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A Powerful Tool For Empowering Your People – Brian Burt, CEO of MaestroConference

A Powerful Tool For Empowering Your People – an Interview with Brian Burt, CEO of MaestroConference

In this interview with MaestroConference CEO, Brian Burt, you’ll learn about some amazing tools for empowering your employees, creating ownership mentality, and having significantly better meetings.  This one tool completely transformed the culture at MaestroConference.

At Charles Schwab, Brian led many multi-million-dollar technology projects in the areas of telephone technology, marketing, and CRM systems. He has also led a very successful consulting firm specializing in large technology project leadership, and has co-hosted events with Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson, and many others. He is a skilled facilitator who also holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics / Mathematical Economics.  To learn more about MaestroConference or Brian, please visit:

To learn more about Holacracy, please visit:

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Michael Hyatt – Platform – A Guide to Building a Large Online Following

A Review of Platform, By Michael Hyatt

A great guide to building a large online following by integrating blogging and social media.

I just finished reading an excellent book by Michael Hyatt, called Platform: Get Noticed In a Noisy World.

I had a hard time putting this one down. It is a must read for anyone who would like to increase the size their online following.

Michael is clearly an expert on building a platform.  Over 330,000 people are subscribed to his blog,, and he has over 190,000 twitter followers.
Why is this important?

  1. If you run a business or a non-profit, having a large platform is a more effective tool for marketing than traditional advertising unless you have a lot of money to spend on large campaigns.  A platform allows you to generate lots of word-of-mouth exposure that people trust a lot more than they do paid advertising.
  2. If you’d like to publish a nonfiction book, the first thing publishers look at is the size of your platform.  Case in point, I actually have a tentative book deal with one of the largest publishers in the world.  They learned about my book idea, which they love, as a result of a personal introduction from one of their authors.  But I won’t actually have a contract with them until I grow my platform a bit more.
  3. If you’d like to share your ideas as a speaker, having a large platform means that instead of having to spend a lot of time and money on marketing, people will contact you. 

Platform is a well-written book that is easy to read.  I finished it in a few hours.  In the book, Michael offers a complete, step-by-step guide to building your platform.  You’ll find at least an introduction to every aspect of growing an online following in this book, as well as lots of great resources for going deeper into the more complex elements of building an online following that are beyond the scope of the book.
What could having a large online following do for you?

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

How to Create a Highly Innovative Culture (Part 2)

Last week, in Part 1 of this post, we clarified what innovation is, and discussed how we can predict whether or not someone will be innovative based on the strength of a cognitive bias called the status quo bias.  Here in Part 2, we’ll discuss how to apply this knowledge toward creating a highly innovative culture.
Because of the skill required to work with highly innovative people, organizations that are fortunate enough to have such people on their team often find it quite difficult to keep them on the team.
This is especially true for large organizations.  Nothing will drive away highly innovative people more quickly than high levels of bureaucracy.  Most large organizations become increasingly bureaucratic as they grow.  As a result, they drive away innovators and gradually become less innovative as an organization.
There are, of course, exceptions to this general trend.  It is possible, even in large companies, to create a culture that attracts and retains highly innovative people and, perhaps more important, helps people who are not naturally very innovative (the vast majority of people) to be more innovative as well.  The key ingredient for creating and sustaining such a culture is being committed to serving and caring for our employees. 
Two excellent examples are Google and the software giant, SAS, which are among the most innovative companies in the world.  Every year, these two companies are also both highly ranked among the best companies to work for.  On the 2013 list of the Fortune Magazine Best Companies to Work For, they were listed as number one and two, respectively.
The examples of how Google works to care for employees are almost legendary.  They include free, on-site haircuts; gyms; pools; break rooms with video games, ping pong, billiards and foosball; on-site medical staff for easy doctor appointments; and the option to bring one’s dog in to work. 
But Google didn’t invent this type of incredible workplace culture.  They actually emulated the culture at SAS, a company that has produced absolutely phenomenal business outcomes.  SAS has posted record earnings for 37 consecutive years, including $2.8 billion in 2012.  CEO Jim Goodnight often says that the secret to their success is taking care of their employees.
One reason serving and caring for our people is so effective for building and sustaining a highly innovative culture is that when we truly care about our people and are committed to helping them grow, we don’t stifle innovation by worrying about our own position.  Instead of thinking that we have to come up with all the good ideas to look good as leader, we are happy when our team has great ideas.  Leaders who are more focused their own performance, instead of on leading their people well, tend to micromanage, which erodes trust and crushes innovation. 
When we truly care about our people and are committed to helping them grow, we are also much more likely to trust them and give them high levels of autonomy.  Providing high levels of autonomy is one the most important elements of attracting and retaining those rare, highly innovative people who abhor bureaucracy but can add so much value to our organization. 
Perhaps more important, serving and caring for our people can help employees who are not naturally innovative to become more innovative.  Most people have a fairly high status quo bias.  As we discussed in Part 1 of this post, this means that they are very unlikely to suggest and act on ideas that are contrary to the status quo – i.e. ideas that are innovative – because of their fears of rejection and not fitting in and, in the case of the business world, fear of being fired.
When we are focused on serving our people and consistently caring for them, these fears are alleviated.  With consistent care and trust, our people trust us more, and they know that we will not fire them for taking appropriate risks and making mistakes.  The more secure people feel, the more likely they are to suggest and act on innovative ideas.   We are essentially removing the status quo bias by removing the status quo.
Jim Goodnight of SAS offers a great example of just how powerful this can be.  In the fall of 2008, the Great Recession was imminent.  SAS faced the same issues that every other company in the analytics software industry faced.  Sales plunged due to the budget cuts almost every business was making in preparation for what seemed like a long downturn.  Other companies in the industry started laying off large numbers of employees. 
But Goodnight’s response to the recession was dramatically different, as Mark C. Crowley, author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century, describes in an article he wrote for FastCompany:

“In early January 2009, Goodnight held a global webcast and announced that none of its 13,000 worldwide employees would lose their job. He simply asked them all to be vigilant with spending and to help the firm endure the storm.  ‘By making it very clear that no one was going to be laid off,’ Goodnight told me, ‘suddenly we cut out huge amounts of chatter, concern, and worry – and people got back to work.’ What likely will be astonishing to many is that SAS had record profits in 2009 even though Goodnight was perfectly willing to let his then-33-year track record of increased profit come to an end.

“At 70 years old, Goodnight holds the conviction that ‘what makes his organization work are the new ideas that come out of his employee’s brains.’ He therefore holds his employees in the highest esteem. So while he fully anticipated that the recession would constrain the firm’s short-term revenues, he instinctively knew that his team would produce breakthrough products while his competitors were cutting costs.  And even four years later, his commitment to his people has paid off handsomely. Said Goodnight, ‘new stuff we’re rolling out this year is going to take the market by storm.’”

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

How to Create a Highly Innovative Culture (Part 1)

In the business world today, “innovation” is quite the buzzword.  We’ve all likely heard things like “innovation has to be a top priority in our organization,” “we must be continuously innovating,” “innovation this,” and, “innovate that.”  Although the word is used often, there seems to be a lack of clarity on what innovation actually is.  In Part 1 of this blog post, we’ll discuss some fascinating research on profitability from the prestigious Perth Leadership Institute that clarifies the issue, and will lay the foundation for how we can create a highly innovative culture in our organization, which we’ll discuss in Part 2 of the post.
Dr. Prince, the founder and CEO of the Perth Leadership Institute, conducted groundbreaking research that links the personality traits of managers directly to impacts on gross margin and expenses.  Each personality trait is the result of what is known in Psychology as cognitive biases.  Although Dr. Prince found 10 cognitive biases that have significant, direct impacts on gross margin and expenses, there are two biases that, according to his research, have the greatest impact on the bottom line. 
One of them, the status quo bias, is also an excellent predictor of whether or not a person will be innovative.  The research of the Perth Leadership Institute shows very clearly that innovation has a tremendous impact on gross margin.  In fact, we can predict quite accurately how a manager will affect gross margin simply by measuring how innovative that manager is.
Even intuitively, I believe this makes perfect sense.  There is a direct correlation between how unique a product or service is and the price someone is willing to pay for it.  Thus, the more innovative someone is, the more likely she is to create products and services that add value for the consumer, which also increases the profit margin for the organization offering the product or service. 
The status quo bias results in a strong preference for maintaining things the way they have been.  It is based on our need to fit in.  As you might guess, most people have at least a moderately strong status quo bias.  The need for belonging is one of the most powerful human needs, and doing things that buck the status quo can certainly be associated with taking the risk of not being accepted by others.  Unfortunately, the stronger this bias is in a person, the less likely he is to come up with innovative solutions to problems that add value to his organization or for customers.
A person with little or no status quo bias is a person who will consistently innovate.  This is the type of person who has no problem suggesting and acting on ideas that are completely outside of the proverbial box, even if that idea is rejected as silly by numerous people over long periods of time.  In others words, someone with little or no status quo bias typically doesn’t care what other people think about them or their ideas.  A good example is the late Steve Jobs, who was known for being one the most innovative people of our time, and also for being a bit of jerk.
One thing you might have noticed in the description above is that creativity was not mentioned.  Perhaps the most common misperception about innovation is that it is synonymous with creativity.  Although creativity can assist in innovating, it is certainly not necessary.  In fact, there is research showing that people who are “too creative” are actually very unlikely to innovate.
This is because innovation has a lot more to do with execution than it does with creativity.  Someone who has too many creative ideas often never sticks with one of the ideas long enough to create the disruption in the field, marketplace, etc., that we refer to as an innovation.  The most important element of being innovative is the ability to stay with an idea long enough, even in the face of significant opposition, to actually make the idea a reality and have it adopted by at least a small group of people.
A perfect example of this is Bill Gates, another one of the most innovative people of our time.  Gates did not create DOS, which was the foundation on which Microsoft was built.  He bought DOS from people that were likely much more creative than him.  But those people weren’t innovators.  They didn’t have the vision and the guts to stick with their idea for years, despite having no real market for it, until the market emerged around their idea.  But Bill Gates did.  He is an innovator.

In Part 2 of this post, which will appear next week, we’ll discuss the ironic and surprising essence of applying this knowledge toward building a more innovative culture in your organization.  

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

How To Be a Better Remote Leader – Raul Lopez, President of Phoenix Multicultural

It is rare to find great examples of humble leaders who truly serve and care for their employees.  It is even more rare to find a leader who is doing this effectively despite having to lead a remote team.  I recently had the honor of interviewing Raul Lopez, who does just that.

Mr. Lopez is the president of Phoenix Marketing International, Multicultural Division, but spends most of his time working from the home office or traveling.  In this interview, you’ll find some valuable insights into being a better servant leader, whether you see your people every day or you lead a remote team.

To learn more about the Phoenix Marketing International, Multicultural Division, click here.

Did you like this post?  To receive The Ultimate Leaders E-Zine for FREE, just Click Here.  It includes all my blog posts, interviews with great leaders, and other resources to help you become the Ultimate Leader.  

Can You Do Good and Still be Successful?

Our world is filled with endless choices.  Do we focus on social media or personal relationships?  Do we eat low carbs or low fat, or both?  Do we take the red pill or the blue pill?

But it has become increasingly clear to me over the years that we might not need to choose between as many of those options.  Things are often not so black and white.  I see more and more examples of “grey-ness.”

Although at first this may seem as though it would add to confusion, there’s another way of looking at it.  It also means that compromises and win-win situations are much more likely to occur than we may have previously thought.
One of my favorite examples of this is the realization that we don’t need to choose between being successful and living a deeply meaningful life that makes a significant, positive impact on the world around us.  
In fact, it turns out that the two are quite interdependent.  By focusing on what we can do to be of service to others in the short time we have on this planet, we actually dramatically increase the likelihood that we will be successful in our businesses or careers, especially as leaders.
I was recently reminded of this when I read a fantastic blog post by Skip Prichard .  In the post, Skip interviews Jeff Klein, who is an executive team member of Conscious Capitalism Inc., and the author of Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living and It’s Just Good Business: The Emergence of Conscious Capitalism & The Practice of Working For Good.
Jeff summarizes his thoughts on the benefits of “working for good” as follows:
Purpose is among the highest motivations for human beings. If your work is infused with purpose, then you are inspired and energized to bring all that you have and all that you can to the work.

Love and care similarly bring out the best and most in people. If you care about and for the people you work with and if they care about and for you, your connection to them is deep, and you are motivated to serve and support each other.

When people are aligned and alighted in purpose, supporting and serving each other — and others who they come in contact with (including customers and other stakeholders of the business) — the business is alive. It attracts attention and fosters relationships built on trust and loyalty, which leads to resilience and sustainability.

This is very good for business!

In his blog post, Skip goes on to share some of Jeff’s very valuable insights into how we can make daily progress toward living a life that allows us to consistently and successfully “work for good.”
I highly recommend that you take a few moments to read this post (you can see the full post here). 

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Seek A Meaningful Life Instead Of A Pleasant One

Would you like an incredibly simple yet powerful tool for excelling as a leader and living a happier life?

Try focusing more of your energy on doing things that make life meaningful instead of on trying to make life more pleasant.

We could never make every moment of life pleasant.  It’s an exercise in futility.  No matter how hard we try, there will always be ups and downs, sickness, loss, old age, and death.  Thus, from a logical standpoint, trying to make our lives more pleasant is not the best place to focus our energy.

Also, deep down, we know that pleasantness doesn’t result in greater happiness. We know that there are countless wealthy people, living the most pleasant lives we can imagine, who have to take medication to deal with the emptiness and depression they feel.  In fact, there is now over ten years of research from the field of positive psychology demonstrating very clearly that our happiness has little to do with how pleasant our lives are.

But, we humans can easily becomes creatures of habit, conditioned by our surroundings to behave in certain ways. In our modern culture, we are bombarded with the idea that we’ll be happier if we have more stuff or make our lives more pleasant.  As a result of this conditioning, it’s easy to start believing that it’s true.

Unfortunately, when we get caught in the trap of thinking that life will be better if we make it more pleasant, there are numerous negative ramifications.

One ramification is focusing too much on money at the expense of people.  This can result in great short-term success, but never in long-term success.  If we don’t care for our people – customers, vendors, and employees – our success will not be sustainable.

Focusing on pleasantness also results in avoiding tough conversations that we need to have.  According to my friend, John Spence, one of the top executive trainers in the world, this is one of the biggest issues faced by businesses today.  Many businesses simply aren’t talking about the things that are tough to discuss, but really important to the success of the business.  Avoiding these conversations helps keep life pleasant in the short term.  But, in the long term, the consequences of avoiding tough conversations are often detrimental.

Over time, focusing on making life pleasant in the short term results in leadership failures and dissatisfaction with our lives.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  We can gradually end the habit to seek out pleasantness and form the habit of creating a meaningful life.

If you want to excel as a leader and live a deeply meaningful and happy life, simply shift your focus to how you can better serve the people around you instead of how you can make your own life more pleasant.

The first step is to make a clear distinction between what we need in our lives, and what we simply want.  I’ve found that the more I replace things and activities I simply want with efforts to be of greater service to those around me, the happier I have become and the more excited I am about waking up to start my day because it is filled with increasingly greater meaning.

Assuming that we’re taking care of our basic needs, we can start shifting our focus away from making life more pleasant to creating a life of meaning by asking this question every day, several times a day: What can I do to better serve the people around me?

If you try this for a month, I believe you’ll see a significant, positive shift in your life.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Interview with Ben Lichtenwalner – Founder of Modern Servant Leader

This is an inspiring and informative interview with Ben Lichtenwalner, founder of Modern Servant Leader.  I took away several great ideas to add to my leadership toolbox.

Some highlights include:

1:50 – The story of how Ben discovered Servant Leadership
6:01 – Ben offers a great definition of Servant Leadership
8:56 – Examples of highly successful companies that practice Servant Leadership
15:50 – Great tips for being a better leader
20:55 – Some inspiring examples of selfless leaders

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder of Modern Servant Leader, a site that promotes Servant Leadership awareness, adoption, and action. He’s also an advisor to and the Senior Manager of Internet and eCommerce at Whirlpool Corporation. Ben has held senior leadership roles and overseen technology teams across other Fortune 500, Inc. 500, and non-profit corporations. Having learned from both positive and negative leadership styles, he now shares his experiences and lessons learned to promote greater awareness of Servant Leadership.

Ken Melrose is the author of Making the Grass Greener on Your Side, referenced in the interview. This is the story of how Servant Leadership helped save Toro (

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Interview With Culture Expert Jill Felska

In this interview,culture expert Jill Felska sheds light on the power of building a great workplace culture.

Here are some highlights:

1:12 – Jill shares her “Why” (she’s a fan of Simon Sinek, too)
3:12 – The power of creating a great workplace culture
5:21 – Example of a business achieving great success as a result of the culture
8:10 – How great cultures attract top talent
10:12 – How to keep the family feel as a business grows
13:04 – Tools for becoming a more effective leader

Jill Felska is a human sparkler – always full of energy and ideas. She is on a personal mission to create a happier, more engaged workforce. An entrepreneur at heart, she is currently running marketing at Path.To. In her next life, she’d love nothing more than to be a professional dancer. That said, she’d settle for a stint on So You Think You Can Dance.

Did you like this post?  To receive The Ultimate Leaders E-Zine for FREE, just Click Here.  It includes all my blog posts, interviews with great leaders, and other resources to help you become the Ultimate Leader.  

3 Rules for Leading Productive Meetings

Do you walk away from meetings feeling as though your people have provided excellent input and innovative solutions for dealing with the issue at hand?

If not, you may be violating three essential rules for leading productive meetings.

I recently had lunch with one of my mentors and business colleagues, Dr. Ted Prince, founder and CEO of the prestigious Perth Leadership Institute.  As a trainer for the Perth Leadership Institute, I always welcome the opportunity to have one-on-one time with Dr. Prince because I usually walk away with some new gem of insight that helps me to be a better trainer and/or to be a better leader.

This recent lunch was no exception.  Although at Perth we are focused very intently on helping leaders improve their direct impacts on gross margin and expenses, Dr. Prince spent 20 years leading numerous companies, including a publicly traded company, as a CEO or as a board member, so he also has a lot of wisdom regarding how to deal with people.

During our lunch, the topic of listening came up, which reminded him of three essential rules for running productive meetings, which he had recently taught to some executives he was coaching.

The three rules for leaders to follow if we want to have the most productive meetings are:

  1. Speak last
  2. Speak less than 10% of the time
  3. Don’t offer opinions

Speak Last

As leaders, many of us often think that we’re supposed to be the one with all the great ideas.  But great leaders know that to be most effective we need to surround ourselves with people that are smarter than us (which is pretty easy for me) and find ways to get them sharing ideas as frequently as possible.  Speaking last is a great way to make sure this happens.  When we speak first, we can create unconscious boxes that people might not feel safe deviating from.  By making the effort to get our people talking before we share any of our own thoughts, we ensure that we have the best chance of getting fresh new ideas that we might have never heard if we shared our ideas first.

Speak Less than 10% of the Time

When we do speak, it should be at most 10% of the time, and primarily to ask questions of our people.  We already know what we think about the topic.  The only way we’ll discover solutions that are potentially better than the ones we have is to get our people talking as much as possible.  In this way, they are likely to either create a solution or provide some new way of looking at an issue that allows us to arrive at a solution that we never would have seen had we tried to do it all on our own.

Don’t Offer Opinions

Our goal should be to create an environment where people feel really safe to share whatever ideas they have.  The moment we start offering opinions about the topic in general or, worse, an idea shared by our people, we increase the level of fear people will have about sharing their ideas, and decrease the likelihood that we will get truly innovative solutions from our people.

Do you follow a version of these three rules when you lead meetings with your people?

Did you like this post?  To receive The Ultimate Leaders E-Zine for FREE, just Click Here.  It includes all my blog posts, interviews with great leaders, and other resources to help you become the Ultimate Leader.