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John Maxwell Team

John Maxwell Team Certified Member

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

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    10 Key Questions for Leaders – Part 1

    Leaders are faced with a myriad of issues each day, but one of their most critical responsibilities is to step back from the urgent and focus on the important. They must achieve a balance between the reactionary crisis mode and the proactive planning mode. This means pausing and reflecting on how they’re influencing behaviors to ensure the right outcomes. To accomplish that, there are 10 key important questions that, properly addressed, will strengthen both their leadership and their organizational effectiveness.


    1. google imageDisruption. What is the disruptive threat to your business model? Leaders should be constantly aware of ongoing threats to their business model and its products or services, and take action to address it. Jim Kennedy, Chairman and former CEO of Cox Enterprises provided a great example when he diversified his business away from classified ads to leverage the growing role of the internet, by successfully launching So make a list of all the products and services provided by your organization, your team, and even you, based on your skillsets. Now for each one, think about two or three ways that your product, service or skillset can be provided faster, cheaper or differently. What technological advances might make your current products or services obsolete? How might consumer preferences shift away from your current model? Believe in the possibility and probability of those ideas, then focus on how you’ll anticipate the future and address that threat. Shift your business model to where the customers are going, instead of where they are now.
    2. Purpose. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Many organizations and teams shift into automatic mode as their activities become routinized. They assume that demand will continue for their products and services, and evolve into placing more focus on what they’re doing, or how they’re doing it, instead of WHY they’re doing it. But asking the question WHY, connects you to the purpose of your activities. It’s the motivator and driving force that inspires the team to the appropriate behaviors that will support it. Once they understand your WHY, an emotional link can form as they pinpoint their contribution to accomplishing it. The underlying WHY or purpose of an individual, team or organization typically does not change, because it’s a fundamental belief and value. According to Simon Sinek, the how and what changes as necessary to continue to support the WHY. When you know your purpose or your WHY and communicate it effectively, this clarity attracts others to you who recognize a benefit from it.
    3. Failure. Where have you failed, and what insights have you learned from it? If you’ve never failed, you’ve never attempted something of impact and significance, relative to your abilities. Failure can add value when we learn something from it, and build upon it. Thomas Edison failed many times in trying to develop a light bulb. The Wright brothers failed initially before leveraging their underdog status to become the first in flight. J. C. Penney was sick and bankrupt before he built his namesake store into a retailing giant. But they learned from their failures, kept trying and eventually succeeded. The only bad failure is if you fall into shame and shut down afterwards. Instead, find a stepping stone to move forward. Failure is a requirement for growth. It’s accompanied by exploration, curiosity, pursuit, action, and flexibility. And most importantly, reflecting on and learning lessons that can be constructively shared with others.
    4. Curiosity. What are you curious about? Curiosity is a precursor to learning. Though it’s easy to be consumed with the daily challenges of leadership roles, it’s important to take time to explore insights in related areas to stimulate thought processes, and spur new ideas. Research shows that successful CEOs are curious, and this curiosity leads to growth. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook started his Year of Books online reading club to encourage discovery about different beliefs, cultures and technologies. And Richard Kinder, Chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan reads about 50 books a year. He learns from how other leaders have confronted challenges, particularly overwhelming ones for which they had few ready answers. His curiosity in reading is linked to his interests, and fuels his passion for learning. So dig into those areas that you’re curious about, and your learning will form the basis for future growth.
    5. Service. What does my team need from me in order for them to be successful? As a leader, your responsibility is to serve your employees, enabling them in turn to provide value to customers, investors, and the community. You serve your team by creating a compelling vision, and providing the processes, tools and structure to support innovation, recognition, teamwork, and success. Service requires a continual focus on others to understand their needs, motivations, and aspirations, and to provide them with opportunities for growth. This includes a measure of humility to steer the focus from your own, to the teams’ accomplishments, and to ensure that your decisions serve them and not yourself. Service also provides a greater connection to the team as you partner together in the organization’s success. Leaders who focus on service take responsibility when things go wrong. Leaders who focus on service empower their team. Leaders who focus on service attract, retain and develop talented people.

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    Game Changer

    A simple act…

    An interesting project…

    A problem to be solved…

    A wish to be granted…

    Something you did that started small. You followed your interests and desires, taking one step that turned in to two, four, twelve, fifty or one hundred steps.  You didn’t realize the significance of that first act, nor that it was rooted in a deeper desire or passion. All of your steps prior to this time prepared you for this moment, even when the path was circuitous, hilly, and filled with signs that said “Stop”, “Yield”, or “Caution”. Yet it brought you to the point of influencing the lives of many others; changing the way people approach a problem, learn or behave; or freeing them to accomplish their goals. Like a rock tossed into the ocean can ripple into a wave on the other side of the ocean, your simple act flourished and thrived into a movement, a game changer. You changed the rules of operation, and disrupted the normal system with a positive impact.

    The Khan Academy

    Salman Khan is an Yellow Road Sign with the words "Game Changer Ahead" with the sky as backgroundexample of this. Khan is the founder of The Khan Academy, a company with over 3,600 brief free instructional videos on topics including math, science, computer science, finance and economics, humanities and standardized test prep, designed to help students of all ages learn about these topics at their own pace. According to a recent article in Forbes, over the past two years Khan’s videos have had 200 million views. There are currently 6 million unique students per month who visit the site, and over 750 million problems have been solved over the past several years. As a non-profit organization, they’re supported by foundations and individuals such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, venture capitalist John and Ann Doerr, the O’Sullivan Foundation, Reed Hastings, Google, and the Windsong Trust. Khan has pledged that the company will not go public despite the urgings of several venture capitalists who see the potential for significant profit.



    It all started out when Khan began posting YouTube videos to facilitate tutoring sessions with his cousins. Even though his video viewing audience grew to tens of thousands each day, he still looked at this as a hobby. He grew up poor in Louisiana raised by his mother and was mathematically gifted. He gained acceptance to MIT, completed an M.B.A. from Harvard and became a hedge fund analyst.  During this time he supported his wife through her medical training while caring for his baby son. He quit his job when he realized the impact his videos had on helping students learn.  Khan continued working on videos in a bedroom closet for ten months until Ann Doerr wrote him his first check for $100,000. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Now with a $7 million budget, and a staff of 37 people headquartered in Silicon Valley, Khan is changing the education game. His ability to reach millions of students cheaply via the internet using inexpensive tablets (particularly important in developing nations), on a wide range of subjects is generating a growth spurt in online education. Khan Academy has proof of the efficacy of their teaching videos, and the global reach to provide high quality education for a small fraction of usual costs. Other universities and faculty members have similar results as courses at Harvard and Stanford offered online drew well over 100 thousand students each and provided a quality of learning equal to what they would have received in the classroom. According to the Forbes article, Khan has a vision for radically changing the education system of the future, and is referred to as “the most impactful educator in the world”.  All this, even though he’s not a traditional educator by training.

    What’s Your Game?

    It doesn’t appear that Khan planned this business or career, but it grew out of his passion for teaching concepts in an easy to understand format. He recognized a problem around him, cared about how others were dealing with it, and decided to do something on a small scale without even thinking of the potential for growth. His passion was so great, and his impact so effective that he is playing a significant role in changing developing a new approach to education. He recognized the changes in how people communicate, learn, interact and apply that learning, leveraging the increasing electronic capabilities of the millennial generation. So Khan seized the moment and made the most of it. He took a leap of faith and leveraged his leadership abilities to help others learn more productively. He’s changing the game.

    How are you changing the game around you? It typically begins with a paradigm shift, moving from acceptance that something in your environment must continue as it is, to challenging it to be different. This may be seen as disruptive to others, and such disruption normally causes a level of discomfort in those who are used to the status quo or have a vested interest in things remaining as-is. Disruption can be unconstructive, chaotic and threatening.  But when you find a constructive approach to addressing a worthy cause, and with enough momentum and support, you can metaphorically move the car out of the rut and onto new higher ground. 

    So what are you passionate about, concerned about, interested in, desiring to be different? And what are you constructively doing about it? Do you have a vision for the future? Are you helping someone else accomplish their vision? Do you have faith in your ability to make a difference in the lives of others? Then you too can be a game changer.



    Reference: One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education by Michael Noer. Forbes Magazine, November 2, 2012. 

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