⚡️4 Minute Forethought

August 6, 2018
Busy, Busy, Busy

I’ve written about it before and I’ve talked about it before, but I don’t think I’ve ever done so in relationship to being a good leader. So that’s our lightning fast podcast topic for today! Are you busy, busy, busy…doing nothing?

Great leaders make the most of their time. Of course just like anyone else they lose time on things and they don’t always make the right judgement call on a particular task or project. But as the great quotable Deadpool says 4 or 5 moments are all that define a hero. In this case though great leaders make the most of their time, most of the time.

Great leaders realize that just being busy is not the same as being productive. There’s an old quote by Mary O’Connor I’ve shared before on my blog which says,

“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.”

This the fundamental truth we heard in the song at the beginning and in this quote. How you are busy is what matters. Great leaders are busy doing things which result in meaningful outcomes. They are busy working on those tasks which directly contribute to their success. Great leaders do things which make their ideas become realities. They realize they are working towards a goal and every second counts. So the question for you is simple….Are you busy, busy, busy…doing nothing?

July 30, 2018
Episode 28: Bravery

Bravery is an interesting trait in a leader. Many times in the past people would associate bravery with fearlessness. Thankfully we’re seeing a shift in thinking in recent years in this regard.

There is a growing recognition that bravery is the acknowledgement and appropriate response to fear. But what does bravery look like? I’m glad you asked.

Bravery in leadership can be exhibited in a number of different ways. Here are a few of the most common ways a great leader exhibits bravery.

  1. Great leaders exhibit bravery by standing up for what they believe regardless of the consequences.
  2. Great leaders recognize bravery means accepting damaging things and dealing with them instead of running from them.
  3. Great leaders demonstrate bravery through consistency. That’s an odd one right? But it ties in with the first, bravery means continually standing up for what they believe in. Day in, day out.

    Great leaders show bravery in the face of fear. They take their fears and put them in their proper place. They don’t ignore them, they don’t pretend they are not real, and they certainly don’t run from them. Instead, great leaders put fear where it belongs. Acknowledged and brought under control.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” – Amelia Earhart

July 26, 2018
Episode 27: Foundation

Great leaders recognize the importance of a strong foundation. They understand this foundation is a basis by which they think, live, and work. Without a strong foundation when the stress of the job comes they will stumble, fall, or give up. What does a strong foundation mean?

What does it look like? Here are 3 principles I believe you can find in the foundation of every great leader:

  1. Great leaders have built a strong network of trusted friends, and allies.
  2. Great leaders have identified ways to handle stress before they are experiencing it.
  3. Great leaders have created a realistic plan for what they expect to achieve.

July 25, 2018
Episode 26: Perfection

The idea of perfection is a tricky one for leaders especially. Leaders want to strive for perfection but not at all costs. There comes a point where goal of perfection can stand in the way of progress. Rather than perfection, I’d suggest great leaders recognize the pursuit of excellence.

And that’s worth noting, the pursuit of excellence and perfection are different things. The difference lies in the focus. Perfection focuses on how things look and what others see. Excellence focuses on why things look a certain way or why a task is done. You’ve heard me talk many times before about starting with why. Even in this we should recognize striving for excellence comes before striving for perfection.

Waiting for perfection before releasing (in the case of software), or not accepting anything other than perfection (in general) is a dangerous mindset. Great leaders recognize the constant pull of perfection but rather focus on the pursuit of excellence instead. Great leaders recognize pursuing excellence ignites the soul while pursuing perfection can destroy the spirit.

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” – Harriet Braiker


July 23, 2018
Episode 25: Celebrating

There’s a very fine line between celebrating and boasting. I can’t remember where I first saw the discussion, but the topic centered around one of the loudest mouths in history, the unmatched, unforgettable Mohammad Ali.

I’ve written about him on my blog and there are many, many positive lessons we can draw from his example (confidence, strength, courage, self-worth just to name a few). But one aspect of Mohammad Ali which I would doubt anyone could contradict was his celebrating. In fact, I would venture so far as to suggest his celebrating was actually something a bit more than simple excitement over success. He was boastful. He bragged on himself. This brings me to my 4 minute thought for today. Great leaders celebrate. Great leaders don’t boast. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked (or at least thought the question…)

  1. Great leaders share successes and celebrate for the right reasons. WHY am I sharing this information. Is it simply to make myself look good? (That’s boasting)
  2. Great leaders consider how they share success, is there a better way to share (Filter).
  3. Great leaders recognize celebrating success should be focused on the right object. (What’s the object and why do others care – does it benefit them in some way?)

July 20, 2018
Episode 24: Advocate

Great leaders care about others. They don’t focus only on solving their own problems or finding the solutions their business alone needs. Great leaders seek to raise other people up and draw attention to their needs and situations as well. Great leaders find ways to help solve their problems and issues. Sometimes this is through their business, but many times this is as simple as advocating for others and raising awareness to their needs. A great leader is able to recognize the stage and audience they have and then use that audience to serve a greater good. Leaders advocate for others.

Taylor Swift is a great example of this. She’s always been a strong a advocate for others in the music business. She uses her notoriety and fame to raise awareness and advocate for artists and musicians everywhere. When Apple made a strong move to offer a service which would harm many new, undiscovered, and struggling musicians she wrote the following:

Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

She went on: “These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much.”

Good leaders realize they have an opportunity to help others… great leaders recognize it’s their responsibility to do so.

July 19, 2018
Episode 23: Influence

Each week I undertake a bit of a historical deep dive into the life of someone I would consider a Thinker. These thinkers are often leaders as you might imagine. You will of course agree with me that not every great thinker is a leader, there are differences and the relationship is not a bi-directional equivalency. The reverse though I believe is quite often true. Great leaders are often thinkers.

I focused this week on an individual who may not be immediately recognized as a leader but I think even in this we do him an injustice. John Mauchly was a leader in a very important way and exhibited a leadership trait which I believe we would do well to learn from and understand better. Great leaders understand the importance of helping others find success. They recognize their position and knowledge can be used to influence others.

  • Great leaders show discretion in how they share their opinions and ideas.
  • Great leaders use their position and knowledge to benefit others.
  • Great leaders help others find success and notoriety.

July 18, 2018
Episode 22: Firefighter

To quote the infamous character created by the U.S. Forestry service, Only YOU can prevent forest fires. This was the marketing message and strongly endorsed outreach effort created In the longest-running public service advertising campaign in the United States history. Smokey Bear, was eventually protected by U.S. federal law, the Smokey Bear Act of 1952 and continues even today to serve as an instantly recognizable marketing campaign.

In fact, According to the Ad Council, 80% of outdoor recreationists correctly identified Smokey Bear’s image and 8 in 10 recognized the campaign Public Service Announcements.

But this is a 4 minute podcast about leaders. So, a slight modification of the quote might yield a rough paraphrase, “Only great leaders can prevent fires.”

Putting out virtual fires in the company (or community) is often an unrecognized quality of a great leader. This thinking ties in closely with the philosophy shared yesterday where we discussed how a great leader is able to view things from different perspectives. In today’s thought, a great leader is able to KEEP things in perspective. And prevent unnecessary panic and fear while at the same time identifying how to effectively “put out” the fire. Great leaders are fire-fighters.

July 17, 2018
Episode 21: Perspective

Great leaders are able to extricate themselves from the minutia and see the big picture. This isn’t big-picture only thinking. This is an important point to make note of. This does not mean to suggest a leader is a grand ideas, big thinker only. No, in fact it means quite the opposite. A great leader is able to synthesize their incredible world-changing ideas into meaningful steps and equate them with the minutely small day-to-day functions and tasks. In a sense they are able to hold this dichotomous view in their head where they see not just the daily grind but also the fully completed goal at the same time. There are other types of perspective a great leader maintains as well. Here’s a quick three.

Great leaders see the large picture and the details simultaneously

Great leaders are able to relate to the perspective of the customer

Great leaders are able to communicate in the language of the employee

July 16, 2018
Episode 20: Questions

Great leaders ask questions. But not just any old question, great leaders ask thoughtful questions that require thoughtful answers. Usually this means staying away from yes/no answers. A great leader knows how to ask questions which will illicit the most honest response. That’s an interesting idea. Here’s what I mean:

Great leaders know when a question is difficult and phrases it in the way which encourages honesty by giving the person answering the easiest way to say the hard things (the thing they worry most won’t be the “right” answer).

Great leaders are also quick to understand how questions can empower others to take ownership and responsibility.

Great leaders recognize there’s no weakness in asking questions and understands that asking questions is a way to lead others to finding a similar solution (or exploring alternative thinking to their own).

July 13, 2018
Episode 19: Focus

Great leaders understand the importance of focus. The ability to set aside distractions and pursue a single goal. There’s a couple important side topics with this idea of focus. First, it doesn’t mean blindly following a vision with no listening to other’s or outside advice. Nor does it mean an unswerving approach to problem solving. There are always times when a zig here or a zag there becomes critical for success. Focus involves a concentrated effort to exert self-control and will-power over innate desires to wander or be distracted by flashy, momentary interests.

The Story of the Marshmallow Children.

July 12, 2018
Episode 18: High Standards

Great leaders hold those around them to higher standards. Not only holding others to high standards but they also lead by example. Great leaders expect themselves to perform at peak performance as well. Sometimes this leads to burnout, sometimes this leads to breakdown. Strong leaders are able to handle 

these self-imposed pressures and find ways to balance them in their own lives as well as in those who follow them.  A good leader understands the values of holding high standards and implements them in life. A great leader makes them fun and an attainable, achievable goal which can be conquered daily for a greater sense of self fulfillment.

  • Great leaders set high standards for themselves first and then for others who follow
  • Great leaders recognizes by setting high standards they attract instead of detract the right people
  • Great leaders make high standards achievable and repeatable

July 11, 2018
Episode 17: Decision-Making

There are 4 important points regarding decision-making related to great leaders. Here’s a short list, before we focus in on the final and what I believe to be the most significant.

  • Great leaders understand how to separate emotions from rational choice when making decisions.
  • Great leaders know some decisions will be wrong
  • Great leaders make challenging decisions
  • Great leaders help others make decisions

Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, shares how he believes it signifies he’s doing a good job as a leader when others make the decisions.

July 10, 2018
Episode 16: Confidence

The greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan once said,

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.”

This level of confidence is a requirement of a good leader. Even with a statement like the above we still see confidence exhibited in his attitude and his game play. Good confidence is not arrogance. Here are three defining qualities of confidence:

  • Confidence acknowledges failures
  • Confidence is persistent
  • Confidence requires practice

July 9, 2018
Episode 15: Accountability

“Passing the buck” originated from a ritual practiced during card games. Card players used to place a marker, called a “buck,” in front of the person who was the dealer. That marker was passed to the next player along with the responsibility of dealing. Eventually “passing the buck” became synonymous with passing on responsibility.

President Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk that read: “The Buck Stops Here.” It meant he accepted accountability for all the decisions of his administration. Truman’s stand exists in organizations today but, unfortunately, as the exception rather than the rule.

  • Accountability means honesty
  • Accountability means saying you’re sorry
  • Accountability means seeking advice

Living on a prayer

July 5, 2018
Episode 14: Commitment

Leaders have to do things that others may not have to do, and may not ever see. Leaders have to maintain a level of commitment to an idea, a plan, a process, even a person beyond what many would even consider doing.

  • Leaders commit to the plan (but recognize change is inevitable and important)
  • Leaders commit to the people (but again recognize not every fit is the right fit)
  • Leaders commit to the process (trusting the gut is important but sometimes that’s indigestion)

If you are a leader, the true measure of your success is not getting people to work. It’s not getting people to work hard. It is getting people to work hard together. That takes commitment.”
John C. Maxwell

Creativity in Leadership

July 4, 2018
Episode 13: Creativity

Leaders recognize creativity isn’t always a “lone inventor” practice. Genius can come from many contributions as opposed to only one.

  • Leaders empower others to identify good ideas
  • Leaders encourage contribution and idea sharing (tolerant to opposition)
  • Leaders understand the value of scaling their creativity

Creativity is not a mystical talent but a carefully cultivated tool. Wielded by the best leaders in the world to accomplish incredible things.

July 2, 2018
Episode 12: Honesty

June 22, 2018
Episode 11: Passion

Reading for Leaders

June 21, 2018
Episode 10: Learning

No regrets Amazon Bezos Advice

June 20, 2018
Episode 9: Regrets

June 19, 2018
Episode 8: Improving

June 18, 2018
Episode 7: Motivation

June 17, 2018
Episode 6: Self-aware

June 16, 2018
Episode 5: Listening

June 15, 2018
Episode 4: Fear

June 14, 2018
Episode 3: Discernment

The ability to discern which details are most important and how to spend our time (as well as who to trust) is a mark of a true leader.

June 12, 2018
Episode 2: Failure

This is the second episode of the daily 4 minute lightning podcast, Forethought, four minutes, 1 key thought to start your day.

June 11, 2018
Episode 1: Netflix

The very first episode of Forethought, a daily 4 minute lightning podcast. Today we take a brief look at Netflix, but not the part of Netflix you're thinking about.