Why Filling the Mind Does Not Fulfil Us, Or Make Us Better Leaders

Fulfilment

Jeff is a world class salesperson. His drive, his passion for the deal built the last company he was a co-founder of into the leader in its industry. They started the business in a start up garage and grew it into a billion dollar company.

He could have taken his foot off the pedal and coasted, reaping the rewards of his hard work for years. He peers idolised him. He was wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. You would have never guessed it, but he was unhappy. Something was missing for him in his life. He didn’t take the time to think too hard about it though. He assumed that his restlessness was because he needed more business-fuelled adrenaline.

He walked out of the company he had co-founded. His industry experience made him a beacon for best of breed activity. His calendar quickly filled up with clients. Learning from his previous business he kept things lean. He took on no staff. He didn’t have an offices. He kept his focus on the core business – selling high end products to the ultra wealthy.

As one deal morphed into another, time began to tick away and before he knew it several years had passed. He was busier than he’d ever been before. This meant that he saw little of his family and his growing collection of expensive toys sat idle most of the time.

It took a while, but he came to realise that his work wasn’t fulfilling him. That said, he was a master at denying his inner voice. All he wanted was to get through the deal he was working on and then he would pare back. He told himself that after this deal he would be happy. He was certain of it. He would blow away the dust on his toys and spend time with his wife. He would take his eldest son sailing.

– As soon as this deal closes I’m done. I’ll be able to spend time with my family. I can’t wait. I’ll be happy then.

But the deal was one of the most complicated he had worked on. It kept extending out and while it looked like it was about to close, it never did. Another complication arose that he had to resolve. Other deals came along and, while he was choosy, he could not let all those opportunities pass him by. The pressing needs of his clients crowded his mind. Thoughts of happiness, family and quality time faded into the background.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Steve Jobs

You may recognise part of yourself in this story. I do. But for me this never ending cycle of busyness and delayed joy ended abruptly. I’d devoted my whole Sunday to getting ahead of the curve before an international flight in the morning. I spent little time with my wife and two teenage boys before retreating back into my study that day. I never made my flight in the morning. Around 10h30pm that Sunday night I died. I still get goosebumps thinking about it now.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to revive myself and after weeks in three different intensive care units I emerged from hospital. My sudden cardiac death experience became a trigger that set me off on a transformation path.

My priorities changed. I was able to still my busy mind and focus inwards. I peeled back layers and layers until all that remained was my inner voice. Like a muscle that has atrophied it was weak, I could hardly hear it. But with constant exercise it became stronger. As it did I felt myself becoming calmer, more attuned to the universe. Pure joy entered my life. I quit my high flying role advising Fortune 500 companies on leadership and technology trends.

During my transformation I knew I had to do something meaningful with this amazingly rare opportunity. At first my ego stepped in – loud and proud – it shouted, this second life is an opportunity to build a technology business like no other. I’m an expert on autonomous systems, digital business and creating high-growth, disruptive businesses. It’s a no brainer.

I’ll admit it was tempting, but this was a trap. My inner voice asserted itself and I realised it was not my calling. My destiny is to be of service to others. There are so many people like Jeff caught in a vicious cycle of delaying their true joy. They fill their minds, but never find fulfilment. My role is to be a wayshower, a guide who can help them on their own transformation journey.

Why work on a business or deal that, while it may deliver millions of dollars to your personal bank account, does nothing for you as a person?

Invest the time to determine what excites you, what delivers real meaning to you. Work on that for the rest of your life. It’s true value – your fulfilment and inner joy is priceless.

An exhausted Shervin Pishevar found himself in a hotel in Eastern Europe after 3 days of gruelling travel. But the technology entrepreneur was elated. He had found his calling.

“It is in these sleepless hours, propelled by my inner drive to make a dent in world, where I find the solace to connect with the deepest parts of my own soul. Some find that solace in yoga, exercise, religion, music. I find solace when I ‘do’- when every cell in my body is telling me that I am doing something that will move my ideas from my brain into the hands of millions of people. This is when I am most alive. I feel the power that we all have inside of ourselves to bring life to the dreams we hold in our hearts.”

His journey represents our power when we connect with our inner voice, when we connect our being with aligned doing.

Today Shervin continues listening to himself, and he continues to make a difference. He has moved from being an entrepreneur into one of the most powerful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. He is now a thought leader to whom entrepreneurs from all over the world turn for guidance.

Rarely does one wake up to find themselves transformed. It can take months, even years. The journey usually starts with a sense of the collapse of a person’s ego structures. Something much deeper within them seeks to voice itself, call it the soul voice. This call marks the start of a journey to recalibrate the structures that surround a person. To align with their soul voice a person may need to change their workplace, their community, their activities.

This journey may start with the onset of one of many signals. Some people feel an apathy, an indifference to what used to be important. Closing that deal may not excite Jeff anymore. Others have varying degrees of anger or feelings of isolation.

Fabrice Grinda has an estimated net worth of $100 million. The entrepreneur lived on a 20-acre estate in Bedford, New York. He drove a $300,000 McLaren and had a Madison Square Park apartment for the weekends. But something about his material lifestyle didn’t resonate with him anymore. He moved out of the Bedford house and got rid of his apartment and McLaren. For him it was time to rearrange things and live a more meaningful life. His central focus shifted to family, friends and experiences. They replaced his obsession with busyness and possessions.

The transformation journey involves peeling back the layers, revealing more and more essential truth. This can be a painful time filled with confusion and fear. Repressed feelings can flood into a person’s consciousness, causing discomfort. Moments of uncertainty about the path forward can hinder progress.

A support network can prove invaluable as one goes through this inner self revolution. There are no easy answers, nor is there a digital map to consult. It helps to have a guide who one can talk to about the barriers within as the change begins to unfold.

Alignment with one’s inner self not only makes one feel more fulfilled, but gives one more empathy and turns us into better leaders. Instead of being filled with one’s own joyless noise, we listen at a deeper level and start to hear what our people are really saying.

Rand Leeb-du Toit is Chair & CEO of EXOscalr, the transformational leadership coaching and advisory business. He works with CEOs and other leaders to assist them transform and scale themselves and their businesses from being great to extraordinarily great. EXOscalr’s goal is to add $1 trillion in value and touch the lives of 2 billion people through its clients by 2025.

How to Design Your Life to be Frictionless

Frictionless

No one wants friction in their life. We all want to reduce it. We praise people who choose better business or life partners. We admire people who restrict time wastage and mindfully reduce friction. Yet, somehow, friction manages to sneak into our lives. How do we achieve the life design goal of a frictionless life?

Frictionless design evokes the intuitiveness of the Apple mantra: “it just works.” According to Andreessen Horowitz partner Steven Sinofsky it is about “reducing the energy required by an experience.”

Consider also that frictionless design fits into flow theory. When you reach the point of flow in an activity it becomes frictionless, it just works for you.

Frictionless does not mean simple or minimal. A complicated process may be smooth in its operation. One of life’s greatest joys is losing yourself in the narrative of a good book. Getting the latest novel from your favourite writer used to be a painful experience. You saw the review in the New York Times and then had to wait for your local bookshop to stock the book some months later.

Today you take for granted the process of reading an Amazon-purchased digital book on one of your devices. There is a lot of complexity in the model of delivering a book to your device. Yet it is almost instantaneous. Once you’ve purchased it, you can lose yourself in its pages at any time by opening the Kindle app. The book will synche to the latest page you were on across all your devices.

Think about your life. What barriers and constraints can you deal with and remove to make your life run more smoothly?

Look for activities that frustrate you, that induce rage or that are unnecessarily complex.

There are three friction-prone areas in which to start. These are areas where you can achieve easy wins:

1. Travel
How much travel do you do a year? Do you make the decision to travel lightly? Do you consider alternative ways of connecting and engaging?

One of colleagues is in high demand not only for his work coaching clients one on one, but also as a speaker at various corporate events around the world. He loves giving talks and meeting face to face with his clients, but cannot stand being on the road too often. It cuts deeply into his contemplative time. He could be writing another bestseller that will impact the lives of thousands. Instead he is standing in line at Heathrow Airport security.

I’ve suggested to him that he reduce friction by limiting his travel. This does not mean less client interaction. It means designing his method of interaction around a medium that is better suited to smoothing out his day. Connecting with clients via videoconference can be just as effective as meeting with them face to face.

2. Direct Reports
How many direct reports do you have? I once worked with a CEO who had 12. This is far too many. It is not only too much of a burden on you, but it is also unfair on your team as they each have minimal access to you.

You should have a small team of trusted lieutenants and provide as much autonomy to your broader team as possible. Hire great people and empower them.

3. Meetings
Does your organization run on meeting fuel? Do people need to meet in order for a decision to be made? How many regular meetings do you run, or attend? Do you require an agenda for every meeting? Does the term “meeting” mean a specific algorithm to your people, for example, must a meeting always be an hour (or more) in length? What percentage of your meetings are face to face versus via videoconference?

Creating a Frictionless Design Playbook

I recommend you consider implementing the following 8-step process over the course of a year. Work with your coach to refine this playbook and then discuss your progress in your regular coaching session.

The results will not only please you, but surprise you with how much more productive you become.

1. Categorize and chart your activities;
2. Score your various interactions daily, from 1 to 10 according to how much friction you feel;
3. After a month you should have enough data to determine which are your high friction interactions;
4. Plan out how you can reduce those frictions;
5. Introduce frictionless behaviour modification into your life. Focus on changing your behavior so you reduce the frictions;
6. Chart your interactions for the next 2 months. Pause monthly to review your progress;
7. Rinse and repeat this process over the next 3 quarters;
8. Conduct an annual review of your friction count.

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Boardroom Disruption: How Silicon Valley and the Fear of Missing Out Can Reinvent Your Business

FOMO

The Silicon Valley tech-mythology-machine, replete as it is with unicorns and trolls, is a wondrous device designed as much to assist in reality distortion and suspension as it is in self-paving its streets with digital gold.

We all know the story of how the Valley has reinvented itself through various technology phases. Currently it is awash with apps and social media. Even though they helped create this social flow, a few of the tech pundits are swimming against this tide, reinventing themselves as mindfulness gurus, but that’s a fairy tale for another time.

There is a new tide washing into the Valley: autonomy – artificial intelligence, self-driving everything, asset-rich services on demand and cognitive systems that know us to the point where they are 2-3 moves ahead of us in our own personal game of thrones. Their aim is to be 6 moves ahead, and they are rapidly progressing to this point.

But this is all backdrop.

The real foundation of Silicon Valley, the grease in its gears is FEAR. In particular, the FEAR of MISSING OUT (FOMO) is driving the Valley’s sense of urgency.

FOMO is the ultimate reality distortion field creator. This is best explained through examining the fluidity between viewing a new venture in terms of its friction points versus how much it could scale with limitless fuel. Take Uber as an example. Donning friction-tainted lenses restricted many from seeing it as anything more than yet another taxi service, operating in a highly regulated market with well entrenched incumbents. However, for those who looked at Uber through fuel-filled lenses, they saw its true potential, namely to revolutionise transport. They were able to suspend reality long enough to understand the ultimate promise of Uber.  Those who then went on to invest early enough into the company may be rewarded handsomely.

In a low FOMO environment, i.e. most other places on the planet than Silicon Valley, there is little incentive for people to don fuel-filled lenses. They have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for a venture to achieve sufficient traction, they wait for the entrepreneurs to derisk the business. However in a high FOMO environment, those who hesitate: miss out.

Nowhere else on the planet is the FOMO-meter so high. In fact, it is off the charts in comparison to many other geographies. The same can be said for the boardrooms of so many companies. Does your company have a FOMO culture at executive level? For most organisations the answer is a resounding “no”. How then can incumbents compete against agile Silicon Valley startups? The short answer is that they cannot.

Ask the former Kodak board if they understood FOMO. Apparently not.

I’d like to advocate that every board, every senior executive needs to up their FOMO ante. How high you might ask? Not to hysterical levels, but high enough to palpably increase the urgency around tackling disruptive innovation. High enough to also burn the boats and chart new courses if necessary. Definitely higher than the dual path some would advocate of keeping business as usual turning over while exploring new paths on the side.

How do you instill FOMO into the boardroom?

1. In the short term, have your board do a tour of the Valley. Not the bells and whistles version with champagne on the tour bus, but the grungy start up tour where they get exposed to the highest levels of FOMO.

2. In the mid term, look to bring Silicon Valley into the boardroom. Place at least one FOMO expert on the board. Their experience and skills will prove invaluable to you in dealing with the status quo.

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How to Ensure Chief Technology Officers Present to the Board Impactfully

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0857.Within the next six months as many as 75% of CEOs will institute regular Board of Director briefings by their senior executive team. CEOs will tap *CTOs to do such briefings. How can they ensure their presentation achieves impact with the Board? We run through a tried and tested slide pack template for Board presentations.

Let’s assume your CEO has asked you to do a presentation to the Board on your technology office and its impact on the business. What does the Board want from you? How can you ensure your presentation delivers the right level of impact? This deck provides brevity, cogency and focus to grab the attention of busy Non-Executive Directors.

 Executive Summary

Slide 1:  Treat your first slide as an Executive Summary. It needs to include items that ensure a director tunes in –  grab their attention immediately.

Provide a summary of the purpose of the presentation. This sets expectations upfront. It also accords with the wisdom of

tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then remind them what you’ve told them.

 Core Slides

Slide 2: The Money Shot
This is the first of your core slides. It must cover the contribution of technology to the business success of your company.

This slide should include:

  •  How your company will win as a business – make sure you list the top three things you need to do as a business to succeed.
  •  What business capabilities do you need to build? Set out the capabilities needed in the business to support that position.
  •  Competitive use of technology – detail how technology is playing out in your industry. Include your views on whether your company is ahead or behind with cost and capability. Note that the Board wants your views, not those of some research firm.
  •  How the technology office will contribute – qualitatively (what will your team do to make the business win) and quantitatively (what will your team do to costs/competitiveness/revenues/risks). Also focus on what you will do to close the gap or increase the lead with technology capability.

Slide 3: Technology by the Numbers
Your third slide is also part of the core set of slides and should be in table format.
Techbythenumbers
In the rows you should include business outcomes (BO), technology performance levels (TPL) and technology costs (TC).

Set out a five year time line across the columns – last year, this year, year  +1, year +2 and year +3.

Wherever possible, you should include benchmark measures relative to competitors or similar organizations.

Slide 4:  Risk and its Mitigation
The fourth slide is your last core slide and it should set out the five biggest risks represented by your strategy and how you plan to mitigate them.

Risk&Impact
Use a quadrant that maps Impact on the vertical (low, medium and high) and Likelihood on the horizontal (also low, medium and high). Chart all your risks, but only include on the slide the five that feature in the top right corner.

Also include a table that itemizes each risk and summarizes how you will mitigate that risk.

Slide 5:  Appendix
Your fifth and final slide is an appendix. It should include items for drill-down with the Board.

What items do you expect to drill down on? Examples include a detailed cost breakdown or skills inventory.

And that’s it – three-core slides is all you should need with a cover slide and an appendix.

Pro Tip:
Make sure you get a copy of the template that your company uses for Board presentations. If there isn’t one, keep your slides clean and uncluttered.

A Director has no interest in fancy pictures or whizbang PowerPoint animations. Don’t subject them to Prezi-induced motion sickness.

 White space, large font and clear messages rule the day.

* This piece is directed at the Chief Technology Officer by name, but applies equally to the Chief Digital Officer and the Chief Information Officer.

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How to Become a Great Leader & Scale Your Business

CentreCEOs want to grow their businesses, but are afraid of losing control. How can they achieve scale, while ensuring their business remains directionally correct? Former Frog and Quirky President, Doreen Lorenzo, calls for setting a strong culture, understanding the needs of your people and empowering them to stretch themselves.

Key Points:
1. Scaling up requires powering down control by ceding it to others
2. Great leadership requires understanding the needs of your people
3. Use design thinking to empower people to stretch themselves

At EXOscalr we are building up a coaching clientele of people that are already leaders and want to become extraordinary leaders. Some of these leaders are focused on building up ventures that have progressed to product-market fit stage and as these companies start to scale up, they want to increase their growth velocity.

At its simplest, achieving hyper-growth through scaling up is about adding fuel and subtracting friction. There are a whole range of mechanisms we use to add fuel, such as an infusion of funding or top talent. To remove friction we focus on how companies organize, how they manage their people and ultimately how they motivate and incentivise them.

We are eager to take on board and share insights from others who have walked the path of scaling multiple organisations and have inspiring leadership stories. In this note we spend time with Doreen Lorenzo. She spent 16 years as President of Frog, which she scaled into a global design powerhouse. She then took on the same role at crowdsourced product startup Quirky, which she put through an accelerated scaling program – fondly called “Doreen bootcamp” by Quirky’s CEO, Ben Kaufman.

Scaling up requires powering down control by ceding it to others

Doreen’s view is that scaling in and of itself isn’t hard. What is hard is being prepared to cede control to other people in order to scale a business.
“This is where the big misstep comes, because if you’re going to grow a business you have to put other people in charge of things.”

She sees scaling as being a three-stepped process:
1. Build a replicable culture – you need to have a vision and mission that everybody understands, that everybody sees as your Northstar.
2. Hire fantastic people – bring on board people that understand the vision and mission.  Diversity is beneficial and the people you hire don’t have to agree with you 100%.
3. Allow people to do the things that you hired them to do –  either empower your people, or remove obstacles that prevent them from executing against your vision and mission.

When she joined Quirky it was a young company in which the vision and mission were already very established. The question she faced was how to put the right people and processes in place to deliver on that mission and vision. She asked what they were trying to accomplish, what needed to happen to get to them to the point that sets the business up for success and then she worked with the team to execute against that.

Great leadership requires understanding the needs of your people

Doreen points out that because of all the technology that we live and work with, there is no divide and we are working all the time. In such a world the most important thing you can do for your people is to understand the 24/7 nature of work and, in this context, to understand their needs.

“It doesn’t mean you need to agree with everything, but you understand their needs and you’re making decisions based on them.”

“Sometimes you’ll make decisions that they’ll agree with, and sometimes you won’t, but they will know that you understand their needs and have taken them into account when you made your decision.”

“It is just a point of data, and not all data comes from spreadsheets, some of it comes from people and you need both to be an effective business leader.”

Use design thinking to empower people to stretch themselves

As leaders it’s your job to make sure that people reach their full satisfaction and when you see them struggling you need to help them grow, ultimately becoming better people.

“Find out where people are at, what their situations are  – it’s like doing design research, you are understanding their situation, therefore you understand what problem you have to solve.”

At Frog, Doreen helped many people change their career by giving them an opportunity to stretch themselves and do things that they never thought they could possibly do.

“When you achieve great things, you feel better about yourself.”

As a leader, when you talk to people all the time you get to understand them and you can see who is stuck, who is struggling and you can make a decision to do something to help them.

“If you think they are great people and have possibilities then give them opportunities to stretch and grow. This stuff is not that complicated, you’ve just got to invest yourself to do it.”

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