealth without examining the process that created it. Too many leaders placed self-interest ahead of their organizations’ interests, and ended up disappointing the customers, employees, and shareholders who had trusted them. I often advise emerging leaders, “You know you’re in trouble when you start to judge your self-worth by your net worth.” Nevertheless, many leaders get caught up in this game without realizing it.

This happened to me in 1988, when I was an executive vice president at Honeywell, en route to the top. By external standards I was highly successful, but inside I was deeply unhappy. I had begun to focus too much on impressing other people and positioning myself to become CEO. I was caught up with external measures of success instead of looking inward to measure my success as a human and a leader. I was losing my way.

My colleague, Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen, addressed this topic in his HBR article, How Will You Measure Your Life? Clay observed that few people, if any, intend at the outset of their career to behave dishonestly and hurt others. Early on, even Bernie Madoff and Enron’s Jeff Skilling planned to live honest lives. But then, Christensen says, they started making exceptions to the rules “just this once.”

At Harvard Business School, we are challenging students to think hard about their definition of success and what’s important in their lives. Instead of viewing success as reaching a certain position or achieving a certain net worth, we encourage these future leaders to see success as making a positive difference in the lives of their colleagues, their organizations, their families, and society as a whole. The course that I created in 2005, Authentic Leadership Development (ALD), has become one of the most popular elective MBA courses, thanks to my HBS colleagues who are currently teaching it. It enables second-year MBAs to ground their careers in their beliefs, values, and principles, following the authentic leadership process described in my 2007 book, True North. More recently, ALD has become a very popular course for executives of global companies.

With all the near-term pressures in today’s society, especially in business, it is very difficult to find the right equilibrium between achieving our long-term goals and short-term financial metrics. As you take on greater leadership responsibilities, the key is to stay grounded and authentic, face new challenges with humility, and balance professional success with more important but less easily quantified measures of personal success. That is much easier said than done.

The practice of mindful leadership gives you tools to measure and manage your life as you’re living it. It teaches you to pay attention to the present moment, recognizing your feelings and emotions and keeping them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful situations. When you are mindful, you’re aware of your presence and the ways you impact other people. You’re able to both observe and participate in each moment, while recognizing the implications of your actions for the longer term. And that prevents you from slipping into a life that pulls you away from your values.

I don’t use the word “practice” lightly. In order to gain awareness and clarity about the present moment, you must be able to quiet your mind. That is tremendously difficult and takes a lifetime of practice. In 2012, I had the privilege of presenting my ideas on authentic leadership to his Holiness the Dalai Lama. When I asked him what it took to become an authentic leader, he replied, “You must have practices that you engage in every day.”

My most important introspective practice is meditation, something I try to do for twenty minutes twice a day. In 1975 I went with my wife Penny to a Transcendental Meditation (TM) Workshop. Although I never adopted the spiritual portion of TM, the physical practice became an integral part of my daily routine. Meditation has been a godsend for me. As an active leader who has held highly stressful roles since my mid-twenties, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in my early thirties. When I started meditating, I was able to stay calmer and more focused in my leadership, without losing the “edge” that I believed had made me successful. Meditation enabled me to cast off the many trivial worries that once possessed me and gain clarity about what was really important. I gradually became more self-aware and more sensitive to the impact I was having on others. Just as important, my blood pressure returned to normal and stayed there.

In recent years, medical studies have found evidence of meditation’s many benefits, includingprotecting against health problems from high blood pressure and arthritis to infertilityreducing stress, improving attention and sensory processing; and physically altering parts of the brain associated with learning and memory, emotional regulation, and perspective-taking — critical cognitive skills for leaders attempting to maintain their equilibrium under constant pressure.

While many CEOs and companies are embracing meditation, it may not be for everyone. The important thing is to have a set time each day to pull back from the intense pressures of leadership to reflect on what is happening. In addition to meditation, I know leaders who take time for daily journaling, prayer, and reflecting while walking, hiking or jogging. I also find it extremely helpful to share the day’s events with Penny and seek her counsel.

Regardless of the daily introspective practice you choose, the pursuit of mindful leadership will help you achieve clarity about what is important to you and a deeper understanding of the world around you. Mindfulness will help you clear away the trivia and needless worries about unimportant things, nurture passion for your work and compassion for others, and develop the ability to empower the people in your organization.

Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and former chair and CEO of Medtronic.


Listening with Your Heart

28 08 2013

Are you listening with your Heart ?

by Ananya Das

Guess what is the first Rule of  Leading ? Authority ? Knowledge ? Sympathy ? Empathy ? Vision ?

No. All these are incorrect.  

The first rule of leading or managing is Listening. Not just hearing. Listening with a heart. Believe me, it is a really tough task! The true leader is a listener. The Leader listens to the ideas, needs, aspirations and wishes of the followers and responds to them appropriately and adequately within the boundaries of her own beliefs.

Leadership begins with listening. Usually we are so excited about speaking and expressing ourselves so explicitly that we do not even listen to the responses. When someone responds, our minds are so  busy and pre-occupied with our own thoughts that the inertia of motion of our thoughts overrides our listening capabilities. Inevitably, we miss out on vital clues inside the mind of our teams and this hampers the basic output or consequences.

These tips will help us improve our power of listening:

  • Stop Talking: You cannot listen when you are talking. You will only be thinking about what you are going to say next ! Try to focus your attention to the speaker.
  • Put them at ease:  Specially when  you are in a position of authority, put the speaker at ease. Smile. Look at the speaker.  Lean towards him. Look interested. Remove distractions.
  • Listen with your eyes: Research says that  55% of the message is nonverbal, 38% is conveyed by the tone of the voice and only 7% are conveyed by words.  So try to understand the true feelings behind the words.Listen for what is not being said. Usually people hesitate to speak the most crucial points!
  • Patience- Do not interrupt: Be polite and courteous and give ample time to the speaker to convey the full message. Interruption sometimes diverts the moot point.
  • Walk in their moccasins: Empathize. Sometimes just listening to the person helps him vent out his emotions. Remember , as a leader, you will not have ready-made solutions to all the problems.But just listening emphatically sometimes clears the clouds and the silver lining becomes visible !
  • Hold your own emotions at bay: When emotions are high, there is a tendency to become defensive or give unwarranted advice. So, hold your temper, do not argue. You will lose your credibility as a leader by doing so. Even if you win , you will lose !

I have been in many situations where just by virtue of listening, solutions to problems emerged, from the person himself who had come to speak to me. There have been  numerous instances when I could hold my emotion and kept quiet, but the other person cried and the tears made him lighter and he could face the situation in a better way.

Your team or followers should believe that you really want to listen. And when they say something you will feel it with your heart and take it in the right spirit. They should feel that their point of view is important to you.
It is in the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.

Open your eyes and  heart  to listen.  Ignite the leader in you !