Leaders must have Competitive Intelligence

Enterprise Leaders must have a personal, intimate understanding of the marketplace.  They must know first hand what is happening with the competition and what their best customers are saying about them.

They must clearly understand their flat spots and face them with courage and conviction.  They understand that the next big idea is out their it just has not been scaled yet.

Leaders must understand and articulate their competitive advantage and drive it into the organization with strategies and metrics.  This is not a bottom up exercise where leaders allow for bubble up ideas drive strategy.  This is a top down driven point of view that will differentiate them in the marketplace.

Wayne StricklandComment
Collaboration - insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp

8 Lessons I Learned at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp 

How You Can Apply It to Your Teams

Part 1 - Collaboration

 

I just finished 38 years in the corporate world with the last 25 leading 9 different meaningful pieces of work.  So, I have a point of view what the corporate world is all about.

As I entered this 4-day immersion called “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” I was intrigued to see how the incredibly creative culture of Rock and Roll would mesh with the structured, disciplined and measured culture of the corporate world.  I was listening and watching for things I could learn and share with those of us from the corporate world.

This is the first of 8 articles I will share that highlights what I observed and some insights for corporate leaders.

Lesson: Playing with a Band is a Highly Collaborative Process. 

All of us in the corporate world drop the word “collaborative”around describing the work we do all the time.  I have lead many teams and described them as highly collaborative.  This camp re-defined the word for me. 

Let me describe the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp process… 

1.    You check-in on a Thursday afternoon and grab a jam session with one or two of about 12-14 counselors (more on these incredible musicians later)

2.    You select 1 of 12 rooms to enter and people quickly learn to jam with one another.  After a while, you may choose to leave, select another room, and the process starts over again.  This happens for a couple of hours.  

3.    Everyone breaks for dinner and then each person is assigned a counselor and put in a band.  

4.    Your band has less than 18 hours to decide on a song, learn it, and play with Nancy Wilson of Heart, on stage, with an audience, while its being recorded.

Insight: I have been on corporate teams that might have taken a week to decide the song to play much less learn it and play it.  We might have taken a month to decide the venue to play it. The corporate world lets “collaboration” go on too long.  

5.    The next day, your band will select another song to play with Chris Layton the drummer from Stevie Ray Vaughn’s band. Rest in peace SRV, (Chris has also played with many accomplished bands)

6.    That same night your band will play a couple of songs at Reggie’s in downtown Chicago.

7.    On the last day, your band will play yet another song with the legendary Buddy Guy at his club in Chicago.  The term legendary gets tossed around too frequently in my opinion but Buddy Guy, this guy is a legend.  What an experience!

8.    The Grand Finale, culmination of all your hard work, is later that same evening, each band plays 2-3 songs on stage, live broadcast with their Counselor.

In summary, you meet 6-7 people for the first time on a Thursday evening, together you decide on a song to play in 18 hours, and start thinking about the next handful of songs you must play with big name talent over the next 3 days, and what role everyone in the band must have with each other.  

Insight: Everyone has an important role. The guitarists can’t play over the vocalists, the drummer has to keep the beat, the bass lays down the low, the harmonica player knows when to take their solo, as do all the other band members.  If one of the band members flies out of formation the whole things turns sour.

Guess what?  We figured it out.  

Was it perfect? No.  

Was it good? Most people think so.  

Did it accomplish the goal of having a great time with some legends in the music business?  Yes, in fact it over-delivered for everyone.

Insight: As I reflect back on the hundreds of projects I lead or was a part of, at the company I worked for and also with other suppliers and dozens of customers, in the corporate world, we take too long to decide and get things done.

In Corporate America we just take too long. It’s probably a combination of not being clear on the deliverable (You will be playing with Nancy Wilson in 18 hours) or the role of each team member (You are going to play rhythm guitar, not lead and not sing, and don’t bring it up again) or the leader not taking the lead (Our leader was Chip Z. Nuff – he took the lead, no question about it and he made the decision once he had everyone’s input and his assessment of the talent) Or maybe it was the simple fact that we had a quick deadline? 18 hours that’s it.  We didn’t have the luxury of pushing it back to the next team meeting, next month.

Perhaps in Corporate America we need to get more performance, in less time. We need a lot more progress and a lot less perfection.  We should be more clear and direct, but fair. Be less tolerant of people flying out of formation because they don’t like the solution. And we should not give people or teams a long time to figure it out.  They are not going to get that much smarter and they should have the courage to make the decision and implement it.  If it starts to veer off course, fix it.

Several more articles to follow over the next few weeks…

Thanks to David Fishof, CEO of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Wayne StricklandComment
Undercover Leader - insights from Rock and Roll fantasy Camp

It's quite an eyeopening experience to not b the leader and no one knows who you are and what you have done in your career.  First, no body really cares what you have done, right.  But it is an eye opening experience to see how important all the little details are to make the experience a good one or a not so good one

Wayne StricklandComment
Immersion - Insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp

8 Lessons I Learned at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp 

How You Can Apply It to Your Teams

Part 3 – Immersion

I just finished 38 years in the corporate world with the last 25 leading 9 different meaningful pieces of work.  So, I have a point of view what the corporate world is all about.

As I entered this 4-day immersion called “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” I was intrigued to see how the incredibly creative culture of Rock and Roll would mesh with the structured, disciplined and measured culture of the corporate world.  I was listening and watching for things I could learn and share with those of us from the corporate world.

This is the third of 8 articles I will share that highlights what I observed and some insights for corporate leaders.

Lesson: To get Great at Your Craft You Must Be Immersed in it Without Distractions

If you have read the first two articles about my experience at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp you know that I was blown away by the incredible talents of the counselors.  They are the musicians that lead your band.  They drive the song choice, the practice time and decide who does what.

These are wildly talented individuals.  Do you know how they got so talented? They practice and practice and practice and they work at it all the time.  They play with multiple bands, they work with multiple artists, and they play. I am sure there is some talent they are born with or it’s in their family DNA but work on their craft and make it better.

I have read a little about the Beatles and one of the reasons they grew into icon status is because they played, all the time.  They took a gig in Liverpool and they had to play multiple sets a day, 6-7 days a week, for years.  If you play that much you get better. It’s just that simple.

As leaders, how much time do you spend becoming a better leader? 

Were you promoted from a manager job to a first time leader position?  Are you still managing or are you leading?  My experience is that fist time leaders first need to learn to get out of their own way and let people do their jobs.  First time leaders need to figure out quickly that leading is not managing and if they don’t figure that out they never get to the next level of leadership which is cross-functional leadership.

Cross-functional leaders manage a team of managers or leaders that have very different skills from their skills.  The leader might be a marketing person and now they are leading sales, finance, supply chain, I/T, product development, merchandising, etc.  They can’t tell their teams how to do their jobs but they must lead them.  They must learn how to connect with them and learn what drives them.  They must learn how to communicate effectively, which is not the same method for everyone.  Some people want to debate, some people need to process, some need one on one discussion.  It’s not the same for everyone and it’s a process that includes repetition.  One time will not get it done.  These leaders must also master the skill of setting metrics, dates, assigning responsibility and holding people accountable. This is a tough and demanding leadership job.

The final level of leadership is enterprise level.  These are the jobs at the top of the house and they make decisions that give a company a path for growth or they screw it up and people go home, including them.  They must have intensive focus and the ability to listen and look around the corners.  They must understand the competitive landscape personally and clearly know what’s happening the marketplace.  I call this competitive intelligence. It’s not research or the aggregation of everyone’s opinion about the marketplace, it’s their personal, hands on knowledge of the business and what their competitors are doing all the time.

So, what level leader are you?

What are you doing today, this week and next month to develop better leadership skills?  Are you making plans to become a better leader or are you always diving into the details of today’s fire drill and work? 

No question that doing the work everyday will make you better at doing that work but what are you doing to train yourself to become a better leader?

If leaders learned how to immerse themselves into the skills of becoming better leaders the way musicians learn how to immerse themselves into their craft, I wonder how much better leaders could be?  Can better leadership change the growth path of a company?  I know it can. Can better leadership inspire employees and generate new ideas and innovation.  I am sure of it.

Then as leaders, why are you not spending more time learning how to be better leaders?

I have some ideas. Go to my website waynestricklandspeaking.com for more insights and ideas. 

Several more articles to follow over the next few weeks…

Thanks to David Fishof, CEO of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Wayne StricklandComment
Grateful - Insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp

What I Learned at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp 

They are grateful for what they have

 

No Entitlement You Must Earn It

I just finished 38 years in the corporate world with the last 25 leading 9 different meaningful pieces of work.  So I have a point of view what the corporate world is all about.

As I entered this thing called Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp I was intrigued how the incredibly creative culture of Rock and Roll would mesh with the structured, discipline and measured culture of the corporate world.  I was listening and watching for things I could learn and share with those of us from the corporate world.

This is the second of 7-10 articles I will write that highlights what I observed and some of the ideas I want to share with all of you in the corporate world.

At Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp you have an intensive 4 day immersion with some of the world’s best musicians and are expected to perform live with legendary people like, Nancy Wilson, Chris Layton and Buddy Guy with people you have never met before. And it will be recorded if front of a live audience in real venues. With Buddy Guy it was streamed live and my family in Kansas City and Melbourne Australia were able to watch it live. No pressure, right?

One of the biggest surprises was the level of talent of all the counselors.  These are the people who have the responsibility of getting their band together, picking the songs with the band, driving the rehearsals, (from early morning to late at night) and assigning all the band members their roles.  It was amazing to watch this happen across 12 different bands with a wide range of personalities.

 About the counselors.  These people have world class talent but are not the headliners. I will not list them all and I apologize for the ones I leave out but they include, Monte Pitman, lead guitar for Madonna (actually taught her to play), Tanya O’Callagan, described by many as the best female bass player in the world (not sure why they say female because I can’t see how anyone could match her total package), Gregg Potter, the drummer for the Buddy Rich Orchasteria, (find him on YouTube for a taste of his talents) Joe Vitale the drummer for Joe Walsh (A great guy) Michael Straertow, the lead guitarist for the Foreigner frontman, Lou Gramm, Vince Apice, drummer for Black Sabbath, Slim Jim Phantom, the drummer for Stray Cats.  Others include Ashely Reeves, Rob Mount, Rusty Wright (wow), Gary Hoey (great), and Chip Z’Nuff (my counselor)

The talents of these individuals are beyond explanation.  They could play with anyone in the world, today.

But they have to earn it, everyday.  

There are no guarantees.  There is no corporate HR function that has a pay scale and mid-point for each job.  There is not a deposit that drops into their checking account no matter if they have a good month or a bad month and still get paid.  There is no corporate I/T function to fix a computer, no travel service, no corporate cafeteria, no health benefits.  I think you get the picture.

They have to earn it, everyday.

Some of them give guitar lessons, they play in many bands, they travel to remote locations to get a gig, they work at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp for the love of the music and the exposure, they release new music, sometimes a single at a time. Bottom line, they hustle and have to earn it.  If they don’t get a gig, they don’t get paid.  It’s one of the ultimate perform to get paid jobs.

Ok, back to the corporate world.  I think many people have gotten soft and feel entitled to benefits they might not have earned and don’t appreciate what they receive from their employer.

How many times as a leader have you listened to an employee tell you they have earned the right to a promotion or a salary increase because of how long they have been in a job? It’s like they have hit a fantasy number and expect that, boom, just like that they should get promoted. Or, they have a long list of activities and tasks they have accomplished on time and complete and for that, its time for a big promotion.  Or they see other people in other companies make more and now they are entitled to more, not understanding they are completely different jobs.

As employees, do you take an assessment of all the benefits you receive from your employer and start assigning a cost to them if you had to pay for them yourself?  Do you like knowing what your work is going to look like for the next 12 months or so?  Do you appreciate having a performance plan that tells you exactly what you need to do this year and how you will get compensated for it?

I think the many, certainly not all, people in the corporate world have gotten to soft, too entitled, are drinking their own Cool-Aide and need to stop, take a pause, and appreciate the benefits they have today.

For all the counselors, my hat off to you.  You are an amazing group of wildly talented individuals, that people like me don’t truly appreciate, until now.

Thank you.

Wayne StricklandComment
Keep it Simple - Insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp

8 Lessons I Learned at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp 

Part 4 – Keep it Simple

 

I just finished 38 years in the corporate world with the last 25 leading 9 different meaningful pieces of work.  So, I have a point of view what the corporate world is all about.

 

As I entered this 4-day immersion called “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” I was intrigued to see how the incredibly creative culture of Rock and Roll would mesh with the structured, disciplined and measured culture of the corporate world.  I was listening and watching for things I could learn and share with those of us from the corporate world.

 

This is the fourth of 8 articles I will share that highlights what I observed and some insights for corporate leaders.

 

Lesson:  Keep It Simple

 

If you read the first 3 articles you have a flavor of the 4-day immersion into Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. At 6:00pm on the first day you are introduced to your counselor and your band for the next 4 days.  You have to pick a song, decided everyone’s role and practice so you can play with Nancy Wilson at 1:00pm the next day.  You also have to be ready for Chris Layton on Saturday with a new song, play at Reggie’s in downtown Chicago Saturday night and have another song ready to play with the legendary Buddy Guy at Legends Sunday evening.  So you must have 3 songs, maybe 4 if you want to add a song to your set Sunday evening.

 

So you meet 6 other people for the first time and start picking songs.  That’s no easy task.  Everyone has a favorite, has a lick they rehearsed, has a song that fits their vocal range, has one they have practiced 100 times, and so on. Our counselor, Chip Z’ Nuff, was a master at navigating us to our song selection and what everyone was going to do.  And he was very clear with everyone about it.  For example, you play rhythm, you play lead, you jump in here, you don’t sing, etc.

 

After we picked the first song there was lots of ideas on how add to it.  A few fancy licks here, an added vocal, a little drum solo maybe a long harp solo (harmonica).  These were all good ideas.  Everyone had a specialty and had probably practiced it a 100 times.

 

But Chip said we must keep it simple.  Some of the best songs ever written and performed, are simple.   You don’t complicate them just to complicate them. Keep it simple.  That meant playing some simple chords and rhythms.  Add a few single note melodies.  Keep the vocals clean and simple.  He kept reminding us we have one song with Nancy, Chris and Buddy so lets keep it simple and hit a home run with that one song. (my translation – Chip might have used another phrase)

 

So that’s what we did. I have to admit I got a little bored the 25thtime we played some of those songs.  I wanted to add a little something as did the other band members but we stayed the course and kept it simple.  

 

In the end we were not the best band or the worst.  But we did what we set out to do.  We played with Nancy, Chris and Buddy and we played at Reggie’s and a few extra songs at the Legends after Buddy left.  I got to do exactly what I wanted to do when I signed up for Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.  I got videos and pictures and autographs and it was a fantastic experience because we kept it simple.  I am sure it would have felt different if we had tried a song that was really hard and we screwed it up.  I would probably be still thinking about that vs what a great experience the entire camp was for me.

 

That’s because we kept it simple.  Thanks Chip.

 

 

As business leaders do we keep it simple?

 

My experience is that we have a gravitational pull to make it more complicated.  It just pulls us into a process that adds unnecessary complications, process, people, time and cost.  It seems we just can’t help ourselves.

 

Maybe it’s because we want to take everyone’s input and add it to the process so they feel included. Maybe it’s because we lack confidence, so we add a few extra steps.  Maybe it’s because we lack the courage to say no to a few highly influential contributors because they might not like it. (Chip said no all the time to our ideas) Maybe the idea is just bad and you need to start over but can’t admit you were wrong.  Maybe we think we need to add a few extra steps to look smart or clever.

 

The reason we make things more complicated is probably complicated but we do it.  I think as the bandleader, Chip had been through thousands of times where someone in the band had to be the leader and make decisions and he was very comfortable doing it.  He was confident it what we needed to do to play a solid song with Nancy, Chris and Buddy.  He measured our skill level, navigated us to the right songs and kept us on track.

 

Here is a challenge for all leaders this week, make things less complicated this week.  Take out unnecessary steps, make decisions faster, be clear on what needs to be done and what does not need to be done.  Be as comfortable saying no as you do saying yes.

 

Try this for a week and see if it makes a difference.  I believe it will.

Wayne StricklandComment
No Distractions - Insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp

In the corporate world one of my biggest nits is the indiscipline use of cell phones, tablets and laptops in every meeting.  Yes, it's great when people are searching for information to help the meeting.  But too many times people are checking email, texting, and checking Facebook and all the rest.  It's a distraction and a problem leaders will have to deal with more directly if they want to improve productivity.

At Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp none of the artist had their cell phones out, none.  they were focused on their customers, us, and they practiced. They were into their jobs and made sure all oil us were getting the instruction we needed to perform with the headliners, Nancy Wilson, Chris Layton and Buddy Guy.  They were fiercely driving us to be better.

As leaders, we need to be more like the teachers at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp and require ours teams to stay focus on the challenge in from of us, not texting.

Wayne StricklandComment
Taking Risks - Insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp

 

As a leader I frequently talk about taking risk and putting yourself in uncomfortable position to learn more skills and to learn about yourself.

Well this experience over delivered in being uncomfortable.  In 4 days we played with Nancy Wilson from Heart, Chris Layton from the Stevie Ray Vaughn Band and Buddy Guy, the Legend. You had to decide your songs, your role in the band and practice, dozens of times.

I am a believer that being put in uncomfortable positions makes you better if you lean into them, listen and try new things, even if they are not great.

This was a great experience and looking forward to my next camp.

Wayne StricklandComment
What is a Leadership Philosophy?

Living by a Personal Business Philosophy

(Click on the title for an article on best practices leadership ideas)

Almost 30 years ago after moving from a field sales role and entering my first in-house corporate role I realized quickly I could not make everyone (or anyone) happy unless I developed a set of personal priorities that would guide my choices each week and each day.

I was gaining weight, losing sleep and almost everyone was a little to really frustrated with me.  I was also more than a little frustrated and working towards angry at myself. So, I started with a simple list of 10 things that included specific tactics about things like exercise, time with my children each week, time for me, investing in my growth and things like that.

Over the next 30 years the list has growth and become more specific and informed by years of experience.  I call it my Leadership philosophy.  It has evolved into my second book called, “Get Over yourself, Decide to Lead; Insights from Hard Lessons Learned”

These are 5 of my Leadership Philosophies

1 -Define your Brand and live up to it

Many people proclaim their brand to be things like, honest, credible, having high integrity, inclusive and other words that sound really great.  The problem is that they never live up to them.  You don’t proclaim your brandyou earnit, one decision at a time, day after day, year after year.  If you know what you want your personal brand to be, then start living by it.

2 – Be a great Listener

Early in my career a very Senior Executive stop by my little cubicle one day and said, “write this down young man”.  “ You are the master of what you don’t say and the slave to what you do say, choose wisely.”

Clearly I had be rambling about something no one cared about but in a meeting or meetings and he was sending me a message.  

After a month a rarely speaking, he stopped back by and said ok, you can talk again but start with asking great questions about things you don’t know.  I am pretty sure you already know what you know.

That was a message I never forgot.

3 – The best team wins

A great leader knows that the best team will out perform all other teams over time.  Any team can get lucky one year and hit a few numbers but the best team will win the most over time.

So a great leader is always recruiting, always. They are looking for new talent everyday in meetings, in the field, with other suppliers and with customers. They know when their best people will be moving on and have a top shelf list of replacements ready to go. They also know when their bottom performers will need new jobs and have replacements for them too.

I never waited for an HR team to provide me with a candidate list for a job. I already had my list.

4 – Never Give Feedback about Your Boss, ever

Yes this one is personal and that’s why it’s on my list and one you should consider.  Years ago a consulting group was getting input for a project and one of the questions were ways your boss could improve.  I gave 3-4 very specific ideas and it backfired.  My boss and I had been friends for years and he took it as a stab in the back and I thought I was doing my job.  

Our relationship never recovered and I will never give feedback about my boss again.

5 – Focus on the Marketplace, not a Conference Room

The longer people are in assignments the more time they spend in a conference room with other people who work at the same company and less time in the marketplace where real transactions happen.

Spend time in the marketplace.  It has the answers not in a conference room with people talking to themselves. Go see, first hand what the competition is doing. Go see how other companies are launching new products.  Go look at new merchandising and marketing ideas. For certain the next big idea is being tested, it just has not been scaled yet.  Do you know where and what it is?  It’s not in a conference room, that’s for certain.

 

 

These are 5 of my 12.  Guess where you can find the other 7?  

Wayne StricklandComment
Tips for managing in a Gig Economy

What are the best practices for securing your remote workforce?

Communication and Metrics – You Must be Best Practice at Both.

(Click on the title for an article on best practices on managing in a gig economy)

I have managed many remote workforces and believe this will be much more the trend going forward. To be the best team you must have the best talent and the best talent will never be exactly where you need them to be.  So you must be great at managing a remote workforce.

There are 2 skills that you must master.

The first is communication. You must be crystal clear on what you expect from them how they should do the work, and who do they work with on a regular basis.  This normally requires an on boarding process that includes a heavy dose of adult learning techniques. (say it, say it again, have them do it, repeat…)

After they are on board, your regular, predictable communication is critical.  This might be a weekly email, and a weekly phone call, and a team communication at the end of the week.  There are many choices on how to communicate but it must be done on a regular and consistent basis.

The second skill you must master is giving them measureable, quantifiable metrics. This might be revenue, sales call per day, store visits per day, pieces moved by day, etc.  But you have to give them metrics that everyone understands, hopefully agree on but 100% accept and held accountable for them.  Without this you will have low performing, over paid, hard to motivate remote workfarce.

Wayne StricklandComment