Three Things Great Leaders Don’t Say!

This from Inc hits the nail on the head:

Great leadership is hard. Very occasionally, it’s pretty simple– like just not saying dumb things. In the spirit of simple leadership, I give you my personal top three dumb things leaders shouldn’t say:

1. “Don’t bring me any surprises.”
I hear it all the time. A leader is blindsided by some event they couldn’t have predicted, and, out of embarrassment, swears they’ll never be caught unawares again. At first they work harder, longer, assimilating data like an apocalypse is on the horizon that only they can avert, but then…bam. Another unexpected shoe drops, another unpredictable event occurs, and our leader is left with egg on their face all over again.

Redoubling their efforts, the leader adds another layer of protection against catastrophe – a mantra they begin doling out to all their direct reports: “Don’t bring me any surprises” (or its close cousin “Don’t bring me any bad news”). Well, guess what happens when you tell people often enough not to bring you any bad news or surprises? They don’t bring you any bad news or surprises. Does that mean that all of a sudden there isn’t any bad news items or surprises going around? Of course not.

It just means they’re brushing them under the carpet…because, well, because you told them to. (Where did you think they were going to put all the bad news and surprises you told them not to bring to you?) Which in turn means that there is now a time bomb waiting to explode right in your face. If you’re concerned about predictability and consistency, do yourself a favor and don’t try to wish away bad news or surprises. Try the opposite. How about telling people “The first whiff you get of bad news or a surprise, bring it right here.” That way you do actually stand a chance of controlling things.

2. “If you were an animal, what kind of an animal would you be?”
Or “What body of water would you be?”, or “What books influenced you when you were young?” or “What’s your favorite color?” Any question, in fact, that you think provides some deep insight into whether or not a potential employee has the ‘right stuff’.

It’s all meaningless pseudo-psychological mumbo jumbo, and adds precisely zero to a true understanding of a candidate’s ability to do the job you’re hiring for. If you need to ask one of these pointless, irrelevant questions for your own peace of mind, by all means go ahead. Just don’t confuse what’s going on with an effective job interview.

3. “Don’t take it personally.”
Really? You’re talking to, let me check…yes, a person, about them, their work, their livelihood, their ideas, their sense of competence, their choices, their discretionary effort, their life’s work, and you’re telling them not to take it personally?

How about you give every person who works for you a free pass for a week to make whatever comments they like to your face about what you say, do, or suggest, in whatever terms they wish, so long as they preface it with “Don’t take this personally…”.

If you don’t think the act of working with others is in any way ‘personal’, perhaps you might be better thinking of a career as, I don’t know, a beekeeper, perhaps? They really don’t take things personally.


Hotel Excellence

This is an interesting piece from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive
Abigail’s Hotel (above) is a not-so-hidden gem coming at you from Canada’s prime real estate along the west coast. It’s likely not on many consumers’ bucket lists or hoteliers’ ‘leaders to watch’ catalogues. After all, the property is not affiliated with a major chain or a representation firm such as Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred Hotels & Resorts or Relais & Chateaux. Yet, with Abigail’s near perpetual ranking as the top property on TripAdvisor for Victoria, British Columbia (out of a total of 57 listed hotels), I decided that a further inspection was warranted.

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia – Canada’s westernmost province – with a population of 330,000. Located off the mainland on Vancouver Island, Victoria is considered a haven for Canadian retirees and my quick survey of the tourist scene confirmed this. The downtown waterfront district is dominated by Fairmont’s majestic Empress Hotel, with other major chain properties located snugly around the rejuvenated port area.

Abigail’s Hotel is about five minutes by car (ten minutes walking) from the center of town. I was encouraged to walk, but not knowing our way, felt more comfortable driving – a trip we did several times each day as parking was just a few dollars a day and free in the evening.

The heritage property houses 23 rooms and was built in 1930, having been converted from an apartment building in the 80s. Comprising two separate buildings wrapped around a small motor court, the property’s Tudor style façade is quaint and inviting. My room comprised a well-decorated, modest-sized bedroom with fireplace and a somewhat triangular-shaped bathroom. Well equipped, comfortable for sure, but certainly not fully up to the modern standards one would expect in a luxury property.

The well-appointed common rooms comprised a reception room flanked on either side by a living room to the right and a breakfast room to the left. Walk straight ahead and you are in a small but very pleasant courtyard. With no elevator, this property would not meet any accessibility requirements. Regardless, it was an exceptional experience.

What I just described in the past few paragraphs would have you scratching your head as to how Abigail’s has achieved its top TripAdvisor rating. It certainly isn’t the physical attributes or amenities of the property that delivered these accolades.

What drives the excellent rating is the service: personalized and professional. With a small but dedicated staff, Abigail’s has found the expert balance between helping and being overly obtrusive. Breakfasts are made to order by a chef and supported by efficient and happy waitstaff. A complimentary happy hour provided excellent snacks in the pre-dinner hour. Free wireless was also on tap. Throughout the stay, it was impossible to find fault. This level of service would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in a property of 200-plus rooms without enormous (and not affordable) staffing levels. This supports my hypotheses on achieving high TripAdvisor ratings.

1. Service is more important than physical structure.

 2. Guests do not like to pay for extras and your ratings may suffer as you add costs. The final bill at Abigail’s had two lines: room and tax.

 3. Positive staff attitude trumps any fancy new room features. This is something to keep in mind as you seek to add items: the guest benefit might not be there!

4. Creating a relationship between staff and guests is paramount.


Ridgeway Hotel – 60 And Still Going Strong!

Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel turns 60 years old this year – as one of the longest serving general managers in the hotel’s history I was asked to write a short piece for Lusaka Lowdown. Out of many memories this is what I mustered!

“Well it’s happy 60th birthday to the ‘old lady’ of Lusaka hotels, Southern Sun Ridgeway Hotel, formerly Holiday Inn, formerly Ridgeway Hotel – like many rich old ladies she’s had plenty of face lifts over the years! My time as general manager of the hotel stretched from March 1979 to May 1992. The hotel faced intense competition in 1979 with the opening of the Taj Pamodzi Hotel across the road (initially managed by British Caledonian – remember them?) and The Ridgeway had to re-invent itself to survive the inevitable exodus of Guests to the new project next door. I was appointed just in time for last minute preparations for the famous 1979 Commonwealth Conference, the one that heralded independence for Zimbabwe, and just before the opening of the Pamodzi! Tough times!

We managed to achieve our market share in the face of this competition by concentrating on our Zambian market, providing the best entertainment in the city with a succession of great bands, including the Cool Knights and the Lubumbashi Stars. Zambians love to dance and they flocked to the hotel. In the mid 80’s you had to book well in advance for a seat in Musuku Restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights with top Zambian cabaret stars like Akim Simukonda, Muriel Mwamba and Lazarous Tembo wowing their audiences, while Guests tucked into famous Ridgeway buffets – or, of course, ‘chicken-in-the-basket’.

We were known for hosting great functions and many were memorable – the ‘stand out’ was, perhaps, the Show Society Annual Dinner of 1982 for 250 of Lusaka’s great and good, with KK and Prince Phillip in attendance. In the mid 80’s we also had a regular weekly radio show, a highly successful football team on the verge of a place in the Zambian super league and regular TV shows at Christmas and Easter.

We put crocodiles back in the central area of the hotel when we redeveloped the restaurant on the other side of the pond, renaming it ‘Rancho’ and making it famous for great whole Zambezi Bream as well as for the chicken-in-the-basket and wonderful huge T Bone steaks. The beautiful weaver birds inhabiting the pond formed the logo for the hotel in those days, drawn for our letterheads and stationery by Gabriel Ellison.

Initially I managed the hotel for Hallway Hotels but for most of the period of my management I worked directly for Anglo American the owners. John Phillips and Sharon van Reenen formed the rest of the management team and we were proudly responsible for training many Zambians in catering and hotel management with sponsorships and scholarships to both Kenya and UK.


Brilliant Marketing!

From Inc’s Steve Tobak – says it all as Inc usually does!

If you think marketing is all about B2B email, lead generation, social media, and advertising campaigns, then I seriously doubt if you’ll make it in the business world. Savvy executives and business leaders get marketing. They know it’s the key to business success. Steve Jobs (above) certainly did. Sure, he was Apple’s CEO, but more than anything, he was a consummate marketer. He understood that, more than anything, his job was to come up with products that people really wanted to use, even if they didn’t know it themselves. He also knew that product developers live for that sort of thing.

Indeed, Bill Davidow, a legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former Intel executive said, “Marketing must invent complete products and drive them to commanding positions in defensible market segments.” He should know. He wrote the seminal book on high-tech marketing. David Packard, the iconic co-founder of Hewlett Packard, took an even broader view of the significance of marketing when he famously said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”

Marketing and business are synonymous. Some of the most powerful business strategies and concepts come from marketing. And they can be applied to any individual, product, or company. Here are seven from my experience in the high-tech industry.

You only need a focus group of one.
If it’s the right one. Crowd sourcing and collectivism may be popular these days, but business success is almost always the result of a simple idea by an individual or relatively small team. Apple’s executives never used focus groups. They had themselves.

The power of positioning.
In a competitive market, you either differentiate or die. Of the relatively few things you can actually control, positioning strategy comes second only to the product itself. How you position yourself, your products, your company, is perhaps the most powerful and underutilized tool for differentiating anything.

Control the message.

In a world of information and communication overload, controlling the message what you say and how you say it is a lost art. If you can boil complex concepts down to simple messages and stories people can connect with, that makes all the difference. Not only does every word count, but so does how and when you say it.

The customer is and has always been king.

That doesn’t mean you just do what they want. It means that you need to understand your audience, your customer base, and focus on giving them an experience with your company, its products and services, and its people, that will delight them and keep them coming back for more. In a world where just about everyone is focused on themselves, that’s how you stand apart.

You can’t win without a defensible value proposition.

If you can’t articulate what you bring to the market that nobody else has or does better than you, you won’t beat the competition. And that doesn’t mean you can just BS. If it doesn’t pass the smell test, if you can’t say it with a straight face, if customers don’t wholeheartedly agree that it’s true, forget it.

Brands still win.

Bob Pittman has run everything from MTV and Nickelodeon to Century 21 and Six Flags. While he was president and COO of AOL – back when that meant something – he said this: “Coca Cola does not win the taste test. Microsoft does not have the best operating system. Brands win.” Microsoft may not have the cache it did back then, but you know what he meant. Some say branding is dead. Don’t believe it. Nothing’s changed.

Competitive markets are a zero sum game.
It’s a competitive world. It takes a lot to win. The equation that determines the success of your product, your company, even your career, has many variables. Business is all about how effectively you use and control those variables, many of which are described above. I guess there are other ways to win, but then, you’re just making already tough odds a whole lot tougher.


Hotel Brands

Loved this from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive

When it comes to the hotel landscape, how people feel is far more important than what they think – by a factor of two. And that’s not all. Turns out that a hotel room purchase decision is more emotionally charged than when it comes to selecting an airline, choosing a brand of beer or buying a smartphone. Moreover, the three most powerful hidden drivers of these emotional choices were excitement, surprise and acceptance, of which hotels have plenty of room to improve.

That’s according to a study conducted by Protean Strategies, which shows some very fascinating results as to how consumers are engaging major hotel brands as well as a fresh perspective on where to take your brand in the near future. A further derivation of the analysis distinguished eight major hotel chains by class with premium ‘inspiring’ brands (Hilton, Hyatt and Westin), middle tier ‘competent’ brands (Marriot, Sheraton and Wyndham) and discount ‘familiar’ brands (Best Western and Holiday Inn). The study identified what each class was doing right and where they can develop relative to the three chief drivers of emotional decision making.

With the inspiring brands that is, ones which already excites and amazes akin to a rousing leader – gaining acceptance is the biggest challenge. For luxury hotels, there’s not enough balance between the exhilarating aspects and the personal connection. As such, many brands come off as pretentious and arrogant. If your property falls into this category, think about how you can bridge the gap between guests and your services, and ease people into your hotel experience.

For the competent brands, the problem appears to be a dominance of rationality. These middle-of-the-road hotels are perceived as hardworking, discerning and trustworthy. However, while the expectation holds these brands are of quality value, they are coming off as unpleasant. There’s a definite lack of emotional connectivity. More should be done to instill a sense of warmth to foster personal relationships to each hotel.

Familiar brands are almost a mirror image of the dilemmas faced by inspiring brands. Discount hotels relish in acceptance but lack excitement and consumer boredom sets in. The study finds that these brands need to add some flair and rethink how they deliver modern thrills. Such hotels need to be more active and bold in their presentation.

Hotel brands are about feelings no matter which way you try and sell people on benefits and otherwise logical choices. Aim to make your décor, staff attitudes, amenities, features, website and advertising copy all congruent around one dominant and emotionally charged theme.

The survey was done using Hotspex’s proprietary MarketSpex™ methodology and a sample survey of 800 North American travelers, the researchers have found that choosing a hotel is dominated by emotional drivers (67% of the decision process) – such as connection, warmth, excitement and pleasure – over rational features and benefits (33%).


Facebook For Business

Facebook has become an indispensable tool for business. Why? Because there are a billion people interacting there. Also because your friends, relatives, and most importantly, your competition, are interacting, creating great relationships and building trust, in this global community. Did you know that Facebook is primarily a consumer-driven community? And most of them are savvy enough to smell (and block) a disingenuous marketer a mile away. We asked author and speaker Brian Basilico for his top five Facebook “dont’s” for your business. What are your pet peeves? Go ahead, add to our list!

1. Don’t Post and Run

People talk. A lot. Either you are part of the conversation, or you’re going to be the topic of conversation (that’s not always a good thing!). You can’t get away with simply posting information that is only about you. Be part of the conversation by liking and commenting on everyone’s responses to your posts, and to other relevant posts. If others’ comments are negative, try having a direct-message chat to smooth out any questions or problems that people may have with you and your business.

2. Don’t Only Be a Business

If you own a small business, people expect you to communicate in person. They want to know that you are real and have a life, with passions and struggles, just like they do. Having a personal profile is key to being successful on Facebook. If you have only a business page, people will feel like you are just there to make noise. Worse yet, treating a personal profile as a business profile is not only against Facebook user agreements, but also the fastest way to get hidden or un-friended!  Be real on your page and personal profile. Make occasional mention of your pets, hobbies, and other things that create human connections. When it’s all about business, it just gets boring!

3. Don’t Post About Politics or Religion

If you want to alienate about 50 percent of your audience, then creating posts about your political and religious views is the fastest way to do it. In business, you need to stay neutral – at least fairly neutral. Nobody is telling you not to have beliefs, values, or opinions, but you run a risk when sharing them openly on social media. Whether you are conservative or liberal, pro- or anti-anything, keep that limited to personal and off-line conversations.

4. Don’t Expect Anything in Return

If you want to have an impact in social media you’ll want to find or create content that creates responses, likes, shares, and comments. You need to work hard at it and monitor your content well. Don’t be offended if your posts get little to no response, just learn from that what didn’t work for your audience. You may post a lot of duds before gaining meaningful traction.

5. Don’t Anticipate Immediate Success

Most people don’t ask their first date to marry them, but that’s how some people treat social media.  They don’t take time to focus on the relationship and think that simply posting messages should yield results.  Most relationships take time to nurture.  It’s taken years for some to see predictable and measurable results.  Be patient and continue to learn what enhances your relationship with your fans and followers. Do more of what works, less of what does not, and learn to know the difference. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and colleagues what they like and what they don’t; and don’t take their responses personally!



Another gem from Inc Magazine! Pitfalls on the path to success!

1. Timidity
Every path to success begins with a great idea. There’s only one problem: Great ideas are a dime a dozen. What really matters when it comes to becoming a success is not having the idea but having the courage to transform that idea into reality. This usually means a risk of losing the security of a regular job and risking a steady paycheck. Only the brave ever overcome this first of the pitfalls.

2. Laziness
Even with a great idea and the courage to pursue it, your efforts will be for naught unless you’re willing to take massive action. Write down your goals and (more important) the action steps you’ll take to pursue those goals. Post your vision and plan in your bedroom, bathroom, office. Share it with others, so they’ll hold you accountable for delivering on your plan. Make yourself accountable and become the master of your destiny.

3. Complacency
Without passion, even the most compelling vision will wither on the vine. Without passion, your energy and enthusiasm will flag when you encounter inevitable obstacles. Make your passion into an almost physical characteristic of your personality, an inexorable force that keeps you engaged every moment of every workday, bringing you one step closer to the measure of success that you desire.

4. Distraction
The modern world clamors for your attention in ever-louder ways, a deluge that can distract you from your course. It takes self-discipline to persevere amidst the noise and haste, to assert your willpower over casual desires and instincts. Channel your emotions, behavior, and desires toward obtaining the reward of success. Remember: Living a life of self-discipline is less painful in the long run than regretting “what might have been.”

5. Doubt
Once you’ve made a decision, doubt is a worm that eats away at your ability to succeed. Life and work can be hard and even cruel. Remember, the race is not for the swift but rather those who persevere. Rather than allowing doubt to seep in and poison your process, you owe it to yourself to remain confident in your vision and your plan. Adapt as needed along the way, but always know that success will ultimately be yours.

6. Disconnection
The old sayings “no man is an island” and “there’s strength in numbers” may sound corny, but that doesn’t make them any less true. Even with self-discipline, in the long run, you’ll need contact with kindred spirits and mentors. Meeting regularly can be a great boost to your morale and provide new perspectives on your approach. The Internet makes it extraordinarily easy to find a coach, mentor, or mastermind group that can provide the emotional support, experience, and wisdom to help turn your vision into reality.

7. Dishonesty
As you begin to be successful, you’ll be tempted to lie, exaggerate, and deceive in order to move your agenda forward. However, taking the easy way of dishonesty has a tendency to sneak back up on you. In the end, it causes far more problems than taking the risk of telling the truth. True success comes when you are a person of your word, when you have a pure conscience, and when you have not cheated others on
your way to the top.

8. Ingratitude
The final pitfall is by far the most dangerous, because it’s so easy to miss. When your vision becomes a reality, you are still a failure if you cannot remember your humble beginnings or recognize the contributions of those who helped you along the way. Remember: There is no such thing as a self-made billionaire. If you can’t experience gratitude, you might as well have stayed exactly where you started.


Fed Up?

I’m not really and if I was this morning I would get a picture of Robin van Persie and stick pins into it! These suggestions courtesy of Inc Magazine may be more practical!

Try some of these therapies!

1. Smile at strangers.
Step away from your stressful environment for a 20-minute walk. Smile at the people you meet along the way. You will more than make up for the time with your increased productivity levels when you return.

2. Bust a move.
Put on some great dance music and have a little 5-minute party! That’s right, just dance. You don’t even need a partner!

3. Fire up the YouTube.
Find a favorite funny video on YouTube and take a laughter break. Cute cat videos have been shown to help as well. (Not kidding.)

4. Talk to yourself.
This sounds nuts, but take a cue from old-school motivational speakers and books: Pace around the room reciting empowering affirmations in a positive, confident tone of voice and great posture.

5. Belt it out.
Sing to your animals or children–just be silly and let them in on the fun!

6. Get physical.
Do a series of jumping jacks with a big smile on your face. (Bonus: 100 jumping jacks is said to burn 100 calories. Have a snack!)

7. Dial a friend.
Pick up the phone and cheer up someone’s day with an “I love you!”

8. Hoot and holler.
Just let out a simple “woo-hoo!” and think about a goal or future event that really charges you up.

9. Do a Julie Andrews.
Think of one or two things that you are deeply grateful for and allow the thoughts to bring a smile of gratitude to your face. (You should think of a few of your favorite things several times a day anyway!)


Lost and Found!

Loved this on Travel by Graham Padmore.

It seems that some people should spend a bit more time checking what’s under the bed and in the wardrobe when leaving their hotel rooms, as there are some pretty strange things being left behind for the cleaners to find. While you might expect people to forget laptop chargers and mobile phones, there have been numerous items left behind that you’d expect guests to notice were missing when they checked out. From feedback from hotels around the world here are a collection of some of the strangest…

Like their hair or their teeth, for instance? Apparently it’s quite common for hotel staff to find false teeth left behind in guest rooms – and wigs as well. It’s safe to say you’d have to be fairly distracted if you neglected to notice your mouth was all gums and no teeth, or that your head was feeling a bit breezy on top.

Prosthetic limb
But perhaps they’re not the strangest body parts left behind. According to one UK hotel chain, guests left behind a total of 80 prosthetic limbs in a year back in 2003. Surely a prosthetic limb has got to be something you would miss?

Or what about breast implants? Hotel staff at a Queensland hotel in Australia discovered a pair of breast implants left behind by one guest. When she came back to retrieve them, the guest explained she had bought them online in the US and was on her way to the clinic to have them fitted.

Pets are also quite commonly forgotten. Poor Monty the python was left behind by his owners, while a small shark was found in a bathtub in the Algarve, and Porsha the prize-winning cat was forgotten while her owner went to the cat show without her.

Micro Pig
Percy the micro pig was also left to his own devices in a hotel room, a thoroughbred race horse was forgotten in a hotel car park, and a pet cockatoo was flown back home in a private jet after being left in a Tenerife hotel room.

While you might think the worst thing you could do was forget a body part or a pet, there have been dozens of other strange things left behind in hotels. Such as a trunk of chocolate bars left behind after a trip to Cadbury World, an 8-foot pop-up spray tanning booth, masks of Queen Elizabeth’s face, and a pantomime horse costume.

When it comes to the expensive stuff, you would think guests would be a bit more careful, but no, they’re not. There has been a $75,000 Rolex watch left behind, a diamond-encrusted iPhone, keys to a Ferrari Testarossa and a Bugatti Veyron, and Harry Potter wand, worth around $3000.

So, when it’s time to leave the next hotel you’re staying in, it could be worth double-checking under the bed, behind the curtains, in the drawers, in the bathtub, on top of the wardrobe…


Truly Horrible Bosses!

This is from Inc Magazine. Do you know bosses like this?

1. Management is command and control.
Horrible bosses think their job is to order employees to do things and make certain that they do them.

Smart bosses know that the job of managing is mostly helping employees be more successful and making difficult decision that employees can’t make on their own.

2. Employees should WANT to work long hours.
Horrible bosses are convinced that employees who don’t want to work 60-hour work weeks are slackers and goldbricks.

Smart bosses know that numerous studies have shown that any attempt to consistently work more than 40 hours a week reduces productivity.

3. I manage numbers rather than people.
Horrible bosses put all their energy into making certain that the numbers come up right, even if it means changing the numbers.

Smart bosses know that the only real way to get good numbers is to help your people make their numbers.
4. If I really need something done, I do it myself.
Horrible bosses think of themselves as the star performer who can fix any problem by yanking back authority and responsibility.

Smart bosses realize that true leadership entails motivating people to own their own successes and failures.

5. I don’t decide until I have ALL the data.
Horrible bosses are so risk averse that they require mountains of information before making any important decision.

Smart bosses understand that there’s a point (and it usually comes fairly quick) that additional information merely muddies the waters.

6. I own the success and you own the failure.
Horrible bosses take the credit when things go well and point the finger when things go poorly.

Smart bosses know that their real job is to 1) fix the failures before they happen and 2) publicize the wins that employees achieve.

7. I like to keep them guessing.
Horrible bosses play their cards close to the chest and never let employees into the decision-making process.

Smart bosses know that decisions are more successful when those tasked with the implementation of them are involved from the start.

8. The salary review is the perfect time to coach.
Horrible bosses sandbag their complaints, criticisms, and advice until the employee’s performance review.

Smart bosses realize that employees panic when they’re bushwhacked and can only change behavior when they’re coached gradually and regularly.
9. I’m so important I don’t have to be polite.
Horrible bosses are so puffed up with grandiosity that they can’t be bothered to control themselves.

Smart bosses know that corporate bullies eventually get what they deserve–a staff of lickspittles whose lack of talent destroys the company.

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