Building Blocks

There are 3 things within any business that matter most. They are the building blocks on which you build everything. They become your filter for decisions, development and direction. And, if you get these 3 things nailed down you will find far more satisfaction, success and fulfillment in the process. 

So what are they? 

Mission, Vision and Values Yep, that’s it. No, I didn't drop some sort of incredible nugget of truth or a new idea! I am reminding you of the most basic building blocks of leadership, creation and growth. When you focus your energy and center execution on the things that matter most, you will find a greater level of potential. 

So how does one define Mission, Vision, Values? Whats the difference between these 3 building blocks? Here’s how I see it. 

Mission: This is the very core value in you as the leader that drives you to action. This is the passion and urge that was placed deep inside of you that compels you to quit talking and start acting. And, when you decide to package your mission in a way that others can interact, transact and impact…. You will find a win! 

Vision: This is the goal, the result and the outcome you are going to create. This is the way that your team, your customers, your audience or the world will encounter your mission. This is the where an idea becomes a reality through execution. 

Values: This is the heart connection, the glue that holds the process together. Your values inform the culture of your team, company, product and more. The values express what matters to you and what you hope will be valuable to the people who encounter your mission. 

One thing to ALWAYS remember when creating you Mission, Vision and Values…. KEEP IT SIMPLE! 

Making these things lengthy, complicated and obscure will ensure you will never be able to articulate them to the world around you. If they aren’t simple, you can be sure your team, customers and audiences will never have buy in. They need to be easy to receive, easy to remember and easy to repeat. 

So, what does this look like in practicum? 

For our new venture One Pebble I can sum up the Mission, Vision and Values in a single sentence with three words! That’s it…. THREE WORDS! And, those three words express what matters most, they classify what we do and they invite you to interact with us. So, what are those three words? 

WE GIVE HOPE

That’s it! Nothing more. Anyone who encounters One Pebble can easily receive that, remember that and repeat that. And, I can teach it to a new team member, customer or audience member in 10 seconds and they will never forget. 

Our Mission is hope. We want a world who needs the gift of life, the promise of possibility and the power of miracles to find all of those things. And, my internal passion and wisdom has taught me that hope is the very place where those things are born. Our Vision is to give. We want to create generosity as a culture. We want to overcome the power of greed, foster gratitude and tangibly do what we believe is important. Nothing does that better than activating ourselves and those around us to give. Finally, our values are all found in one little word, WE. Why? Because the best things in this world happen when we do life together. To build a great team, company, idea, movement and product you have to have others on the journey. We believe that sharing the joy of hope, the richness of generosity and the celebrating of possibility is far better with others. 

Whether we are sharing these ideas with our founders, a new hire, a new customer or a new audience… We have created a simple, clear and tangible way to express our Mission, Vision and Values. 

Most importantly in all of this… The mission, vision and values always inform our decisions, direction and development. This makes growth, change and stability far easier for us as leaders. Miss this core step in creating your business, and your chances of success are dismal at best! 

The next step in creating a great company comes when you take these ideas and create a common language for your your team, organization and community. Stay tuned for some thoughts on creating a common language.

True Disruption

As founders we all want to be successful. I wanted to take a few days to download some observations I have made over my last 20 years as a leader, founder and student of business. My hope is that this will help you find wild succession your endeavor. 

When you are building a startup of any kind there are certain buzz words that seem to still capture the attention of others. For nearly a decade now the market space has been flooded with the concept of disruption. If you’re a founder, co-founder or startup team member my guess is that you are using this word far too often. In fact, I would venture to guess you aren't truly sure what it even means in practicum. 

When entrepreneurs use terms like disrupt I think most of them miss the true meaning and application of disruption. So, what do I mean? Let me explain. 

Most think that by tapping into a niche' spot in a large pipeline of commerce they have "disrupted" something. They have discovered a new buyer, a new method for attracting buyers or a more “sexy” way of presenting an established market place. This has lead to MANY incredible startups and companies who are truly growing and successful. But they have merely engaged more commerce if their only success is creating more transactions, without causing ripples in the market place that actually disrupt the business of other leaders. Because my focus lately has been in FinTech I can give you a an example. 

Robinhood is a company, an app, which has helped introduce many people to the world of buying and selling stocks by removing a friction point for most novice investors. They charge no trading fees for the buying and selling of those securities. For a young investor or a veteran cynic of the big banks they have attracted a big group of users. They have found a niche’ in a large and expansive market place. These guys have done well in growth and execution of tapping into a niche’ in the market place. 

Most look at Robinhood and call it a disruption. But, I challenge that is not the case. They have simply created a new storefront for the same products with a better price tag. The products in their market place exist in the same form as before. And, they are not challenging a cultural shift of the product and “manufacturers” in their market space. They have simply and successfully engaged a customer base for an unchanged market place. 

True disruption happens when you shift cultural, creative, manufacturing and operative norms for an industry or market place. In disruption you enter an existing market space, you identify a niche’ for entry, but build a “product” that causes multiple ripples across the entire market space. Those who disrupt cause entire industries to stop and pay attention because those ripples disrupt the norms. 

Disrupting in an existing market space is a complex recipe. The ingredients include creating a new way of transacting, new expectations for results and new demands on products which cause the industry leaders to innovate or exit. Disruption reaches its opus when an existing cultural base, customer base and industry leaders begin to accept, adopt and appreciate the disruptive idea or product. 

The best example in recent history is Facebook. Sure, when Facebook came along there were plenty of similar ideas in that market place. MySpace, Friendster and more had a good market share. I know, I had tried them all. Facebook was ingenious in it’s disruption. It began with a scarcity model, by only being accessible to select university students. Then as the scale expanded it began to reach the college graduate, GenX audience. They adjusted the product to become a communication super power for the world to connect by adopting some of the legacy ideas in the tech world. They took time to honor the last wave of leaders. This is a CRUCIAL ingredient in disruption, because without honor, there can be no integrity in disrupting! 

Facebook changed the way people transact relationally, they created a new wave of demand from the social media world and they caused the other industry leaders in social media to change their practices if possible. But, as we have seen, they reached the opus when the product became useful, desirable and common among traditional leaders and general masses. What started as a tool for 18-22 year olds has become the largest accessible, adaptable and usable form for social interaction in the world. 

Apple followed a similar path. Amazon followed a similar path. And the list can go on and on. 

Of course, everyone wants to know what the “secret sauce” for this kind of success happens to be. First, realize there is no replacement from hard work, hustle, learning, growing and pushing beyond their preferences to new territory. But at the center there is one reality in every disruptive company or movement in the world….

That reality is that disruption ALWAYS starts inside the company leaders themselves! It starts with the vision, passion, mission and values of the founder(s). Every company takes on the personality of it’s founder(s). At the core, companies like Apple, Facebook, Amazon and more, had founders who’s personal convictions, DNA and values were the driving force behind execution. But it goes deeper than than. Those traits must shape, inform and guide the culture of the entire company. This is the key to success. 

If you are going to tackle this idea of disruption, start by making sure you have been disrupted as the founder. Be sure your passion is born from a disruption in your soul. Then build a team who understand this, believes in this and will sacrifice personal preferences to uphold the disruption. After all, disruption will always be the hardest sell, the hardest to fund and the most criticized idea in your early days. 

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for my coming posts to help you take the next steps for success… 

  • Creating Mission, Vision and Values with your team
  • Creating and Championing Your Common Language and Culture
  • Celebrating your culture

5 Traits of Great Leaders

Over the last 20 years (yes I really am that old), since beginning my career and trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up, I have had a hunger to learn from the experience of others. I have tried to connect with, listen to and learn from the best leaders in my areas of work. As a result I have discovered a few crucial traits that I believe set the innovators and way-makers apart from the rest of the crowd. 

Let me take a few moments and briefly share these with you in hopes it inspires you, encourages you and challenges you to grow. 

  1. Always Learning…. This ends up on every leadership list on the planet, so let me lead out by saying I realize this is not profound or new. But, I have learned that when something is repeated with frequency and emphasis, it must be important. The reality is that great leaders, innovators and culture-shapers truly are students. They never stop learning. They find time every day to learn something new, sharpen their skills and improve their minds. It’s not always about their specific job or industry, its just learning. It is about keeping the mind sharp and their reasoning in a nimble and flexible state. One thing I have noticed with great clarity, great leaders learn from everyone, not just the people who make them feel comfortable. 
  2. Relentless Passion…. The best leaders, and especially the ones who change culture and impact the world, are the ones whose passion runs to their very core. They truly care about what they do, why they do it and how they do it. They are content to stay in their position and company indefinitely because they truly love what they do. These leaders are not motivated by money and status, they are motivated by fulfilling their passion and sharing it with others. This kind of passion is contagious, and it is somewhat of a “secret sauce” to the success of their ideas, products and brands. 
  3. Embrace Fear…. When you lead something big or impactful, fear is part of the process. You will find yourself becoming fearful of failure, fearful or challenges and fearful of the opinion of others. But, the greatest leaders embrace that fear and harness the energy as motivation to push beyond fear and step into courage. Some call this becoming stubborn, but I know the truth is this is courage! So, when they are told their ideas is too big, or their ideas will never work or that they aren’t the right person…. They push beyond that fear and become courageous crusaders for their ideas and their passion
  4. Great Teams…. The best leaders NEVER stand alone. The best leaders are surrounded by men and women who share their passion and are often smarter than the themselves. Great leaders are wise enough to build a team that will stand behind the vision and will compensate for the leader’s weaknesses. No one can create success alone, everyone has areas of weakness and inability. The best leaders know this, and they build teams of people who fill in the gap.
  5. Empower People…. The greatest of all leaders empower others. They discover the strengths of people around them and activate those strengths. They support the passions of the people around them and cheer them on. They invest in the skills of the people on the team. They allow others to succeed and never need to have credit for being part of the process. Great leaders build up and empower others to take their place and continue building a better future. 

I am still learning and growing as a leader. I certainly have a very long way to go. But, I hope that many of these same traits are present in my life. My motivation is not about being a successful entrepreneur, founder or innovator. My motivation is about setting an example for my children who will become the next generation of leaders in the not-so-distant future. For me this is about legacy. 

What motivates you to become a better leader?