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My Ode to Making Sausage

Whoever said that no one likes to see sausage made is wrong.

Well, at least in my Maker Mind.

Thanks to Ignite Boise for giving me the platform and opportunity to share why I think every business manager needs to take a little time to make some sausage.

Here is the original overview of the Ignite talk:

I believe passionately that it’s imperative for every desk jockey, managerial ‘buck-stops-here’er’ to get their hands dirty and make sausage…literally.

A world of meetings, strategic exercises, emails and conference calls have blunted our senses and neutered our ability to truly create something. Without the joy of creation, our ability to think creatively is stunted.

Every business founder, owner, leader or manager needs to commit to creating, crafting, producing, building or cranking out something physical weekly.

This is my call to pull out the meat grinders and canvases, knitting needles and shovels and get your hands dirty.

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If you have to say you are, you aren’t

Being powerful is like being a lady.

If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.

That Margaret Thatcher quote has been roiling around in my brain for the past few weeks. In particular, in relationship to leadership.

imgresIn a chicken-or-the-egg type of quandary - does someone become a leader because their title and responsibilities deem it so, or is one considered a leader based on the actions they take?

My belief is in the latter, with a small dose of the former.

Responsibilities force individuals to rise to the occasion. To realize that their actions – or lack thereof – impact more than themselves. Responsibility for others and their welfare is weighty. And it can make or break those put into leadership positions.

Regardless of your leadership style, I believe the actions you take determine how you are seen by your peers, colleagues and those you hope to lead. Leadership is more about them than you.

You can call yourself whatever you want. But if no one wants to follow you, what kind of leader are you?

In my book, the best leaders I’ve had the honor to spend time with all had elements of the following:

  • An explainable vision 
  • Up, down and sideways respect for those around them
  • A get-in-the-trenches work mentality
  • Approachability
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency
  • And at the end of the day, whether it be good, bad or Armageddon, they showed up.
    Oftentimes, physically being there and providing value and input is one of the quietest yet most effective forms of leading.

 

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Embracing the Crocodile Cranium

Can a crocodile provide perspective on community?

Courtesy: BBC

Thanks to the mind of Nancy Napier, head of the Centre for Creativity and Innovation at Boise State University, I’ve come to believe so.

In this case, how a crocodile’s head can give us insight and appreciation for the fracturing we often see in our communities – whether those communities be bound by geography, shared interest or industry.

To make this synapse jump with me, consider what  scientists at the University of Geneva just discovered and shared in The Journal Science.  The scales on a crocodile’s head aren’t really scales at all. The lines on their heads are merely physical cracks rather than developmentally programmed scales that cover the rest of a crocodile’s body(source: SciTechDaily)

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These cracks are formed kind of like the cracks that form in mud as it dries in the sun. The stress of the physical environment, the rapid growth of the croc’s skeleton, create these chaotic patterns of cracks. But these seemingly random cracks and fracturing across the reptile’s head and jaw eventually coalesce. As SciTechDaily noted,  “The tiny rifts soon grew longer and deeper, branched and interconnected. The patterns of lines were shaped by randomness and placement of the thicker domes.It’s been hypothesized that this mechanism allows for thick skin to form quickly at the same time as the head is still growing.”

So here’s my takeway -

As an advocate for entrepreneurship, economic development and diversity in leadership, I’ve frequently been frustrated by the islands of organizations that proliferate. Every few weeks it seems like we hear of another group starting to help startups, or enable entrepreneurs to network, or focus on job attraction.

But this dive into the world of reptilian craniums has given me a different perspective.

Is it possible that the stress and obstacles that inspire people to form their own individual organizations – which are similar to, but not aligned with  other groups – can be a good thing? That our community fracturing is merely part of our  lifecycle? Rather than being frustrated – I’m going to choose to say yes.

That like the crocodile’s crania development, our entrepreneurial ecosystem can and should develop in these often chaotic and seemingly siloed ways. Just as long as the eventual growth of the whole means they mesh together down the road for the benefit of all.

Did I make the jump for you? Would love to hear your feedback!

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Falling in Love with your Hometown

What is it about a community that makes you swell with pride, tweet incessantly, brag obnoxiously and share effusively?

Courtesy: Morgan Wolf

It is harder to capture in words than it is in a moment. It’s that mojo that we all search for. By we, I mean economic development specialists, entrepreneurial community advocates, travel and tourism pros and communicators enamored with promotion of place – our place.

Call it the it factor. That special something that makes a city pop. Makes it memorable.

Richard Florida touts who inspires the it factor while describing the rise of the Creative Class:

self-motivated, creative people are challenging the traditional structures of society … the emergence of this new social class is profoundly transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. Success in the future, says Florida, is not just about technology, government, management or even power, but about people and their dynamic and emergent patterns of relationships.

Roger Brooks of DDI tackles what they’re searching for:

People are looking for that “Third Place” – a place to gather with friends and neighbors during their leisure time; to socialize, relax, shop, dine, and play together. According to Ray Oldenburg (The Great Good Place), the “First Place” is where you live, your home. The “Second” is where you work. The “Third Place” is where you go to hang out, spend your leisure time.

This past weekend Boise encapsulated all those elements and more. Our Third Place came alive.

Give credit to the creative chaos and beauty that was Treefort Music Fest - 4 days, 12 venues,  260 bands. But, it wasn’t just about the music or the hundreds of emerging artists who descended on Boise.

It was about convergence…. of musical, culinary and creative expression. Visual artists, dancers, crafters, brewers, mobile chefs and dance troupes blended together with a city commemorating its sesquicentennial, to create our own distinct celebration.

It was about co-mingling… the casual melding of all walks of life that tends to happen in Boise so easily that we often forget how unique it can be. Six degrees of separation does not exist in our city or state. The streets and sidewalks surrounding Treefort vividly brought this to life in real-time, in moments that will be indelible to those who experienced them.

It was about honoring our city’s past…. (tip of the fez to the El Korah Shriners) through brick and mortar icons and local music legends, while pushing the envelope on how a city’s personality can be showcased through the intangible nature of an event. Life and vibrancy after hours. Sidewalks as gathering places. Crosswalks as conversation hubs. Strangers connecting digitally, then sharing an analog moment.

But most of all, amidst the ongoing discussion in our city about creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem (ala Brad Feld’s Startup Communities), we saw what it looks like when the masses get behind and support a startup. Treefort was a celebration of success, where passion overcame any bumps and growing pains (or delightful spring weather.) It was a collaboration of efforts to create something cohesive. An experience that transcended the official event itinerary.

Boise’s been put on the map by many a Top Ten list and national publication. Who we truly are, how we define ourselves, what we choose to tout and share and celebrate is our own.

Let’s keep this conversation going and continue to celebrate the vibrant third place we call home.

 

(First published 3.26.13 on Red Sky’s Blog)

 

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The Paranoid Pragmatist

I gave myself this moniker several years ago, after I realized that what often drives my actions as a business owner is readying for that worst case scenario.

If I prepare for the worst and hope for the best – I’m ready.

And while I would like to be that carefree visionary, at my heart I think I’m more pragmatic. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you surround yourself with optimists and cloud thinkers. Just like you need introverts and extroverts, optimistis and pessimists to make the world go round – you also need both realists and pragmatists.

So, when I wanted to dabble in Tumblr to kick the tires on the platform, I setup the Paranoid Pragmatist blog: Stumbling forward through life as an accidental entrepreneur – learning as I go, aspiring as I am able, being paranoid and pragmatic as a matter of course.

As I consolidate where I post my musings, I’ve abandoned that site (I orphaned my Tumblr :(  But there are a few sentiments, quotes and links on it I’d like to keep with me.

Here they are, in their random glory:

BusinessWeek: Let Reality, Not Fear, Be Your Guide

“Give up trying to be positive and optimistic. Self-help literature often enables wishful thinking and illusions of quick fixes. If your gut feeling is positive and optimistic, that’s enormously beneficial, but trying to be positive can waste a lot of energy that you could put into talking through solutions and taking neglected actions. Being honest with yourself might mean accepting fear, concern, or complaints and sincerely focusing on resolving them.”

Fast Company: How to Appear More Authoritative on the Job

The person with the most authority and credibility is not the one who is most confident or forceful in today’s workplace. We have become immune to force and many find that the more you attempt to convince, the less convincing you become. Work instead to find the ultra solution—the one that moves beyond all those on the table that are usually presented as mutually exclusive options. Gain authority by replacing the “or” that is stamped between different ideas with an “and.” That way you can suggest ideas that take the entire group to a higher level where many things are possible and many things can be true at once. Something such as, “Do we want to cut cost or increase quality?” becomes, “How do we cut costs and increase quality at the same time? Here is an idea.”

Effective Leadership, Managing People – 10 Timeless Principles

2. Follow through. Always do what you say you’re going to do. Otherwise, your credibility is destroyed. As the saying goes, they remember your last act.

Terry Starbucker: 10 Ways to Freshen Up Your Leadership

#7) Ask Your Staff for “5 Things That We Should Stop Doing” – We’re always asking what we SHOULD be doing; when do we ever ask if there are things that we should STOP doing? This is a great time of year to do that, and it will always elicit some excellent and actionable feedback. (We started doing Start. Stop. Continue in our office after reading this)

3 Star Leadership: A Leader’s Oath

“I will remember that I deal with people, with all of their human strengths and failings, and I will treat them with respect and with care.

I will strive always to do what is right, even when it is difficult.

I will not be ashamed or hesitant to say, “I don’t know” and then seek the answer.

I will strive to prevent problems. When problems occur, as they will, I will strive to identify them as early as possible and deal with them then.”NYT Corner Office: The 5 Habits of Highly Effective CEO’s

“Passionate Curiosity:…It’s this relentless questioning that leads entrepreneurs to spot new opportunities and helps managers understand the people who work for them, and how to get them to work together effectively. It is no coincidence that more than one executive uttered the same phrase when describing what, ultimately, is the C.E.O.’s job: “I am a student of human nature.”

The C.E.O.’s are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, but they are the best students — the letters could just as easily stand for “chief education officer…

But “passionate curiosity” — a phrase used by Nell Minow, the co-founder of the Corporate Library — better captures the infectious sense of fascination that some people have with everything around them.

Passionate curiosity, Ms. Minow said, “is indispensable, no matter what the job is. You want somebody who is just alert and very awake and engaged with the world and wanting to know more.”

Though chief executives are paid to have answers, their greatest contributions to their organizations may be asking the right questions. They recognize that they can’t have the answer to everything, but they can push their company in new directions and marshal the collective energy of their employees by asking the right questions.”

A VC: Difficult is Good

“Sometimes we make money with brilliant people who are easy to get along with, most often we make money with brilliant people who are hard to get along with, but we rarely make money with normal people who are easy to get along with.”

3 Star Leadership: You Don’t Build People, Dammit!

People are living things and living things grow and develop. They are not designed and built. We don’t “grow” people, either. What really happens is that we allow them to grow. The best we can do is offer suggestions, resources, and opportunities. The rest is up to the person.

Terry Starbucker: 4 Things Every Leader Should Say to Their Team

“I will always tell the truth”
“I will not make promises I cannot keep”
“If you ask me for something, and I say no, I will always explain why”
“I will explain the context of all important policies that effect you, and why they are important’

Marc And Angel: 10 Simple Truths Smart People Forget

“The truth is nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow emotionally and intellectually. They force us to stretch ourselves and our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first. And when we don’t feel comfortable, we don’t feel ready. Just remember that significant moments of opportunity for personal growth and development will come and go throughout your lifetime. If you are looking to make positive changes in your life you will need to embrace these moments of opportunity even though you will never feel 100% ready for them.”

All Hail Teddy (My all-time favorite ‘when the going gets tough’ go-to quotes)

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt

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Recently got the opportunity to share the desk with Better Business Bureau CEO Dale Dixon as part of Business at its Best, a half-hour television program about doing business right. Up for discussion, the importance of communication strategy and why it’s important to integrate paid, earned and owned media opportunities.

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Bridget’s 2013 Resolution: Dance with zebras!

Also known as

State the incredible

Believe nothing is impossible

Search for serendipity

Have big beautiful goals

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“Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.” – Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing & Creative Daily Routine

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Commit. Create. Content.

I love the natural times in a year for a reset.

Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Birthdays, Anniversaries, unplugged vacations.

Those calendar prompts to reassess where your life is, and where you’d like it to go. To purge the unnecessary from your life; to open up to possibility; to identify the important; to free space up for serendipity.

A nod once again to Chris Brogan, whose post on his 3 Words a few years ago inspired a tradition for me.

It’s about boiling down the things I want to focus on to three words. Often you’ll find that they have a natural synergy with that long list of resolutions you may be writing up. And they are pretty dang handy for a mantra to keep within eyesight.

My 3 Words for 2013 | Commit. Create. Content.
(Can you tell I’m a sucker for alliteration?)

Commit I’m a master at passionately discussing a point, a side, an idea, an argument. But where I often fall short is committing to seeing it through. Yes, I’m a CEO and entrepreneur – so I must have followed through at one point! But nowadays my focus has been a bit off. My commitment to projects I believe in has waned. I want it back. Getting fit. Getting that book written. Taking that nugget of an idea beyond the brainstorm phase. I’m going to commit to them and more. Which leads me to my second word of the year…

Create I’ve been noodling over this idea for another IgniteBoise presentation – Why Every Business Owner Needs to Make Sausage. I do mean literally, make sausage (see photo evidence to the left.) It’s about the need for us desk jockeys and business owners to move beyond the email, the conference call, the office meetup and the strategy meeting. While all are important, many of us (author included) have moved away from the joy and satisfaction that comes in creating something tangible on a regular basis. At the end of every day, have you created something that will live beyond that day? That will live outside of you? That can be passed along and shared? Be it a poem, a meal, a painting, a sweater, a video, a photograph, a home improvement project or a blog post. And that takes me to the third word…

Content I’ve been fighting against this word in various ways for sometime. It sounds unsexy to me, uninspiring, unimportant. I much prefer ‘storytelling’. But I’ve come to realize it is not all about a story. Sometimes, it is about facts visualized, or a turn of a phrase, or complexity explained in common language, or an experience shared or a question answered… More than anything – this word encompasses what is most important to me and to my profession, and to where innovation is taking us. Beyond the channels, beyond the ‘social xyz’, beyond the technology… It’s about what we put out into the world – through images, video, audio, written word. It’s about the content. Come to think of it, it always has been. But we often stray away it – lured by the shiny object dangling in the distance.

So my mantra for 2013, my 3 words that will be my touchstone this year – Commit. Create. Content.

What are yours?

 

 

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“ Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind. ”
— Leonardo da Vinci