The Mark of Good Leadership is Success in Collaborative Efforts, with Major General Tammy Smith, Episode #7

It may not sound intuitive to say that one of the most collaborative organizations in existence is the military, but it’s true. In spite of the top-down authority structures and chains of command, collaborative efforts are how the military gets things done. Major General Tammy Smith is my guest on this episode and her unique perspective through the lens of a long and highly decorated military career gives her the kind of authority and expertise from which to speak about the goals and impact of collaboration. In this conversation, we chat about the way collaboration works in a bureaucratic system, why authority is still important in collaborative efforts, and why collaboration is ultimately about the results you achieve. You’ll enjoy Tammy’s frank, clear thinking approach to the subject, so don’t miss this conversation.

Clarity of intent is essential for powerful collaboration

One of the ways Major General Tammy Smith has seen collaboration in action is through the overriding commitment the military culture has to achieve certain outcomes. In her mind, when the intent of any action or effort is clear, everyone involved is better able to bring their specific skills and approaches to the task in order to bring about that end result. In this conversation, she stresses the importance of leaders keeping the end goal in full view in any collaborative effort, championing that cause to those involved, and stresses how the hallmark of good leadership is successful collaboration.

Collaboration is a human activity that is built on trust

What does it take to truly collaborate with effectiveness? Major General Tammy Smith says that on a fundamental level, trust is the most important thing. Her experience in the U.S. Army has taught her that authority structures and titles never trump the importance of trust and that savvy leaders will work to establish and maintain trust in every interaction. Join us for this stimulating conversation as we discuss the need for trust in every collaborative effort and how you can apply what she’s learned as part of the U.S. Armed Forces to your civilian pursuits.

Leaders: Get rid of the belief that collaboration erodes your authority

In this conversation, Major General Tammy Smith reminisces about a time early in her military career when she was full of the collaborative spirit, but as she rose to higher positions of authority she got the idea that allowing for collaboration somehow threatened her authority. Being more experienced and wiser now, she says that’s an immature perspective that leaders need to jettison. Successful collaboration is at the very heart of what a good leader is trying to accomplish. You can hear more of Tammy’s insights from her many years of military service and leadership and how she applies those lessons to the civilian realm of business, on this episode of Masters of Leadership.

When collaboration is done right, people want to become a part of it

How do you know if your collaborative efforts have had the impact you desire? The main way is in the results you see coming from it, but there is another clue as well. Major General Tammy Smith says that successful collaborations always attract others who want to be a part of the team that brought about those results. If you want to become the kind of leader who’s known for your success at building and leading great teams, focus on the synergy collaboration provides. You can her Tammy’s insights in this conversation, so be sure to listen.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:25] Tammy’s definition of collaboration and why it feels natural to her
  • [2:40] What has made Tammy’s collaboration efforts so successful?
  • [5:35] What is collaboration in the military like and how could civilians learn from it?
  • [10:16] How is civilian collaboration different than what’s done in the military?
  • [13:30] Questions leaders need to be asking about collaboration in the digital world
  • [16:25] Why the older generations need to stop being afraid of Millennials
  • [18:50] Tips for becoming a master of collaboration
  • [22:20] Why leadership and collaboration are so important to Tammy

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Teamwork and Collaboration as the Keys to Mastery and Impact, with Pam Slim, Episode #6

My guest on this episode is a true master of collaboration and a dynamic woman I’m honored to have as my guest on the podcast. Pam Slim is an award-winning author, speaker, and business consultant and she’s been actively working as an entrepreneur for twenty years. She’s helped hundreds of people start and grow successful businesses over the years, and what I particularly love is that she’s got a history of successful collaborations in a variety of areas. That’s why I wanted to chat with her during this first season about what it takes to become a true master of collaboration. I hope you’ll take the time to hear what she shares about teamwork and collaboration on this episode.

Great collaboration happens when people are fully present and interested in the humans around them

When I asked Pam about a collaboration she was part of that didn’t go according to plan, she referenced an experience she had where many high-level creators were involved. They were all experts in their fields and found it difficult to engage in the kind of interaction necessary to make the collaboration a pleasure for everyone involved. Though it was a successful collaboration in terms of outcomes, Pam said it is a situation she feels she could have facilitated better through ensuring everyone understood the need to be fully present and genuinely interested in the people involved and what they could bring to the table. Find out how Pam recommends facilitating great collaborations within your team, on this episode of Masters of Leadership.

The rise of the digital age makes collaborations both exciting and challenging

Pam Slim is a staunch advocate of all things digital and the opportunity technology provides for people to learn new skills, develop their existing expertise, and branch out into new opportunities. But she also acknowledges that the digital ages brings its share of challenges as well. In this conversation, Pam and I spend a good deal of time discussing the ins and outs of collaboration and social connection in the digital age – and we did so with the reality of introverts and extroverts in mind. We determined that people need to use the tools available in ways that are aligned with their personal bent. This is a very practical portion of our conversation I think many people could be helped by, so be sure you listen and share.

A great collaboration requires strong opinions, weakly held

One of the people Pam Slim respects and quotes often is Bob Sutton, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University. Bob is known for quoting another Bob, Bob Johansen of Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future, who said, “People should have strong opinions, which are weakly held.” In this conversation, Pam points out that this advice is particularly helpful when it comes to taking part in any collaboration. You need to bring your best to the table, which means strongly advocating for your point of view. But you also need to hold those opinions weakly in deference to the wisdom of the group as a whole – because you know the synergy that comes from your collaborative efforts will bring about a greater result than you could on your own. You can glean more great wisdom like this from Pam on this episode, so be sure you take the time to listen.

Get clear about your area of expertise: you’ll be better able to identify collaborative partners

When I spoke with Pam Slim for this interview, one of the things I wanted to know was what advice she’d give to those who want to find partners with whom they can successfully collaborate. Pam said one of the most important things is that you need to be clear about your particular area of expertise first of all. When you are, you’ll be able to see the areas where you need the most help, have blind spots, or could use a different perspective, which will show you the types of people you need to reach out to when you want to form collaborations. I loved this conversation because Pam gave such relevant advice like this, so I encourage you to listen and learn how you can foster teamwork and collaboration as a key to your own mastery.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:10] What you should know about Pam, her books, and her business milestones
  • [4:06] What’s similar or different about making successful collaboration happen in small and large businesses?
  • [7:51] An example of making collaboration happen in a large organization
  • [10:18] The most successful collaborations Pam has experienced and the common elements in them
  • [13:30] Characteristics of ineffective collaborations
  • [17:03] How the rise of the digital age impacts the ability to collaborate
  • [22:24] Tips for becoming a better master of collaboration

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Considering Inclusion and Exclusion in Building Collaborative Teams, with Laura Liswood, Episode #5

My guest today is Laura Liswood – she serves as Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders, and I’m so honored to have such an accomplished and amazing woman leader on the show. Through the course of her career, Laura has also served as the former Managing Director and Senior Advisor of Goldman Sachs and was named Managing Director for Global Leadership and Diversity for Goldman Sachs as well. She has a wonderful perspective on diversity and inclusion and in her latest book, The Loudest Duck she uses parables to examine the challenges to traditional workplace diversity efforts, including the issues of inclusion and exclusion. You’ll find her insights and tips for creating inclusive workplace teams insightful and practical, so I hope you’ll take the time to listen.

Is your organization healthy when it comes to inclusion and exclusion?

You may not have given much thought to issues of inclusion and exclusion, but if you’re the leader of a company or organization you owe it not only to your team members but to the success of the company itself to bone up on the subject. More and more statistics and studies demonstrate that a diverse workforce is integral to a strong economy and that a diverse workplace can capture a greater share of the consumer market in any niche or industry. My guest today, Laura Liswood shares from her wealth of experience how you can practically move your organization toward a greater sense of inclusion, resulting in the diversity that leads to greater profitability and success for your company.

For better inclusion, pay attention to who is being heard and who is being excluded.

It’s easy in any work or organizational environment for certain personalities or people in certain roles to have the floor most of the time when it comes to meetings and interactions. Today’s savvy leaders have learned to pay attention to who’s talking the most, who’s not sharing much, and who’s being left out of the discussion altogether. Why? Because they understand something my guest on this episode, Laura Liswood stresses: The more voices that can be heard within an organization, the better that organization will reflect the diverse attitudes and opinions within their company and market, leading to greater success in almost every area. You’ll enjoy hearing Laura’s practical advice for leaders of all types of organizations, so be sure you listen.

Be vigilant when it comes to the “pools” you fish from when looking for team members.

A recent post on the Salesforce website states that “Inclusion in the workplace is recognizing, valuing and fully leveraging the diversity of others to create a positive work atmosphere that promotes equality and delivers results. It is the very act of celebrating and utilizing people’s differences to the benefit of the organization, not merely tolerating them.” The post highlights what the research has proven, companies that are more gender diverse and more ethnically diverse outperform others. And one of the key components of making that diversity work in a powerful way is inclusion. On this episode of Masters of Leadership, Laura Liswood shares how the issues of inclusion and exclusion should be taken seriously by those in the leadership roles of companies big and small.

Take time to truly understand the feelings people have about the issue of inclusion and exclusion.

Many of the responses the ideas of inclusion and diversity illicit in the workplace are confusing. Smart leaders will take the time to get beneath the surface, to seek a genuine understanding of the feelings behind those responses. It’s the only way they’ll be able to bring cohesion to a diverse team and move everyone toward true productivity and effectiveness. Laura Liswood ends this episode of Masters of leadership with insight into that very issue, so if you want to know how to both build a diverse company and set it up for greater success by doing so, you need to hear what Laura has to share.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:20] The definition of collaboration Laura subscribes to in her work.
  • [4:54] The importance of inclusion when it comes to collaboration.
  • [8:16] Technologies that help and hurt collaboration and inclusion.
  • [13:57] Laura’s advice to leaders who are concerned about issues of inclusion and exclusion.
  • [18:45] Tips for becoming a master of inclusive collaboration.
  • [21:33] Consider that you need to understand the feelings people have about exclusion and inclusion.

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Develop Your Collaboration Skills Through Generosity-Based Relationships, with Dorie Clark, Episode #4

Collaboration is one of those amazing things that provides an outcome that is greater than the sum of its parts, but it doesn’t come naturally for most people. And it’s hard to develop collaboration skills that truly bring results without the help of someone who’s been down that road. My guest today is one of those helpful people – Dorie Clark is an amazing brand consultant, speaker, and author who has a finger on the pulse of what it takes to build relationships that can be leveraged into powerful win-win collaborations. Listen to our conversation to hear Dorie’s tips for building your collaboration skills and enjoying the benefits that come from generous relationships.

The entrepreneurial spirit is about finding win-win situations that truly help people.

Collaboration and entrepreneurship don’t immediately sound like they go together. We often have the image of an entrepreneur as a Lone Ranger style individual who’s blazing a new trail all on their own. But Dorie Clark says the entrepreneurial spirit is all about finding and creating win-win situations that truly help people, and that often translates into forming collaborative relationships with other entrepreneurs or small business owners. In this conversation, Dorie and I talk about generosity as the basis for great collaborations and she explains how entrepreneurs can slowly but steadily build a network of genuine relationships that provide great value to everyone involved. This is a practical episode worth sharing.

If you are going to be an entrepreneur, collaboration is key to accomplishing more and better things.

Dorie Clark’s newest book, “Entrepreneurial You” is packed with examples of people who have learned that large-scale success as an entrepreneur depends on the cooperation and collaboration of others. But how do you build those relationships in a genuine way that doesn’t seem forced? Dorie provides a number of examples of entrepreneurs who have grown good relationships into great ones by giving more than they took, with the result being collaborative efforts that served everyone involved in powerful ways. You won’t want to miss these real-life examples – they will inspire you to think bigger when it comes to building the collaboration skills you need in order to accomplish more and better things with the help of others.

Generosity is at the heart of building community and fostering collaboration.

Every entrepreneur wants to build something that serves the needs of others. It’s that same attitude of service and generosity that can be leveraged into relationships that take their dreams farther, faster. In this conversation, Dorie Clark explains why entrepreneurs who approach the idea of collaboration from a place of generous giving – holding nothing back – are the ones who find the greatest success long-term. She also shares her own tips for building community and becoming a true master of collaborative relationships. Don’t miss it.

One of the most important collaboration skills is the development of your sense of timing.

All of us who are entrepreneurs know what it’s like to have a great idea and then immediately begin talking about it to anyone who will listen. We try to get others enthused, seeking to enlist their help in getting broader exposure for our stroke of “genius.” But Dorie Clark says that’s not always the best idea. If you haven’t taken the time to research the market needs surrounding the idea and build out an initial plan for its implementation, your efforts at fostering collaboration could be all for naught. Others won’t know how to think about your idea in real-world terms and consequently, will have nowhere to go with it. Dorie explains why a sense of proper timing is a vital collaboration skill and gives suggestions for how to develop it, on this episode of Masters of Leadership.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:48] My introduction of my guest, Dorie Clark and her specialization in branding and collaboration.
  • [4:01] A specific example of a person who exhibits the idea of “entrepreneurial you.”
  • [7:00] How to leverage collaboration without sacrificing productivity and efficiency.
  • [10:20] The ways collaboration is different in virtual VS face to face contexts.
  • [12:45] Guidelines Dorie follows to effectively build community.
  • [15:50] Tips for becoming a master of collaboration.
  • [19:40] How you can get a copy of Dorie’s free entrepreneurial self-assessment.

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Harnessing The Power of Innovation Through Collaboration, with Saul Kaplan, Episode #3

Innovation is not simply making tweaks to an existing thing, it’s changing the fundamental structure of that thing to provide greater value to the end user. That’s how my guest, Saul Kaplan thinks of innovation, and one of the main ways he encourages corporations to harness the power of innovation is through collaboration. In this conversation, Saul and I talk about what collaboration really is, how we can be sure we’re open to the voices of others in a truly collaborative effort, and what the leaders of corporations need to do these days to make the most of the disruptions that are sure to come in their industry.

Through innovation and collaboration we change the way we deliver value and solve problems.

There are many examples these days of companies that have disrupted their industry by providing a new solution to an age-old problem. Take Uber and Lyft for example. Their “ride-sharing” approach has revolutionized the transportation industry, creating greater experiences and value for passengers and drivers alike. Saul Kaplan says these are companies that have truly innovated, transforming an entire industry. His desire is to see more and more companies not just adapting to disruptions but getting out ahead of them, causing them, for the sake of providing tremendous benefit to society as a whole. In this conversation Saul and I talk about how that can happen, so be sure you take the time to listen.

Too many people like to say they are collaborating when they’re really just using people to further their own agenda.

When I asked Saul Kaplan how he defines collaboration he quickly pointed out that true collaboration is not what most people think it is. He says many people think they are collaborating simply because they’ve asked someone else to help them accomplish what they have already determined should be done. But true collaboration starts with openness to new ideas and solutions from the beginning. It enables more perspectives to inform the approach to answering problems and brings new, creative, often disruptive solutions as a result. Saul has such a clear way of thinking about these things and the work he’s doing with the team at The Business Innovation Factory is truly groundbreaking. I hope you take the time to listen to this conversation and learn from Saul’s years of experience.

Collaboration is the secret to transforming things instead of just tweaking them.

True innovation changes the fundamental nature of addressing problems rather than simply taking a different viewpoint or making minor modifications. Saul Kaplan says that innovation through collaboration is the way forward and those who take the time to unlearn the old models of doing business that are steeped in the industrial era and relearn how to foster collaboration. Leaders who can do so are the ones who will transform and empower society. That’s a huge way of thinking – and it’s part of what makes Paul’s approach to business so exciting. I invite you to take the time to listen as Saul and I discuss the power of collaboration to truly innovate across disciplines and industries, on this episode of Masters of Leadership.

Business leaders: Get ready to change business models many times over the course of your career.

One of the most obvious examples of what the future holds for businesses is the way Netflix has revolutionized the distribution and consumption of video entertainment. Their “movies by mail” business model brought Blockbuster and its retail-store model to its knees. But the innovations of the Netflix team didn’t stop there. They stayed ahead of the curve by foreseeing the next consumption pattern for video entertainment – streaming – and pioneered a scalable model that has dictated the path the industry will take for the near future. That’s two business models the company has developed within the past 15 years or so. It’s an example of the way business leaders need to be thinking as technology and collaboration open the door to greater ways of delivering the answers to consumer problems. Saul Kaplan joins me on this episode to talk about the way collaboration spawns innovation, so don’t miss it.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:25] What does collaboration mean to Saul Kaplan?
  • [4:13] The things it takes to unleash collaboration across industries and disciplines.
  • [6:50] Saul’s most successful collaborations and what made them so effective.
  • [9:42] A lesson-learned in collaboration: the role of a true catalyst.
  • [13:52] How corporations can make collaboration a daily behavior and measure its ROI.
  • [19:00] Examples of corporate leaders who have gotten out of the old models.
  • [25:03] Techniques Saul recommends to encourage inclusiveness and transparency.
  • [28:20] Tips for those who want to master collaboration: learning out loud.
  • [32:58] How to best connect with Saul personally.

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Simplifying Complexity: Key to Greater Collaboration, with Lisa Bodell, Episode #2

One of the more powerful ways to unleash effectiveness and find greater fulfillment in life and work is to learn how to simplify the complexity that the modern age seems to force into our lives. My guest on this episode of Masters of Leadership is Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink, a company that enables organizations to embrace change to become world-class innovators. In this conversation we get practical, talking about the simple things companies large and small are doing to simplify complexity in their systems and cultures and how we can apply the same kinds of approaches to our personal and professional lives.

Innovation isn’t happening because the work bogs us down.

One of the buzzwords of modern business is “innovation.” Every company wants to show up in its market or niche in fresh new ways, but too often the work OF the business is what gets in the way of new approaches. Lisa Bodell says we’ve got to figure out how to simplify the work we do in order to provide the space, the opportunity for true innovation to take place. Simplifying the complexity of business systems is one of the most obvious places to start. In this conversation, Lisa describes the steps many companies are taking to simplify the complexity of their work so team members can experience the freedom to think and work outside the constraints that stifle innovation.

The key to ridding yourself of complexity: Change your habits.

Simplifying complexity: the very thought can be overwhelming. Sometimes, complex things are complex for a reason, but much of the time complexity creeps in unnoticed, adding layers of unnecessary burden to already complex systems and approaches. It happens simply because we’ve fallen into work and life habits that permit complexity to rule the day. The reality is that much of the complexity in our lives and companies can and should be simplified – and greater effectiveness and fulfillment result when we do. On this episode, Lisa Bodell shares surprisingly simple tips about how we can simplify the things that bog us down – and it all starts with our habits. You’ll be amazed at how simple it can be, so be sure you listen.

Collaboration often requires that we email less and communicate more.

This first season of podcast episodes is focused on the art and skill of collaboration and why it’s a necessary component of true innovation. Naturally, effective communication is required to collaborate well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should rely on the communication tools we’ve become accustomed to. For example, Lisa Bodell says collaboration often requires that we email less so that we can actually communicate more. That’s because email is one of the primary areas where complexity creeps into company systems to gobble up time better used for face to face collaboration. You can hear Lisa recount how major companies are taking collaboration to a whole new level by placing restrictions on email, in this episode of Masters of Leadership.

If you want to be a master collaborator, be sure to include the unusual suspects.

The real power in collaboration comes from infusing your process with the insights of many people. That allows you to view the issue through differing perspectives, which in turn opens the door to new ways of thinking about the problem at hand. Lisa Bodell says master collaborators come up with ways to include the perspectives of people she calls “the unusual suspects.” Spouses, finicky customers, even those who have hated on your company might be the perfect candidates for getting you outside your normal way of thinking and into a place of innovation. Find out how Lisa recommends going about it, on this episode.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:10] What does Lisa think of when she considers the concept of “collaboration?”
  • [2:20] The themes and reasons behind Lisa’s book, “Why Simple Wins.”
  • [4:54] Examples of how leaders are removing complexity to achieve innovation.
  • [6:37] How Lisa simplifies her life.
  • [10:25] Why we need to put guardrails around digital communication.
  • [13:35] Lisa’s response to the “digital detox” movements happening today.
  • [17:26] Tips on how to become a better master of collaboration.
  • [20:16] Lisa’s resources and how you can connect with her.

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Lessons in Successful Collaboration from Non-Profit and Corporate Teams, with Aria Finger, Episode #1

In this first season of the podcast, I want to highlight what can happen in a team or business partnership when successful collaboration is the norm. There’s nobody I’d rather learn from when it comes to effective collaboration than Aria Finger. Aria is CEO of both DoSomething.org and The TMI Agency. With over a decade of experience motivating young people to take action through Do Something, and her role as CEO at TMI – an agency that helps companies understand those young people and reach out to them for greater brand success – she’s got the kind of experience fostering great collaboration that I wanted to feature in this first episode. Take the time to listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Trust and respect are at the heart of every successful collaboration.

Collaboration is one of those things that can sound exciting and attractive, and when it’s done effectively it certainly is. But we have to be honest with ourselves by admitting that it’s also lots of hard work. That’s because collaboration is about relationships with people. At the heart of every successful relationship are trust and respect – and collaboration requires them as well. How can you work toward greater trust and respect within your teams? How can you build trust and respect with vendors and service providers? My guest, Aria Finger has wonderful things to share with you about those situations and more, so be sure you take the time to listen to this episode of Masters of Leadership.

Are there ways to avoid the silos that happen between departments within organizations?

Collaboration in a team environment is about getting everyone on the same page, moving in the same direction harmoniously, and with passion for the desired outcome. But that kind of momentum is hard to build when the organization is divided into silos structurally – marketing, sales, production, shipping, human resources, etc. What can you do to break apart the silos and foster a culture of ongoing collaboration? Aria Finger tells how the teams at Do Something and TMI have adopted practical approaches to things like desk assignments that place team members directly in the path of those working in other areas of specialization within the organization. Here insights into the benefits those practices have produced are powerful and are worth sharing!

Digital communication can foster successful collaboration – but can’t replace face to face.

During this conversation with Aria Finger, I specifically asked how her team uses digital communication tools to collaborate on projects. Her enthusiasm for Slack was obvious and she explained how her team uses it to foster collaboration internally. But she was also quick to point out that no amount of messaging can make up for a face to face conversation when it’s really needed. Tense situations, ongoing miscommunication, or frustration need to be addressed with a walk down the hall or a phone call, not keystrokes on a keyboard. Aria does a great job making the distinction and pointing out the benefits of taking that approach so don’t miss what she has to share.

A vital element of any successful collaboration is genuine feedback.

Collaboration is not only about getting things done more effectively, it’s about bringing out the best in every person who’s working on the project. As everyone brings their unique gifts to the table a sum greater than the parts is the result. But that requires that everyone involved is given the gift of feedback about their contributions. During my conversation with Aria Finger on this episode of Masters of Leadership, she said, “None of us can get better unless we are receiving real, trustworthy, and critical feedback.” I entirely agree. You can hear how she suggests you go about soliciting feedback that meets those criteria and how to make the best use of it by listening to this episode.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:22] Who is Aria Finger?
  • [2:05] What does collaboration mean to Aria and what does it look like at Do Something?
  • [6:00] Virtual communication at Do Something: Slack as a collaboration tool.
  • [9:33] What is similar or different between collaboration in a non-profit VS corporate?
  • [11:20] Aria’s advice to corporate leaders seeking to build a collaborative culture.
  • [15:09] Questions leaders need to be asking to build effective collaboration these days.
  • [18:34] Tips from Aria about the path toward more effective collaboration.

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Get Big Things Done: The Aim of Masters of Leadership, Episode #0

We all want to do big thing with our lives, but we don’t always know how to go about it.

I’m excited to announce the launch today of my new podcast: Masters of Leadership.

I’ve made it my business to study leaders who get big things done.

My business and my book are aimed at helping people supercharge their leadership so that even bigger things can be done. On this show I’ll be sharing in seasons, exploring different topics around what it means to master leadership. We’ll examine collaboration, agility, happiness, and risk taking among others. This first season we’ll focus on collaboration and how it enables powerful leadership.

I’m confident that I’ll be able to empower you to be a better leader.

In this podcast I’m going to bring you conversations with top level leaders, mining the depths of their wisdom about what makes them leaders who get big things done. I love having conversations with these amazing people and will be sharing them with you so that you can learn to be the same kind of leader in your world.  

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My 2014 in Review

At the end of 2013 I thought I’d had the best year of my life.  

I thought I couldn’t top it but I just did.  Now that 2014 is over, I’ve had the best year of my life, again.

It wasn’t an easy year.  It was probably the hardest and most fulfilling.  I finished co-authoring Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence.  Cotential, my consulting business, gained more clients, and I moved back to New York with my husband.  We settled back into the big city and now I’m gearing up for my book launch in February.  

And so, to celebrate a new year and the end of a great year, here’s a roundup of my writing and media appearances from 2014:

How You Can use Youtube to Turn Your Passion into a Career in Forbes

Inside the Minds of Biz-Savvy Millenials in Fortune

How to Connect Intelligently over the Holidays in Linkedin

Women in the Workplace in HuffPostLive

Why Did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Go Viral? in Linkedin

How Chevy Turned an Epic Fail into a Social Media Success in Forbes

How Much Should You Invest in Young Talent? in Chief Learning Officer Magazine

The Power of Connection on Work Life Radio

How to Create High Quality Connections at Your Next Event in LinkedIn

6 Steps for Getting Noticed in Any Setting on FOX Business

Why You Don't Need to Be an Inventor to Be an Innovator

6 Ways to Improve Your Next Conference

Why the Crowd is the Ultimate Engine of Creativity

What the Art Museum Can Teach Us About Innovation

6 Ways to Improve Your Next Conference

The Value of Networks at Social Media Week

Six ways to Make Innovation a Reality

Why did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge go viral?

This post originally appeared on Linkedin.

Did you notice the uncanny urge for people to dump buckets of water over themselves the past few months? From YouTube to Facebook, social media outlets were flooded with videos of Ice Bucket Challenges as individuals challenged others to raise awareness for ALS. Nominees were dared to complete the challenge of donating a small amount to ALS research and getting doused with a bucket of ice water. If one was unable to complete the Challenge within 24 hours, the nominee was supposed to donate to the ALS Association. Once completed, the participants uploaded their video to social media, used the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag, then nominated three more people to engage with the challenge.

The Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t tied to ALS Association until Chris Kennedy, whose relative suffers from the disease, dedicated the challenge to ALS on July 15. Kennedy used the hashtag #StrikeOutALS, which became a signature of the Ice Bucket Challenge and was initially linked to a number of charities as a fundraising platform. Eventually his video reached the news feed of Pete Frates, former Boston College pitcher, who was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2012. Upon hearing about #StrikeOutALS, Frates uploaded his challenge to social media. Then the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge spread like wildfire.

People all throughout the country brought attention to ALS by taking the challenge. The ever-growing support network blossomed from a small group to thousands of communities across America in just a few months. More than three million people participated in this viral fundraising campaign, which raised over $100 million for the ALS Association.

The exposure that the ALS community has received in the past year is the kind of exposure every organization craves. The domino effect is due in part to the ultra-accessible nature of the campaign, and if it worked for the Ice Bucket Challenge, it can work for your idea, too.

Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, your platform can inspire others to make a change. Here are four guidelines to help your organization reach the masses like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge did:

1. Define your Design:

The Ice Bucket Challenge was much more than people dumping water on each other because of a dare – it was about charity and awareness, and supporting those who needed it in a fun and exciting way. Participants were mandated to ‘donate’ only if they chose not to do the ice bucket challenge, leading to a counterintuitive way to spread the message and mission. Keep your ideas fresh and stimulating while also staying simple. Dumping water on your head is as easy as it gets, but its effects were profound.

2. Evaluate your Resources:

Most Americans have access to water and to social media, which is what made the Ice Bucket Challenge so easy to complete. Despite critics who disregarded the challenge as a waste of time and water, it became a substantial force of positivity for the ALS community. Those who didn’t have the means to donate took part in the effort by completing the challenge and sharing it with their social networks. On Facebook alone, the Ice Bucket Challenge was shared across newsfeeds over 2.4 million times. It linked communities and resources from the East coast to the West, and guess what? It’s possible for your organization to do the same.

3. Leverage your Connections:

For the first time in a long while, ALS caught the limelight thanks to individuals challenging others within their deepest social networks. Many celebrities – from actor Robert Downey Junior to Triple H of WWE – took part in the fun. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters created a short film by turning his challenge into a prom queen’s nightmare. Bill Gates created an ice bucket contraption, which resembled a miniature version of the giant bucket dumpers in the kid sections of amusement parks. Even Homer Simpson took the Challenge! Using social media as a gateway to the public eye is inexpensive and it gives individuals the capability to connect with future colleagues and collaborators. Use technology to fuel innovation and exposure.

4. Encourage Creativity:

Extremists like Paul Bissonnette, Charlie Sheen, and Muhammad Quereshi amped up the hype for the Ice Bucket Challenge through peculiar innovation. Bissonette, a professional ice hockey player, used actual glacier water for his challenge, which turned out to be the third most-watched Ice Bucket Challenge on YouTube. Charlie Sheen’s challenge featured him ‘saturating’ himself in $10,000 cash, which he donated to ALS. In the name of science, Quereshi, a chemist, used liquid nitrogen for his challenge. These extremists weren’t afraid to break the rules, and neither should you. Make your plan creative enough to capture the public’s attention.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of utilizing social networks in order to spread an idea or concept. What started as a simple notion revolutionized the world of ALS as we know it, and in so doing, it shifted the mindset of how organizations will fundraise and spread ideas in the future. All of this because someone decided to dump water on his head in the name of ALS.

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