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Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    Illusion or Reality: 7 Fundamentals of Realistic Leadership

    David Copperfield and the statue of Liberty

     

    I recently watched a video of David Copperfield, the famous illusionist, making the Statue of Liberty vanish in front of a group of spectators. It weighs 450,000 pounds and stands 305 feet tall, so moving it is not an easy task. To accomplish this trick, Copperfield set up a stage at night for the viewing audience to sit on. The stage was framed in front by pillars which held a curtain secured at ground level and lifted up to block their view of the statue. A circle of lights at ground level illuminated it, and its presence was tracked on a radar screen visible to all. He presented the statue to the audience, then raised the curtain for a few moments. When the curtain dropped again, search lights beamed through where the statue should have stood, showing that nothing was there. It had vanished, only leaving the ground level lights to show its footprint. After raising the curtain again for a few moments, Copperfield then dropped it to reveal the statue, back in place.

    How did he do it? During the period of time that the curtain was raised, the audience viewing platform and pillars rotated slowly to the right, so that when the curtain dropped, the statue was behind a pillar. Blaring music throughout the entire show distracted the spectators, and the radar display was fake.

    Copperfield’s spectacular show, performed in 1983, was full of entertainment and flair. The audience was amazed, even in the midst of the fact the sculpture couldn’t simply disappear. They couldn’t figure out how it was done, thus they bought into the reality of the illusion, that was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014 as the largest disappearance ever performed by a magician.

    Illusions

    We’re often spectators to other illusions in our world, not necessarily executed by traditional magicians. Such illusions may be manifested in the form of major initiatives taken on by leaders and their teams to accomplish admirable goals. But they lose sight of the organizational realities. Continue reading

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    Cracked Concrete – Is Your Business Foundation Sound?

    My husband and I recently realized that we would soon have to repair or replace the circular concrete driveway in
    front of our home. We thought it would last a lot longer than this. Instead, after only 14 years, several concrete slabs are sinking; weeds are creeping up in the spaces between them; a large crack is running through one, courtesy of a heavy delivery truck; another slab is scaling; and the snow plows that are a staple of Michigan winters has left scrape marks on other parts.

    We never thought this would happen because they look so strong and thick. We could wait another year or two, but the situation will only get worse.  What we thought was a solid foundation with high structural integrity, wasn’t resilient enough to withstand a variety of above and below ground pressures. What if the quality or thickness of the concrete had been stronger? What if we had ensured that heavy vehicles didn’t pull into the driveway? What if we carefully used a walking snowplow each winter instead of hiring a heavy truck to plow it (not!). In hindsight it was hard to predict we’d be in this spot, but we now need to look at options to repair or replace all or a part of the driveway.

    Fortune 500 Foundation

    As I reflected on this disappointing situation, I happened to look at Fortune Magazine’s recently released list of the top 500 global companies. Their total revenue declined for the first time since 2010 by 11.5% to $31.2 trillion, and profits shrank by 11.2% to $1.48 trillion1. Once strong sectors (such as Oil) and other stalwart corporations have stumbled, and are struggling to find their new footing. Companies that placed in the top 100 in the prior year, have now been displaced from the list.

    Continue reading

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    Left Hand – Right Hand: Balanced Leadership

    Left Hand Right Hand - Miles O'Brien (200x133)Miles O’Brien woke up and sensed that his left arm was there. But when he looked down, it was gone…amputated during surgery as a result of a freak injury several days prior. He wondered how he would provide for his family and perform little but important daily functions that we take for granted. As an award-winning science journalist and CNN contributor he traveled extensively, and was an active sports enthusiast. So what would his life be like now? Rather than retreat into the shadows, he dove into the rehabilitation process and challenged his occupational therapists and prosthetist to help him find ways to continue his normal activity level. They quickly responded and helped him to fulfill his plans of traveling to the Artic, including camping for 4 days on the Denali ice sheet, and riding his bicycle 300 miles across Michigan in two days. But to do so they had to outfit him with equipment and prostheses to replace his arm. He couldn’t function without a workaround strategy to replace that arm, because his body, and our bodies, needs two arms for balance. Continue reading

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    From Irritation to Innovation

    Elizabeth Holmes hates needles.  To her, the idea of being poked by a needle and withdrawing blood is more than just unpleasant.  When she knows that she has to give blood, she becomes consumed and overcome with the thought until it’s finally over.

    So it should be no surprise that at age 19 she founded Theranos, a ground-breaking blood diagnostics company that 11 years later is worth more than $9 billion. The company has patented its secret technology of performing 200 different blood tests (soon growing to over 1,000 different tests) without using a syringe.  They use a few drops of blood drawn using a finger stick to minimize discomfort, and collected in a “nanotainer”; a container the size of an electric fuse. Her board is stocked with powerful blue chip members including former cabinet secretaries, former U.S. senators and former military brass. Theranos’ innovative technology is poised to transform health care technology at no more than half the cost of similar tests using current technology.

    Holmes leveraged a process that irritated her to innovate a new method of getting it done.

    ??????????????????Productive Dissatisfaction

    Tony Fadell was building a vacation home for his family.  One of the seemingly mundane decisions was selecting thermostats, but he wasn’t satisfied with his choices. So he developed the Nest Learning Thermostat, a digital and WiFi enabled device that conserves energy by learning its owners’ habits. He also designed the Nest Protect which uses new technology to detect smoke and carbon monoxide.

    Fadell’s real goal is to use technology to redesign and control all technology in the home.  He was successful in raising startup capital as a result of his Apple pedigree, and extensive connections in Silicon Valley. He previously led the team that created the iPod, thereby rejuvenating Apple and transforming the music industry (yes, I love iTunes), and assisted in the development of the iPhone. Fadell left Apple in 2008 (along with his wife who was an HR executive there) and his thermostat irritation became the epiphany to innovate his next career move. As evidence of his success, Nest was purchased by Google earlier this year for $3.2 billion.


    Innovation Mindset

    Holmes and Fadell were irritated by processes and technology that others accepted as status quo. Obviously this wasn’t just a minor irritation either. Most of us would have dismissed it, avoided it, complained a bit while it was on our minds, then moved on to what we believed were more important things. We would think that change wasn’t needed, or that technology couldn’t effectively be applied to it and scaled for use. Instead, they saw it as a challenge and took the opportunity to do something about it. They had a mindset for innovation that they applied to their environment.

    At the time, Holmes was a sophomore at Stanford, and according to her chemical engineering professor, viewed complex technical problems differently than other students.  She dropped out shortly thereafter and persuaded her parents to invest her education fund into the business start-up.

    Fadell’s tenure at Apple was distinguished by asking lots of questions, challenging Steve Jobs, and building his network in the “valley” outside the company; something normally reserved for Jobs himself. He didn’t conform to the typical concept of the Apple executive.

    The Key to Innovation

    So what is the key to your innovation?  What is it that irritates you, but you find it difficult to simply walk away or ignore it. Instead, you keep trying to figure it out. This may be your opportunity to move from irritation to innovation; to find new approaches to address old ways of doing things. Though Holmes and Fadell applied innovation on a large scale, you can easily do this within a smaller sphere of influence; in your work team, organization, community group or family. Here are a few simple steps.

    1. Tap into what’s irritating you.  What problem needs to be solved? Chances are it’s right in front of you.
    2. Find the benefit. Who will it add value to? Identifying your stakeholders will help you to target what action to take, and encourage you to stick with it for their benefit.
    3. Ignore the naysayers. What do you believe is possible? If you don’t have faith in yourself, no one else will either.
    4. Identify all the assumptions associated with the status quo. Why do people do it this way? Calling them out individually helps to break the innovation opportunity down into workable sizes for better analysis.
    5. Methodically challenge each assumption. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?  By the time you’ve asked “why” five times, you’ll uncover some suppositions that really don’t have a strong foundation.
    6. Think of a new approach. What if we did it this way instead?  Then think of another different approach.  This practice gets you into the mode of change.

    If you’re really irritated, true innovation will typically involve transformation, not evolution. It will yield a totally unexpected outcome that represents a leap ahead, not just a step forward.  So embrace that impatience and exasperation with the current situation, and press forward to a new mindset of innovation.

    Read the articles on Elizabeth Holmes and Tony Fadell in the June 12, 2014 issue of Fortune.

    Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

    Copyright 2014 Priscilla Archangel

     

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    Starbucks Gets It

    Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks was featured in the December issue of Fortune as the 2011 Businessperson of the Year. Schultz joined what was then called Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices in 1982 as its marketing leader when there were only four stores in the Seattle area. He developed a vision to model the stores after the many small espresso bars he saw across Italy, essentially selling not just coffee but the experience and environment. While skeptics laughed at him, he was easily able to sell coffee at a price greater than his competition, and create a new coffee (and tea) culture in the U.S.

    IStock Photo

    But to me, more significant than the success of his business are his business values.  Starbucks provides health care and equity grants to all employees who work more than 20 hours each week, and rebuffs investors who try to persuade him to reduce such coverage. To him, it’s just doing the “right thing for it’s own sake”.  He’s concerned about his entire supply chain, and through Starbucks Foundation he has given to people in third world countries to better their standard of living. He believes “there needs to be a balance between commerce and social responsibility…The companies that are authentic about it will wind up as the companies that make more money.” Continue reading

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