Thought leaders, aren’t.

Thinking isn’t results.

Why would anyone want to be known as a “thought leader” – for thinking? Thinkers are rarely leaders, so why do we use that term to identify people we believe are leading? There is a better term.

I’m not against thinking, I’m against elevating it to the highest status and the object of our affection. It’s not the lead actor – it has a supporting role in getting results.

Thinking is really important in the process of doing. As I’m moving forward, if I’m not thinking about all the feedback I’m getting I will just run into brick wall after brick wall. But the objective of thinking should be to create a result – to transform something.

So it makes no sense to me to call people “thought leaders” as if they are actually creating change. To call someone a “thought leader” is to focus on the process instead of the result.

Why do we celebrate thinking over results? I believe it’s because cognition, or thinking, has gained an inappropriately high status in our culture. The academics have taught us to assume that thinking is the result, not just one step in the process of getting a result.

Is this just semantics? No – there is a significant difference.

A thought leader is someone who has an idea. A results leader is someone who has changed something.

Thought leaders are educational. Results leaders are transformational.

Results leaders make history. Thought leaders write about them later.

We don’t think our way to a new way of acting. We act our way to a new way of thinking.

It is the act of acting that changes us, not the act of thinking. Nobody learns to ride a bike by reading books.

Einstein also believed we have given cognition too much credit. He said “rational thought” is the “servant of intuition”, but that we have “created a society that worships the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Cognition is simply one of the servants of getting results, and as such we should be focused on the higher value of results, not on thinking.

Many people we identify as “thought leaders” are really “results leaders”. We need to give them their just recognition and relegate thinking back to it’s appropriate role as a SERVANT of the result, not the object of our affection.

Let’s celebrate and promote “results leaders”. Thinking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What do you “think”?

How & why to get people to quit before you hire them.

Quitting process, not hiring process.

How companies hire people is largely broken. We turned our hiring process into a quitting process. It works a lot better that way. We believe great people stay for what they GIVE and Industrial Age “employees” stay for what they GET. So we make them give a LOT before we hire them to ensure we have givers, not getters.

Problem: The Industrial Age taught people to get jobs, not do work.

Effect: BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Report 2011 says only 31% of employees are engaged – want to be there regularly, while 17% are totally disengaged. Another report said it more clearly. Companies would make more money if they paid 1/5th of their work force to stay home every day!

I believe only about 20% of possible employees are saying “Bring it on. Where’s the work? I want to be and do something significant. I’m having a blast here.” We have to find THESE people. Or get them to find US. To do this you have to weed out the 80% who largely just want to go to work, by making them quit before you ever hire them.


1) Stop interviewing. OK, not really, but almost. Stop doing the traditional 1st round, 2nd round, 3rd round interviews where you sit around and talk with people about their resumes, which I call tombstones – edifices that tell what we used to do in the most glowing terms possible.

Why do we think TALKING to people about work, and looking at a tombstone full of their own opinions on their past, actually tells us anything about how they would work for us? NEVER LOOK AT RESUMES IN THE FIRST ROUND, ALMOST NEVER IN THE SECOND ROUND!

2) Design unique hiring processes for each job. Don’t sit across a desk from a boiler tech talking. Go to the boiler room, break something and have them fix it.

3) Hire for culture, never for skills. That’s why you don’t need a resume in the first few rounds. The first rounds should ONLY be to answer the questions 1) does this person fit in here 8-10 hrs a day? and 2) do they really like to work? Until you answer those two questions a resume is worthless, and will actually improperly color your interviews (I WANT this person to fit because I like their resume). HISTORICAL BIAS is very strong when you’ve already looked at their resume before the 2nd or 3rd round.

4) Make them work HARD before you hire them. Create whatever environment they will work in (stressful, customer-oriented, phone work, sales, etc.) and have them do projects instead of interviews. If they need to be highly independent, create a hiring process that gives them very little guidance and see what they do with it. If they need to be highly detailed, hide details in the process and see if they catch and follow them.

Now is the easiest time to fire them or have them quit – before you hire them. And people who just want to GO to work will drop out very quickly in this kind of process.

How we did it

For our last hire (Chief Results Officer – half marketing, half administrative, half event management, and half leadership), we did a four and a half page ad on Craigslist (where the hiring folks said we should never try to find someone). We told them all about our culture, the result we would want from them (not the “processes” they would do), and asked them not to send a resume, but answer seven questions about culture, life, ambitions, motivation, fun, etc.

We were told we would get 300+ resumes in an hour, but most people quit just reading the ad (we were clear in offering no benefits, no work hours and no vacation time – be adults and take off when you’re work is done). These quitters saw they would have to WORK to answer questions instead of clicking and sending a resume. We only got 135 responses in one month. And we were able to delete 45 of those immediately because they didn’t pay attention and sent their resume along, too.

We had them do two rounds of projects, which made another 50+ quit, and then we asked for resumes from the final 40. We asked 18 of them to do another project and come in for a 10-minute interview, and that made another 7 quit. I did 10-minute interviews with eleven people and the final three were sent to others in our company for 30-45 minute culture-fit interviews (to answer the question, “Can you guys see yourself working with any of these folks?”)

Results? We found the pearl among the pebbles – a life long keeper who finds work extremely fulfilling, is self-motivated and fits in like she’s been with us from the start.

Put them through the wringer – throw everything at them they will experience when working with you. Make them work hard before they are hired so you know it’s not about the money, but because they find it incredibly fulfilling. Look for perfect cultural fits who have a passion for what you do.

Make your entire “hiring” process into a “quitting” process and you’ll get the right people.

Your Mother Was Wrong

The three S’s are not Nirvana

Your parents, 3rd grade teacher, college professor and Giant Corporation, Inc. all have you chasing the wrong dream. It’s no wonder most people aren’t excited about where they’re going. My mother thought I was nuts when, after six years, I left the army 29 years ago.

From her perspective, I had it all – a nice brick home looking out over Chesapeake Bay, provided free by the government. A great job where I rarely worked four hours (not normal for the Army). A just okay, but very stable paycheck. Very inexpensive on-base stores, free medical, and an incredibly generous retirement package that I could take as early as 41 years old.

Oh, and a highly unusual guaranteed permanent assignment at a bucolic old fort surrounded by a moat, in beautiful Virginia. I could have stayed there for 20 years and retire. I was set for life.

My mother grew up in the great depression and lived through World War II, hoarding scraps of aluminum foil to turn back in to make airplanes with. As a result, she was motivated by three very basic things:

1) SAFETY – live “sterile” – in the suburbs away from “trouble”.
2) SECURITY – get a wad of cash in the bank and retire off the interest.
3) STABILITY – know what every day holds – they should all look the same.

But where do safety, security and stability show up on Maslowe’s hierarchy, or any other measure of meaning? At or near the bottom. The three things we’ve been taught to pursue more than anything else are barely more than survival techniques.

Safety, security and stability are basics, not Nirvana. And in my experience, pursuing them as an end in themselves will keep us from doing anything significant with our lives. We were taught to move from survival to success, and success was defined as pacifying these three survival needs. Get a big house, a big bank account and ensure every day looks the same, and you have arrived.

Problem: Making money is not an empowering vision. And either is the goal of making every day look the same. We’re not made to live that way. We need to move from SURVIVAL, right through the industrial age definition of SUCCESS, to SIGNIFICANCE.

Business owners who reach for something bigger than making money are likely to make a lot more of it. Why are you in business? What do you want out of your business? Do you have Lifetime Goals driving you forward?

On the back of my first book , the cover editor put – “Use your business to build your Ideal Lifestyle.” It’s about significance.

My mother was well-intentioned, but I wanted more out of life than a safe, sterile existence that looked the same every day. Safety, security and stability aren’t enough. We are all made to be and do something significant. And you won’t get there by living safe and secure, and doing the same thing every day.

Carpe diem – seize the day. Go to the next level. Use your business to build your Ideal Lifestyle, not just to survive.

You only need 2.1 things to be successful

You never get all three.

Building a business is 20% science and 80% art, and yet all the business schools, the SBA, and the gurus that want to sell us Business Plan software tell us we should treat it like a controlled science experiment in a lab. Business doesn’t work that way.

My next book is called “Bad Plans Carried Out Violently”, and tells the stories of successful start ups who understood clearly that every plan is a Bad Plan because the world is going to interact with it and mess it up.

And “violently” isn’t always bad. It actually means – “with full and total COMMITMENT – great force and motion, extreme intensity of conviction.”

Life itself is a Bad Plan Carried Out Violently. Anyone who has raised kids will tell you that it takes full and total commitment to have a child, great force and motion to raise one, and extreme intensity of conviction to get them to move out.

But we want a tight and tidy process all along the way.

Traditional business planning has taught us that the most important part of planning is to plan the “middle” of the process – the “how”, in great detail, then follow that plan slavishly. Successful parents and business owners don’t do that. Instead they both plan using 2.1 very simple questions:

1) Where am I?
2) Where do I want to end up?
2.1) What are the next few steps?

We always want to have the full third question answered. That question looks like this: 3)How do I get all the way from #1 to #2? Good luck with that.

There are too many variables in business to accurately plan all the way from where I am to where I want to end up. It’s fortune-telling to say exactly how you’re going to either raise a kid or build a Mature Business. All you know is 1) where you are, and 2) where you want to end up. Then all you get is 2.1) the next few steps.

Successful business owners make a decision and get moving. Then they ask the same 2.1 questions to cover the new known problems that have come up since they moved forward. They are more focused on “taking soundings” than on planning every step of the voyage.

What happens when we try to answer the whole third question and plan the entire middle of the trip?

A $1 Billion Woops
Webvans, Inc. had a brilliant idea – use the home delivery model to bring you groceries. Just call and we deliver. They created a classic Business Plan on exactly HOW they were going to get from point A to point B, and then they shipwrecked without taking any soundings.

Webvan built a detailed plan based on assumptions about how things would turn out, then executed on that plan without wavering. Rather than patiently building and adjusting flexibly as demand grew, Webvan ignored how people were responding and moved forward with giant warehouses and huge infrastructure. The company ran through $1billion and went under with a death grip on it’s commitment to the same “HOW” that had been wrong since the day they started.

A Better Way – The 2.1 Planning Process
FreshDirect, a competitor, decided to grow into business as demand rose, and then change with the demand as it became clear what they needed to do to create success. They’re doing fine. They focused on two things 1) Where are we? and 2) Where do we want to end up?. Then they asked 2.1) What are the next few steps?

Focus a lot less on HOW you are going to get where you are going two years from now, and focus more on what you need to do this quarter and this month to get there. Every quarter ask yourself the same 2.1 questions:

1) Where are we?
2) Where do we want to end up?
2.1) What are the next few steps to get there?

Stop building complex, detailed 12 month and three year business plans. All you get is the next few steps. The rest is fortune telling that can put you out of business.