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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category
Have you ever watched an innovator convert an idea into a practical concept, mold that concept into a viable business model then employ an operational process that allows a new venture to spread its wings and soar? If not, you should, because the sheer curiosity and eagerness of a dedicated business leader is inspirational beyond words.
It takes commitment to start a business.
It takes boldness to put forth an innovative idea.
It takes heart to see it through to the very end.
For those of us privileged to work with business trailblazers, we’ve witnessed many new ideas take flight. But in order to help these pilots stay above the clouds, both public and private sectors must do more to avoid putting roadblocks in their path.
Innovation is the idea of thinking differently about how we do things. In many ways it is the key to building a better world. From the development of the polio vaccination to the creation of the Internet and beyond, when we inhibit innovation by not providing the resources needed to mature an innovator’s dynamic ideas, we are also hindering our own personal and professional growth.
Innovation should never be contained, stored or leashed. To grant it the freedom it needs to change the world, it must be unfettered then fueled. But the fueling becomes the problem. In order to properly drive innovation public and private sectors must create pools of resources accessible to both thriving ventures and start-up companies. In a perfect world, every program created in the name of entrepreneurship would offer hefty funding resources, mentorship and collaborative opportunities. But we live in the real world. With countless limits on capital resources for new businesses and political opposition to funding more research and development, roadblocks to innovation will continue to exist over time unless we act now.
So, how can we give innovation the freedom to thrive? Here are my three ideas to help public and private sectors broaden their view of the needs of entrepreneurs:
Money matters. You’ve heard it a million times: access to capital is key. Well, it is. No company succeeds without financial support. Call it what you want – crazy, ill-conceived or unorthodox – but the process of creating new technology is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall. You sling it until it sticks and when it does, you peel it off, figure out what made it stick in the first place then do it all over again. But if every sling at the wall costs $50,000 or more, innovators may only get one chance at success. Therefore, the key is to ensure that all public and private entrepreneurial programs develop strategies that will provide multiple layers of funding for companies at each stage. One shot just isn’t enough.
Failure isn’t final. Public and private entrepreneurial programs should be designed with failure in mind. In a recent Forbes magazine article, “Why is Innovation so Hard?,” writer Edward D. Hess discusses a key factor in what hinders us from accepting failure. He writes: Our educational system and most work environments have taught us that good performance means avoiding failure, not making mistakes. This is a big problem, because failure is an unavoidable part of innovation experimentation.
Innovation requires the willingness to fail and learn. But failure comes at a cost that most investors don’t want to take on. Innovators with great ideas often fail at the early-stage because of a lack of financial support. Programs created to help them often offer assistance worth the value of one sling at the wall and nothing more. To change this, we must shift our psychological acceptance of failure and instill new ways of thinking into public and private program development. Although failure may be final to most investors, to a serial entrepreneur it is often the beginning of a new onslaught of creative ideas and concepts that deserve a chance at success.
Supporting the best and disregarding the rest is no way to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. The best of the best technologies can be found at the least attractive places. Great ideas can come from anywhere. From basements in an urban community to labs at junior colleges, entrepreneurial programs should throw out the status quo and start looking for great inventions in some of the most unlikely places. We must learn to support business growth at all levels and create new avenues for innovators to get the recognition they deserve regardless of their educational background, income level or geographical location.
Simple stuff, right? We will see….
A few months ago I celebrated my fortieth birthday. Unlike turning 35, I wasn’t concerned about getting older instead I embraced the change and welcomed the big 4-0 with opened arms. I was excited, I must admit, because I’d heard that 40 brings new opportunities to get life right and the boldness to forgive yourself when you can’t.
In the midst of my excitement, I decided to share a piece of what makes this new start in my life so wonderful. So brace yourself, here’s a peek at what the first thirty-nine taught me:
- Connecting and staying connected is worth the work. As we get older, we often get consumed with the redundancies of life which leads us to isolate ourselves. Our families and our jobs create immediate needs that we feel we must focus all our attention on. We cut off people we care about because we don’t have time and we fail to nurture new relationships unless they help us in addressing our immediate needs. But it is important to stay connected. Pencil in time to catch up with your friends and family. Go out for drinks or coffee. Knock on your neighbor’s door to make sure they are okay and meet someone new. Staying connected pulls you away from living an isolated life. And giving and receiving love and support is the life-line for spiritual and emotional wholeness.
- Ridding your life of unhealthy relationships is tough but life-changing. As much as we need to stay connected, we also need to learn from our interactions with others who and what is worth investing our time and energy into. Life exposes us to many characters. Some are good, healthy and nurturing and others drain us of the power and energy to get things done. Conduct an honest assessment of the people in your life and move away from those who keep you consumed with their issues without considering your needs. Relationships are give and take. If you are doing all the giving, at some point, you will be depleted. So seek healthy relationships and see your life improve.
- Your health is definitely your wealth. Last year I lost 30 pounds. Surprisingly, it was much harder to lose the weight than I thought it would be. I spent weeks learning to live on between 1200 and 1500 calories per day. I cut my dairy, sugar and bread consumption to next to nothing. I learned to love the bland taste of water and ate more protein that I had in years. And let’s not talk about carbs. I ate them sparingly, if at all. My journey may seem extreme but it had to be. I was determined to get my weight under control and in the end, I was beyond elated with the results. Hard work and dedication does pay off. I’m healthier, my self-image is better and I’m finally more conscious of what I eat. Life is good.
- Success has to be strictly defined to be properly pursued. All my life I wanted to be successful. It was the one thing that drove me to go to college, to pursue my career, to publish my first novel and to work hard at every job I’ve ever had. Being successful at whatever I did was worth the journey until I began to evaluate what true success really meant to me. For some, success is having a high-ranking title and earning wealth. For others, it is doing something meaningful and worthwhile for the greater good of mankind. But no matter how big or small, YOUR definition of success should drive you.
For me, success is finding peace and happiness in all my endeavors in spite of titles, money and power. It is waking up early on a Saturday morning and writing something beautiful that no one will ever see but me. It is looking at my image in the mirror and loving all that God has created. It is sharing myself with those I love and learning to move away, gracefully, from those I can no longer support. My definition of success is finally achievable and that’s the best lesson of all.
- Dancing is mandatory! My biggest fear of getting older was losing what I call my passions for living. When I was 15, a person turning 40 seemed old, but now that I’ve reached that age I realize just how youthful I am. Forty feels like the new twenty. All my passions are still there. Actually, I am more passionate because my vision is clearer now. I still love loud rap music and dancing until dawn. I still chase lightning bugs and butterflies and I giggle like a young girl and flirt (with my husband). And, most importantly, I am still in heavy pursuit of all the wonders of life.
I hope the next forty years will be filled with opened doors and new opportunities to put all my life lessons into play. I am looking forward to expanding my consciousness in ways only age and grace will allow. But because of the first thirty-nine, I am even more excited for the ride and well-prepared for the journey.
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The U.S. labor force has changed over the last 25 years. Workers today have access to career opportunities that didn’t exist just ten years ago. Technology has equipped organizations with resources to help improve productivity and streamline processes in short order. The internet alone has created platforms to help people find jobs, get trained and share professional experiences that are vital to assisting businesses in meeting their mission objectives.
After over 15 years working in management-level positions, I am well-aware that the road to economic globalization is being built on the backs of highly skilled workers therefore making everyone’s role in an organization essential to business growth. However, successful businesses still heavily rely on the expertise of their management staff. The old saying, “a company is only as good as its leaders,” is still true. And in this day and age, when leaders are concerned about weak economic growth and down-sizing, there is a need to revisit, or revise, our game plan for creating productive work environments.
If I had to write a pocket-sized manual on preparing for management in the 21st century, here’s what it would say:
- Good managers should never display passive-aggressive behavior. Employees with passive-aggressive behavior will often show non-verbal aggression that manifest in negative conduct. These are colleagues or co-workers who refuse to take responsibility for tasks, purposely miss deadlines and go over their boss’s head to make him or her appear incompetent. Good managers should never play a role in aiding passive-aggressive behavior and more importantly, managers should never display similar behavior when dealing with their employees. Here’s an example: Your top producing employee comes into your office and ask for a pay increase without knowing that you were recently informed that due to budget constraints no one will receive bonuses or pay increases for the next 6 to 12 months. You are obviously frustrated to learn that you will not receive your much-needed Christmas bonus. But during the meeting, instead of being honest about the situation, you become irritated, insulting and dismissive. Although your actions fail to reflect your true feelings, the employee is left confused and angry. Effective managers must learn to be clear and honest about how they feel, particularly when the issue is important to the personal or professional livelihood of their staff. Don’t play emotional games with your staff and remember that you are setting the example for the entire team.
- Learn to appreciate the Millennial’s new work ethic. They will check their Facebook and Twitter accounts a few times a day during work hours. They will bring iPhones to meetings and Google what they don’t understand (or what they think you don’t understand). They will challenge your ability to do your job and recommend what they consider are lean processes that will make your head spin. And many of them may not stick around long enough to redeem a 401(k) or pension plan. But, on the bright side, Millennials will bring a level of creativity and technical savviness that can help you improve productivity. They will rightfully expect and aggressively fight for inclusiveness that will not only promote diversity in the workplace but will also allow you to learn from each employee’s unique personal and professional background. So, if you can overlook a few tattoos and piercings you will learn a lot from them and in return create a better work environment overall. Trust me.
- Never (ever) hesitate to make the BIG decisions. If your team thinks you’re weak, than you’re weak. Perception becomes reality. Being decisive as a leader shows that you are not afraid to make things happen and you have no fear of being accountable.
- Stay focused on what matters most. This rule will never change. Get focused on the mission, stay sensitive to the needs of your team, make decisions, be accountable and get the job done. That’s what effective management is all about.