Why You Should Lease Your Assumptions
Posted on Monday, Nov 23, 2015 by Michael Canic

With the year-end fast approaching many companies are busy charting their course to the promised land in 2016.

New results require new thinking, and new thinking starts by questioning your beliefs about your company, your customers, your competitors … everything. It starts by attacking your assumptions.

For over a hundred years every baseball expert knew – knew – that the best measure of a hitter’s performance was batting average. Until analytics showed that a better measure is actually on-base percentage. Why? While the act of hitting safely is important, what is more relevant to scoring runs is how often a batter gets on base, whether by hits, walks, or being hit by a pitch.

Today, many football experts know – know – that when the opposing team lines up for a potentially game-winning field goal you should call a time-out to rattle the kicker. Yet the analytics show that this tactic helps to focus kickers, not rattle them, because their success rate goes up by two percent!

Today in your industry, everyone knows – knows – that … see where we’re headed?

Attack your assumptions. And that’s a lot easier to do if you lease your assumptions instead of owning them. Reserve the right to learn, to take in new information and revise your beliefs. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong. It’s a matter of growing stronger and becoming more effective.

The only safe assumption is that some of your existing assumptions need to change.

(Just after writing this blog I was reading the latest edition of Success magazine and saw this quote from Tim Ferriss, best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek: “I realized that my entire life has been focused on questioning assumptions. I’ve seen a lot of smart people fail when they aren’t questioning their assumptions.”)

Your thoughts?


My Big Takeaways From the World Business Forum
Posted on Monday, Nov 16, 2015 by Michael Canic

Just got back from the World Business Forum in NYC. Two days listening to some very accomplished people in a range of fields. Stimulating, inspiring, cool.

Walter Isaacson, author of the acclaimed Steve Jobs biography, had this insight: “Innovation stands at the intersection of the humanities and technology.”

Carolyn Everson of Facebook showed us the future: “Mobile and video isn’t about marketing, it’s about your business model.” She added, “It’s critical to be a listening organization, and listening organizations breed curiosity, empathy, and collaboration.”

Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, warned against “the terrorism of the spreadsheet” with which decisions are made without any consideration of the human and cultural implications.

Herminia Ibarra of INSEAD had this provocative thought: “Don’t change how you think to change how you act, change how you ACT to change how you think.”

Stephen Ritz, who’s working miracles with students in the South Bronx (GreenBronxMachine.org), turned the “Serenity Prayer” on its head: “I’m not willing to accept the things I can’t change. I want to change the things I can’t accept.”

And two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey reminded us: “Stories are the substance of our experiences. Because of technology, there’s never been a better moment to tell vivid stories.”

Go tell your story!

Your thoughts?


Why You Might Not Want to Hire for ‘Cultural Fit’
Posted on Monday, Nov 9, 2015 by Michael Canic

Any new-hire selection process should test for fit with the company culture, right?

Maybe not.

Recently, one of our clients was recruiting for a key executive position. It came down to two candidates both of whom had the capabilities and experience for the role. One of the candidates was a natural fit with the company culture; the other was a bit of a stretch. A no-brainer, right?

Yes, but not because what you’re thinking.

Hiring for fit with your current culture reinforces that culture. But what if you need to evolve your culture? What if your culture needs to think differently or act differently?

Then you should hire for fit with the desired culture.

That’s what our client did. They selected the candidate who will stretch the culture in the direction it needs to go. The candidate who will inject some discomfort into the status quo.

(Caveat: Organizational cultures can tolerate only so much deviation so fast. Move too far and your new hire might get marginalized. Move too fast and you could create a culture war. If your desired culture is a long way from your current culture then take it in manageable steps.)

Hiring for cultural fit? Just make sure you define which culture.

Your thoughts?


The Most Important Question Your Employees Want Answered
Posted on Monday, Nov 2, 2015 by Michael Canic

You know that effective communications are a cornerstone of employee engagement. Yet in the midst of all the messaging about where your organization is headed, how you intend to get there, and what you expect of your employees, don’t overlook the most important question they want answered.


What they’re thinking is: “Why don’t we just keep doing what we’re doing?” “Why improve?” “Why change?” “Why this, why not something else?” “Why now?” “Why here?” “Why me?”

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Answering the why question provides meaning and purpose. It’s a portal into the thinking behind the what and the how. It brings them into the circle.

Yes, they absolutely need to know the what and the how. But the real connection happens when you answer why?

Your thoughts?


The Most Powerful Definition of Leadership
Posted on Monday, Oct 26, 2015 by Michael Canic

I’m a fan of Success magazine (www.success.com). The monthly infusion of ideas and inspiration is a great source of personal and professional development.

A recent edition featured an interview with Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, a $200 billion company. McDermott’s story of how he went from corner store (buying the local deli when he was just 16!) to corner suite is energizing.

Yet what stood out most for me was his definition of leadership. For all that is written about what leaders do and what traits they possess, the crux of it comes down to this:

Leadership is the art of developing followership.

Ultimately, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

Your thoughts?


The Traits That Made This 33-Year Old a Billionaire
Posted on Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 by Michael Canic

You almost certainly haven’t heard of him. David Baazov is the founder of Amaya, the largest publicly traded, online gaming company in the world. With 93,000,000 registered users, a portfolio of brands such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, and a market cap of $10 billion, Amaya accounts for about one-quarter of the value in its industry.

So who is Baazov?

As a 17-year-old he tried to convince the owner of a local restaurant to buy into his discount coupon venture despite having no business cards, no cash, no pricing model, and no entrepreneurial experience. When the owner told him to do his homework and come back, Baazov did … the next day. And soon closed the deal.

Fast forward past his other ventures to Amaya, which in 2013 was doing almost $150 million in revenues. Baazov decided he wanted to buy the big player in the industry – the Rational Group, whose revenues were over seven times those of Amaya’s. His CFO told him not to bother even thinking about it. Baazov approached the owners anyway and after being taken less than seriously did the one thing all highly successful people do. He persisted.

“Most entrepreneurs fail when doubt sets in,” he says. “Doubt kills more deals than economics.”

A year later, the owners of the Rational Group sold to him.

Regulatory, legal and financial challenges mean Amaya’s (and Baazov’s) story is not yet done. But the lesson is this:

Those who are steadfast in their belief, relentless in their efforts, and courageous in facing adversity, are those who can achieve big things.

Belief. Persistence. Courage. How do you rate?

Your thoughts?


Are You All-In or Just All Talk?
Posted on Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 by Michael Canic

Today, customers and employees have little patience for organizations that trumpet what they stand for but fail to live up to it. And they’re shifting to organizations that do. 

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia actively promotes their concern for the environment. So do they walk they talk? Ten years ago, founder Yvon Chouinard gave the company 18 months to stop using industrial-grown cotton, which was the most environmentally damaging fiber they used. Even though 25% of their $250 million in revenues came from products made from industrial-grown cotton! And they did it.

More recently, they’ve made a commitment to “Traceable Down” to ensure the highest standard of animal welfare in the industry. They trace their down from the parent farms to the apparel factories to verify that none comes from geese that have been force-fed or live-plucked, or is blended with down from sources they can’t trace.

Is it surprising that customers and employees are flocking to Patagonia? (Pun absolutely intended!)

What does your organization stand for? And are you all-in or just all talk?

Your thoughts?


What a Fashion Icon Can Teach You About Business
Posted on Monday, Oct 5, 2015 by Michael Canic

Karl Lagerfeld is an icon in the world of fashion design. Creative director at Chanel (for over 30 years), Fendi (for 50 years!), as well as his own fashion house, Lagerfeld is as relevant today as he was decades ago.

How? How is it that Lagerfeld has stayed at the cutting edge, especially in an industry as fickle as fashion?

First, despite his countless designs, innovations and accolades, he is utterly unsentimental about the past. He completely embraces the now and is forward-looking to the extreme. As a writer in the Financial Times put it, “For Lagerfeld, nostalgia is creative poison.”

In his own words, “I’m always into the next step. I’m interested in what’s going on, not what has happened. I never look at the archives. I hate archives!”

Second, his work is his passion and he relentlessly immerses himself in it. Lagerfeld recently staged two couture shows in Paris – one for Chanel, one for Fendi – in a single week. In the world of fashion that is a Herculean task. Clearly this is someone who is not just riding out the wave.

Are you constantly looking forward? Is your work your passion? Are you immersed in it? And as a result: Will you remain relevant?

Your thoughts?


Click To Empathize? Maybe We Should Empathize With Facebook
Posted on Monday, Sep 28, 2015 by MIchael Canic

Two weeks ago I wrote about how one of my clients has embraced empathy as core to their business strategy. How seeing through customers’ eyes, thinking in their minds, and feeling with their hearts will allow them to interact, connect and satisfy needs at a much deeper level.

So of course the visionaries at Facebook have just announced a breathtakingly efficient way to accomplish these same things.

Click a button.

That’s right. If you should experience a death in the family, all I have to do for you to be deeply touched by how I share in your suffering is click. If only the Buddha had had such a tool.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains:

"What people really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment."

Yes, not every moment is a good moment.

And the reactions?

Susan Pinker in The Globe and Mail writes:

“Clicking an icon on Facebook to express empathy has to be the laziest, most inadequate reaction to other people’s misfortune. You could call and listen to what’s wrong. Better still, invite them over for a meal. If they’re not up to going out, you could bring over their favourite foods, send flowers or a handwritten note. An e-mail offering sympathy might be appreciated if you’re far away and the message is heartfelt. In it you could ask how you can help.”

Roman Krznaric in The Guardian weighs in:

“Clicking a button as an act of empathy represents the worst kind of digital slacktivism. It substitutes genuine action in the real world for a momentary online act that might salve the conscience but does little else.”

Gail Rosenblum of The Minneapolis Star Tribune adds:

“Facebook already has a wonderful, and underutilized, empathy button. It’s called “log out,” and it’s very easy to use. You simply click on it, and you immediately return to the real world, which is full of people who likely aren’t always enjoying good moments.”

Maybe I should be celebrating this. If companies adopt this click-to-empathize approach, then I’m betting the farm that my client’s commitment to empathy sets them apart in a big way.

Your thoughts?


The Talent Management Practice We Too-Often Avoid
Posted on Sunday, Sep 20, 2015 by Michael Canic

Growing companies recognize the importance of onboarding – providing new employees with the knowledge, skills, expectations and support to become effective contributors. Yet they often avoid an equally important talent management practice.


I have a client company that is poised for strong growth over the next few years. They now understand that if they don’t hold their people constructively accountable – ultimately removing those who can’t or won’t meet expectations – then they aren’t likely to realize that growth.

How do you hold people constructively accountable? By giving them candid feedback about their performance and conduct. By conveying clear expectations, and the “why” behind those expectations. By providing coaching and encouragement. By letting them know there are consequences if expectations don’t get met. And finally, once all reasonable steps have been taken, by removing the employee from the organization.

What is the consequence of managers not holding people accountable? They destroy their credibility, demotivate their people, and undermine their organization.

Onboard people to help them meet expectations. And off-board those who don’t.

Your thoughts?



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Why You Should Lease Your Assumptions
With the year-end fast approaching many companies are busy charting their course to the promised land in ... More

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