Leaders Rise: Real Life Lessons from Batman

Superheroes represent everything we want to be. We read comic books, watch television, and go to the movies as children wanting to believe in the best of the world, where good always triumphs over evil, where heroes believe people are still worth sacrificing everything for.

The Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy touched those chords while providing a deep meditation on the nature of society and some very important lessons for our own organizations.  Five were explored in a recent Forbes article.

  1. Organizations need to be built around ideas, not people. The downfall of District Attorney Harvey Dent makes clear why over-identification with a single individual is a bad idea. Part of the reason Bruce Wayne is so insistent on being Batman is because he wants to be a beacon of hope that cannot be torn down by one man’s indiscretions. Although we sometimes think of Keith Ferrazzi as our Batman, it’s the ideas he co-creates with the rest of the organization that really matter.
  2. Actions matter more than intentions. You are what you do. Bruce Wayne protests that he’s not the playboy he seems to be upon running into childhood friend Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins, and she replies: “But it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”  So act on your best intentions now. Fund R&D before that great engineering talent walks out the door. Promote that awesome but overqualified clerk you hired before he’s stolen away.
  3. Trust people with the truth. “Leaders often trick themselves into thinking that people can’t be trusted with the truth. ” That’s a bad idea, particularly when things aren’t going well with your organization. Trust your team, and you’ll find they redouble their efforts to solve the problem at hand, just as Gotham does when the city learns the truth about Harvey Dent.
  4. You need to risk failure in order to succeed. (Dark Knight Rises SPOILER) When discussing what seems to be an impossible jump required to escape prison in the Dark Knight Rises, Wayne says he doesn’t fear death. A fellow prisoner chastises him, pointing out that it’s the fear of death that will drive you to “move faster than possible, fight longer than possible.” Don’t focus on not losing what you have.  You’re just as likely to lose it by not risking it. Encourage your team to take risks when they’re required in order to succeed.
  5. When you do fail, don’t let it destroy you. Fighting harder after failing defines true greatness and courage. (Dark Knight Rises SPOILER) Batman rises above his defeat by Bane in the Dark Knight Rises and fights for Gotham that much harder. Forbes blogger, Alex Knapp concludes his post by pointing  out that great business leaders do the same. “In other words, Steve Jobs learned to pick himself back up. So did Bruce Wayne. And so can you.”

Can you think of any other Batman lessons? What would you add?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Presidential Email Strategies

There’s no avoiding the fact that it’s an election year. You get bombarded just flipping through the channels, stopping by a newsstand, or even checking your email and favorite sites. In every way possible, election year is upon us.

Personally, I get emails from candidates straight into my inbox. It’s one way of keeping up with important national events and getting news from the campaign trail. It’s interesting to see how many myGreenlight values play into the communication strategies of the presidential candidates. Continue reading

Relationship Roundup

This week in the roundup, career advice for maintaining balance and being an accountable leader. Plus, a real life example of networking’s importance to your success and using social media to generate generosity.

Healthy career advice – Sales expert Geoffrey James offers great advice for managing your career to maintain your sanity. Read Geoffrey’s Inc. blog here: http://bit.ly/MMSxOS.

Calling all aspiring leaders – Futurist Edie Weiner offers insight on the role that wisdom vs. intellect plays in the success of future leaders. View Edie’s Big Think video here: http://bit.ly/M3xVPM.

Networking for a win – Networking took center stage on the latest episode of TechStars where entrepreneurs aspiring to win the big prize had to network their way to a win. View the episode here: http://bit.ly/OB04zq.

Oh what a wonderful world – Author of Culturematic, Grant McCracken, investigates the possibility of a utopian world where kindness reins in even the most unfriendly civil landscapes. Read Grant’s HBR blog researching social media designed to generate generosity here: http://bit.ly/K26CmZ.

Accountability is key – Three simple words can build trust with employees. No, it’s not “I trust you”.  “I was wrong,” shows self-accountability and reinforces your character as a leader. View the Smartbrief blog from internationally known leadership expert, John Baldoni here: http://bit.ly/KUSAtz.

Kibibi Springs is myGreenlight’s Community Director.

Relationship Roundup

Repeat after me, “perception is reality, perception is reality, perception is reality.” That’s the theme of this week’s roundup, along with some business hacks to assist your sanity, and productivity as we race to close Q3.

Perception management tips from royalty – Perception is reality and when leading any charge, critical to success. Scott Elbin’s blog details the superior perception management skills of the Windsor’s and how we can use their strategies to manage our day-to-day reality. Read Scott’s blog here: http://bit.ly/LvEPyP.

Managing internal relationships – When you manage people the buck inevitably stops with you. However the image you project and the relationship you build with your workers will equate to the quality of work you receive from the team. Author of What Great Bosses Know, Jill Geisler, shares how to build quality relationships. Read her Poynter.org blog here: http://bit.ly/KKI4En.

Relationship mastery – The basis of relationship mastery is the foundation for superior interpersonal skills. How these elements align to leadership excellence is explored in this Smart Brief Blog on Leadership. Read it here: http://bit.ly/LvSBS2.

Time hacks for managers – Getting straight to the point. Read this to save more of your precious time: http://cbsn.ws/Mj9oZs.

Productivity booster – MyGreenlighters are constantly asking for productivity advice. Try this system for managing the interruptions that throw productivity off course. View author and productivity expert David Allen’s strategy here: http://cbsn.ws/L6269l.

Kibibi Springs is myGreenlight’s Community Director.

How to Advance Your Career, Stand Out as a Leader, and Like Your Life

While corporate trailer blazer turned business owner Patty Azzarello and I were chatting after our recent Social Capitalist Skills Session, I asked her the question that I had run out of time for during the interview: Did her collaborative, relationship-centric leadership style – the secrets of which she shares in her book Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life – strike her as a more female than male model for getting things done? While she acknowledged that women are hard-wired to communicate problems and find solutions in their social networks, she also laughed at the question: “The fact is that most of the tactics I share in Rise I learned from men.”

Whatever its origins, Patty’s social and collaborative approach happens to be widely heralded as the one best suited to the digital economy’s rapidly changing workplace – and workforce. As previous Social Capitalist guests John Hagel and John Seely Brown have written about in The Power of Pull, a strong internal network is key to leveraging informal learning. Nothing is more important to individual and corporate success in today’s constantly changing economy – so listen up!

You’ll hear more about Patty in the interview – and meanwhile here’s a few takeaways from the lessons she passed on, gleaned from a career that took her from Hewlett-Packard’s youngest GM to the head of a $1 billion software business to CEO at 38:

  • Why “follow your passion” can be career – and soul – destroying advice, and what to do instead;
  • The two-step personal branding secret that quickly established her husband as a superstar at his new company;
  • How the world’s most respected executives make it seem like they know all the answers, even when they don’t.

Call run time is just over 30 minutes. Download it to iTunes and take it on your next commute! Click here to get the transcript: Social Capitalist – Patty Azzarello.

Sara Grace is myGreenlight’s Program Director.

I’m a Fraud – Are You?

I interviewed corporate-trailblazer-turned-business-owner Patty Azzarello this week for the Social Capitalist (transcript to come soon!) and I particularly loved this quote:

“People who achieve success are willing to be scared and uncomfortable to do it. If you try to build your career and be comfortable and confident that you know everything along the way, it just takes too long. You just cannot get there. What I realized is that all executives are bluffing. This actually came to me through an executive coach. I was confessing, ‘You know, I feel like I’m going to get found out, because I don’t know everything.’ And she just laughed at me. She said, ‘Patty, every executive in the world feels the same way.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ And then I realized, ‘Man, is that ever true.’”

I think this is particularly great advice for women. As Jodi Glickman, another previous SC guest, once told me, “Women tend to round down. Men round up. It’s time to round up.”

In other words, sometimes it’s OK for a little bit of confidence to float the gap between our expertise and our vision. We don’t have to have done something 100 times already to feel we have the right to stand up and say, “I can do this.”

When your work takes you to new places, you’re not a fraud. You’re a bright, intrepid do-er who can roll with a hefty dose of learning. The key is to make sure you’ve got the tenacity, the persistence, and most importantly, the right partners, to follow through with excellence.

Sara Grace is myGreenlight’s Program Director.

Three Terrific Young Bloggers

Did you know that 53.3 percent of the blogging population is between 21-35 years old?

Here are three terrific bloggers that are at the younger end of that age group, in their early- to mid-20s:

  1. Matt Cheuvront of Life without Pants shares “the message that defines the metaphor behind life without pants – that life, both personal and professional, must ultimately be approached without restrictions.” This blog is able to capture those amazing moments of candor and reflection that we all have and make them an enjoyable read that is relatable and provocative.
  2. Jeff Goins of GoinsWriter.com introduces himself with, “I love compelling stories, worthy causes, and Pez candy. I’ve been writing for most of my life and started this blog in 2010.” With a very honest and no-BS writing style, this blog can be truly inspiring and make you finally take the leap into your next project.
  3. Grace Boyle of Small Hands, Big Ideas offers ” ideas and life as a woman in a tech startup, daily inspirations, career, moving, relationships, and ideas as a 20-something.” Grace wants to change the world, one word at a time.

Have you noticed a trend in the age of the bloggers you read? How does that affect your view of the blog? Please share!

Ritu Walia is myGreenlight’s Member Coordinator.

Create Meetings that People Don’t Want to Hide From

“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me … they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone …. I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.” – Steve Wozniak

I’m a natural introvert – a social introvert, but an introvert. And so the Steve Wozniak quote above and the article I pulled it from, “The Rise of the New Groupthink,” play right to my instinctive bias.

But I know the value of collaboration. In the past couple of years, my work has become more about orchestrating a team than sitting in the corner pounding a piano. If you’ve got a grand vision, at some point, you’re going to need a team to carry it out.

So as a manager, I’ve put some thought into how to make the most of a collaborative environment – and in particular, how to help meetings be a place where both introverts and extroverts can flourish. “Meetings” have become synonymous in many offices with “massive soul-deadening time suck,” which is really too bad, because they can be fun, social, creative, and productive. I wouldn’t say I’ve got the formula mastered, but our meetings have produced consistently useful, actionable results.

A great team that likes and respects each other and the work they do is probably the biggest prereq for great meetings, so we’ve got it easy at myG. But a little planning wizardry helps too.

Here’s a few things I like to do: Continue reading

How a Program Manager Moves Mountains with Meatball Subs

Our featured community member guest post is from Nick Pietrocarlo, Senior Manager of Technology Revitalization with Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Co-Chair of the South Florida Chapter of TENG (Technology Executive Networking Group), and an PgMP, PMP, and MBA. He can be reached at nick@pietrocarlo.com – KS

I grew up in a small rust belt neighborhood in South Buffalo, New York where most of the workers were motivated by free turkeys at Thanksgiving and an extra $50 in their paycheck at Christmas. When I was in school discovering what a computer was, my father used to bring donuts to the dispatchers at work before he started his shift as a taxi driver. His hopes were to motivate the dispatchers to send the better fares his way so he could accomplish his goals of achieving a high earnings day. He soon became known as ‘Donut Nick’ to peers and supervisors.

It was ironic decades later when I found myself using food to help motivate the team to achieve the desired results in my own profession as a Program Manager. Times have changed though and the folks I work with today do seem to prefer meatball subs, Cuban sandwiches, or pizza as opposed to donuts.

Scientifically we know food is converted to energy which drives our bodies and in our society we see food bonding people in various ways. Through religious ceremonies, fund raising or other networking events, or simply parent-baby bonding.
Food can certainly be a great motivator for the team. Whether it is a tight schedule, small budget, or vague scope, feeding and nurturing the team certainly helps them achieve great things. A few months ago a team member even called me ‘Donut Nick’ after I brought a few dozen donuts to work that day.

In times like these when raises are scarce and bonuses are even scarcer, it is also important to remember how little things like food can spark the motivation of the team to work better and more efficiently together. Not just to accomplish the goals of the project but also to consistently strive and successfully achieve the goals of the company. In many cases a Program Manager can become very fixated on cost, schedule, and scope without realizing that without the people none of the points of this triangle would even matter.

As a Program Manager I regularly challenge my peers to consider how the people are often the core foundation of the critical path on all projects. America may run on Dunkin(TM), but projects run on people. As we know people don’t just ensure the success of the project, they also ensure the future success of the company. On your way to work tomorrow try picking up a few dozen donuts for the team or a round of meatball subs for lunch and you will see what I mean. I guarantee it!