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Insight and Inspiration from Three Popular Speakers

Insight and Inspiration from Three Popular Speakers

Kelly MacDonald-Hill is a Partner and Senior Vice President at Speakers’ Spotlight. She’s taken the time to share her thoughts in the fabulous post below, after recently seeing three of our most popular speakers take to the stage:

I was recently at an industry conference with three leadership focused keynotes.  I was a bit concerned that their content might overlap too much, but instead their messages layered quite effectively, to great impact.

The first speaker was Organizational Change Coach Michael Bungay Stanier, who introduced the fundamentals of “Good Work versus Great Work.” Good Work is that which we do every day–basically your job description –how you got the job in the first place, and how you maintain it by performing the duties required proficiently and consistently achieving set goals, etc. Great Work, on the other hand, makes a difference: it’s what you’re most proud of and passionate about–the stuff that stands out. It is tied more to leadership, strategic difference, innovation, and long term growth, i.e., the stuff you have to raise your head up to think about. It’s not always perfect, it’s ongoing. It changes as it influences change.  “Good work”, said Michael, “is measured by quality. Great work is measured by impact.”

So, how does one balance Good Work with Great Work? First, we have to define what Great Work means to us in our roles and in our lives. What lights you up?  Makes you proud? What scares you, but excites you? He talked about how often our most memorable achievements arose out of a disaster and how we stepped up, overcame and problem solved our way to greatness. How can we find these opportunities, leaving out the disaster bit? What’s standing in our way of doing more great work? What can we delegate? And how can we carve out part of our day, week, month, to ask and address important questions such as “What if? Why? Why not?”

“Focus” said Michael, “is the quintessential component of superior performance. Doing more great work requires discovery, focus, overcoming resistance, courage and resilience.”

The second speaker was Leadership Methodologist Paul Bridle, who offered an ambitious three-hour Leadership Master Class at the end of a content packed day. Happily, his use of video, and interaction with the audience kept us all awake and engaged!

Paul seemed to pick up where Michael had left off. He first took us on a journey of the Evolution of Leadership, beginning with the environment that bore the leadership styles of Boomers and the changes in style and expectations through the different cohorts from GenX to GenY to Millennials. We went from The Age of Action, to The Age of Activity, to The Age of Achievement, the latter of which is best described as our new hires and how they view the world. Millennials are focused and outcome oriented; they take ownership and are responsible for their own state of mind and career paths. We must all seek opportunities to learn and relearn, not just because of generational diversity but also due to the changes that continue to affect us all–globalization, technology and so much more.  One thing is certain: What got you here won’t get you there. 

Paul described the Four Demands of Leadership: what the business requires to operate effectively; what customers and the marketplace demand to sustain a competitive advantage; what your people want in order for them to perform at their best, and lastly, what the leader needs for themselves to be a sustainable leader.

Managing, Paul believes, is all about conforming to policies, procedures, and expectations. Leadership, on the other hand, is the art of working yourself out of a job–it’s about putting the people and processes in place to the point that you become redundant and available to apply your skills at another level or someplace else in the company to repeat that success again and again.

Your job as a leader is not to motivate people but to inspire them and to instill your confidence in them. People have to be goal oriented, have the confidence in your direction and their skills, and they have to be measured. Leadership is about challenging, inspiring, questioning, and asking why. It’s about strategy; it’s about building alliances and partnerships; it’s about taking things to a next level. And it’s about challenging yourself and questioning your own performance. How should I be spending my time in order to be most effective?

Leadership is harder to measure than management, so it can be at times frustrating and scary, but like all scary things that you care about, from being a good parent to a good partner, to living your life to the fullest, being a leader is exciting, rewarding, and well-worth the effort. The secret to success is asking the right questions.

The final keynote was delivered by Dennis Moseley Williams who, again, picked up where Paul had left off, as his job was to deliver a riveting Call to Action (and he had to do so without an Michael’s Australian or Paul’s  South African accent!).  Dennis’ over-the-top energy, fantastic story-telling expertise, and humour made up for it big time! (the fact that he bears a spooky resemblance to comedian Dan Ackroyd was the icing on the cake!).

Dennis re-emphasized the different lessons we had learned from Michael and Paul about operating at a different, higher level. For him, the process also involves asking better questions: What business are you in in the first place? Aligning your intention to the answer is essential to differentiate you and win the trust of your clients. Dennis talked about Starbucks and how they differentiate themselves with “the experience,” but nevertheless it all started with a desire not just to sell coffee, but to change people’s lives by providing a needed “third space.” He talked about Apple and their difference, which is “easy”–everything about the Apple experience is built around the concept of “easy,” from opening the box, to how to use it, to connecting with your printer– it’s just simple and easy. McDonald’s uses the idea of “consistency”– a Big Mac always tastes the same in every McDonald’s you go to. You can count on it. “The only thing you can give your client,” Dennis said, “is what it feels like to be your client.” What is the experience you give to your clients?

Dennis then talked about connecting your work to craft and to a higher purpose. “All you have to do is care.” he said.  If you help people make meaningful changes in their lives and their business, your life and business will become more meaningful and you will enjoy it more.

Dennis named “The Lizard Brain” as the biggest opponent you face. The oldest part of our brains, The Lizard wants to keep you safe and happy, and accepting of the status quo. It will rationalize your inaction. Sleep on it. Do it tomorrow. Have a cup of coffee first. The Lizard tries to win our attention at the expense of the task at hand. Dennis advises, to not listen to him, but to “Just do it.” Now.

An effective tool that each of the speakers referred to for actually applying lessons learned while living our busy lives and for acting on our big ideas is to “write them down!” I do that constantly to internalize information, but to act on something requires more effort. Distilling goals into a few action items is effective, and sharing your ideas and intentions is even better. We are all more likely to hold ourselves accountable to the outside world than to ourselves. I, for example have always intended to write more blogs for Speakers’ Spotlight. In fact, it would be a great idea for me to write a regular blog that shares insight and inspiration with you from all the speakers I am so privileged to hear….like this!

By Kelly MacDonald/Speakers’ Spotlight/September, 2013