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Posts Tagged ‘World Business Forum

Career Lessons: There are More Important Things than Work

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I had the great fortune to spend two days last week in the Bloggers Hub at the World Business Forum in Radio City Music Hall. Speakers of the ilk of Jack Welch, Al Gore, Joseph Stiglitz and James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron) held forth on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the coming years. Fascinating, engaging stuff, but the biggest surprise of the week was that the speaker who elicited the most profound reaction from the audience was a) not one of the headline names and b) didn’t really talk about business.

The mystery presenter was Nando Parrado, a successful businessman in his own right, but someone whose life was defined before he even joined the working world: Parrado was one of 16 survivors of a plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Just 22 years old at the time, he survived 72 days in the mountains without access to food or drinking water. His is one of the stories chronicled in the movie Alive.

Throughout his presentation, Parrado stressed that his experiences have left him in a unique position when it comes to facing challenges in life: he knows that no decision he makes will ever be as difficult—or have as much at stake—as the ones he was forced to make to save his own life. He makes the point with considerable clarity on his own website:

“Making decisions became easier because I knew that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would be wrong.”

Far from being a litany of the leadership or survival skills he learned along the way, the message at the core of Parrado’s presentation was much simpler, and infinitely more important. As he put it: “From the crash, I didn’t learn to be a MacGuyver of the Andes; I learned about love.”

He did so, in part, by losing both his mother and his sister in the same crash, and by having to come to terms with the fact that they were on the plane only because he had invited them to accompany him. And, having been lost in the mountains for so long, he also lived through the trauma of going home and finding that he had been given up for dead: his clothes had been given away and his sister had moved into his room.

All of which has left Parrado with a unique grasp of the importance of life, and the things that we should value. While he confessed to enjoying many of the finer things in life—from fine restaurants to expensive cars—he stressed repeatedly that nothing would stand in the way of his relationship with his family and those he loves. And that adds up to a profound, yet simple outlook on life:

“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”

Parrado finished his presentation by coming back to tackle the theme of love directly, and to impart one of the few specific, actionable pieces of advice any of the speakers had to offer over the two days of the conference:

“Don’t lose your connections, kiss the ones around you . . .because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Written by Phil Stott

October 14, 2010 at 7:26 am

Career Skills: How to Influence Your Colleagues

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“The most important capacity you possess is the capacity to influence other people to change their behavior.”—Joseph Grenny, addressing the 2010 World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall. According to Grenny, all leaders face two key problems:

  1. What should we do? (A problem of leadership or strategy)
  2. How do I get everyone to do it? (A problem of influence)

Making the point that most businesses tend to focus on the first point—the strategy—Grenny pointed out the need to spend more time on the second, and devoted the bulk of his address to it. He explained his rationale via a concept he calls Grenny’s Law of Leadership: “There is no strategy so brilliant that people can’t render it worthless.”

While it provided a lighthearted moment, the law also encapsulates a serious reality: that the real challenge for leaders is not in devising strategies, but in influencing people to execute on them. Grenny points out that most people faced with a challenge of influence believe that “one thing will propel change”—whether that’s an incentive, a persuasive argument or simply an order. Throughout his years studying influencers, however—during which he co-authored the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything—Grenny has identified six sources of influence that are crucial for anyone considering that question of how they can influence others to change their behavior. And he stresses that the best influencers manage to tap all six sources at some level:

  1. Make the undesirable desirable
  2. Surpass your limits
  3. Harness peer pressure
  4. Find strength in numbers
  5. Design rewards and demand accountability
  6. Change the environment

Unfortunately, Grenny had rather a lot of information to squeeze into the time allotted him, and he was only able to fully expand on a couple of the points above. Most notably, he suggested that a solution to overcoming the first influence is to “connect people with the human or moral consequences of their actions”—and to do so by “storytelling.” As an example, he pointed to New York uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer, whose focus on customer service is fast becoming the stuff of legend. But Meyer didn’t get his thousands of employees to buy into the concept simply by decree, says Grenny. Rather, he tells stories at company meetings of how exceptional service profoundly impacted the experience of customers at his restaurants, and encourages other employees to make a similar difference.

Grenny also made an illuminating point about the power of social influence. Illustrating this, he discussed an experiment to get more people to pay their taxes in Minnesota. That experiment saw three different messages printed on the top of tax forms, encouraging people to pay—one threatening punishment for non-payment, one telling people where their tax dollars were being spent, and the other thanking people for joining the 80 percent of the population paying their taxes. The message that had the greatest effect? The one that placed a social pressure on people, by suggesting that if they didn’t pay, they’d be in the minority.

While he didn’t have time to focus on any of the other points he raised, Grenny did leave the audience with one striking stat: that those who use six sources of influence to change personal habits (to stop smoking, for example) are four times more likely to succeed. In a business setting—when using the tactics to effect changes at an organizational level—the level of success rises to ten times more likely.

Written by Phil Stott

October 7, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Ten Career To Do’s

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Jim Collins kicked off the 2010 World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall with an address that had the ability to inspire or frighten an audience in equal parts.

The source for both the inspiration and the fear is the same: his belief that we’re heading into a world where there will be “no new normal” but rather a series of unexpected changes. Depending on who you are, that presents either an opportunity or a reason to fear the future—a paradox that relates to one of Collins’ key messages for individual careerists and would-be leaders: that you should spend less time thinking about your career and more time asking how you can be useful.

Collins’ address took in much of his previous findings and research in titles such as Good to GreatBuilt to Last and How the Mighty Fall. As such, it was a wide-ranging and often fast-paced affair that carried no single takeaway–or at least none that can be condensed into a live blog—on what it takes for individuals and businesses to succeed and then avoid consequent failure. He did, however, offer his audience ten “to do” items that serve as a useful summary of most of his main points, and which have the added advantage of being—for the most part—actionable career items.

  1. Do your diagnostics: At Collins’ website, there is a free diagnostic tool to self assess how you’re doing against the traits he identified in “Good to Great.”
  2. Don’t focus on career: Instead, Collins advocates focusing on “building a pocket of greatness” at whatever level/area of the company you happen to be in. Doing that is the key to getting noticed and being given more responsibility.
  3. Ask if you have the right people in key positions: What percentage of people “on your bus” are the right ones, and what’s your plan for rigorously ensuring you can get it above 90 percent?
  4. Double the ratio of your questions to statements: Great leaders seek feedback, and don’t assume they know everything. On which note…
  5. Your first question is: How is our world changing and what are the brutal facts? Do a “brutal facts inventory” and come back to it often.
  6. Turn off your electronic gadget: Create at least one day of “white space” every 2 weeks. Build in the time to do some disciplined thinking.
  7. Have the discipline to stop doing things: It’s easy to add things to a To Do list. It’s also unproductive. One method of cutting out things that matter less: rank your priorities with no ties.
  8. Get inside your personal hedgehog: Collins’ equation for determining what you should be doing with your life involves three elements: finding something you’re passionate about, feel like you’re “genetically encoded” to do and that is “useful in a way society values.” Once you figure that out, you’re a long way towards having a rewarding career.
  9. Stop doing titles: The right people for key jobs understand that they do not have a job. They have responsibilities. One way to reinforce “job” is titles. One way to reinforce “responsibilities” is by having no titles.
  10. Spend more time asking how you can be useful

Stay tuned to Vault’s Career Blog over the next two days for further updates from the World Business Forum. You can also keep up with our coverage in real time via our @vaultcareers Twitter feed.

Event Alert: World Business Forum 2010

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For the second consecutive year, Vault will be sending a team to cover the World Business Forum at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The 2010 event takes place on October 5 and 6, and features some of the world’s leading business thinkers and practitioners. If there’s anywhere to identify the key trends that are likely to shape business—and most likely your career—over the coming years, the World Business Forum is it.

Speakers at this year’s event include former Vice President Al Gore, former Procter & Gamble chairman, president and CEO A.G. Lafley, movie director James Cameron, GE’s Jack Welch, economist Joseph Stiglitz and many more.

The full itinerary is below, and Vault’s team will be in attendance for all of it, live-blogging and tweeting from the event, and providing extra insight and perspective in the days following it as well. If you’re going to be in attendance, we’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, stay tuned to Vault’s Careers Blog and our @vaultcareers Twitter feed throughout the event for all the latest coverage. You’ll also be able to keep up with all the updates by following the #WBF10 hashtag.

The itinerary in full:

Economy, Trends, Change:

Al Gore: Global Affairs– On and around climate change: Sustainable Capitalism and the new global deal

A.G. Lafley: Customer Centric Growth — The consumer is boss: Leadership at Procter and Gamble

Joseph Stiglitz: Economy – The changing financial and economic landscape: A new agenda

Steve Levitt: Freakonomics – Rethinking Economics: Understanding incentives or how people get what they want

Leadership, Performance, People

Jim Collins: Sustaining great results: Achieving greatness in an unpredictable, uncertain and unforgiving environment

David Gergen: Leadership – After the storm: The new leadership puzzle—making up for lost confidence

Nando Parrado: Crisis Management – Effective leadership amidst chaos: The miracle of the Andes

Carlos Brito: Building a Performance Culture – Better than you: How to build a cohesive team of high achievers

Strategy, Innovation, Communication

Jack Welch: Management – A dialogue with Jack Welch on management fundamentals and success

Martin Lindstrom: Marketing – Why we buy: Rewriting the rules of marketing, advertising and branding

Joseph Grenny: Influence – Influencer: The power to execute on strategy

Charlene Li: Social Networks – Creating winning social media strategies

James Cameron: Creativity – The power of innovation, creativity and passion

RenÈe Mauborgne: Strategy – Creating an innovative market space: The untapped power of “Blue Oceans”

Vijay Govindarajan: Innovation – A strategy for creating the future

Bill McDermott: Winning in the new reality – Establish a culture of winning: The power of innovation, growth and business agility

Visit the official World Business Forum site for more details on what to expect from each speaker.

Written by Phil Stott

October 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm

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