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Are you interested in selling your company?  No?  How about raising capital from an outside investor?  No?  That’s fine.  But are you operating your business as if you were interested?  If you aren’t, you should.  Why?

First, things can change and change rapidly.  You can’t say for certain that you will not need outside capital or that you – or your heirs – will not need or want to sell.  Second, if you don’t operate as if you were in the market to raise capital or sell, you are at great risk of losing your customers.  Because there are competitors, both ones known to you and unknown ones lurking in the shadow, that are operating their businesses as if they were in the market.  And those competitors are likely offering – or about to offer – a better product at a better price. 

 How do you operate as if you were courting capital?  You operate to maximize the value of your enterprise.  And how do you do that?  Make sure you have you have your 4 Elements, 3 Disciplines, 2 Glues, and 1 High-Impact Leader in place and firing on all cylinders.  Click TCA_Library_Leadership_The Golden Formula for Building Enterprise Value for The Golden Formula for Building Enterprise Value.

The one sustainable competitive advantage that is largely untapped in American business is teamwork.  When executive groups function as a team, all kinds of good results occur.  Morale of the team members improves, which leads to better morale cascading down through the organization, which leads to higher levels of performance and higher retentionInnovation, the Holy Grail of business today, is enhanced greatly by teamwork.  Accountability, that ever-elusive objective that the overwhelming majority of businesses struggle with, becomes much easier because the team assumes the majority of the burden of enforcement.  Communication is greatly enhanced.  Finally, better results are achieved.  Organizational goals, which by definition are collective in nature, are far more easily achieved when pursued by collective team efforts.  More revenue, higher margins, more profit, higher enterprise value, happier employees, and lower turnover.

Why, then, is executive team building not pursued by more companies.  First, it’s hard to measure.  Second, it’s hard to achieve.  It can’t be bought.  It has to be earned through courage, discipline, and emotional investment.

But the power of teamwork is indisputable.  When people set aside their own individual needs for the collective good, they can accomplish what seemed impossible, and all other things in less time and at a lower cost.

Team building, though, must be done in context.  The Chicago Bulls in their heyday did not learn teamwork in an executive board room.  They learned it in the context of where they had to succeed – the basketball court.  Similarly, executive teams can’t learn effective team work hanging from ropes or playing softball.  They have to learn it in the context of their arena – the executive offices. 

Our firm offers an extraordinarily powerful team building program for executive teams.  It culminates in a day-and-a-half workshop where the team comes together and learns about the structure of, and begins to establish, powerful teamwork that operates very quickly to bring about a lasting competitive advantage.  Give us a call at (800) 689-7941 to learn more about our program. 

In many ways, our business environment is no less a jungle than our general existence was 5,000 years ago.   In the places of dangerous beasts, treacherous terrain, disease, and enemy tribes, we have highly competitive markets, rapidly changing economies, unethical business people, and torrential downpours of complex and confusing data.  In each case, the result is uncertainty, confusion, trepidation, and great overall risk. 

Technology and all its accoutrements, in particular, are a major cause of our new jungle environment.  Technology is not a bad thing.  In fact, I happen to believe it is a very good thing.  It represents a meaningful part of the human potential.  But we have to recognize all of its dimensions and deal with them.  We have to recognize that all these technologies have conspired to overwhelm us with increasing amounts of increasingly complex data, downloaded at faster and faster rates.  As a collective practice, business leadership has simply fallen behind the pace of everything else in the world that has been accelerated and complicated by technology.  Often we are unable to distinguish useful from useless data.  Even if we can, we don’t have time to understand what to do with the useful before it quickly becomes useless.  We’re trying to “drink out of a fire hose.”  As a result, fear, stress, resistance, lapses in integrity, inability to focus, lack of personal responsibility, absence of creativity, and most importantly, a lack of positive results are the hallmarks of business leadership today.

Just as it was in the jungle 5,000 years ago, every day presents myriad risks.  As a leader of a tribe back then, in the absence of the right tools to manage those risks, you would have found yourself in constant crises.  And that is where we are today in all sectors – government, political, corporate, religious, social, and even the family. 

In the business world, which is where I work, just look – at the mild end of the spectrum – at the number of companies that under-perform and miss their earnings estimates.   Their chief executives are not able to grasp what is really going on all around them.  Many err in product development and release a product that is either defective or incompatible with what the consumer wants.   Many miss what is happening in the competitive landscape and learn too late that a competitor has trumped them.   Look at the complete mismanagement of risk that led to the subprime mortgage disaster.  Looking at the more extreme end of the spectrum, CEOs are resorting to crime.  We know all about Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Adelphia, and the many scandals relating to the back-dating of stock options.  Faced with this high velocity, highly complex world – this jungle – too many CEOs lack the right tools to manage in this environment and are failing – everything from just doing a poor job to committing crimes. 

So, what’s the solution?  Same one used in the jungle 5,000 years ago.  It’s called intuition. Intuition is a powerful tool for acquiring knowledge without the process of rational thought.  What is the source of this knowledge?  Simply put, the universe.  It is everything you have ever experienced or known.  In fact, it is everything humankind has experienced or known.  Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, conducted extensive studies and concluded that there is a “collective unconscious” that is common to every person.  This collective unconscious is essentially a library of human experience into which any of us can tap at any time.

 At some point in the millions of years of human evolution, the human brain developed a capacity for intuition.  This capacity is in the right side of the brain and inward-focused, whereas our rational, logical capabilities reside in the left side and are outward-focused.  Until the last two centuries, we humans relied upon intuition as heavily as we relied upon our other five senses. We were “balanced-brain beings.”

During the past two hundred years, however, most people became primarily left-brain beings.  As the velocity and complexity of life accelerated, we focused outward.  This change was not due to a conscious choice; we were simply been overwhelmed by the external world.  With very little time to ground ourselves amid the onslaught of external data, we lost confidence in intuition and came to rely disproportionately on rational thinking.

Ironically, the primary cause of intuition’s fall—technology and the resulting flood of data pouring into our left brains—is fueling its revival.  We are overwhelmed with data.  We are not making better decisions than we used to. We are not behaving better.  We need to find an anchor in the storm—an anchor that will help us manage the data better and with less stress, an anchor that will make the data more relevant and thus help us make better decisions and behave better, an anchor that will bring us closer to reality, that will ground us and rejuvenate us.  That anchor is intuition.

I think of intuitive cues as conduits for reality.  They include clairsentience (i.e, feeling something in your body), clairvoyance (i.e., seeing something in your mind’s eye), clairaudience (i.e., hearing something in your head), and just simply knowing something.  They are simply how we receive our “signal” of reality. There is a reality, either outside or within us, that is trying to express itself to us.  Our responsibility is to ensure that the channels are open and clear so that the reality can be seen, experienced, and utilized in a positive way. 

Intuition should not be used in a vacuum.  At least I would never use it alone. My intuitive skills are just not advanced enough—and likely never will be—to depend upon to the exclusion of external data and logical thinking.  Conversely, the savvy leader will never ignore it.  At a minimum, intuition is a tool to be used in conjunction with all other input in the decision-making process.  At certain times, however, intuition can be dominant, including the following:

  •  When relevant facts are scarce or conflicting;
  • When you just can’t decide among alternatives;
  • When under time pressure; and
  • When dealing with human issues (e.g., hiring, firing, staffing, partnering)

Even when not dominant, though, intuition is always powerful fuel for the businessperson of today trying to make positive headway in our high velocity, highly complex existence.  In my experience, the best business people are highly intuitive.  This intuition enables them to be highly defined as a person, form the optimal vision for the business and organization, and inspire and engage a team to execute that vision.

And what to do if you believe you aren’t intuitive?  First, change your belief.  Everyone has this sixth sense.  It’s just that some can access it better than others.  Second, learn how to access it.  Chapter Six of my book, The Source of Leadership, has an exercise to assist in the development of intuition.  And then go navigate the jungle safely and successfully!

For a PDF of this article: TCA_Library_Leadership_Intuition_The Power Tool of the Business Jungle

Once you’ve been around business a little while, you learn that cash is everything.  Given that, revenue is critical.  Given that, the customers that send the revenue your way are critical.  They gotta love you, or your days are numbered.  In our executive advisory practice, we look at a lot of things related to the customer.  Here is a good start.  

Simply put, the most successful leaders have an open and candid dialogue – on a daily basis – with three critical constituents: their employees, their vendors, and their customers.  In my executive coaching  and leadership development practice, I am still blown away by how many leaders lack both a culture and systems of communicating with each of these three groups.  And then they are blown away when key employees leave or under-perform, key vendors disappoint, and key customers move on.  These groups are the heart of a leader’s business and he or she has to be taking their pulses daily.  No way around it.

Check this out in Inc. magazine: Three Types of Leaders Who Never Succeed.  There are more types in leadership who never succeed, but this is a good start.

I just finished a highly counter-intuitive, tremendously inspiring book by Will Thorndike, a private equity veteran with Housatonic Partners, entitled The Outsiders.  I am telling all my executive coaching clients to read it ASAP.  Thorndike introduces us to eight individualistic CEOs whose firms’ average returns outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of twenty—in other words, an investment of $10,000 with each of these CEOs, on average, would have been worth over $1.5 million twenty-five years later. You may not know all their names, but you will recognize their companies: General Cinema, Ralston Purina, The Washington Post Company, Berkshire Hathaway, General Dynamics, Capital Cities Broadcasting, TCI, and Teledyne. In The Outsiders, you’ll learn the leadership traits and methods—striking for their consistency and relentless rationality—that helped these unique leaders achieve such exceptional performance.  Humble, unassuming, and often frugal, these “outsiders” shunned Wall Street and the press, and shied away from the hottest new management trends. Instead, they shared specific traits that put them and the companies they led on winning trajectories: a laser-sharp focus on per share value as opposed to earnings or sales growth; an exceptional talent for allocating capital and human resources; and the belief that cash flow, not reported earnings, determines a company’s long-term value.  Drawing on years of research and experience, Thorndike tells eye-opening stories, extracting lessons and revealing a compelling alternative model for anyone interested in leading a company or investing in one—and reaping extraordinary returns.

 

In executive leadership, our job is to produce financial results and, hopefully, results that exceed our peer group.  As humans, though (and, yes, leaders are human), we often struggle with our personal interest in doing something positive – beyond producing financial results – for our team members, customers, the environment, and humankind in general.  And most of the time, those altruistic objectives are crowded out by the  extreme pressures to make money and build value.  Personally, though, I am inspired by the very real possibility that the first objective can be better accomplished by attainment of the second.  Do right and do well.  In fact, the statistics show it’s more than a possibility; it’s a fact.  Check out this and Conscious Capitalism, the new book by John Mackey, Founder and Co-CEO of Whole Foods.

In the Tao Te Ching , the ancient Chinese mystic Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.”"

Intention alone is usually benign. At best, it is a mere seed of possibility.  In 1937, Napoleon Hill published Think and Grow Rich. Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to interview the world’s most successful people in an attempt to learn the common ingredients of success. The most common ingredient, overwhelmingly so, was intention. But not just passive desire. Rather, ACTIVE intention… a practice of intention. It is what ripens the mere seed of possibility into the fruit of probability.  Everyone has intentions. But only a small minority truly believe they have the power to change the conditions in their life and the course of events. For instance, almost everyone I have met has a desire to something different in his or her life. A corporate executive wants to start a non-profit. A plumber wants to be a corporate executive. A short order cook wants to become a renowned chef. Etc. Etc. But they just sit there passively with this intention, wondering if it might become a reality someday. The small minority recognize that desire alone is not enough. It has to be ignited by an active practice. They wake up every morning and describe in writing and aloud, with great specificity, their intentions. They review their writings throughout the day and before they go to sleep at night. They meditate on it. They pray for it. These affirmations begin to cause an energetic shift in themselves and in their environments. They start to notice doors opening and they start exploring what lies beyond. Conditions start aligning with their intentions and their intentions start shaping reality. Their desires are fulfilled while the great minority quietly wish away in their minds.  More on this in Chapter 4 of my book, The Source of Leadership: Eight Drivers of the High-Impact Leader.


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