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All-Star Morning Wisdom from the World Business Forum

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Sitting in the front row in the Bloggers Hub at The World Business Forum. Wired, ready to go and surrounded by 50 of the best bloggers on the planet. A bit intimidating. These are some of the most savvy social media folks around, smart thinkers, great writers and they type a lot faster than I do.

Undaunted, I’ve put on my Asset-Based Thinking lenses and will be viewing the conference with an eye towards how speakers address positive change and momentum. I’ll also be drawing on the energy and support of my fellow bloggers, which is substantial.

Here are some Asset-Based Thinking takeaways from the morning session.

Setting the Stage

Les Hinton, CEO of the Dow Jones Company summed up the past year with a quote. “If you ride through hell, you don’t stop.” He advised the audience to be vigilant and “keep on riding” since there are still challenges ahead. It’s not over yet. He was simultaneously optimistic about focusing on the future, the importance of small business, and sticking to what business does best: creating value!

Bill George and How Crisis Shapes Leaders

Bill George, from Harvard, delivered a personal and practical talk on “Leading In A Crisis” based on his excellent book, 7 Lessons For Leading In A Crisis. Overall, he’s concerned that the aftermath of the crisis may be worse than the “storm” itself because of the jobs issues. Bill believes that leaders have been too focused on saving jobs rather than creating jobs and that small business is the job creation engine that drives our future. Amen.

Bill also said this: “Crisis is the true test of a leader and great leaders never let a good crisis go to waste.” Only by meeting the crisis head on and looking deep into the eye of the storm can a leader see the opportunities on the other side. And great leaders actively learn how to “anticipate” crises and be ready.

His best Asset-Based Thinking advice was this: when facing a crisis one should lead by one's True North Values. The beliefs and values by which you lead your life should be the way you lead in your business. Another humbling thought. The career you have built over 30 years can be lost in 30 minutes if a crisis is not handled with leadership and integrity.

Bill Conaty and Making the Most of the Human Resource

Bill served as head of HR at GE under the legendary Jack Welch. Together they built a world-class company built on performance-based values. He underscored the need to have Human Resources move beyond being viewed as “pensions and picnics” to being positioned as a real business partner, employee advocate, and “trustee” of the company values (love the concept of a values trustee).

These are the ingredients necessary to build a performance-based culture:

  • Passionate CEO commitment
  • Well-understood values
  • Real goals and measurements
  • Trust and candor in evaluations (Trust Agents in your company)
  • Consequences for failing
  • Always raising the bar

Bill’s best Asset-Based Thinking advice was this"

“Making the numbers and embracing core values are the metrics of success. Too much time is spent on the number…without the values superior performance is not sustainable.”

To borrow a phrase from a past election…It’s about the values, stupid. The best leaders make sure that values are deeply embedded into a company, at all levels, and that there is a clear succession plan to carry them on.

Pat Lencioni – Trust Shall Set You Free

A real deal Team Building guru, Pat was the energizing finale of the morning. The ultimate “infotainment” speaker, Pat transformed the simple principles of building effective teams into profound, practical, and powerful insights.

He believes that for any business to maximize its potential the business needs to do two things very well: be intellectually SMART (the nuts and bolts of the business) and operationally HEALTHY (the emotional and personal engagement of the business). The right balance of these two critical ingredients builds a teamwork culture that minimizes politics and confusion and maximizes morale, productivity, and retention.

Some other pithy tips and advice:

  • Health lets a business tap more deeply into its smart side.
  • A cohesive leadership team requires both Intellectual Clarity and Behavioral Clarity.
  • Don’t fear redundancy. Over-communicate the clarity.

Pat identified what I believe is the “silver bullet” in enabling functional teamwork to flourish and help make a business great. Trust. Predictive trust (to say what one believes) and vulnerability-based trust ( to feel free to admit shortcomings and be vulnerable).

This multi-dimensional trust helps everyone overcome their fear of conflict – not personal conflict – but debate and positive conflict over issues. Without conflict there can’t be true commitment.

Pat’s simple wisdom: Conflict with trust is pursuit of the truth. Without trust it's politics. Foster an environment of “Disagree and Commit."

Finally, Pat made an emotional appeal to the audience to realize that as leaders they have profound influence on the everyday lives of the people they work with. He summed up leadership as a “profound ministry.” An inspiring Amen for all of us in the audience.

Lunch time. Re-fuel for an exciting afternoon of Jeffrey Sachs and T. Boone Pickens.

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About Hank Wasiak

Hank Wasiak is a communications industry leader and partner at the creative hot shop, The Concept Farm. Hank began his advertising career in 1965 as a real Mad Man at Benton & Bowles. He is a best selling author, teacher, motivational speaker and three time Emmy award winning television host. Hank and Dr. Kathy Cramer created a best selling business - self help book series based on Asset-Based Thinking published by Running Press. Hank also is an Adjunct Professor at USC's Marshall School Of Business.