Are you leading with message or miracle?

A young upstart rabbi was causing a ruckus. Oddly enough, it was because he was helping people — so much so that they started flocking to him in droves This totally pissed off the religious leaders. These so-called leaders were determined to undermine the young rabbi, if not catch him in a lie or worse. To test him they asked him for a sign, something miraculous. His tone changed from the compassion he had for the hurting people to one of disdain: “You self-proclaimed smart people see changes in the sky and know what’s coming in terms of weather, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” In other words, they could see only earthly, sensory things, but missed connecting the dots in the bigger, more important picture. Unfortunately many of us have that problem — even when we are just talking about earthly things (such as what’s going on in the world that is affecting our organizations and businesses and churches). In just a relatively few short years there has been an exponential explosion of both content (e.g., news, learning material, grumpy cat pictures, etc.) and access to it (e.g., ubiquitous connectivity, mobility, and a zillion channels, apps, and sites through which to get it). We’re experiencing change that has little or no historical precedent. And we’re slow to respond. The question isn’t if the changes will affect every part of how we reach customers or constituents, demonstrate our expertise, and lead our teams. The question is “when?” The “miracle” many people look for is that magic something that goes viral, generates likes, and creates sweeping change or...

Do your social media look like this?

You’re someplace with a bunch of people… …on a lunch break at a conference, seated at a table with people you don’t know… …in line at a coffee shop that you go to all the time. There are a few regulars there you recognize… …in a classroom, and you’re the instructor… …in the stands of a sold-out ballgame… …and what comes out of your mouth in those situations looks like your social media feed. Is this what you’d want your in-person social interactions to look like? Why or why not?...

The key skill in simplifying complexity

In computing, zooming is the ability to change the scale or view. You know, like zooming in or out. In content, zooming is the ability to change the scale or view. You know, like zooming into the details or zooming out to see the big picture. Whatever your expertise, most of us have the curse of seeing our world in one way. Our expertise and experience with a topic means that we understand the context of all the details (how they all fit together). As Chip and Dan Heath popularized it, this “curse of expertise” is why we often struggle with explaining things to others. It’s hard to see the world from their point of view. Think about an academic paper. There’s a single paragraph at the beginning that tells you what the following 15 pages of detail say. This abstract — abstraction — isn’t untruthful or incomplete. It’s just a different expression of the “stuff.” The ability to change perspective is a critical skill when it comes to simplifying complexity. And simplifying complexity is important if you want to maximize how you reach, teach, and lead with content. Simplicity isn’t the antithesis of complexity, it’s a different expression of it. ...

The mission of showing up

Years ago I found myself not wanting to go to family functions, but a pivotal moment in that changing for me was realizing I had something unique to bring. In other words, that something would be decidely missing if I didn’t go. I started calling it the “mission of showing up.” And inexplicable moments of connection started happening, not because I went with an agenda. Just because I went ready to engage. Corporate or customer evangelism didn’t originate with Guy Kawasaki, but the story of how he was chosen by Steve Jobs to be an evangelist popularized the notion. Now it’s increasingly a job description in many organizations. But it doesn’t have to be part of your job description. Perhaps more importantly, it’s such a foundational part of anyone’s role as a connector that it shouldn’t have to be part of your job description. If you have a mission, it’s likely that accomplishing is going to require doing something uncomfortable. If you’re a celebrity or maybe the CEO, you may not have to do the going, but you and I have both seen people who “arrive” and forget the very things that made them successful in the first place. Leaders show up. In their...

It’s just relationship

Her response to my Facebook post struck me as profound: “I found myself referring to you as a friend more than once while talking to my boss about working with you before realizing we’ve never actually met.”  Immediately following the sentence was a little smiley emoticon. What I’d just posted was something that had struck me as I saw something on the web about automating the marketing relationship: “It’s not ‘marketing relationship,’ ‘relationship selling,’ or ‘relationship with our customers.’ It’s just ‘relationship.’” I confess this was a knee-jerk reaction to something that bugs me at a deep level: you can’t automate relationship. Those who try turn people in to spreadsheet numbers and interchangeable parts of a big machine. It’s not only no-fun, it’s also decidedly short-term thinking. So JF, who posted that she referred to me as a friend, actually is on to something. Somewhere deep inside each of us, deeper than the actual wiring and neurons and cells, deeper than our fleshly hard drives and I/O ports and random access memory, somewhere way down there we’re all programmed to be relational. In other words, we relate. To be sure, one of life’s paradoxes is that we all are relational and at the same time unique in how we relate to each other. Especially when relate through something like words or images or Facebook posts. As I recall, JF and I *met* on Twitter. Maybe it was after I spoke at a virtual event, I don’t know. We have subsequently talked on the phone when she and a partner started a business I wanted to know more about. Later...

Four uniquenesses you should totally grow into

In the post-information age it’ll become exponentially more difficult to be bigger, better, faster, smaller, or cheaper. But anyone can amplify their unique and distinct selves. Here are four you should not only “own,” but figure out how to exploit. Your point of view If you look at a pile of dots on a page, they’d all seem co-equal. The minute you choose one as a reference point, all the rest have a relationship to it (they’re close, they’re far, they’re moving towards or away). Value is always created from a point of view — wants, needs, and desires are human things. Only people have “whys.” When you bring a perspective to the world, it’s unique. You’re the only one who can be the “dot” from where you stand. Your journey through the facts “Everybody has a story” is getting tired, but it’s also true. Another version of why you should lean into yours is because everybody has your facts, but nobody has your story. The “dots” aren’t static, so your view in the world changes over time. Sometimes you’ve chosen a path, sometimes it’s gravity from outside influences that shapes that path, sometimes it’s both. Either way it’s unique. Your voice How you express your point of view and story are some unique combination of visual, verbal, written, auditory, kinesthetic, cadence and timing, and on and on. In other words, even if someone had nearly the same vantage point in terms of their point of view, your way of sharing is going to resonate differently. Your channels You can tell a story in a book or a movie, but...