There’s no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit

Hal and Bev Hunter won “Citizens of the Year” in Rappahannock County for 2009. Hal’s motto is, “There’s no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit” and it’s an apt saying for those aspiring to accomplish remarkable things. The excerpt below is straight from the Rappahannock News and you can read the full article here.

There are many who volunteer their time, energy and more in Rappahannock County – and then there are Hal and Beverly Hunter. County residents since 1968, the Hunters have, particularly in the past decade and most visibly over the past couple of years, put in countless hours looking after the continued health of Rappahannock’s watersheds, its farms and viewsheds, its hungry people and its educational and arts communities. They have done so quietly, relentlessly – and cheerfully.

For their work with the Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed (RappFLOW), the
Rappahannock Food Pantry and Plant-a-Row program, historic districts and conservation in general, Beverly and Hal Hunter are being recognized jointly as Rappahannock News’ 2009 Citizens of the Year.

“The choice of Hal and Bev as Citizens of the Year is in some ways an inspired one, but in some ways a no-brainer,” said County Administrator John W. McCarthy, who has worked with them on many projects over the years. “It’s a no-brainer because it’s hard to imagine any couple that have given more of their time, efforts and energies to the community at large. And it’s inspired because . . . it’s nice to see the deserving rewarded.”

Take this to heart: If you can identify a need, have a will to make positive change, and don’t care who gets the credit, you can change the world.  I’m very proud of my parents.

The more you give, the happier you are

A remarkable event occurred just a couple weeks ago at USC Marshall School of Business.  Three titans of leadership – Warren Bennis, Bill George, and John Hope Bryant gathered to share their insights on emerging leadership practices and what it’s really going to take to reset the economy and re-establish trust in the financial sector, and it’s not rocket science.  According to the panel we need to restore collaboration, trust, humility, passion, and purpose – and no, it wasn’t Robert Fulghum on stage, but the message remains the same.

John Hope Bryant is the author of Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear Based World, and Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE Inc., a non-profit social investment banking organization self-help provider of economic empowerment tools and services for the underserved.  He has a powerful message that ultimately you must ask yourself, “Does my work matter?  Am I making a difference?”  John encourages people everywhere to abandon the pervasive selfish attitudes that dominate contemporary thinking – the ‘what’s in it for me?’ attitudes, and instead focus on what you can contribute.

Bryant urges us all to shift our thinking to how we can contribute, how we can give, how we can ease suffering, enlighten others, and offer our time, interactions and energy to giving.  In his work, he sees time and again that those who give without concern or interest for WIIFM, always wind up healthier, happier and spiritually (and economically too) richer.

Not convinced?  Consider this research paper on happiness by Elizabeth Dunn, Lara Aknin, and Michael Norton published in Science Magazine.  The basis for the study was the supposition that people’s happiness is more affected by their behavior, than by their income level.  Most people are familiar with the consistent research that once basic food and security needs are met, money does not equal happiness.  Their proposal was that what we do with the money and resources we do have, has a greater affect on how we feel than the amount of resources we have available.  In one section of the study they followed people who were receiving bonuses of various amounts, and tracked what they did with it.  Some paid bills or the mortgage, or treated themselves to something special, while others gave to charity or bought gifts for others.  This kind of charitable or gifting behavior they called “prosocial.”  Take the results to heart, “Employees who devoted more of their bonus to prosocial spending experienced greater happiness after receiving the bonus, and the manner in which they spent that bonus was a more important predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself.”

You can see the entire panel discussion here.  Enjoy!

Do It Your Way: Find Your Signature

Much of the conversations we get engaged in with customers often involve discussion of “How did other companies do it?” – discussions around benchmarking processes.  Yet most of the emerging ideas in leadership and talent development we hear from eminent thinkers, researchers and writers warn of benchmarking to mediocrity.  Stuart Hart, author of Capitalism at the Crossroads, has a dynamite quote buried in the middle of his book:

“A smart strategist gravitates toward ill-defined and ambiguous opportunities.  That is because once everything has been defined and reduced to standard operating procedure, there is no money left to be made.” – Stuart Hart

The point he is making, and the same point Jeffrey Pfeffer, Jonas Ridderstrale, Lynda Gratton and others have made in our interviews, is the same – to be the market surprise, instead of be surprised, you need to create unique and original ways of conducting your business.  Lynda Gratton calls this “signature processes.”  Red Hat is a great example.  We were chatting with a senior executive at Red Hat and I explained part of a presentation we could provide which would showcase companies with leading implementation practices and he stopped me and said, “Look I don’t mean to interrupt but I can’t bring that story in here.  At Red Hat we do it the Red Hat Way.”  He went on to say of course they don’t ignore the market landscape or operate in some creative oasis, but that once they make a bet on a product or service, they execute their way.  By doing it the Red Hat Way, they also build great culture and engagement because everyone feels they are part of true creation.

A lifetime ago around 2001, while leading a small start-up we got together our customer research and stories and dreamed up an online system which could aid the learner and leader to use, apply, track, and campaign on our video learning assets.  Then we built the system and when we took it on the road test, people said, “Oh you’ve built an LMS.”  A what?  “You’ve created a a Learning Management System, although it’s got some stuff we haven’t seen before.”  We had indeed built an LMS before we had ever heard of one.  Instead of benchmarking LMS vendors (whom we didn’t know existed), and listening to our customers instead, we created something unique and did it with passion and energy because we believed in our originality and our ability to create a killer app.  The tip coming from emerging leadership is this: pay attention to the market yes, but be bold and original in what – and importantly how – you execute.

Law #6 of the Saver Soldier: The Law of the Last Mile

Ever moved? Wrapped the flatware and taped and labeled the boxes? It wasn’t moving the sofa and the bookcase and dining room table that almost broke you – you had friends, pizza and beer when that went down. It was disassembling, organizing and cleaning the fridge that killed. Or it was the ancient college papers, photo albums and misc camping gear strewn in the attic that had you cursing. Or maybe the loose hardware in the garage that you finally just swept up and threw away because you couldn’t think straight enough to organize it. After the pizza and the friends are long gone and the house appears virtually empty, it was that last 2% that sucked your energy and time. It was the lonely, dirty work that had to be done to get to closing.

When you moved you didn’t have a choice, closing day and walk-through with your buyers was looming. At work, think of it the same way: closing day is coming. The law of the last mile is finish what you started, take ownership, execute, get ‘er done. In Tim Sanders’ new book, Saving the World at Work, failing to finish affects more than you might think. Lack of execution on stated goals can infect a culture with an implicit suggestion that abandoning projects is OK, and can become anticipated. Tim cites Tom Peters’ suggestion that every project be outfitted with a 2% person – someone who owns that closing 2%. A cleaner.

And if you want to work and play and collaborate in a culture that covers the last mile, show the way. Or as Jim Kouzes puts it, “Model the Way.” Because leadership is the relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. And believe, if you choose to lead the last mile, they will indeed follow because nothing inspires like finishing.

To cross the last mile, build both transparency and accountability into your projects. Keep progress highly visible to avoid starving the project of energy and to maintain momentum. And build accountabilities into the system so everyone understands the clear contributions and role they play.

Learn the Laws of the Saver Soldier

Change Leaders

Joshua (not his real name) is organizing students, parents and community leaders around an idea called Cool Communities, created by the Sierra Club.  The idea is simple: get businesses, the chambers of commerce, municipality governments and local communities to sign on to a commitment toward reducing wasteful consumption of resources and working toward sustainable local environments.  This initiative is modeled after a successful Canadian campaign and includes commitments of: no-idling, switching to biofuel, adopting ‘green-tags’, and focusing on local food development and consumption.  He has lobbied the local government and presented to community leaders in this effort.  Simple, clear objectives and actionable ideas right?  Here’s the killer: he’s a freshman in high school.

Like Severin Suzuki before him in 1992 speaking to the UN, he unabashedly is willing to confront leaders in our community to bring about change that will make for a better and more sustainable world.  It’s a reminder what courage and vision can accomplish regardless of age, power or perceived influence.

[add-on 1/14/2009 – GSHunter]

Reflecting on our next generation and their capacity to create and drive change, I realized how Don Tapscott has been influencing my thinking lately.  Tapscott’s latest book, Grown Up Digital, enumerates the varieties of ways in which the developing generation – he defines as roughly eight to thirty – have enhanced mental switching capabilities, which explains why your twelve year old easily turns on and interacts with texting, multi-player game environments, gaming and – oh, by the way, at the same time – can do their homework and probably have the TV on in the background as ambient noise.  If it sounds preposterous that one can competently interact with such disparate media and technology effectively consider his anecdote about Joe O’Shea who is 22 years old, and has created a successful health clinic in the 9th ward of New Orleans, gets straight A’s, is President of the student council, has created the Global Peace Exchange, manages a 10.1M budget and is on his way to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.  And he confesses he doesn’t read books.  That’s right, Joe doesn’t work through information in the linear fashion commonly understood, and expected to be effective to digest and act on.

Tapscott argues that the inundation of media and the new digital natives who easily inhabit this space are going to redefine the coming workplace, way of interaction, and ultimately the manner in which the world functions.  He acknowledges there are a number of great unknowns in this developing paradigm but it’s certainly not all bad as older generations commonly complain.  There are roughly 8 million people joining the workplace who are clashing with the corporate norms of today, and the entering generation isn’t tolerating it.  Don points out that the prevailing reaction to social mediums like facebook, myspace, etc is to ban them from the business environment, and the new generation of workers is balking.

Check out Blue Shirt Nation, in which Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson has signed off on a collaborative social network within Best Buy allowing product innovation to gestate at the bottom of the hierarchy and faciliate the interaction of people within the organization to drive product development and customer interaction.

We’re producing a live interactive event featuring Don Tapscott on May 5th broadcast from Toronto.

Remembering Bill Santelmann: Excellence and Passion

My great uncle Bill Santelmann was director of the Marine Corps Band from 1940-1955, and thereafter kept up a rigorous schedule performing and guest-conducting around the world.  He was known for bringing to the band an even higher level of excellence and repertoire than those preceding him, including his own father William Santelmann, who was also director of the Marine Corps Band.

The Marine Corps Band is known as The President’s Own Band and plays for heads of state, rose garden ceremonies, Arlington Cemetery ceremonies, and events throughout the world at the pleasure of the President.  The Band is known as supremely capable and versatile and Bill Santelmann was recognized for elevating their already-excellence musicianship.  When guest-conducting at the American Bandmasters Association in 1984, for a finale he led the band through Wagner’s Ascent into Heaven, and for an encore Stars and Stripes Forever.  The chamber thundered applause and his own band stood clapping in ovation in his honor.  He walked backstage, sat and exclaimed “I love this band!” and immediately died of a heart attack.

Sad yes, but also beautiful and sublime.  We all have to go from this world and when it’s time, this seems to me a beautiful way to go.  Surrounded by friends and colleagues and engaged in what you are passionate and excellent at, Bill Santelmann left this world at the height of his passion and joy and left the world a better place by sharing his joy.

Click on the video – Marcus Buckingham reminds us that only 1 in 10 of us are focusing on our strengths at work and the culprit may be our culture’s obsession with remedial learning.  As leaders in our roles as parents or managers or soccer coaches, we may be focusing far too much attention on correcting what we perceive as a weakness, instead of encouraging and building strengths.

A strength is not what you are good at.  A strength is an activity which makes you feel strong.  – Marcus Buckingham