Be bold.

Few ad campaigns survive the sizzle of the moment. They tap into a narrative of humanity, and we remember them long after the ad dollars have evaporated. Think Apple, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola. Here’s a story about a different kind of ad. Now obscured by nearly thirty years, the effects of this one ad campaign single-handedly created a brand you likely still know. In fact, few probably ever remember seeing this ad. Taking wild chances on his future, Tommy Hilfiger was relentless. Against his family’s direction he pursued an interests in fashion, but the thought of decades apprenticing with “the greats” didn’t appeal to him. Mid-thirties, broke, the young Hilfiger took a leap so bold that it cut the line thin between brilliance and idiocy. With nearly every dollar Hilfiger was able to cobble together from investors, he bought a giant billboard on Times Square directly across from Ralph Lauren. The board was simple, it read, “The…

Knowing When to Zoom and when to Soar

As a “big picture” guy, I’m often accused of flying at 30,000 feet and not thinking about any of the details. On the other end of the spectrum sits the person that’s deep in the weeds. One is not better than the other, but there is an appropriate time for each. If, for example, a new project kicks off in the detail mode, chances are it will never get off the ground. Equally unfitting is big picture thinking deep into the execution phase because it will never get anywhere. The reality is you have to do both. The trick is knowing when to soar and when to zoom. Not everyone pulls back to see the complete picture and not everyone can zoom down to every pixel. Great leaders know when to drill down and appreciate the detail meanwhile keeping the big picture at the ready.

How Far Will Apple Fall From the Tree? Time Will Tell…

Steve Jobs was unquestionably brilliant. The future of Apple, however, will test a much different leadership skill than anything we  saw in his lifetime. In Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, it is clear that he led with might, but now the full spectrum of his leadership style will be truly tested. The debate as to whether Apple is now doomed for failure because of the death of Steve Jobs continues to swirl. Recently, in this CBS News interview, Larry Ellison essentially said that we know how this story will end: LARRY ELLISON: He was — he was brilliant. I mean, our Edison. He was our Picasso. He was an incredible inventor. CHARLIE ROSE: So what happens to Apple without Steve? LARRY ELLISON: Well, we already know. CHARLIE ROSE: What? LARRY ELLISON: We saw — we conducted the experiment. I mean, it’s been done. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. We saw Apple…

Can you stand in your leader’s shadow?

You’ve probably heard the business adage: “Great organizations are the shadow of the leader.” It makes sense that the culture, vision, direction, and control of the organization is cast by one leader. My question is: do you fit within that shadow?   Do your values, principles, purpose, and dreams squarely fit within the perimeter of that shadow? If not, you may need to think long and hard about whether the organization is the right place for you. Typically, “alignment” is discussed as a top-down approach, but that boat rows both ways. If the culture isn’t a fit for you, it will take a toll on you emotionally, mentally, and even physically. Of course, you have to know two things: 1. who you are and 2. who your leader is. Then, you have to do a little geometry to see whether the one box fits inside the other. Don’t be fooled…

Armed Against the Tyranny of the Urgent

Years ago I read a little book called the Tyranny of the Urgent. It’s a great read about allowing the unimportant trivialities of life crowding out the most important. We live in a distracted world, and every day in our jobs, personal health, and families, we willingly allow the crisis in front of us to take our eyes off what’s truly important. This week, I looked up from my phone and there was an eleven-year-old young lady standing before me, and I remembered only scant flashes and glimmers of my eight-year-old daughter becoming this beautiful, young lady. Sure, I’m overemphasizing a tad, but the Tyranny of the Urgent has robbed me of focus, true accomplishment, quality, and significance in every aspect of my life. So it clicked when yesterday, I was reminded, “you are empowered to say No.” Everyone has a Getting Things Done “GTD” suggestion to solve all of…

When You Get “The Call,” Go

When I was a junior in high school, I received a call one summer morning. Like any reasonable teenager, the 9:00 AM telephone ring jarred me from my deep, adolescent slumber. “May I speak to Jeremy?” the voice inquired, and then the lady on the other end went on to tell me that a spot was open for me to attend Governor’s School  provided that I could be there that afternoon. Whether it was the foolishness of youth or the thick haze of sleep, I emphatically said “I’ll be there.” When the call came, the “details” didn’t matter. My decision meant that I would have to quit my job, pack up my car with a month’s worth of stuff, and make a three-hour drive all within the next 8 hours. While I was originally “wait-listed” for the summer adventure, I was getting called up to attend this honorary program in a…

The Shelf Life of Being Known By What You Don’t Say

We spend a lot of time crafting what we say, how we say it and how we act when we say it to build our reputation. The unsaid, however, may be the permanent echo of your character. This morning I was thinking about the leadership style of my business partner. We are polar opposite. I walk into a room and if there is one second of silence, I fill it. Dan, on the other hand, is slow to act and cautious to speak. I process everything I think out loud and into the ears of innocent bystanders. Dan processes internally and returns with a well-reasoned, rational approach. We both bring benefits to people, but we are very different. Dan may say the fewest words in a group, but typically the team carefully observes his reaction. Whether not laughing at an inappropriate joke or sympathetically smiling as someone bares their soul,…

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GET THE MOST OUT OF AUDIOBOOKS

I consume a number of audiobooks, but how do you retain all of the content? Here are a few tips that I use to improve comprehension and use of audiobooks.

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