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Risky Business

Accomplishing greatness starts with making a risky decision to challenge the norm.

Vanderbilt University women’s soccer player Sarah Fuller made a risky decision and challenged the norm by becoming the first ever women to play in a power 5 College Football game this past weekend.

Feats like that don’t just happen. We decide to make them happen. It all starts with making a decision to shake things up, do something different and not looking back in spite of the criticism or the people we make uncomfortable in the process.

The best and most rememberable decisions we make are often the ones with the greatest risk attached to it.

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There’s Room For Your Idea

There’s a reason why a wide selection of red wines are available in the market. You can pretty much find a wine in any price point, multiple flavours, textures, and imported from regions around the world.

Whatever fits your budget and personal taste, you can be sure you’ll find what you want, even if you have to pay a high price for it (like rare aged imports).

That’s the way market share works. Companies find opportunities to steal a piece of that market by expanding on an existing idea.

Our ideas don’t always need to be revolutionary in order to be successful. We just need to ensure there’s a low cost yet full body bottle of Australian Cabernet available on the market for those specific customers looking for it.

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Thinking Outside of the Soapbox

In my early days of working in transportation, I had the opportunity to work with one of the largest soap brands in the world.

They were my main logistics account for the company I worked for, and I was their point person in charge of coordinating their freight.

Because of market share losses, senior leadership wanted fresh creative ideas to stimulate business growth. Most companies of their caliber and size would limit that conversation to the sales and marketing team. This company sought out a different approach.

They ended up inviting partners from all over their supply chain as well as their general office staff to participate in a group strategy session. Participants included personnel from accounting, customer service, contract warehousing, contract transportation (me), sales, marketing and senior leadership.

The idea was to get a different perspective from individuals who had a alternate vantage point for how the business was operating. First we had a brain storming session to flesh out new ideas. Then we went in groups of two to scope out the product layout at major retailers across the city. We returned to discuss innovative ways to make product placement more appealing to shoppers.

Its no surprise that businesses, large and small, who see year over year growth are usually the ones willing to take an unorthodox approach to creating growth potential and continuous improvement planning.

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The Risk of Uniformity

Twitter was once a haven for social media innovation. One can argue that there’s still no social media platform that’s as influential as Twitter when it comes to pop culture communicating to the rest of us. Just ask Trump.

But with the addition of the new ‘Fleet’ application to the popular app, Twitter is now seen as late the to party when it comes to adding a ‘story mode’.

Yes ‘Fleet’ is nothing more than Twitter’s attempt to jump on the 24 hour story mode first made famous by Snap Chat, then eventually adapted by Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and even WhatsApp.

With many social media users already utilizing Instagram stories with an extension to post in Facebook stories automatically, Twitter Fleets lack of novelty makes it easy for most of us to pass it off as just another app to update.

Meanwhile Instagram and other platforms continue to find ways to bring creative change to the social media universe.

We weren’t missing social media stories. We already had it in multiple versions. Twitter missed an opportunity to innovate and bring something fresh just like when it was launched in 2006.

Creative innovation in your career or business is risky. But uniformity is riskier.

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3 Steps to Creative Transformation

The barebones approach to any level of organizational creative transformation can be accomplished in 3 easy steps:

1. Clearly understand the current operational setup of the business process. Why is the process working the way it is? How do you go from idea, to execution, to customer transaction.

2. Identify opportunities to drive efficiency. Start with the ‘low hanging fruit’ then review the more complex items to initiate creative changes to the process.

3. Put a system in place to track progress. Implementing a systematic way to know whether or not the new process is working. Are tweaks needed or will the proposed changes need to be completely abandoned in favour of starting again?

A word of caution: A simple approach to creative transformation still requires a diligent focus on the details. Even barebones processes need ‘meat’.

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Accepting Roles We Don’t Want

I’ve had to let go a hand full of employees in the last 3 years. Mostly due to poor performance.

The most difficult was letting go an individual who arguably was one of the highest skilled professionals on my team.

Though highly skilled, before I took over management of the team, he accepted the position for which he was overqualified for with the previous manager. He constantly struggled to stay on task for the daily duties and lacked discipline to focus on the details.

Ultimately when we sat to go over his exit interview, his response to the poor performance was, “I joined the company in hopes of eventually getting a role in my specific professional background. The role I’m doing now is not what I’m interested in”.

My response to him was that approach wasn’t acceptable based on the needs of the role, his coworkers and our customers. He seemed disinterested in that response and for that reason I had to let him go.

The growth potential from taking on diverse roles and functions in route to our ultimate goal can be limitless. Sometimes it’s a painful road. It takes shutting down our ego sometimes to be open to these possibilities.

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28 Day Lockdown Challenge

As I write this, we are about to head into a 28-day ‘lockdown’ here in the Greater Toronto area in Canada due to increased daily new cases of Covid-19.

There’s no better time to challenge ourselves with the ‘new’.

New habits. New routines. New hobbies. New passions. New skills. New strategic relationships.

Having a consistent analytical view of your life is healthy. External limitations like a Covd-19 imposed lockdown can bring opportunities of focus.

For myself, setting challenges and meeting them bring fulfilment, and motivation to start another one.

So with that, I’m asking you all reading this to keep me accountable to accomplish these 3 challenges over the next 28 days:

1. Finish a manuscript draft for my next book.

2. Execute the 7-minute workout for 28 days straight with iPhone app showing proof of completion.

3. Finish 2 books: Disciplined Dreaming by Josh Linkner and Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.

On this blog, a few days after the lockdown ends on December 17th, I’ll give my full report on if I was successful or not, as well the challenges and self discoveries along the way.

If you’d like to join me, message below your own personal 28 Day Lockdown Challenge or Challenges. I’ll hold you accountable and you can message your results when I post my blog update.

Let’s make the next 28 days the beginning of something better in our lives.

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Change the Energy

About 8 or 9 years ago, the company I worked for held their annual event for all employees, highlighting major accomplishments from around the company, as well as future business strategies.

It would typically take pace at a fancy hotel or country club with speakers schedule throughout the day. Each department usually had to share a slide deck or give some sort of presentation about their individual successes and everything else related.

That year my manager picked me to speak for our team even though I had never done so in previous years. Before I went on my manager introduced me, and in a strange way referred to me in reference to my faith.

“So I’m calling up Sheldon who will of course be in heaven one day…” A little embarrassed by such an awkward introduction, on the fly I decided to change things up.

“You know my manager says I’m going to heaven. That’s funny because right now I’m nervous as hell.”

The entire audience blew up laughing like I had just told a joke on Showtime at the Apollo. That one comment completely shifted the energy in the room and I immediately felt comfortable sharing my presentation.

Being your authentic self shifts the energy and atmosphere in a positive way to those around you. It cuts tension and gives others the courage and permission to do the same.

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It’s Okay to be a Little Odd

Lavar Ball is a little odd. He’s a character. More like a caricature. He’s loud, abrasive, opinionated, somewhat cocky, but most of all confident.

But Lavar Ball also had a plan. Years ago declaring his three sons Lonzo, Liangelo and LaMelo would all end up in the NBA. He sounded like most fathers do talking about their kids. The only difference is, Lavar Ball had a plan.

But he was odd. Not like others. Social unacceptable.

Does it matter?

It’s good to be a little odd to others. You become less of a threat to them in accomplishing greatness. They write you off because you don’t play by their rules. While in the background you always had a plan.

A plan so grandiose it’s almost unbelievable. They couldn’t believe it. They didn’t want to because, we’ll, you’re odd. Different. Not like them.

And that’s good thing. Because unlike them, the masses, you’ll end up with three sons who are affiliated with NBA teams. just like you planned it.

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Creative Innovative Leadership

Working as a manager a few years back, I decided to bring a little creative innovation to the way I was leading my team.

I personally launched a speaker series with them by giving them a mini motivational Ted Talk and adding in a little workshop team role playing to enforce the topic matter.

My goal was to provide a fresh experience at the beginning of the work week and give them something to look forward to on Monday mornings.

The result? Productivity increased, efficient collaborations occurred more frequently and from annual performance reviews the team gained an overall sense of satisfaction for the role they were in even if it was entry level.

Creative innovative management in our workplaces will be the prerequisite for successful businesses in a post Covid-19 world. Yes, mini Ted Talks may not be something that can be done in our offices today, but that’s just the idea. Innovative leaders have already developed a solution for that.

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