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The Vigilant Leader: Staying Ahead of the Curve in a Shifting Landscape

The business world is a dynamic ecosystem. Trends, technologies, and customer needs can morph overnight, leaving unprepared leaders scrambling to catch up. As a leader, staying abreast of changes within and outside your organization is not just a box to tick; it’s the cornerstone of sustainable success.

This blog post dives into the essential strategies that empower leaders to become vigilant observers of their business landscape, allowing them to anticipate change and lead with foresight.

Cultivating Internal Awareness: Taking Your Business’s Pulse

Effective leadership starts within. Here’s how to stay attuned to your organization’s internal environment:

  • Embrace Employee Feedback: Employees are the lifeblood of your company. They witness day-to-day challenges and opportunities. Foster a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable providing honest feedback through surveys, town halls, or dedicated suggestion boxes.
  • Empower Departmental Visibility: Break down silos between departments. Encourage interdepartmental collaboration and knowledge sharing. This cross-pollination allows leaders to see the bigger picture and identify potential roadblocks or areas for synergy.
  • Embrace Data-Driven Decisions: Data is your most objective observer. Regularly review key performance indicators (KPIs) across departments to identify trends and areas needing improvement. Tools like business intelligence dashboards with real-time data can provide constant insights.
  • Conduct Regular Internal Audits: Schedule periodic reviews of internal processes, workflows, and employee performance. This allows you to identify inefficiencies, redundancies, and areas where employee skills need updating or training.

Turning Your Gaze Outward: Keeping Your Finger on the Industry Pulse

Staying informed about external developments is equally crucial. Here’s how to expand your awareness:

  • Become an Industry News Devourer: Subscribe to relevant industry publications, both online and in print. Follow industry influencers and thought leaders on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Schedule dedicated time each day or week to consume this content.
  • Embrace Industry Events and Conferences: Attend industry conferences, trade shows, and workshops. These events offer valuable networking opportunities with peers and exposure to cutting-edge solutions and upcoming trends.
  • Benchmark Against Industry Leaders: Analyze how your competitors are approaching challenges and capitalizing on opportunities. Use this information to identify best practices and potential areas for differentiation.
  • Conduct Customer Insights Research: Regularly collect customer feedback through surveys, focus groups, and social media monitoring. This allows you to understand evolving customer needs and preferences, ensuring your offerings remain relevant.

From Awareness to Action: Transforming Insights into Impact

Staying informed is just the first step. Here’s how to translate insights into actionable strategies:

  • Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement: Make change a constant companion, not a disruptive visitor. Encourage a culture of experimentation and innovation where your team feels empowered to explore new ideas.
  • Develop a Proactive Approach: Don’t wait for change to hit you. Based on your insights, develop a proactive plan to address potential challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities.
  • Invest in Employee Development: As technology and trends evolve, your workforce needs to adapt. Invest in training and upskilling programs to ensure your team possesses the skills required to navigate the evolving landscape.
  • Embrace Agility and Flexibility: The business landscape is fluid, so your approach should be too. Develop a flexible organizational structure that allows you to pivot strategies and adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

Building Your Vigilant Leadership Toolkit

Staying ahead of the curve requires a specific set of leadership skills:

  • Critical Thinking: Discern the bigger picture from the noise. Analyze information, identify cause-and-effect relationships, and make well-informed decisions.
  • Strategic Planning: Develop long-term plans that capitalize on opportunities and mitigate potential threats identified through your awareness efforts.
  • Effective Communication: Keep your team informed about internal and external changes. Clearly articulate the rationale behind new strategies and decisions, fostering buy-in and enthusiasm.
  • Decision-Making Under Uncertainty: Not all situations have clear-cut solutions. Develop the ability to make informed decisions even when faced with incomplete information.

Conclusion: The Reward of Vigilance

In today’s dynamic business world, the vigilant leader thrives. By cultivating internal awareness, staying attuned to external trends, and translating insights into action, you become a proactive leader, able to anticipate change and position your business for sustainable success.

Remember, the journey of a vigilant leader is continuous; it’s a commitment to lifelong learning and adaptation. By remaining curious and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, you can ensure your organization not only survives, but thrives in the face of change.

If you’re looking for advice and guidance on shaping some of the leadership skills mentioned here, let’s talk.

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The Patchwork Leader

How We Stitch Together Our Management Style

We all enter leadership roles with a mental toolbox. Inside, a jumble of experiences, observations, and influences – a patchwork quilt of ideas, behaviors, and values. Some threads come from mentors we admire, others from bosses we swore to never emulate. This post delves into how our leadership styles become a fascinating (and sometimes messy) collage, shaped by both positive and negative role models.

Many leaders find their guiding principles in mentors who embodied the qualities they aspire to. A boss known for clear communication becomes a model for setting expectations. A leader who fostered a collaborative environment inspires a focus on teamwork. These positive role models provide a blueprint for effective leadership, offering a foundation upon which new leaders can build their own style.

The Power of Positive Role Models: Building a Leadership Blueprint

Positive mentors and role models play a crucial role in shaping effective leaders. They provide a blueprint for success, offering tangible examples of how to navigate the complexities of leadership. Here’s how these mentors contribute to building a strong foundation:

1. Observational Learning:

Leaders learn by observing. Watching a mentor who excels at clear communication allows aspiring leaders to witness the power of well-defined expectations. They see firsthand how clear instructions, deadlines, and performance metrics can streamline processes and drive results. Observing these behaviors allows them to incorporate them into their own leadership style.

2. Skill Development:

Positive role models showcase leadership skills in action. A leader renowned for fostering a collaborative environment demonstrates the benefits of teamwork, active listening, and open communication. By observing such practices, new leaders can develop and hone these skills themselves. They can learn how to delegate effectively, create a safe space for sharing ideas, and leverage the collective wisdom of their team.

3. Reinforcement of Values:

Positive mentors often embody the values new leaders aspire to. A leader known for their integrity and ethical conduct reinforces the importance of these values for aspiring leaders. Witnessing the impact these values have on building trust and fostering a positive work environment shapes the foundation of a leader’s own approach.

4. Building Confidence:

Seeing someone successfully navigate leadership challenges can be incredibly inspiring. A mentor who tackles difficult conversations with grace or who rallies their team through a crisis demonstrates the power of effective leadership. Witnessing such successes boosts the confidence of aspiring leaders as they embark on their own leadership journey.

5. Tailoring the Blueprint:

The beauty of learning from positive role models lies in the ability to adapt the blueprint to your own strengths and circumstances. Aspiring leaders don’t need to simply copy their mentor’s style. They can observe, learn, and then personalize these lessons to build a leadership style that is authentic and effective for them.

Examples in Action:

  • A CEO known for their strategic planning inspires a new manager to develop a long-term vision for their team while incorporating their own strengths in problem-solving and innovation.
  • A leader known for their empathy motivates a new manager to prioritize creating a supportive and inclusive environment for their team, while also incorporating their own passion for mentorship and professional development.

By learning from the positive examples set by mentors, aspiring leaders can build a strong foundation for their own leadership journey. They acquire valuable skills, observe effective behaviors, and internalize core values, creating a blueprint for success that will guide them in their own unique leadership style.

But leadership lessons aren’t always learned through emulation. Sometimes, the most impactful experiences come from observing what not to do. A micromanaging boss might inspire a new leader to prioritize delegation and empowerment. A leader known for poor communication might instill the value of transparency and active listening. This “do the opposite” approach can be equally valuable, driving a conscious effort to avoid pitfalls experienced firsthand.

Let’s imagine a leader named Sarah. Her first boss, David, was a micromanager, constantly hovering and stifling creativity. Sarah, now a manager herself, has vowed to avoid this trap. She delegates tasks clearly, trusts her team, and fosters an open environment for brainstorming. However, David also had a strength – strategic thinking. Sarah, recognizing this valuable skill, incorporates it into her own leadership by developing long-term plans that guide her team.

The Fabric of Experience:

Our leadership patchwork isn’t just shaped by bosses; it’s woven from a lifetime of experiences. A childhood coach who emphasized sportsmanship might translate into a focus on team building. A teacher known for inspiring curiosity might light a leader’s fire for fostering an environment of continuous learning. Each interaction adds a thread to the leadership quilt.

Beyond the Basics:

The patchwork doesn’t stop at management styles. It extends to values. A leader who witnessed the devastating effects of unethical behavior might prioritize building a culture of integrity. Someone who saw the power of diversity and inclusion might champion these values within their team. These experiences become threads woven into the fabric of leadership, shaping decisions and actions.

The Challenge of Consistency:

This patchwork approach has its advantages – a diverse set of experiences can lead to a well-rounded leadership style. However, the challenge lies in creating a cohesive whole. Leaders need to be introspective, reflecting on how their various influences interact. Do certain lessons contradict each other? Are there gaps in their leadership approach?

Sewing It Together:

Here are some tips for creating a cohesive leadership style from your patchwork of experiences:

  • Self-reflection: Take time to identify the key influences in your life. What did you learn from each experience – positive or negative? How have these lessons shaped you as a leader?
  • Prioritization: Not all influences are created equal. Identify the leadership values and behaviors that resonate most deeply with you and prioritize them in your approach.
  • Alignment: Ensure your leadership style aligns with your organization’s mission, values, and culture. Does your patchwork create a picture that fits with the bigger canvas?
  • Continuous Learning: Leadership is a journey, not a destination. Be open to new experiences and ideas that can further refine your patchwork quilt.

The beauty of the patchwork leadership style lies in its adaptability. No two leaders have the same experiences, leading to a rich tapestry of approaches. By embracing the patchwork and weaving its threads together with intention, leaders can create a unique and effective style that inspires and empowers those around them. Remember, a well-crafted patchwork quilt is not just strong, it’s also beautiful in its intricate design.

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Celebrating Father’s Day: The Intersection of Parenthood and Leadership

Father’s Day offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the often-overlooked parallels between parenthood and leadership. As we honor fathers, it’s essential to recognize that the skills required to be an effective parent are remarkably similar to those needed to excel in leadership roles. Both arenas demand patience, guidance, and the ability to inspire and nurture growth. In this narrative, we will explore how fatherhood can serve as a powerful training ground for cultivating leadership qualities, providing strategic insights that benefit not only family life but also professional environments. Join us as we delve into the intersection of parenthood and leadership, uncovering valuable lessons that can accelerate your professional growth and effectiveness as a business leader.

The Role of Fatherhood in Leadership

Lessons from Fatherhood

Fatherhood teaches invaluable lessons that translate seamlessly into leadership. One of the most significant takeaways is the importance of patience. As a father, you learn that growth and development take time, whether nurturing a child or fostering a team’s capabilities. Additionally, fatherhood emphasizes the power of active listening.

Understanding your child’s needs and concerns parallels engaging with your team’s ideas and feedback. Moreover, the experience of setting boundaries and enforcing rules at home builds skills in establishing clear expectations and accountability in the workplace. Through fatherhood, one also learns the critical balance of showing empathy while maintaining authority. These lessons not only enhance your capability to lead but also foster a supportive and productive environment, driving both personal and professional growth.

Balancing Responsibilities

Balancing the responsibilities of fatherhood and leadership is a masterclass in time management and prioritization. As a father, you often juggle various roles, from caregiver to mentor, while ensuring your professional duties are met. This dual responsibility sharpens your ability to prioritize tasks effectively, ensuring that urgent and important matters are addressed promptly.

It also teaches the art of delegation. Just as you might share household responsibilities with your partner, in a professional setting, delegating tasks to team members empowers them and optimizes productivity.

Additionally, balancing these roles enhances your resilience and adaptability, as unexpected challenges arise frequently in both domains. By mastering this balance, you not only improve your efficiency but also set a positive example for your team, demonstrating that it’s possible to achieve a harmonious integration of personal and professional life.

Building Emotional Intelligence

Fatherhood significantly contributes to developing emotional intelligence, a critical asset in effective leadership. As a father, you become attuned to your child’s emotional states, learning to discern and respond to their needs with empathy and understanding. This sensitivity translates well into the workplace, where recognizing and addressing the emotions of your team members can lead to a more harmonious and productive environment.

Moreover, handling the emotional highs and lows of parenting enhances your emotional regulation skills. You learn to maintain composure and provide stability, even during stressful situations. Additionally, fatherhood encourages reflective listening and open communication, essential components of emotional intelligence.

These skills enable you to build stronger, more meaningful relationships with your team, fostering trust and collaboration. By honing your emotional intelligence through fatherhood, you become a more compassionate and effective leader, capable of inspiring and guiding your team with empathy and insight.

Leadership Skills Honed by Parenthood

Effective Communication

Effective communication is a cornerstone of both successful parenting and leadership. As a parent, you learn to convey complex ideas in simple, understandable terms, a skill that is invaluable in the business world. Whether explaining a concept to a child or articulating a vision to your team, clarity and conciseness are essential.

Fatherhood also teaches the importance of non-verbal communication. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language can significantly impact how messages are received, and being attuned to these cues can enhance your ability to connect with others. Additionally, active listening becomes second nature through parenting.

By truly hearing and responding to your child’s needs, you cultivate a habit that improves team interactions and problem-solving in the workplace. These refined communication skills not only enhance your leadership effectiveness but also build stronger, more cohesive teams, driving organizational success.

Empathy and Understanding

Empathy and understanding are vital leadership skills that are deeply cultivated through parenthood. As a father, you frequently navigate the emotional landscapes of your children, learning to empathize with their experiences and perspectives. This practice of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes translates directly into the workplace, where understanding your team members’ viewpoints can lead to more effective management and conflict resolution.

Empathy fosters a supportive and inclusive environment, encouraging team members to share their ideas and concerns openly. Additionally, understanding the unique strengths and weaknesses of each individual allows you to tailor your leadership approach, maximizing each team member’s potential.

This personalized attention not only boosts morale but also enhances productivity and innovation. By integrating empathy and understanding into your leadership style, you create a culture of trust and respect, essential for the long-term success of any organization.

Decision-Making Under Pressure

Parenthood is an excellent training ground for effective decision-making under pressure, a crucial skill for any leader. As a father, you often face unexpected situations that require quick, decisive action, such as handling emergencies or resolving conflicts between siblings.

This constant exposure to high-pressure scenarios hones your ability to stay calm and think clearly, even when time is of the essence. In the professional realm, these skills are invaluable. Leaders frequently encounter high-stakes decisions that impact the organization’s future.

The ability to assess the situation rapidly, weigh options, and make sound decisions is enhanced by your experiences as a parent. Furthermore, parenthood teaches you to consider the long-term consequences of your decisions, balancing immediate needs with future implications. This strategic mindset ensures that your decisions are not only effective in the short term but also sustainable in the long run, driving enduring success for your team and organization.

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The Ultimate Guide on Finding Businesses for Sale

If you’ve ever envisioned yourself as a successful business leader, shaping a company’s future and reaping the rewards of your hard work, then you’ve come to the right place. The journey to business ownership is full of exciting opportunities, and it all starts with finding the perfect business to buy.

You’ll discover many possibilities in this dynamic world, from well-established businesses with long histories to innovative startups poised for rapid growth. But the crucial first step in this exciting adventure is finding the ideal business to acquire – the missing puzzle piece that fits perfectly into your entrepreneurial vision.

As you explore the world of business acquisition, you’ll uncover countless options for creating your success story. It’s a realm where you can transform calculated risks into prosperous ventures. Whether you’re an experienced entrepreneur seeking your next challenge or a newcomer to the business world ready to take the leap, the possibilities are endless.

So, prepare to embark on a journey filled with excitement, discovery, and transformation. In this guide, we’ll share the secrets to finding businesses for sale, offering insights and strategies to help you seize that golden opportunity. Your path to business ownership starts here, and the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Welcome to the captivating world of business acquisition!

What is Business Acquisition?

Let’s start by clarifying what business acquisition means – it’s the process of buying a pre-existing company, either fully or partially, to make a strategic investment. This often involves obtaining the company’s assets, equity, or shares and usually includes taking full control of the acquired business’s management and operations.

Acquiring an established business is a wise investment strategy that entails purchasing a well-established company to achieve specific financial or operational goals. The process involves finding a target business that aligns with the buyer’s objectives, negotiating the purchase, and finalizing the deal. The main goal is to use the existing business’s assets, customer base, brand, and operational infrastructure to generate returns.

Benefits of Buying an Established Business

There are several advantages to buying an established business rather than starting one from scratch. Here are some of them: 

  • Reduced Risk: Established businesses typically have a track record, an existing customer base, and proven revenue streams, reducing the uncertainty and risk of starting a new venture.
  • Immediate Cash Flow: Acquiring an existing business often means immediate access to cash flow, allowing the buyer to recoup their investment sooner and potentially reinvest in growth.
  • Established Brand and Reputation: An acquired business often comes with an established brand name and reputation, which can take years to build from scratch. This can lead to quicker market acceptance and customer trust.
  • Existing Infrastructure: Acquired businesses have established operations, supply chains, and infrastructure, saving time and effort compared to building these elements from the ground up.
  • Customer Base: Acquiring an existing business means inheriting an existing customer base, making generating revenue and cross-selling products or services easier.
  • Economies of Scale: Larger businesses may benefit from economies of scale, leading to cost savings in procurement, marketing, and distribution.
  • Proven Business Model: An existing business likely has a proven business model that has demonstrated its viability, making it easier to forecast and plan for future growth.
  • Access to Talent: Acquiring a business often means gaining access to skilled employees familiar with the industry and the business’s operations.
  • Faster Market Entry: Acquiring an existing business can provide a shortcut to entering a new market, as the business likely has an established presence and local knowledge.
  • Potential Synergies: Buyers may identify synergies between their existing operations and the acquired business, leading to increased efficiencies and cost savings.

Create an Investment Thesis

Having an investment thesis can be incredibly valuable for business acquisition. It allows you to assess each potential investment thoroughly, quickly dismissing unsuitable options and focusing on the best possible deals. An investment thesis is a detailed framework that outlines a specific investment’s reasoning, strategy, and objectives. It’s a vital tool investors and entrepreneurs, including those involved in business acquisition, use to guide their decision-making. 

Many Acquisition Entrepreneurs skip this crucial step due to eagerness to get started, but we at Acquira believe it needs to be corrected.

Even though investment theses are specific to individual Acquisition entrepreneurs, there are some factors that you should always consider in an Investment Thesis, such as:

  • Where is the business located?
  • How large is the business?
  • Is it a management run or ownership run business?
  • Are there any risks to the business, like customer concentration or key man risk?
  • How big is the business?
  • What are your own unfair advantages?
  • How high is your own risk tolerance?

By creating and utilizing an investment thesis, you will always have a clear, comprehensive, and compelling argument detailing why an investment or an acquisition of a small business makes strategic and financial sense to you. 

The investment thesis will provide the rationale behind the investment decision, articulating the potential for return on investment and identifying the factors and conditions that could influence the investment’s success.

In a small business acquisition, an investment thesis is indispensable for several reasons:

  1. Strategic Alignment: An investment thesis ensures the acquisition aligns with your overarching business or personal goals. It helps answer critical questions like “Does this business complement or augment your existing operations?”, “Can it help tap new markets, customers, or technologies?” or “Does it offer competitive advantages?”.
  2. Financial Justification: Financial assessment is a crucial component of the investment thesis. It involves evaluating the target business’s financial health, future earnings potential, and the expected return on investment. This analysis helps determine whether the acquisition makes financial sense.
  3. Risk Assessment: Every investment comes with risks; an investment thesis helps identify potential threats. These could range from market competition and regulatory changes to operational or financial challenges in the target company. Recognizing these risks upfront aids in decision-making and formulating risk mitigation strategies.

How to Find Businesses for Sale?

If you are interested in buying a business, you need to know where & how to find them. Finding businesses for sale involves research, networking, and utilizing various resources. Here are some ways to find businesses that are available for purchase:

  1. Online Businesses Marketplaces
  2. Hire a Business Broker
    • Business Brokerage Firms: Contact reputable business brokerage firms in your target area. Brokers specialize in matching buyers with sellers and can provide access to various businesses for sale.
    • Independent Business Brokers: You can also search for independent business brokers with listings matching your criteria.
  3. Attend Networking Events
    • Industry Conferences and Trade Shows: Attend industry-specific events where business owners may want to sell. Networking at these events can help you discover opportunities.
    • Local Business Associations: Join local business associations and chambers of commerce. These organizations often have members looking to sell their businesses.
  4. Networking and Industry Connections
    • Personal Contacts: Inform your personal and professional network that you want to buy a business. Word of mouth can lead to valuable leads.
    • Advisors: Consult with financial advisors, lawyers, and accountants who may have clients interested in selling their businesses.
  5. Online Searches

    Conduct targeted online searches using search engines like Google. Use specific keywords such as “business for sale in [your location]” or “buy a [specific industry] business.”
  6. Social Media and Online Forums

    Join relevant social media groups and online forums where business owners and potential buyers discuss opportunities. LinkedIn and industry-specific forums can be valuable.
  7. Local Business Listings

    Check local business directories and websites for listings of businesses that may be available for sale.
  8. Direct Outreach

    If you have identified a specific business you are interested in, consider reaching out directly to the owner to inquire about their willingness to sell.
  9. Consult with Professionals

    Consult with professionals such as attorneys and accountants who specialize in mergers and acquisitions. They may have knowledge of businesses that are discreetly for sale.

How Acquira Can Help You

Acquira offers an Accelerator program that helps both aspiring and experienced acquisition entrepreneurs in their journey. We highly recommend joining the program if you are new to business acquisition or want to boost your success rate. We provide unparalleled support throughout your acquisition process, including one-on-one calls with a dedicated Acquira Success Coach, access to a robust community of fellow Acquisition Entrepreneurs, MBA-level M&A training, and over a hundred hours of recordings with acquisition experts and our team.

Acquira’s training program equips you with the skills to identify potential business deals, evaluate them using our training guidelines, and present them to our Investment Committee for further analysis. This process will enhance your overall business search process and refine your instincts. Our team will also assist you in refining your investment thesis throughout the process to ensure that you make the right investment decision.


If you’re considering buying an established business, there are a lot of factors to consider before taking the plunge. It’s not just a matter of finding the right fit; you must ensure the financials are solid and the risks are manageable. That’s why doing your due diligence and getting professional guidance throughout the process is so important. Success is all about careful planning, precise execution, and ongoing management. 

One thing that helps you stay on track is having an investment thesis. This is like a strategic guide that will keep you focused on your goals and help you make informed decisions. It’s an essential tool for anyone looking to acquire a business or make a strategic investment. 

Of course, finding the right business can take time and patience. But if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll be rewarded with a successful purchase. Just remember to be diligent in your research and seek out expert advice whenever you need it. With the right planning and management, you can make your dreams of business ownership a reality.

Venturing into the world of business acquisitions takes guts and determination. It’s a surefire way to attain financial freedom and entrepreneurial triumph, and we at Acquira are rooting for your success every step of the way. 

We highly recommend joining Acquira’s ecosystem to give you an extra edge. But keep in mind that we have limited space due to the abundance of resources we offer. If you want to take the leap into acquisition entrepreneurship with Acquira, simply fill out the form below to explore our Accelerator Program and chat with one of our experts today.

Key Takeaways

  • When purchasing an established business, many benefits exist, including reduced risk, immediate cash flow, an established brand and reputation, existing infrastructure, an established customer base, and faster market entry.
  • An investment thesis is a detailed argument that explains why investing in a small business or acquiring it makes strategic and financial sense.
  • Multiple methods exist to locate businesses for sale, including online marketplaces, hiring a broker, networking, online searches, social media, and direct outreach.
  • Acquira’s Accelerator program provides training on identifying and evaluating potential business deals to enhance your search process and refine your instincts.

Acquira specializes in seamless business succession and acquisition. We guide entrepreneurs in acquiring businesses and investing in their growth and success. Our focus is on creating a lasting, positive impact for owners, employees, and the community through each transition. Visit Acquira.com

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Leading with Empathy: Unlocking Your Team’s Zone of Genius

Empathy – it’s a leadership buzzword thrown around a lot. But what does it truly mean to lead with empathy? Sure, it involves understanding emotions and perspectives. But great leaders take it a step further: they see the potential within their team members. They understand that empathy includes finding each person’s “zone of genius.”

The concept of the “zone of genius” comes from the idea that we all have areas where we naturally excel. These are the activities that energize us, come easily, and allow us to produce exceptional results. When a leader can identify these zones within their team, they unlock a powerful dynamic.

Why Focus on the Zone of Genius?

Leading with empathy through the lens of the zone of genius offers several advantages:

  • Increased Engagement: People are most passionate and productive when they’re doing what they do best. By placing individuals in their zones of genius, you ignite their intrinsic motivation. They’ll feel a sense of purpose and ownership over their work.
  • Enhanced Performance: When someone operates in their zone of genius, they deliver exceptional results. Their natural talents and abilities shine through, leading to higher quality work and increased efficiency.
  • Stronger Teams: When individuals understand and appreciate each other’s strengths, collaboration flourishes. Team members become more supportive, leveraging each other’s zones of genius for collective success.
  • Improved Retention: People who feel valued and utilized for their unique strengths are more likely to stay with an organization. Recognizing and nurturing their zone of genius fosters a sense of belonging and career growth.

So, How Do You Find Your Team’s Zone of Genius?

Here are some practical tips to get you started:

  • Open Communication: The foundation lies in open communication. Encourage regular conversations where team members can discuss their passions, interests, and past accomplishments. Ask them about projects they’ve enjoyed and excelled in.
  • Observe and Assess: As a leader, be an attentive observer. Watch for patterns in behavior and performance. Who naturally gravitates toward specific tasks? Who thrives under pressure or excels in brainstorming sessions?
  • Strengths Assessments: Consider utilizing personality or strengths assessments. While not definitive, these tools can provide valuable insights into natural capabilities and preferred work styles.
  • Direct Feedback: Don’t shy away from direct feedback. Ask team members for their self-assessment on strengths and weaknesses. Encourage honest conversations to refine your understanding of their zones of genius.


Finding your team’s zone of genius is an ongoing process. As people grow and develop, their strengths might evolve. Be prepared to continually adapt and refine your approach.

Leading with empathy through the zone of genius isn’t just about being nice, it’s about unlocking the full potential of your team. By empowering individuals to operate in their strengths, you create a dynamic and high-performing organization.

Now, go forth and discover the hidden genius within your team!

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Are You Ready to Take a Chance?

As businesses across the globe begin to ponder their choices for reopening in a post-COVID-19 world, people will be faced with choices. While governmental restrictions dictate some of those choices, it appears all other choices will be left up to the owner/manager. Are you ready to take a chance?

The choices will involve taking chances. How are you set for taking a chance? Here are just a few of the situations I am seeing among the businesses I serve.

Leader making choices

Social distancing is still going to be a ‘rule of the road’. Large companies with grand office footprints are talking about limiting on-site presence, at least for the near future. Ideas like allowing only those employees with enclosed offices to return to work first. Cubicle workers will stay home a bit longer.

Restaurants are looking at separating tables by six feet, reducing seating areas. Stores may keep the Plexiglas panels they have installed at checkout stands.

As an executive, leader or manager making these choices, you create a risk for taking the chance to do something one way or the other. How will you handle that?

The Basis for Decision

Responding to the post-crisis world will be testing your leadership resolve. Do you have the ‘metal’ to stand firm in your convictions about the right thing to do? Clearly acting too soon to deploy large numbers of employees, patrons, or traffic in your facility may tag you an outlier. Are you ready to accept that risk?

The process to make these choices will demonstrate what you have been made of all along. As John Maxwell says:

“Experiences make us, but crisis reveals us.”

How will you be revealed in the face of the crisis around you? As the world finds its new normal, will your leadership character be strong or weak?

Core and Edge Thinking

There is a good explanation for dealing with taking chances as a leader. It has to do with the agility you have in moving from your core out to the edge. Let me explain.

Your Core is the center of your leadership framework. It is made up of all your beliefs, values, and relational experiences. The core includes your technical training and experience too. Likely you have worked hard to develop your leadership core. Just like working on your body’s core at the gym, having a strong leadership core makes you a better leader.

Diagram of core-edge-agility

Your core provides the foundation of who and what you may be as a leader. It inspires your own sense of right and wrong, weak and strong.

However, your core can become your comfort zone too. You might be one who finds safety in staying very close to the core. This can be the downside of relying too much on core strengths.

Then There’s the Edge

For every one of us, there is an edge out there. The edge is the horizon of opportunity and challenge. The edge is where new growth happens. It is often an unknown situation or circumstance.

This is why taking a chance is a good example of being on the edge. The risk that is associated with going out to the edge is what makes leadership challenges so significant.

Explorers love the edge challenge. Finding new horizons.

That is why your willingness to go out to the edge is as much an indicator of your leadership prowess as is your core strength.


The third dimension of this model is called agility. Agility is a leader’s ability to move smoothly from core thinking to the edge and back again.

On one hand, being willing to freely go out to the edge is good, but if you get stuck there, you’re in trouble. You have to be able to get back to your center, your foundation. Think about Apollo 13.

taking a chance with core, edge and agility

Agility is the beauty of good leadership. Keeping your values high yet exploring new opportunities to grow and prosper your team, your work, and your business. By gracefully going to the edge while maintaining clear visibility of core strengths, you become a trusted leader.

Back to the New Chances

The new normal we are looking to establish represents the edge for all of us. The way we define the edge may be different, but it is an edge nonetheless. If your core cries out for certain values and expectations, but the edge is not clear, you are dealing with taking a big chance.

Your agility will be the factor that determines your success. Ask yourself what it will take to move forward.

Will an old habit of decision making fail you in this new crisis? Will you be afraid to take chances?

Or can you effectively, maybe even boldly, make the right decision to choose next steps for your business? By exercising your agility you can go out to the new edges, do what you have to do, then know you can always return to your core for strength.

Note: Core, Edge, and Agility concepts courtesy of Lee Hecht Harrison

Certain graphics courtesy of 123rf.com and unsplash.com

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What Is Professional Presence and How Can I Achieve It?

What Exactly Is Presence?

Presence is letting the most powerful version of yourself shine through. I like to cite the renowned leadership expert Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who defines “presence” as a combination of gravitas, communication, and appearance. Together, these elements form an impression of trustworthiness, competence, and authenticity.

Gravitas is signaling that you have the confidence and credibility to get your point across and create buy-in. In a study of almost 300 senior executives, Hewlett found that 67 percent believe that gravitas is what matters most in leadership. Communication is closely connected to gravitas.

Your bearing and speaking skills are what establish your confidence and credibility and thus communicate gravitas. As much as we may not want to admit it, appearance is the third piece of this puzzle. This is not as much about how we look as it is about how we present ourselves.

Why Is Presence Important?

Because humans are biologically wired to scan the environment for threats, we form impressions based on very little information. According to social psychologist and bestselling author Amy Cuddy, people quickly answer two questions when they meet you: Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person? To influence others, you need them to trust you and see you as competent.

professional presence

How Do I Develop Presence?


Cultivate confidence: Part of developing presence is conveying confidence. What if you don’t feel confident? I’m a big believer in Cuddy’s work on “power posing.” Her central idea is simple: By assuming a posture associated with power, you can “fake it until you become it,” and make yourself feel more powerful. Though Cuddy’s work has been somewhat controversial, people around the world swear by power posing before a big meeting or interview.


Up your game: To communicate effectively, it’s important to regulate your reactions, recognize emotions in others, and manage your responses. Let other people speak first. Ask questions and make them feel understood. Remember to smile, make eye contact, and lean forward. By staying in the moment and maintaining focus on the conversation, you can ask the right questions and lay the foundation for trust and openness to your influence. Also, to convey confidence, use what a 2014 Harvard Business Review article calls “muscular” language. Instead of saying “I just think,” try “I strongly suggest”; instead of “Maybe that’s possible,” say “Here’s my plan.”


Dressing—and feeling—the part: There should be a strong connection between who you are, who you want to be, and how you look. If you want to be successful in the financial sector, for instance, you need to look like someone who understands and can be trusted with money. Identify the people who are successful where you work, and study how they put themselves together. Focusing on your appearance can also go a long way toward boosting your internal confidence.

Research by Adam Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business and chair of the Management Division, finds that the physical experience of putting on clothes that you associate with power can put you in a different state of mind — what he calls enclothed cognition — allowing you to feel more confident, which in turn will, hopefully, improve your performance. The interior life of a person and their external presence are deeply connected. When people pay more conscious attention to this connection and embody presence, they can expose their unique talent to the world in ways that will enhance their happiness and success.

Contributed by Karen Gray, an ICF-certified executive coach and leadership consultant. Using her experience as a coach and senior executive, she helps clients develop their leadership effectiveness and find more fulfilling career paths. Her passion is supporting the growth of individuals, leaders, and teams. She partners with clients to increase their emotional intelligence, navigate organizational and career transitions, and develop new leadership strategies.

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Cultivating Harmony: Growing vs. Building Company Culture

Company culture. It’s a buzzword thrown around in boardrooms and plastered across job postings. But what exactly is it, and how do you achieve it? There seems to be a common misconception: culture is something you build, a foundation laid from scratch. But a thriving company culture is more akin to a garden – something nurtured and encouraged to grow organically.

This post dives into the difference between building and growing a company culture, exploring the benefits of the latter and offering tips for cultivating a positive and thriving work environment.

Building vs. Growing: A Tale of Two Cultures

Imagine a company with a sleek mission statement and a list of core values displayed prominently on the lobby wall. They offer ping pong tables and free lunches, perks meant to foster a fun and collaborative atmosphere. This is an example of a “built” culture. It’s designed from the top down, with leaders dictating the desired behaviors and interactions.

While these elements can be a good starting point, a built culture often feels inauthentic. Perks become gimmicks, and core values remain unlived principles. Employees may go through the motions, but a genuine sense of belonging and purpose is missing.

Growing a company culture, on the other hand, is a collaborative effort. It’s about creating an environment where the seeds of shared values, open communication, and trust can take root and flourish. Here, leadership plays a crucial role in providing the right conditions for growth, not dictating the outcome.

The Advantages of Growing a Culture

So why choose to grow a culture over building one? Here are some compelling reasons:

  • Sustainability: A built culture can feel forced and fragile. When the focus is on maintaining a facade, cracks can easily appear as situations change. A grown culture, however, is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the company, making it more resilient and adaptable.
  • Authenticity: When employees are empowered to contribute to the culture, it reflects their genuine values and preferences. This authenticity leads to a higher level of engagement and overall satisfaction.
  • Innovation: A thriving culture fosters open communication and collaboration. This environment encourages employees to share ideas and experiment, leading to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
  • Employee Ownership: When employees feel a sense of ownership over the culture, they become invested in its success. This translates into higher levels of accountability, productivity, and talent retention.

Growing Your Garden: Practical Tips for Cultivating Culture

Now that we understand the benefits of a grown culture, how do we actually cultivate it? Here are some practical tips:

  • Define Your Core Values – Together: Core values are the guiding principles that shape employee behavior and decision-making. Involve your team in defining these values through workshops, surveys, or open discussions.
  • Lead by Example: Leaders set the tone for the culture. Live and breathe the company values in your daily interactions and decision-making.
  • Empower Your People: Give your employees a voice. Encourage open communication, feedback, and participation in shaping the work environment.
  • Celebrate Successes: Recognize and reward employees who exemplify your core values. This reinforces positive behaviors and motivates others to follow suit.
  • Transparency is Key: Keep your team informed about company decisions, goals, and challenges. Transparency fosters trust and a sense of shared purpose.
  • Focus on Learning and Growth: Invest in your employees’ personal and professional development. When people feel valued and have opportunities to learn, they’re more engaged and contribute more to the overall culture.
  • Recognize and Address Issues Quickly: A positive culture doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. When problems arise, address them openly and honestly to prevent them from festering and undermining trust.

Conclusion: A Continuous Journey

Growing a company culture is an ongoing process. It requires continuous nurturing, adaptation, and celebration. There will be setbacks and challenges, but by fostering an environment of trust, transparency, and shared values, you can cultivate a thriving work environment that attracts top talent, drives innovation, and fuels success.

Remember, your company culture is not a destination, but a journey. Embrace the growth mindset, empower your people, and watch your garden bloom.

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