5 Life Changing Decisions You Can Take Now

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Decisions are commitments. They are commitments to live one way versus another. They often require tradeoffs, pain, joy, and challenge. Making tough decisions is the core of leadership. Here are 5 life changing decisions you can take now.

1) Choose a life of impact over a social life. It's harder but you won't regret it.  It’s a choice. They aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but sometimes we need to make a choice between the "important, long-term" mission and the "short, fun" event or initiative.

2) Take responsibility, not authority. There is a big difference between authority and responsibility. Authority is a form of control, responsibility is a form of influence.

3) Don't stop engaging in the arts. What brings us laughter, song, dance and joy are what brings us vitality, happiness and innovation. What is the next artistic challenge you will take on? Mine is Haitian Dance!

4) Create the optimal filters. Sometimes advice is the exact opposite of what you need to transform. Questions from a select few may do the trick.

5) Practice self-love. Be your own best friend. When we stop being hard on ourselves and trust our intentions, we create space for more love and gratitude around us. 

Top 5 articles you must read on workplace innovation

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 1. Keith Harrell's article, Attitude in the Workplace, in Success talks about some of the challenges people face today in the workplace. When was the last time your attitude, good or bad, made a difference?

  2. What is the perfect place to work? Here is an article showing some characteristics of a truly great workplace. 

  3. While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health. Here are tips to reduce and manage job and workplace stress. 

4. This is one of the diciest challenges of office politics, one that invades the cubicle farm and executive suite alike: How to deal with workplace whiners.

5. "Don't just Hear- Listen." One of the tips for effective workplace communicationTo improve communication within your team and throughout your entire company, you need to implement a few easy but important changes to your corporate philosophy and practice. 


5 Rules for Asking the Right Questions

 Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The key to generating the optimal solution is asking the right questions. Oftentimes, we are "married" to certain ways of thinking or asking a set of questions that end up causing us to fall into patterns of the past. Here are five tricks to asking the right questions for any challenge you are facing:

1) Understand your Assumptions: What are you asking and why are you asking it? What would you ask if you reversed your assumptions [i.e., When reimagining cars, what if you let go of your assumptions about drivers? Meet, driverless cars (thanks Google!)]?

2) Invite Openness: How do you invite others to help you think through the question? Instead of starting a question with "why not…" how about asking "what if…"?

3) Create Trust: Engage others so they feel they can be part of your questions. Ask: "How do you feel you are resonating with this question?" or State: "What I'm hearing you ask is…"

4) Stop being married to your questions: Practice asking more provocative questions: instead of "What's not working?", ask "If we were to achieve an outstanding service award, what would we celebrate"? (check the book Kill the Company by Lisa Bodell for more provocative questions). 

5) Understand the role that questions play: Questions are meant to explore, spark, inspire–they don't solve the problem. They help uncover the key instruments that allow for solution generation. Start at questions and use the thread of dialogue, dissent and discovery to uncover the solution.

Top 5 articles you must read on Innovation

writing pen  1. Bryan Mahoney's article, Innovation Strategy goes on to identify top five strategies to address innovation, one of which entails the creation of culture of innovation by promoting and rewarding entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

  2. This article in Innovation Excellence by Paul Hobcraft expresses that organizations should not rely on a single innovation function, it must integrate with the entire organization.

  3. How does a company like Google continue to grow exponentially while still staying innovative? Susam Wojcicki, Google's Senior Vice President of Advertising, discusses some of the processes and principles in place to make sure that the company doesn't get bogged down in the past as it keeps moving forward. 8 Pillars of Innovation

4. Today, we’re on the brink of a new digital paradigm, where the capabilities of our technology are beginning to outstrip our own.  Computers are deciding which products to stock on shelves, doing legal research and even winning game shows. They will soon be driving our cars and making medical diagnoses.  Here are five trends that are driving it all

5. 7 Tips to Speed Time to Innovation: This article delves into the goals every organization should work toward to boost product development performance, looks at how these goals further a product organizations ability to bring innovative products to market, and outlines the ways that a Product Portfolio Management (PPM) Solution helps comapnies reach these goals. 

Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Actions

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since action is ultimately what leadership is all about –  it’s remarkable how often we turn the work of action into a test of how much "we do" rather than an opportunity to enhance motivation, deepen commitment, and create opportunities for leadership development of others. When pursuing any important work, it is critical to "check in" to understand WHY you are doing work tasks, WHO you are developing, and HOW you are solving problems.

Here are three questions you must ask yourself to reflect on any work actions you do:

  • First, does it solve the problem at hand? Did you get done what you set out to do? Are there more books in the school, for example? Did more money get allocated to the business?
  • Second, does it strengthen the organization? Did it deepen understanding, build relational commitment, and generate new resources, people, and ideas?
  • Third, does it facilitate the learning of individuals who take part in the action? Did people learn, did they gain confidence, were they energized – or were they completely burned out?

​What are you learning from your responses to these questions?

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My 2013 Commencement Address

Sewickley Academy 2013 graduation ceremony. Photo by Jason CohnThis Sunday I had the distinguished honor of being the keynote commencement speaker at my high school, Sewickley Academy in Pittsburgh, PA. The theme of the address was to "Choose Excellence", to urge graduates to choose excellence, to pick a path and master it and to be the most inspiring version of themselves they can be.

Addressing my high school in a commencement speech was an amazing opening for growth for me. The truth is: I spent most of my high school experience treating myself as 'not good enough' and always felt it was awful to be 'the nerd' in high school. Then when I wrote my speech, I realized that so many of the "inspirational messages" I was writing were the things I had felt I needed myself. So, in essence, it was really a speech to myself, a speech to call myself to excellence and create space for the young graduates to do the same. It also made me realize that how easy it is to get stuck in an 'old story' about my high school experience, so many years later–which was finally transformed during the ceremony in a beautiful way.

What negative self talk from your school days still keeps you in your 'old ways'? If you were to write a speech to your 18 year old self what would it say?

Here's mine. 

2013 Sewickley Academy Commencement Speech

How to Manage Generation Y

Want to learn who millennials are, why your company need them, and how to keep them at your company? This infographic below does an awesome job showcasing the answers.

Some highlights are: 

  • By 2014, 36% of the US workforce will be millennials
  • Millennials are the most diverse generation ever
  • 65% of millennials said the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor in their current job
  • 43% of millennials have liked over 20 brands on Facebook
  • 71% of millennials would like to work abroad

Here it is!

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Connect with me. It’s conference season.

ConferencesIt's conference season. The months of May and June are always a "connection" time of year with lots of movement and events going on, as well as opportunities for us to connect.

Why do conferences matter? Conferences are self-selected communities of people who come together around a shared cause. Conferences are places for inspiration, connection, and vision to be created. They are also places filled with hallways where random connections are created that can turn into fruitful friendships, projects, and long-term relationships (this is the best part!).

So you might ask–why are conferences still important in our digitized, video-based world? Conferences introduce us to people who want to talk about topics we are passionate about as well. They allow us to talk about points of view, problems, opportunities, and even wild ideas. Let's face it–Twitter and Instagram started at a conference.

What conferences will you be attending over the next few months? How will you create space to connect with 'old' and 'new' people in your life? During conference season this year, I am excited about traveling to speak at many amazing events with some of the best and brightest executives and high potentials in cities around the world. So where will I be? Here are upcoming events I'll be at. I would love to meet you personally and get blog readers together. Comment below if you'll be in town and or can join one of my keynotes or sessions. I'll be speaking on Connectional Intelligence, Innovation, Leadership and Creating Breakthroughs across Multi-Generations. I promise to offer some Bollywood too (if there is strong interest of course!)

1) KPMG Shared Services Conference Keynote, Unlock Generations through Connectional Intelligence New York, May 8-9

2) White House Office of Public Engagement, World Economic Forum, D.C, May 10

2) American Society for Learning and Development National Conference, Dallas, May 18-21

3) Blake's Unleash the Power of Generations Keynote, Toronto, May 29-30

4) ATKearney Partners retreat, Connectional Intelligence session, June 4-5

5) Huffington Post Women's Conference, New York, June 6

6) Sewickley Academy graduation commencement Keynote (my high school!), Pittsburgh, June 9

7) StartingBloc Institute Keynote, New York, June 10

8) The Future Work Institute's Emerging Majority Conference, Millennials Connectional Intelligence session, New York June 11-12

9) Working Mother Media Social Media Summit, New York, June 14

10) Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference, Chicago, June 17-18

11) World Domination Summit, Portland, Oregon, July 5-7

12) Toastmasters International Convention, Connectional Intelligence session, Cleveland, August 7-8

Come see me speak or say hello! I'd love to chat about your innovation and leadership challenges and see how I can be of service.


10 Tips to Become the Most Successful Person You Know

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The best definiton of success involves having a clear sense of what impact means to you and making it happen. Part of my mission is to help you create explosive success so you get big things done (and make your life matter and create impact through the power of innovation and connectional intelligence.)

Here are 10 tips to become the most successful person you know.

1. When facing any change, understand what is at stake. Change gets made when we see what on the table matters and make real tradeoffs. We evaluate the tradeoffs rather than making rushed decisions.

2. Focus on deepening your insight, rather than gathering information. You can watch a lot of reality TV or read 3 thoughtful books –you choose. Deepening insight in a one hour phone call can be much more impactful than 10 hours of internet research. Figure out how to get the insight you really need. 

3. Know Your Rhythm. Know what "rhythms" work best for you. Are you a morning or night person? When do you do your best work? Find ways to use your energy more effectively. 

4. Be Politically Saavy. Recognize, understand and leverage the centers of influence and power within your environment.  Always see big picture and integrate this knowledge into your decision-making.

5. Find Champions that will change your life. Build and maintain a rich network of mutually valued relationships that provide opportunities for mentorship, sponsorship and community as you advance.

6. Think of strategy as a hypothesis rather than a prediction. Think of strategy as a verb, not a noun. We never start with a plan and end with the same plan. When we dive in, we often discover new ways of thinking.  Strategy is about about adapting and learning from real experiences.

7. Don't wait for a "perfect answer." Start with what you know and work your way to a solution.

8. Build an Game Plan in 3 month increments. Every few months, get committed to achieving new clearly defined outcomes and acting with purpose in order to produce results that are meaningful and measurable.

9. Find Sanctuaries that you use to decompress. Find places of rest to rejuvenate. For me it's the dance floor, home, and reading a book. What are yours? 

10. Share your story. By telling others how you came to be who you are, you create space to connect with listeners, increase your visibility and move people to act. Never hold back from sharing your story with anyone you seek to build a relationship with.

I truly hope these 10 success tips have been valuable to you. And that I’ve been of service. Your success and impact in life is what we need most. Please protect it and make it happen.

Any other tips made you successful? Please share below!

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12 Things Great Leaders Always Do

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We all know them. That one person who is not just a great leader, but who also makes a lasting impact. We remember them, follow them, and reference their thinking long after our connection with them is over. 

What is it that makes such a great leader? What do they have that others don't? I've been lucky to meet many great leaders and discovered they all share these twelve characteristics. 

So, here are 12 things YOU can do to become a great leader:

1. Pick your fights. Don’t waste your resources. Its important to stand up for your ideals, but don’t keep fighting when its draining you and it doesn't really matter. 

2. Work with exceptional people. Everything is about benchmarking. If you bring a great group of people together, they will even become better by the benchmark they have within the group.

3. Don't let the world beat you down. The best characteristics of a leader are being optimistic and naive.

4. Decide quickly. A bad decision is better than no decision. We learn by doing, instead of inaction. 

5. When asked for advice, sometimes the best advice is to not to give any advice. Usually when others ask for your advice, they already know the solution, but they just need a bit of confidence or some coaching to get there.

6. Focus on the things you can control. Those who focus on the things they cannot control become cynical. Choose what you focus on by what you can control. 

7. Be vulnerable. In a recent TED Talk, shame researcher Brene Brown shares that vulnerability is our ability to tell our true story and not to fear rejection. Moreover, it’s the understanding of ourselves as imperfect that makes us brave. Vulnerability enables connection more than anything else. 

8. Choose curiosity over confidence anyday. Live with a questioning mind and you'll never believe where you go. 

9. Accept that you can do everything perfect and fail and you can everything wrong and succeed. Life isn't fair, it's the plain truth, some get lucky and some don't. It's up to us to let the journey guide us..and learn from it.

10. When looking for great people, choose hunger and excitement over experience. Never choose people who think they are 'doing you a favor.' Find people who are excited to work with you. 

11. Don't wait to ask, to test and incubate new ideas. Read Why Asking is your #1 Strategy for Success for more. 

12. Don’t Ask for a No. When you think something is the right thing to do, just do it. You don't need approval from anybody, just you.

Which of these traits are most important to you?