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Moving to a New Blogging Platform

Posted at 9:00 AM on Friday, December 04, 2009

This was the home of my blog from March 2004- November 2009.  Here you will find over 870 posts about leadership, training, learning and more.  I wrote here to help you become more effective and successful in all parts of your life.

My business (and yours) looks different than it did in 2004 - and the world of blogging and blog tools is certainly different as well.

For all of those reasons, I am now blogging in a new location, using new tools.  While the name of the blog has changed (it is now Leadership & Learning with Kevin Eikenberry), my goals haven't changed - I write to help you tap into and move closer to your remarkable potential.

However you found this page, whether you were referred, found it from a search engine or you bookmarked us long ago. I hope you will follow over to the new blog to continue to learn, grow and be a part of our expanding community of leaders and learners.
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The Importance of Innovation

Posted at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, October 06, 2009

This is the sixth in a series of 16 daily posts celebrating my 16th anniversary in business with 16 lessons I've learned. Scroll down to read others, or read the introductory post here.


Creativity and innovation has been something I've done more than dabble in over the past 16 years. I think I have always been interested, but while I was still at Chevron, I had the chance to teach a two day creativity and innovation workshop that I loved. It spurred my thinking, peaked my curiosity and got me on a learning path about creativity and innovation.

I've studied the subject, read about and applied many techniques - both for myself and for our clients. I've taught, wrote and spoken on the subject, and developed some techniques myself.

Through all of this, I've learned some important things. . .

All of us can be creative.

We have the capability at birth. Look at kids. They get a new toy, but play with the box! They have imaginations, ask curious questions (a necessary precursor to creative thought) and aren't afraid to ask those questions or try new things.

You were that kid once. You didn't lose those skills, you lost the behaviors and habits that allowed your creativity to be exposed. It is still inside, ready to be tapped. We just have to allow it to come out - and maybe practice some too (this is where creativity exercises and techniques help us most).

When we allow ourselves to think and be more cretive, good things will happen to us. I highly recommend it, AND . . .

Creativity itself is just part of the game.

As adults, in business or in trying to solve any problem or meet any challenge, fnding cretive ideas and solutions are really important! Ifwe don't create the ideas, we can't possibly try them. If we don't get the more creative approaches into the conversation they can't be used.

So . . .

Creativity is fun, but innovation makes the difference.

We can't get the big innovations without creative ideas and practices, so we must cultivate our creativity. But we can't make creativity the goal (at least in terms of creating success for ourselves and in our organizations). Creativity is a wonderful waystation - and fablously fun and rewarding endeavor, but it isn't the end game.

Because . . .

Innovation is about action.

And I can prove it. Ever had an idea and later you saw that idea being used, or the product on the shelf? Your idea was great, obviously, but it is of no real value (other than the excitement of the initial creative process) unless you take action on the idea - unless you take a risk, and take some action.

Innovation is about action.

So . . .

I chose to talk about innovation as my personal lesson today, because today we are unveiling the third part of our 16th Anniversary celebration. this is the most creative part of the celebration - an online live streaming television show where you can ask me questions, I will share thoughts and ideas, you can listen to special guests and have the chance to learn about 16 surprises I will announce during the show.

This idea was a bit different (and the seed of the idea came from Jenny Pratt), but once we took action on it, we had other ideas, other streams of thought, and it all began to come together.

One of those creative ideas was to use a video to promote our online party. I've included it here - I hope you enjoy it - and I hope you go to our party invitation, and choose to join us (and tell your friends) on October 16th!


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Governor Blagojevich and Creativity in Marketing

Posted at 12:31 PM on Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today in Illinois the impeachment trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich begins. Today in Chicago, the Hard Rock Hotel begins a promotion called: "Blagojewhichever You'd Like" package. (you can read all about it here: Hotel Turns Blagojevish into Publicity Scandal.

At some level, this post is about marketing and public relations. But really only on the surface. Just barefully underneath that transluent surface is the fact the the Hard Rock Hotel created something new by looking for opportunities.

Look a little deeper and you see that they not only looked for opportunities, but they looked for them in unique ways and made new connections between a situation and their need (how to book more meetings in a down economy).

This is the essence of creativity. Perhaps as you read this you see a way you can use this current scandal yourself. Muchmore importantly though is looking at the example for what it really is - creativity gained from looking for opportunity, seeing it, and seizing it!
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A Three Step Success Formula

Posted at 7:37 AM on Friday, November 28, 2008

Business and Management Articles

I just opened an email that told me I have been named a Distinguished Author by Best Management Articles.

I don't share that to brag or make some sort of pronouncement. I share it here for the lesson it gives to all of us.

If you want something, you must take action.

I've been writing articles for several years - well over 300 of them at this point (not counting over 700 blog posts). In that time I have gotten better (I hope), I have had some great things happen and met some wonderful people. But none of it would have happened - including receiving the email today - if I hadn't:

1. Decided to write.
2. Write.
3. Keep writing.

If I stop at 1 (which many people do) or at 2 (because "I wrote an article and nothing happened"), the results I am receiving and will continue to receive wouldn't have come to me.

By the way, this article isn't about writing unless that is your action too. This article is about deciding to do the things that will help you become more successful and reach your goals.

Maybe you want to be better with Customers. Maybe you want to be more creative. Maybe you want to be a better team member or team leader. Or maybe you want to learn something new.

It doesn't matter what your "what" it; the formula remains the same.

1. Decide
2. Do
3. Keep doing

Chances are you know what your what is. You may have even taken step 1 by deciding to do it.

Now it is time for action and discipline.

This is a very simple success formula. It's time to get going.

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Creativity and Perspective from Magazines

Posted at 5:24 PM on Friday, October 10, 2008

I've long been a proponent of aiding your creative process by reading from a variety of sources, and have on many occasions purchased a random magazine to read. This excellent awareness post from my friend Jim Canterucci takes this idea further.

By subscribing to magazines rather than reading a single issue you immerse yourself into a new perspective and I believe more, and perhaps better new ideas will flow.

After reading Jim's post, what do you think?

I look forward to hearing your ideas!

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How Not to Spread Your Ideas

Posted at 8:22 AM on Monday, September 15, 2008

"A poem is no place for an idea."

- Edgar Watson Howe

This quotation isn't a slam on poems. But the audience of poem readers is (relatively) small.

If you have an idea that you want to spread, it must be shared in places where people will see it, hear it, read it and talk about it.

What is your idea?

How are you sharing it?

Don't hide it, expose it. Don't whisper it, shout it. Make it real, make it accessible, and make it happen!


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Creativity in Action - Project Runway on Bravo TV

Posted at 11:16 AM on Friday, August 29, 2008

One of my team members, Jenny Pratt, our resident pop culture expert has been telling me about Project Runway - a television show on Bravo for some time. She keeps telling me I need to watch it and why. So I asked her to write it all down, so we could share it with you. Here's Jenny . . .

Among other things, September is called "Cable TV Month" (although in my house every month could be called Cable TV month). To celebrate, I would like to share one of my current favorite cable television shows: Project Runway.

If you haven't seen - or heard of - the show, here's a brief synopsis: 16 unknown fashion designers are brought together to compete for the Project Runway title. Each week the designers are given random inspiration and must dream, design and sew outfits to be seen on the runway. One person is sent home each week with the top three designers ultimately staging runway shows during New York City's fashion week.

Even if you know nothing or care very little (if at all) about the fashion industry, Project Runway is a great lesson - every week - in creativity and innovation.

Challenges this season have ranged from creating fashion only from the supermarket (the winner that week made a cocktail dress from vacuum cleaner bags and coffee filters) to creating a look for U.S. athletes to wear during an Olympics opening ceremony to who knows what next. And they're given very little time to go from concept to completion - usually less than 24 hours.

You may be wondering how any of this relates to your professional and/or personal development…

Making It Work for You

Ever had a meeting start with "we need to find an answer to this question before we leave the room this morning" or "we need a new website design - yesterday" or any number of other "what are we going to do now" moments? Project Runway shows that even in the world of high fashion - one of the ultimate creativity hotbeds - it doesn't have to take long to be innovative.

Plus, every time I watch the show I learn something about interacting with people, sticking up for what you believe in and taking critiques from Customers and experts - all good things for leaders in any area.

Yes, Project Runway is a reality show complete with unnecessary show-induced drama, off-beat banter and continual, often redundant, references to the show's theme "in fashion one day you're in, the next day you're out." Even so, it's worth it.

In the U.S., Project Runway airs on the Bravo network - check your local listings. If you don't have cable - the show has an extensive website and previous seasons are available on DVD.

Kevin again . . .

This is a perfect example of learning from everyday life - in case especially about creativity. I'll watch it soon and while I'm not a fashionista, I know I'll love the lessons.
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Six Steps to Innovative Action

Posted at 6:42 AM on Tuesday, June 10, 2008

If you've ever taken a shower or gone on a walk, then you've had an idea. If you've ever been to a meeting, then you've either shared or heard an idea. And even though you've had plenty of new ideas, do you consider yourself creative? Many people don't - no matter how many new ideas they have each day.

If you think idea generation is directly related to innovation, and you don't think you are very creative, your ability to be innovative will be hampered.

In reality, generating ideas is just one part of the innovation process; recognizing that you need more than ideas is an important step towards being more innovative.

There are six specific things you can do to generate innovations individually or as the leader of a group. These steps will predictably lead you to more than just better ideas but to innovations that - when implemented - will make a difference in your results.

The next time you are facing a challenge, opportunity or problem personally, as part of a team or within an organization you lead, walk through these six steps.

  1. Agree on the situation. The best place to begin in any problem solving or innovation project is to have a clear understanding and mutual agreement on what the problem, situation or opportunity is. Take the time to get past what might seem obvious. Experience shows that many opportunities are never fully capitalized on because this initial step is never completed.
  2. Step back for a look. Once you have a clear understanding of the focus of your innovation, step back and gain some perspective. This may be done by asking questions to prompt a new perspective and/or by providing time and space before continuing the innovation process. If possible, pose some perspective changing questions and table the task until later. While you certainly want to discuss your situation from new perspectives, it is also helpful to give people time to soak on these perspectives.
  3. Take stock of what you've got. Give yourself or the group time to take inventory of what resources, ideas and strengths you already possess that will help you in this innovation exercise. Too often these things aren't considered until much later. By considering and inventorying them now, it will begin to spur ideas and allow your innovations to complement your strengths and resources.
  4. Affirm that you can. In order to create more ideas, you must believe that you can. Doing the first three steps primes the ideas in your mind, creating a process for spurring ideas and providing proof that you can do it. Make no mistake, your belief that we can be creative is important. Taking the first three steps here will automatically bolster your belief through action.
  5. Rev up your thinking. This is the traditional step of brainstorming (in other words this is where most people start this process!). When you rev the motor of your car, you put the "pedal to the metal." When you rev up your thinking, we put your mental pedal to the medal. Remove all limitations to your thinking. Use all of the work you have done up until now to get started, but dive into your situation and think of any and all ideas that could possibly help solve your problem or help you capitalize on the situation.
  6. Think Yes! Once you have a large (even tremendous) list of ideas, review them looking for yeses. Yeses are things that could be implemented or could be part of a solution. Don't simply look for the single, right answer. Think instead in terms of how many of these ideas to which you can say yes. How many of them can become a part of your solution? Once you have your list of yeses, you are ready for the next step.
The next step?

You may be thinking, "but, Kevin, you told me there were six steps." You're right, that is exactly what I said; but really there are seven. The seventh step comes from the first letters of the other six: A START.

The next step is to recognize that all of the other steps are just a start. What comes next is to actually start.

The final key to innovation action is to act.

Too often more time is spent on the process of creating ideas and plans with hardly any time spent capitalizing on those ideas quickly enough or at all.

As an individual or a leader don't fall into that trap - always remember the end goal of any innovation is new and improved results. When you follow all of these steps, you improve your chances of creating innovations of all kinds - from small improvements to major breakthroughs.

Potential Pointer: Innovation is about more than ideas. Ideas in and of themselves have no value. Innovation comes from putting the ideas into a plan, and putting that plan into motion. To improve your results and solve problems more effectively, take innovative action.
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What It Is by Lynda Barry

Posted at 4:57 PM on Friday, May 30, 2008

When you first look at this large (11x8.5), hardcover book, your first thought might not be "What It Is", but rather "what is it?" The cover sets the stage for the book, in fact it looks much like every page inside - a mixture of drawings, words, doodles, and collage that at once instructs and confounds, inspires and confuses.

The book is categorized by the book standards as a graphic comic or graphic novel. While it is full of graphics, it is neither of these things to me. At some level it is a primer on creative writing (which is what all writing should be - creative!), and it does provide concrete and useful ideas to this goal.

But the book is far more than that - it is a visual delight in full color that I know will make me more creative every time I pick it up.

No words I use will adequately describe this book, because it isn't really like anything I've ever seen (though it does remind me of the work of Sark). Here is an example.

I opened randomly to page 50. The main words/ideas on this page are:

What brings on a sudden thought? (These words are written inside a picture of a squirrel.)

Is reminded the same as remembered? (These words are drawn/written in three different ways on three different backgrounds.)

There is far more on page 50, and most of it is visually stimulating and highly creative.
Some parts of the book are more narrative, and some pages are more visually dominated, but all of the pages have both words and pictures.

I love this book-that-I-can't-fully-explain, and you may too. If you are a very linear thinker or are looking for checklists of ideas to be a more creative writer (or more creative in general) this isn't your book. But if you want something different to learn from and be inspired by - pick up a copy as soon as you can.

Learn more and purchase at Amazon.com.

P.S. I'm hoping to have Lynda as my guest for our Remarkable Leadership Guest Conversation in July!

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Older and Wiser - New Brain Research on Aging

Posted at 8:30 AM on Friday, May 23, 2008

In this recent New York Times article there is good news!

It seems that a broader attention span (that we tend to have more of as we grow older), helps with problem solving, creativity and may be the source of what we think of as wisdom.

This is good news for a guy with a birthday coming up!

This is a interesting article with implications for us as learners and for creativity and innovation. I encourage you to read it.
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Lessons From a Black Tie Event

Posted at 11:38 AM on Sunday, March 02, 2008

Last night over 500 friends and Alumni of Purdue University gathered in Indianapolis for the inaugural Boilermaker Ball. The dress for this event, sponsored by the Purdue Alumni Association, was promoted as "creative black tie." The people that I talked to before the event all mentioned this, and I participated in several conversations including the question "exactly what is creative black tie?"

I was interested to see how people would answer the question.

The answers, in retrospect were much as I should have expected. There were some men who took bigger risks - a gold lame' jacket (purchased on eBay) was likely the biggest one. But most wore the elegant, but very uncreative, variations on the standard tuxedo. (The women, had a greater variation in what they wore. This is in part, because there was not starting benchmark of "black tie.")

Why am I sharing all of this with you?

It is simple. What I observed last night provides examples of some truths about creativity.

1. When we are unclear of the goal (i.e. what does "creative" black tie mean?), we will be tentative.
2. If we don't think we will be too out of the group, we will be more creative. (Some of the people who went further from the norm, came together).
3. When we wonder/worry about what others will think, we tend to take less risks.

I strongly suspect that when we attend the second annual event (next February 27th) there will be more creativity in the dress of men (and likely the women too). Why? But the impact of all three items above will be reduced.

When we take the factors into account (and do what we can to reduce their impact) we will raise our creativity, or the creativity of those around us.

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What Bold Thing . . .

Posted at 9:43 AM on Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sue Melone, writer of the Boldtrek blog and I chatted on the phone last week. She opened our conversation with a question. If you have read this blog for any time at all, you know I love great questions. She asked one of the best:

"What bold thing have you done this week?"

You know a great question, because even when you know the answer, you pause.

I paused.

We talked about variations of this question that she uses in different situations:

What bold thing will you do today?

What bold thing have you done this year?

What bold thing will you do this year?

... you get the idea.

But I hope you do more than get the idea.... I hope you will answer the question.

What bold thing will you do this week?

Or, to Kevin-ize it...

What remarkable thing will you do this week?

Take your pick - they are both questions we could benefit from answering (and acting on) regularly.


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If You Had Just Six Words . . .

Posted at 2:34 PM on Friday, February 22, 2008

In the USA Today yesterday I read about a new book called Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. The title tells you the premise - you have just six words to write your memoir. You can read examples and contribute your own (perhaps in the next book!) here.

This exercise got me thinking about ways you could apply this concept for focus and clarity - even if you weren't writing your memoir. Consider having only six words to define:

your beliefs
your goals
your vision
your team
your family
your leadership style

This process could be very helpful for the creative process as well as for crafting clarity.

Your examples in the comments are very welcome!

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What We Can Learn From Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day

Posted at 10:58 AM on Friday, February 01, 2008

Each year Punxsutawney Phil comes up from his hole on Groundhog Day to see about the world around him and look for his shadow (or not). Media from around the world will cover this event (I haven't quite figured out why). You can learn more about this event and it's history from the official site. But this isn't exactly why I am writing on Groundhog Day Eve.

Like I said, Phil comes up out of his hole after months of hiding and hibernation to check out his world, then he retreats just as quickly as he emerged.

This reminds me of some people I know.

They get so caught up in their lives; their work, their projects, their goals, their cocoon, their hole, that they don't take time to look up and see what is going on in the world around them.

If we want to be more successful, happier, better leaders, more effective team members, more creative, or a more effective learner (need I go on?), we must do more than Phil.

First of all we need to lose the hole completely. We need to be more engaged in the world around us. Does this argue against focus or hard work? Not at all. Instead this advice encourages you to be more open to new ideas, new insights, and new observations that will make your work more relevant, more effective, more connected and quite possibly easier.

How often should we look around our world?

Well, if we have gotten rid of the hole and chosen to reside in the world (a glass house anyone?), this question is almost irrelevant; you will be looking, noticing and observing.

On this Groundhog's Day Eve, get out of your hole, look around, and resolve to learn from and with the world around you.

Note: I've written about Groundhog Day in the past and if you enjoyed this post, or like the day, you may want to check out 2005 and 2006.


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A Remarkable Learning Event

Posted at 10:34 AM on Saturday, December 08, 2007

Last week I attended the 2007 Author Pow Wow sponsored by 800-CEO-Read. At the end of the two day event the participants were asked to share a single word that encapsulated their feelings and thoughts about our time together.

Words included: fun, invogorating, energy, relationships, genersoity, memorable, learning, and fattening (that was right on Ben). I chose the word Remarkable. The group chuckled at my choice, but it truly is the best word I could have chosen.

Consider this - a highly creative and fun environment thanks to The Catalyst Ranch in Chicago, over 20 business authors working to hone their craft and learn about the publishing and marketing of books, along with experts and gurus from across the expanse of publishing, as well as the 800-CEO-READ team. This group included:

The Authors

Erika Andersen - Growing Great Employees

Greg Alexander - Topgrading for Sales

Jose Castillo - an incredibily smart and creative guy.

Phil Gerbyshak - 10 Ways to Make it Great

Joanne Gordon - Be Happy at Work

Jackie Huba Creating Customer Evangelists

Joe Heuer - check out several of his books, including Business Daffynitions

Mike Kanazawa - Big Ideas to Big Results

Alexander Kjerulf - Happy Hour is 9 to 5

Steve Little - The Milkshake Moment

Ben McConnell - Citizen Marketers

Pamela Miles and Jack Mitchell - Hug Your Customers, and soon, Hug Your People

Robert Mintz - The World According To You

Susan Quandt - Sudden Impact on the Job

David Meerman Scott - The New Rules of Marketing and PR

Michael Stallard - Fired Up or Burned Out

Dan Roam - The Back of the Napkin

John Rosen and AnnaMaria Turano - Stopwatch Marketing

Rajesh Setty - Life Beyond Code

Bill Welter - The Prepared Mind of a Leader

Steve Yastrow - We - The Ideal Customer Relationship

The Gurus

Ray Bard - Bard Press

Mark Bloomfield - Harvard Business School Press

Shelley Dolley - Leap7

Barbara Cave Henricks and Dennis Welch - Cave Henricks Communications

Mark Fortier - Fortier Public Relations

Nick Morgan - Public Words

Gerry Sindell - ThoughtLeaders INTL

Les Tuerk - BrightSight Group

Susan Williams - Jossey-Bass (my inital editor for Remarkable Leadership)

The 800-CEO-READ Team

Jack Covert
Melinda Cross - Concepts Content Copy
Sally Haldorson
Jon Mueller
Kate Mytty
Joy Panos Stauber - Stauber Design Studio
Todd Sattersten
Aaron Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher
Rebecca Schlei

I want to thank everyone involved - the efforts of everyone form the staff at the Ranch, the the 800-CEO-READ team, to the speakers and gurus, to my fellow authors. Each one helped to create this amazing learning experience. All of my expectations for the event were met and surpassed thanks to everyone else.

The lesson here for everyone?

When you have a chance to hang out with and learn from other cool and smart people, make sure you do whatever you have to do to make it happen - it the experience will expand your thoughts, infuse you with energy and change your life if you let it.

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A Creativity Tele-seminar

Posted at 7:31 AM on Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Join me tonight (November 28th)…

When I am interviewed about creativity by master publicist and best selling author Rick Frishman.

You can join this tele-seminar, titled Remarkable Creativity! Enhancing Personal and Group Creativity at no cost, except the cost of your phone call.

At the end of this session you will:
- Recognize your creative potential.
- Be able to list at least 7 strategies of creative geniuses.
- Apply at least 5 new techniques to help you generate more (and more creative) ideas.
- Enhance the creativity of your colleagues, staff, clients and business partners.
- Leave with an action plan to increase your creativity immediately.

Just call 620 294 4000 at 8 pm Eastern Time tonight (Wednesday Nov 28) and enter 222089# when prompted for a passcode.

I'll try to post some key ideas that come up during this session later tonight or tomorrow.


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We are All Accountable to Make a Difference

Posted at 9:26 AM on Thursday, August 30, 2007

I have a new hero - Denny Flanagan. Denny is a pilot for United Airlines and was the focus of a a front page article in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal. You can read the article here.

Captain Denny does a variety of things for his passengers - and none of them are in the United employee handbook. Here are just a few examples:

- he takes pictures of people's pets in the cargo area and show them to passengers.
- when there are long delays he buys McDonald's hamburgers or fruit for all the passengers.
- he hand writes notes to passengers in first and business class, thanking them for choosing to fly United.
- he calls the parents of unaccompanied minors on his cell phone if there are delays.

The article states that the airline reimburses the pilot for his expenses for these unique services, and I'm sure they would do it for others as well.

Captain Flanagan is taking personal responsibility for his Customers. Captain Flanagan is leading, without a leadership title. He is making a difference for hundreds of passengers everyday.

And guess what?

Because of his proactive approach, I'm sure Captain Flanagan enjoys his work far more than most of his colleagues.

All of these things are a choices this pilot, who lives on a farm in Ohio, makes everyday. These are choices that are making a difference for his company, his co-workers, his customers and himself.

You don't have to be a leader to make a difference; Captain Denny Flanagan proves it.

And that is why Captain Flanagan is my hero.

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Kevin TV

Posted at 7:37 AM on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We recently set up a YouTube Channel. Included so far are a couple of short clips of me speaking, a preview of a poem I wrote put to music, and a video of my daughter Kelsey and her efforts to help market my new book, Remarkable Leadership.

This channel has been up for a few days and there will be far more videos here in the future. Check it out, watch the videos, and subscribe so you know when we add new stuff!

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The Power of Gratefulness

Posted at 7:49 AM on Friday, March 09, 2007

It seems everywhere I look, turn or listen I find messages about gratitude. I've always been a person who tries to "count my blessings" and be grateful for the wonderful (and even the not-so-wonderful) things in my life.

I believe that when we need greater lessons and understanding of a topic or idea, if we listen, those lessons will be made available to us. The more I "notice" lessons on gratitude, the more I'm convinced I was ready for deeper lessons.

I have in the past few months become more disciplined about being in a state of gratitude and reminding myself of the things I am grateful for each day. There is no question that this practice is making a difference in my life.

This is not just a personal "feeling better about myself and my world" topic either - there is loads of research that shows that when we are more grateful we build relationships more effectively, communicate more positively and are more effective and efficient. Note this recent post in Curt Rosengren's wonderful Occupational Adventure blog.

It describes a fascinating study of the tangible benefits of being grateful. I encourage you to read it.

Here is an exercise to try today. Before your next meeting, take 2 minutes to write down five things you have to be grateful for over the past two weeks. These can be small or large things - it doesn't matter. Notice how you frame issues and communicate differently in the meeting.

Once you have done this for yourself a couple of times, take a bigger risk (it really isn't a risk but it might feel like one right now) and ask everyone in the meeting to do the same thing.

This isn't a sharing exercise - reassure people that they won't be asked to share what is on their list - it is a personal gratitude exercise.

Taking this action will create a new energy and focus for your meeting. You will create more ideas, and more positive, encouraging conversation.

This is just one example reflecting on your gratitude. (If you are immediately interested and want some other ideas go here.) In the coming weeks and months, I might well have more to share in this area. But even if I don't, this one exercise can make a positive difference in your life when you do it.

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Acronyms and Acrostics

Posted at 6:51 AM on Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It seems that in every organization I work they claim to have more acronyms than any other organization. Actually, they all seem to have equally large numbers of them. We even have them in our own small organization. Acronyms are a series of letters used as an abbreviated form of a longer phrase. CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance), and LSU (Louisiana State University) are three examples.

You have likely thought of many examples as you read the above paragraph.

The value of acronyms is that they create a short hand and help us speak more rapidly. The danger is that communicating with people who don't know them can cause major and immediate communication blocks.

I've done an exercise in the workshops where I have people define a number of "common" acronyms. Perhaps the most interesting thing that happens is that many of the acronyms have two different yet equally valid meanings! Talk about communication gaps.

Acrostics are something entirely different. An acrostic is defined as: "An acrostic . . . is a poem or other writing in an alphabetic script in which the first letter, syllable or word of each verse, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out another message. . . . an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aide memory retrieval." (Thanks Wikipedia.)

Acrostics then are much more powerful than acronyms, because in their order they create meaning and improve the chances we will remember that meaning. I often try to create these in my writing. Yesterday, when discussing a recent article I wrote in Unleash Your Potential, titled, Be a Better Listener With These Great Questions, someone immediately identified a powerful acrostic.

The content at a high level was written as:

Reasons Great Listeners Ask Questions

There are specific purposes for the questions asked when trying to listen more successfully. They fall into four basic categories:

- Questions to confirm understanding
- Questions to learn more
- Questions to understand meaning or feelings
- Questions to encourage and show support

And the acrostic is - Use a CLUE to formulate great questions

Confirm understanding
Learn more
Understanding meaning or feelings
Encourage and show support

See the power of this tool?

(Here's the full article.)

I encourage you to look for ways to creatively see more acrostics, and perhaps fewer acronyms. The effectiveness of your communication will be greatly improved.

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Lessons Learned Playing Go

Posted at 11:15 AM on Thursday, March 01, 2007

Last weekend my son Parker and I played a game of Go.

Parker (14 and a freshman in High School) has been reading about, studying and playing Go for several months. For a variety of reasons he and I hadn't sat down to play since he was first learning.

In a role reversal, Parker was the expert and I the neophyte as we played the game. While this reversal could make an interesting blog post in itself, the lessons I received from the game were stunning. Here are a couple of my lessons and how you can apply them yourself.

1. Seeing patterns. One key to success in Go and many other board games is the patterns that arise as the game progresses (if you don't know Go you can learn more here (or here) think about the patterns a chess expert sees as a game unfolds). Parker, because of his study and practice, could see patterns that I couldn't see. His experience and knowledge help him to interpret the board and the positions of the stones in ways that I can't yet do. I believe the same is true for any expertise.

2. The Curse of Knowledge. As we become experts in anything we see new patterns. During the game Parker was occasionally surprised when I couldn't see or understand something. He was reacting naturally - just like any expert, he couldn't believe I couldn't understand! In Chip and Dan Heath's excellent new book Made to Stick they call this the Curse of Knowledge. I tell people that to effectively teach someone something, we must remember what it was like when we were a beginner. Here's a hint - it isn't easy.

Both of these lessons apply to us as leaders - we see patterns and assume others see them, and we sometimes have trouble communicating things because we "assume" people already know that.

These lessons apply to us as trainers, whether formal or informal because both of these factors play heavily into our success (or failure) in teaching anyone something new, especially when we are significantly more expert than they are.

I'm looking forward to my next game of Go - even though Parker will probably beat me badly - because I know there are many more lessons for me to learn.

Thanks Parker.

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Is it the Slides?

Posted at 7:42 AM on Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Yesterday I posted my first YouTube video with some comments about presentation skills. I encourage you to read it here.

This connection to Michael Jordan and Mars Blackman/Spike Lee popped into my head and as I continued to think yesterday about effective presentations. Most people who are going to give a presentation focus on certain aspects of it, figuring that these things are the mostimportant to their success. (Much like Mars in the video thought Michael was great because of the shoes)

Here is what I have come to so far.

It isn't the slides, it's the stories.
It isn't the PowerPoint, it's the passion.
It isn't the data, it's the dialogue.
It isn't the Bullet points, it's the belief you instill
It isn't the Action Steps, it's taking action.

Common wisdom might put the emphasis on the first items. Great communicators put their focus on the second.

So, where is your focus for your next presentation?

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Taking Resistance Out of the Picture

Posted at 10:47 AM on Monday, February 05, 2007

In the month of the January I thought a lot about resistance, as it was the focus of The Remarkable Leadership Learning System for the month. Due in part to that fact, I also wrote this article (Why We Avoid Resistance) for my newsletter, Unleash Your Potential.

When I read this quote, I shook my head an said "YES!" Even though no one was around. Buckminster Fuller was a smart guy and this quotation only confirms that fact:

"You never change the existing reality
by fighting it. Instead, create a new
model that makes the old one obsolete."

-- R. Buckminster Fuller

While resistance isn't a negative thing, only energy to be understood and channelled, this thought takes resistance out of the picture. When we create a new model that is compelling and provides an extremely desirable picture of the future, we bypass resistance build energy quickly.

Don't try to create change - create something so compelling and so new that the old is obsolete.

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Posted at 6:23 AM on Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Whoonu is a great game with a funny name. I heard about it around Christmas time from a couple of sources, then played it at my Mom's house before New Years. Then I bought a copy (actually I bought two).

We've played it at home (Kelsey, my 8 year old) loves it, and I've introduced it to others.

I reviewed it in my newsletter, Unleash Your Potential recently (you'll find it here). One of the people I introduced it to was Bernie DeKoven, who among other things is Major Fun and he granted the game a Major Fun Award (see his review here.)

And last week I used the game as an icebreaker/team building exercise for 30 people in a training session. While I'm not sure the game was designed for this, it met my needs very well (with a couple of simple modifications).

It is a great game, and I highly recommend it, whether as a family game, a party icebreaker or your newest corporate training tool.
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Visualization Methods

Posted at 3:36 PM on Friday, January 12, 2007

An old friend (thanks Joe!) sent me a link to an amazing page today. It is called the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods, it looks like, well, the Periodic Table of Elements (duh).

But what it does in this format is provide 93 ways to visualize or look at information. It cleverly categorizes these methods in a variety of ways, AND as you hover over any individual method a window pops up and gives you an example of that method.

It is so much better to look at it than read my lame description. It is creative and will be useful to any trainer, instructional designer, author, presenter or anyone who communicates (which is everyone). It is also a perfect example of how powerful our sense of visualization is as humans.

This is a wonderful resource, and you will love it. Take a look here.
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The Magic in Every Moment

Posted at 7:38 AM on Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In my last post, I suggested you read Joe Vitale's post. (Now you have another chance).

In Joe's post he quotes a friend who says, "I am totally satisfied, I just want more." That quote is very powerful, especially in the context of being grateful in every moment.

I've been thinking about being grateful in each moment, for each moment; recognizing the magic that each moment can bring. When I saw this short (and very creative) video this morning, I was moved to share it with you.

Our world doesn't "look" like this video, and yet in every moment there are sights and sounds more amazing and wonderful than those in the video, if we open our eyes, ears, minds and hearts to them.

There is magic in this moment. Do you see it? Do you feel it?

Be grateful.
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The Biggest Key to Problem Solving

Posted at 7:56 AM on Thursday, December 21, 2006

I have the opportunity to train and coach people on problem solving with some regularity. In fact, we recently built a one day customized problem solving and decision making workshop for one of our great Canadian Clients, OPTI Canada.

In the workshop we talked about a problem solving mindset, what gets in our way, a problem solving process, and much more.

Nothing we taught could be any more powerful than this quotation from Norman Vincent Peale,

"Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will."

An open mind, a clear problem statement, the right people involved, and a good problem solving process are all important.

But always remember to start with the belief that the problem can and will be solved.
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Dedication . . . and Rededication . . . to Learning

Posted at 1:45 PM on Friday, November 03, 2006

Frank Girolami has just started a blog.

I share this with you because when I first met Frank, he was attending a meeting of the Consultant's Forum of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of ASTD. At that meeting I encouraged everyone to start a blog as a part of their marketing efforts. I also told them that while that was a good reason to blog, perhaps more importantly, as a blogger the would remain a learner. You see, starting a blog, while relatively easy, does have some learning associated with it.

Writing a blog consistently however offers many more opportunities to learn. You must learn to find your writing voice for this medium, learn how to write clearly (and hopefully quickly), and you must continually have a learning mind to find the things you will write about.

As it turns out Frank writes about me in his first post called Rededicated to Learning.

It is a perfect title because we all can rededicate ourselves to learning, and depending on the nature of your work, starting a blog might be one of the better ways to do that.

Take a look at Frank's blog, and while you are there, congratulate him on his rededication to learning.
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Happy (yes I do mean happy) Halloween

Posted at 12:12 PM on Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I've never been much of a Halloween fan. Maybe it is because growing up in Michigan trick or treating meant getting a costume on, putting a coat on, piling into the car, getting out, taking the coat off, going into a house, staying while Mom and/or Dad visited, putting the coat back on, then repeating the process a few times.

It hardly was worth the candy.

And I've never been a big fan of the witches, ghosts, goblins, blood and gore, etc, that palys a big part in the whole Halloween scene.

In recent years, I've grown to appreciate the holiday a bit more as a parent (though with Parker being "done" with this at 14 and Kelsey being 8, we don't have too many more costume years). And it doesn't hurt that in our neighborhood we all hang out outside with a fire, some cold beverages and snacks and hand out candy from a drive way rather than going to the door for a couple of hours.

Even so, Halloween has just never been my thing.

But about ten minutes ago, I had an aha moment.

Halloween is one day a year when adults find it "ok" to use their imagination. Today there are people all over the world (or any place where Halloween is celebrated) who are pretending.

Yes, people are pretending to be witches and ghosts and vampires. But they are also pretending to be firemen, or nurses, or President Bill Clinton, or you-name-it. They are expressing and proving their creativity.

Pretending is something we are supposed to outgrow when we are kids. But pretending is a great way to exercise our imagination. We want people to have a vision of the changes we are implementing, yet it isn't ok to pretend. We want people to be creative, but it would be best if they followed the dress code and used the right color markers on the white board when brainstorming.

Pretending takes us back to our kidhood. It exercises our imagination, it unleashes our creativity.

That is reason enough to celebrate Halloween today.

Whether you plan on dressing up today or not, do a little pretending today. Consider it your way of celebrating the day.

After we've done that our task is to hold on to what we "learned" about ourselves today - and allow ourselves to be a kid and pretend tomorrow and every day - all the way until next Halloween. Do that and your life will change significantly, and you'll likely have the best costume at the party you go to on Halloween 2007.
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One Red Paper Clip

Posted at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, August 01, 2006

When leading a workshop on facilitation skills recently, I had groups brainstorm possible uses for a paper clip as a way to illustrate some points about our creative potential and ability to brainstorm more effectively. One of the possible uses listed by one team was "trade it for a house."

I didn't understand and was told by a participant, "yeah, this guy started with a paper clip and ended up with a house."

I was puzzled, but didn't think much more about it.

Yesterday when I read Bob Burg's Winning Without Intimidation newsletter, he mentioned a video that everyone should watch - about a guy who started with one red paper clip and traded with people who had different items (14 trades it turns out) for a house.

This is the best 8 minutes of video I've ever seen on the internet - and among the most interesting and inspiring I've seen produced by network television (the video is a segment from ABC's 20/20).

Rather than telling you more about it, I urge you to watch it. Think about it from a creativity perspective, from a motivational perspective, and from the perspective of persistence.

You'll like it. You'll learn from it.

Here it is.

And you'll never look at a red paper clip the same way again.
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