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11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader by Dave Kerpen

Posted in Soft Skills

Originally published on LinkedIn

Being likeable will help you in your job, business, relationships, and life. I interviewed dozens of successful business leaders in my last book, Likeable Business, to determine what made them so likeable and their companies so successful. All of the concepts are simple, and yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful. Below are the eleven most important principles to integrate to become a better leader:

1. Listening

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, investors, and competitors. Here’s why the best CEO’s listen more.

2. Storytelling

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” -Robert McAfee Brown

After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to sell their products, but more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. Whether you’re telling a story to one prospect over lunch, a boardroom full of people, or thousands of people through an online video - storytelling wins customers.

3. Authenticity

“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” -Oprah Winfrey

Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy. Customers, employees, and media all want to help an authentic person to succeed. There used to be a divide between one’s public self and private self, but the social internet has blurred that line. Tomorrow’s leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together.

4. Transparency

“As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” -John Whittier

There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night – unworried about what you said to whom, a happier leader is a more productive one.

5. Team Playing

“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” -SEAL Team Saying

No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, practicing humility, and following other rules for working in teams will help you become a more likeable leader. You’ll need a culture of success within your organization, one that includes out-of-the-box thinking.

6. Responsiveness

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

The best leaders are responsive to their customers, staff, investors, and prospects. Every stakeholder today is a potential viral sparkplug, for better or for worse, and the winning leader is one who recognizes this and insists upon a culture of responsiveness. Whether the communication is email, voice mail, a note or a tweet, responding shows you care and gives your customers and colleagues a say, allowing them to make a positive impact on the organization.

7. Adaptability

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” -Ben Franklin

There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to pivot at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable to most organizations. Instead, humility and the willingness to adapt mark a great leader.

8. Passion

“The only way to do great work is to love the work you do.” -Steve Jobs

Those who love what they do don’t have to work a day in their lives. People who are able to bring passion to their business have a remarkable advantage, as that passion is contagious to customers and colleagues alike. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect your bottom line.

9. Surprise and Delight

“A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.” -Charles de Gaulle

Most people like surprises in their day-to-day lives. Likeable leaders underpromise and overdeliver, assuring that customers and staff are surprised in a positive way. There are a plethora of ways to surprise without spending extra money – a smile, We all like to be delighted — surprise and delight create incredible word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

10. Simplicity

“Less isn’t more; just enough is more.” -Milton Glaser

The world is more complex than ever before, and yet what customers often respond to best is simplicity — in design, form, and function. Taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components allows customers, staff, and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision. We humans all crave simplicity, and so today’s leader must be focused and deliver simplicity.

11. Gratefulness

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -Gilbert Chesterton

Likeable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success. Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well received. It also makes you feel great! Donor’s Choose studied the value of a hand-written thank-you note, and actually found donors were 38% more likely to give a 2nd time if they got a hand-written note!

The Golden Rule: Above all else, treat others as you’d like to be treated

By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from coworkers, customers, and business partners. Holding others in high regard demonstrates your company’s likeability and motivates others to work with you. This seems so simple, as do so many of these principles — and yet many people, too concerned with making money or getting by, fail to truly adopt these key concepts.

Which of these principles are most important to you — what makes you likeable?

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Dave Kerpen is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local. He is also the cofounder and Chairman of Likeable Media, and the New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business, and the just-released Likeable Leadership. To read more from Dave on LinkedIn, please click the FOLLOW button above or below.

An open heart is easily attacked by a frightened mind

Posted in Soft Skills

picture credit quoteswave.com

Leadership is a process of engaging others. To engage others you must connect with them on a emotional level. Don’t Let Your Head Attack Your Heart is a thought provoking article about becoming more aware of your feelings.

Author Peter Bregman makes an interesting point about humour, especially biting humour that is used to conceal our own feelings and inflict pain on others. Bregman describes a party he organized where he asked the guests to answer revealing questions such as: what new things do feel are struggling to grow and be born inside of you?

One of the guests started ridiculing the questions and flipped the whole party in to a joke-fest at the Bergman’s expense. Bergman was hurt. Eventually he called his friend and discussed it. The conversation started on a defensive tone but worked its way to a deeper more sincere level.

Bregman says: Continue Reading

Do the Happy Dance

Posted in Employees, Family in Business



Andrew O’Connell reported on HBR today:

Three-member teams on which at least 1 person was in a good mood were more than twice as likely to collectively solve a murder-mystery puzzle as teams on which all members were in neutral moods, according to an experiment by Kyle J. Emich of Fordham University. That’s because people in good moods are more likely to seek information from others and to share their own knowledge. So if you start a meeting with a funny story or do something else to put people in a good mood, you may get better exchange of information and better decision making, Emich suggests.

Picture credit: reachforthestjarnor.wordpress.com


Paradoxes of the M&A Process

Posted in Selling Your Business
Rob Slee author of the iconic valuation text Private Capital Markets wrote this post today in his LinkedIn group MidasNation:
Over the past 25 years I have seen hundreds of people fail to earn a living in the M&A industry. Probably 80% left without making any money, mainly because they approached the effort as if M&A is a business. That mistake was fatal. M&A is not a business; rather, it is a sport. It’s much like big game hunting, in fact.
Along the way I discovered that M&A is defined by paradoxes. Beyond the majority of business owners who believe their businesses are worth double what the market will pay, these paradoxes make it extremely hard to earn a living.
The following are the paradoxes that have cost me the most money.

How to Hardwire Your Success Patch

Posted in Strategic Growth

John Warrillow discusses Steven Covey’s importance/urgent chart in his most recent post sub-titled How to Hardwire Your Success Patch.  John writes:

Covey on doing what is important, yet not urgent

Stephen Covey provided us with a framework to think about how we spend our time and warned of the dangers of ignoring what is important yet not urgent. Do you remember his four quadrants?

Covey’s central idea was that how we spend our time ultimately defines our results. Covey encouraged us to think of our tasks along two dimensions: urgency and importance.

Covey warned that we all naturally deal with things that are urgent and important first, but it is what we do next that defines our ultimate success. Once the important fires are out, most of us switch to tasks that are urgent yet not important because we get a mini endorphin rush from completing each task.

Covey went on to say that the most successful and effective people spend the majority of their time in the top right quadrant, which focuses on projects that are important, yet not urgent. Continue Reading

Capacity to make decisions

Posted in Family Estates and Trusts

In business succession planning it is important to ensure that the wills of the participants align with the succession plan. An issue that is easy to overlook is the capacity to make a will. This article gives a good overview of the principles in determining capacity. If there are questions then professional advice should be obtained.


“The first broad principle behind capacity assessment is that two cognitive functions are behind every capacity, namely the understanding of relevant facts and the appreciation of the reasonably foreseeable consequences of a decision or course of action. This involves cognitive functions such as episodic memory and frontal-executive functions that subsume judgement and impulse control. Continue Reading

Setting Aside a Prenuptial Agreement – LeVan v. LeVan

Posted in Family in Business

The article Setting Aside a Prenuptial Agreement – LeVan v. LeVan neatly summarizes the disclosure requirements in the context of pre-marital contracts in Ontario. Handling this issue requires care when a family business or family farm is in issue.

Although it seems impossible to know when or how to give this advise – it seems that where there are disclosure issues based on a concern of fear of consequences – then one should question the entire premise of the marriage.

50 Hurdles – Business Transition Simplified: written by Ian R. Campbell with Chris Nobes, foreword by Tom W. Deans

Posted in Book Reviews

In November of 2012 CIBC Bank published a report describing the macroeconomic threat posed by inadequate succession planning. CIBC reported that in Canada, 550,000 businesses with a total value of $3.5 trillion dollars will transfer or transition in the next 10 – 20 years.

There is a lot of marketing by financial institutions who are looking to capture the dollars flowing out of these transfers and transitions. But there is not a lot of good quality guidance available to assist the owner or advisor with how to actually transition a business.

50 Hurdles – Business Transition Simplified is a valuable addition. Lead author Ian R. Campbell has previously authored leading valuation texts accepted as authoritative guidance on the subject of business valuation in many Canadian court cases.

So it is certain that 50 Hurdles emanates from voices of deep experience. The difference however is that Campbell has put in a lot of effort to make the book readable and accessible to business owners and their advisers. You can consider this book as authoritative guidance written in an accessible manner. Based on my own deep interest in the subject I could not put the book down, and read it one sitting. This does not mean 50 Hurdles reads like an Agatha Christie novel, but it is not a formal textbook either.

The fifty hurdles to successful generational business transition discussed in the book each are issues that must be considered along the generational transition path. The book makes the point that a hurdle is an obstruction that you can jump over; whereas a barrier is a wall that stops you. Reading through 50 hurdles will help you identify barriers that may exist in your unique family and business, and in turn may fundamentally dictate your strategic choices. Continue Reading

The Liquidation Event: what to do with the proceeds?

Posted in Selling Your Business


The article   Is now really the “perfect” time to sell a business?  offers some important considerations for the owner who is considering selling.

“It seems everywhere you look, valuations are up. All this froth could lead a business owner to say that now is the perfect time to sell. Maybe. But most owners who sell will have to do something with the money, which usually means buying into an equally inflated asset class. ”

For lifestyle requirements, funds should be in low risk or guaranteed investments. Legacy is best dealt with by life insurance.

Innovation strategy – should you be a disruptor or a sustainer?

Posted in Strategic Growth


In Defense of Routine Innovation

by Gary P. Pisano

This article contains very practical advice on innovation. The conclusion is:

In creating an innovation strategy, managers should strive to achieve the optimal balance between disruptive and sustaining efforts. There is no magic formula. Young start-ups are not going to beat an Apple or Google at its own game. They need to find an alternative value proposition, and disruptive strategies are likely the only route there. (This is why it makes sense for venture capitalists to obsess about disruption).

But once a company is established, innovation strategy means understanding how to leverage distinctive existing strengths to generate value and capture value. It means understanding how your repertoire of R&D skills, intellectual property, operating capabilities, relationships, distribution channels, and brand can protect and extend the value from innovation.