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12 daily habits of an exceptional leader

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Everyone wins when a leader gets better" - Bill Hybels

Have you every read a blog or an article and you say, "I wish I had written that!" Well, this is one for me. I immediately thought I would pass it on, even in a world where it seems everyone has something to say about leadership. Travis Bradberry truly writes worthwhile stuff and this is no exception and with amazing quotes.

Even though we have all read good stuff on leadership, some things we need to be reminded of, because certainly a Kingdom business needs the best of leaders.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

12 Daily Habits of an Exceptional Leader

Dr. Travis Bradberry
TalentSmart, President and ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0,’ Coauthor
05/14/2017 07:44 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2017

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective.

Great leaders change us for the better. They see more in us than we see in ourselves, and they help us learn to see it too. They dream big and show us all the great things we can accomplish.

Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole. Great leadership is also founded in good habits. What follows are the essential habits that exceptional leaders rely on every day. Give them a try and see where they take your leadership skills.

1. Effective Communication

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” —Joseph Priestley

Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator.

Great communicators inspire people. They listen. They create a connection with their followers that is real, emotional, and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.

2. Courage

“Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” —Aristotle

People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.

For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction.

Leaders who lack courage simply toe the company line. They follow the safest path—the path of least resistance—because they’d rather cover their backside than lead.

3. Adherence to the Golden Rule +1

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” —Jon Wolfgang von Goethe

The Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated – assumes that all people are the same. It assumes that, if you treat your followers the way you would want a leader to treat you, they’ll be happy. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention.

Great leaders don’t treat people how they themselves want to be treated. Instead, they take the Golden Rule a step further and treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Great leaders learn what makes people tick, recognize their needs in the moment, and adapt their leadership style accordingly.

4. Self-Awareness

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” —Latin Proverb

Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives, or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaders—like everyone else—view themselves in a more favorable light than other people do.

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90% of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Great leaders’ high self-awareness means they have a clear and accurate image not just of their leadership style, but also of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know where they shine and where they’re weak, and they have effective strategies for leaning into their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.

5. Passion

“If you just work on stuff that you like and are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” —Mark Zuckerberg

Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. So are boredom and apathy. No one wants to work for a boss that’s unexcited about his or her job, or even one who’s just going through the motions. Great leaders are passionate about what they do, and they strive to share that passion with everyone around them.

6. Humility

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” —C.S. Lewis

Great leaders are humble. They don’t allow their position of authority to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

7. Generosity

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell

Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise. They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best – not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.

8. Infectiousness

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.

9. Authenticity

“Just be who you are and speak from your guts and heart – it’s all a man has.” —Hubert Humphrey

Authenticity refers to being honest in all things – not just what you say and do, but who you are. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives. Any time they spend doing so erodes their confidence in you and in their ability to execute.

Leaders who are authentic are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.

10. Approachability

“Management is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.” —Tommy Lasorda

Great leaders make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insight, and ask good questions is destined for failure. By ensuring that they are approachable, great leaders facilitate the flow of great ideas throughout the organization.

11. Accountability

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.” —Michael Armstrong

Great leaders have their followers’ backs. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up.

12. A Sense Of Purpose

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” —Ken Kesey

Whereas vision is a clear idea of where you’re going, a sense of purpose refers to an understanding of why you’re going there. People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders give people that feeling.

Bringing It All Together

Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these traits at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act” some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.

Want to learn more from me? Check out my book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

A tale of two poultry farms

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trivia Question:

What do these countries have in common: Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, South Sudan and East Timor?

All are new countries since 2000!

And the newest of them is South Sudan which is also the poorest. Imagine this landlocked country with 12.2 million people (and 60 major ethnic groups), newly independent in 2011, as arguably the poorest in the world and...
  • …was too broke last year to celebrate its 5th year of independence.
  • …has only 130 miles of paved roads and 154 miles of railroad.
  • …the GDP is $1700 per annual capita (#213 in the world).
  • …has a subsistence economy with 78% of the population in low productive or unpaid agriculture.
  • …40% of the entire population is urgently in need of food.
  • …with the highest maternal mortality in the world.
  • …with only 27% over the age of 15 able to read or write.
  • …38% of the population must walk 30 minutes one way or more for drinking water while 80% have no access to toilet facilities.
  • ...a civil war displaced over 2 million people between 2013 and 2015.
Where would you start?
Countries like this start at the bottom of the ladder – agriculture. People cannot develop when they are starving. So along comes an evangelical church in South Sudan with a vision to meet human need in the name of Jesus with Bright Hope Animal Farms of South Sudan.

The goal is to produce high quality eggs and whole chickens as a source of protein; to generate a revenue stream thus reducing dependence on Western aid; create jobs and allow pastors a source of income so they can continue to be a spiritual ray of light in a very dark place.

This is Business as Mission (and the Quadruple Bottom Line of disciple-making, job creation, profitability and stewardship of resources). This is the kind of business that IBEC consultants love to help.

What will it take?
Challenges like this need capital, expertise and prototypes. They need IBEC coaches to provide financial projections, a capitalization plan and management consulting. Bright Hope Animal Farms is off and running with its first building. They await funding for 2000 layers and 1000 broilers. The need: $93,000.

And a prototype has been developed and is operating in Kenya, Place of the Wind Poultry Farm. They began operation in April 2015 and now two years later they are finally breaking even. Initial losses are typical of startup operations so IBEC consultants who have developed a case statement, business plan and financial projections are pleased with progress. The business is very close to meeting objectives.

Startup needs
It is an amazing feat in North America to be nearing financial profitability and bottom line objectives by the third year. It takes capital; it takes vision and takes the right people. It takes good modeling and a great business plan; and it takes good expertise and counsel.

IBEC considers it a privilege to participate as consultants with these projects. You too can help by praying, helping with funds which are still needed, or offering to coach this or another project like this.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Bill Gates' advice to graduates: 3 fields and 3 important things

Sunday, June 04, 2017

It is graduation time in America – first college and then high school. In an age where it is all too common to tell grads that they can do whatever they set out to do, and other “sweet nothings”, Bill Gates recently tweeted some no-nonsense advice to new graduates (May, 15 on his Twitter page: twitter.com/BillGates).

I find his thoughts useful and uplifting but at the same time I think it is important to add to them elements of what constitutes a life lived for God, serving him and others, bringing to our businesses the opportunity to help all our stakeholders to see how one can follow Jesus. Bill Gates refers to “making a difference in other people’s lives” and he has done that through job creation and through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, there is one other component which truly brings transformation – a new life in Christ!

Excerpts from @BillGates, May 15,2015:

New college graduates often ask me for career advice. I was lucky to be in my early 20s when the digital revolution was just getting under way, and Paul Allen and I had the chance to help shape it. (Which explains my lack of a college degree—I left school because we were afraid the revolution would happen without us.) If I were starting out today and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, I would consider three fields.

One is artificial intelligence. We have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative. The second is energy, because making it clean, affordable, and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change. The third is the biosciences, which are ripe with opportunities to help people live longer, healthier lives.

But some things in life are true no matter what career you choose. I wish I had understood these things better when I left school. For one thing, intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, and it takes many different forms. In the early days of Microsoft, I believed that if you could write great code, you could also manage people well or run a marketing team or take on any other task. I was wrong about that. I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents. The sooner you can do this, if you don’t already, the richer your life will be.

Another thing I wish I had understood much earlier is what true inequity looks like. I did not see it up close until my late 30s, when Melinda and I took our first trip to Africa. We were shocked by what we saw. When we came back, we began learning more. It blew our minds that millions of children there were dying from diseases that no one in rich countries even worried about. We thought it was the most unjust thing in the world. We realized we couldn’t wait to get involved—we had to start giving back right away.

You know much more than I did when I was your age. Technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could, and it empowers you to help in ways we never could. You can start fighting inequity sooner, whether it is in your own community or in a country halfway around the world.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. Melinda does that for me, and I am a better person for it. Like our good friend Warren Buffett, I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, and by the difference I make in other people’s lives.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Founders Imports: moving from the sideline to the goal line

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bob Bush is the Managing Director of IBEC and writes about one of the projects where he serves as a consultant. We continually thank God not only for clients like Founders Imports but the coaches and consultants who serve them.

Founders Imports (foundersimports.com) is a perfect example of what can happen when a family comes together as a team, listens to the Word of God regarding how they can make a difference, and then has the tenacity and perseverance to put their dreams into action. Putting words and thoughts into action is what we all want to do, but many times it takes a "nudge" from the Holy Spirit to push us forward. As evidenced by the work being done by Founders Imports, that little "nudge" can have a huge impact for God's Kingdom and change lives in the process.

Andy and Heather Jones felt God's calling to make a difference in Guatemala and began Founders Imports to help create jobs for women in the area.  They brought their incredible family together (Emily Close, Meagan and Nate Taverner, and Evangeline Jones), and the impact in the area was life-changing for all involved. Women who needed an opportunity were given one through the compassion, love, and hard work exemplified by this amazing family. The members of the Founders Imports Team are not missionaries by “calling” but their desire to utilize the gifts that God has given them has truly made a difference in this area of the world. Simply put, they put their thoughts into action and through God's grace, lives have been changed.

IBEC Ventures (ibecventures.com) was brought in to help partner with Founders Imports, and the team has flourished together for the Glory of God.  Founders Imports has been able to implement their incredible strategic vision for the organization, with IBEC providing tactical support and coaching along the way. As a result, God is touching the lives of
many in the area. Andy and Heather found themselves looking for an opportunity to make a difference for God's Kingdom, and the team quickly moved from the sideline to the goal line. Their next move will be to take Founders Imports into the heart of Asia, as they feel God's calling to this area of the world as well.

We at IBEC Ventures are here to provide consultative support for Business as Mission endeavors throughout the world. Andy, Heather, and the entire Founders Imports Team are making a huge difference for God's Kingdom, and this is just the beginning! If you are interested in putting your dreams into action as well, then a call or email to IBEC Ventures to inquire about possible next steps may be your next move.

Remember...God has given each of us unique gifts for His Kingdom. Let's make sure we put these gifts to use for Him. We simply cannot let these gifts go to waste.

What's your gold thread?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

This week I received an update phone call from the Director of IBEC, Robert Bush. Among the various topics, he made reference to a conversation he had with a "friendly competitor". I knew the individual and considered him certainly friendly, but I had not given the notion of competition much thought. As I reflected on the nuances of competition I ran across this LinkedIn Influencer article by Katya Andresen entitled, The Best Way to Compete Is Looking Beyond the Competition. (Published April 9, 2017).

This is a great reminder that it is not about us and it is not about the competition - it is about the customer! "Discover what is missing in the world" she says. In short:
  1. Know your strength.
  2. Be different in a way that matters to the customer.
  3. Make your differentiation clear.
She writes:

"I wrote a book on marketing a few years back, and it included a section on competition. In that chapter, I told the story of Gold Toe socks. As the name would suggest, those are the pairs with the distinctive gold thread at the toe. The reason for that signature look is a great lesson in how to think about competition.

"The company gained its toehold in the sock market during the depression, when it began weaving strong Irish linen into the tips of its socks so they would last longer during hard times. In the 1930s, a department-store buyer told one of the company's founders that the durable toes were great, but customers couldn't tell which brand had them. In a stroke of genius, the company decided to wrap gold acetate thread around the linen so its strong toe—now a Gold Toe—would be immediately visible to consumers. The company made its competitive advantage recognizable and unmistakable. That decision has helped make Gold Toe Brands a top sock manufacturer for decades.

"This is a rich illustration of how to think about competition. First, we have to know our strength. Second, we have to be different in some important way that matters to the market. And then we need to make the differentiation as clear as if were adorned in gold thread.

"Notice that in this story, Gold Toe didn't obsess about how to be as good as others. They spent a lot more time thinking about how to stand out in both form and substance.

"Maybe this sounds like obvious business strategy. Yet when it comes to competition, it's easy to forget. We sometimes start studying our competition as if it offers the roadmap to where we need to be instead of realizing it represents a path already taken. The more we worry about keeping up, the more we fall behind the more important race to define our unique gifts and put them to work on a problem that needs solving in our own special way.

"I think the pitfalls of competition extend not just to business strategy but also to professional identity. Whether defining a product strategy or distinguishing ourselves in a job market, we can waste time worrying about being as good as everyone else. But competitive strategy should focus on who we're trying to benefit while taking into account the competition, not the other way around. We don't win solely by reacting to our competitors but rather outperforming them in meeting our audience's needs and wants.

"Let me put it more spiritually: We win by being the best version of ourselves in order to uniquely matter to someone else.

"We can't achieve that aim if we're endlessly keeping score in relationship to the others who seek to matter. If there's a full accounting to be done, it should be within ourselves. And we have to be unafraid to find what is wonderfully different and put it out there, on full display, gold thread or not. That can feel uncomfortably daring. And if it does, we are probably on the right track.

"If you are struggling to compete, don't look to what others have done. Discover what is missing in the world or incomplete within yourself and apply all your energy to the worthy endeavor of filling that unclaimed space better than anyone else ever could. Find your difference, and you will make a difference."

God put unique qualities in each of us and asks us to use them for His purposes and for His glory. In your life, in your business, what need is He asking you to fill? What unique gifts, talents, position, and authority has He give you to fulfill that? What are you doing to share with the world? What is your gold thread?

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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BAM startup wisdom: go with a guide

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Because of my penchant for hiking I was intrigued to read recently about the hiking couple who spent 47 days stranded in a canyon in the Himalayas. The 20-year old Taiwanese man was rescued, surviving on salt and water after his food ran out 5 weeks earlier; he had lost 66 pounds. However, his unfortunate friend died three days before the rescue.

Apparently when they realized they were lost they followed a water source downhill looking for a village but became trapped at the top of a waterfall and found they were unable to hike back uphill again due to steep cliffs all around. All of this took place in a time of heavy snowfall. They had been hiking above the 9,000 foot level without a guide.1

It is estimated that about 30% of the 100,000 Nepal trekkers each year travel without guides. There are casualties every year and efforts are being made to make it illegal to travel without guides.

I clicked on this story while watching some of the NHL playoffs. I love it when the TV camera zooms in on the coaches and remind us of their successes, challenges and risks. No team is without a coach.

This week I took one of my granddaughters first to her swimming lesson and then to her piano lesson. In both classes skilled teachers and coaches patiently help Mia to mature in swimming and at the piano. Neither she, nor any of the other students, would go very far without a coach.

A guide as life insurance

I got to thinking, why would business startups try to grow their business without a coach; or without consultants? Maybe it is the same reason why people take high risks trying to hike high in the Himalayas without a guide.

After the article about the Taiwanese trekker, a comment read: Experience in such trekking conditions is a must & a guide is your "life insurance." Imagine the hassle, cost & worries to the authorities, family & key stakeholders. Another with less diplomacy stated, So unfortunate and so stupid. Going without a guide on unfamiliar ground. Neglecting the Golden Rules and forgetting "Into The Wild".

A guide as “life insurance” – an interesting way to look at it! This week I read a statistic which stated that 90% of Kingdom (Business as Mission / BAM) freedom businesses do not survive. I wonder if it is really that high, but whatever it is, it is too high. Much can be gained if business owners would humble themselves and link up with coaches, Subject Matter Experts and consultants to guide them through the milieu of starting and growing a business (hard enough in itself) in a foreign culture.

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

1. Read more at Tributes for Taiwanese trekker lost in Nepal tragedy, ChannelNews Asia. April 27, 2017.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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5 positive things about being 2nd in command

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Business as Mission (BAM) narratives oftentimes focus on the founder or the entrepreneur credited with the initial startup leadership; and rightly so; but sometimes the real reason for success may rest with the #2 or #3 person. Sometimes key success factors can be traced to the “second in command”.

Since graduating with a business degree in 1968, I have had more than one opportunity to lead an organization both in Brazil and in Pennsylvania, but most of my life in management has been as the #2 guy – in Alaska managing a fish plant; in Brazil; and as VP of operations and business partnerships for Crossworld for 19 years. What is positive about being second in command?

1. Flexibility in use of abilities.

My years as the second guy gave me an opportunity to maximize my skills, giftedness and interests. Oftentimes the CEO is required to do things because of his/her position which are not aligned with skills and interests. I observed my bosses consumed with fund raising, capital development, spontaneous thinking, or public speaking, all of which were not appealing to me. The scriptures are clear that God creates all people differently and when it comes to a Kingdom business, employees contribute best when in positions that maximize their God-given wiring and experiences.1

2. Influence on specialized audiences.

Mike Baer in his book 2IC: Business as Mission for the Rest of Us, uses the Biblical characters of Daniel and Joseph to demonstrate that what they accomplished relative to God’s purposes and influencing people was highly correlated with their positions as the number two guy. I was very grateful for the opportunities to influence individual employees while managing a fish processing plant because I wasn’t on the phone all day or up in the office; similarly while supervising a home mission office I was able to develop people, solve problems and make strategic plans – something that was less true for my boss, the CEO.

3. Identification with regular employees.

While it is true that those who are second in command do have influence and authority, there is a certain advantage with not being the top dog. People tend to look at you also as having a boss and can identify with you and that gives you respect and identity with many. In more than one situation, I found it acceptable to participate in “community work day” with everyone else, while it was less likely that the President, my boss, could get so involved with mundane tasks. Such activities endeared me to the employees.

4. Time to think and plan.

“In Consiglieri (an Italian word for adviser or counselor that dates back to the Middle Ages but was made famous by The Godfather), Richard Hytner writes about two types of what he calls “C” executives: Those who have taken advantage of the No. 2 role to prepare themselves for the top job—think Tim Cook, who was Steve Jobs’ longtime deputy at Apple before becoming CEO—and those who value the position for its own sake. For one thing, he likes “having the time to think through a problem deeply, which most CEOs do not have,” he says. “If you are curious and contemplative by nature, and enjoy influencing strategy and events from behind the scenes, then there really is no better job.”2

Second in command people often have different motivations than A leaders. They often crave time and space to think, opportunity to create and shape practical outcomes, and the satisfaction of directly helping others. I well remember receiving Sunday phone calls from our president with his latest “wild idea” asking me if we could do it and could I prepare a draft plan for early in the week. When the CEO is open to reason and discussion, such scenarios are often a welcome challenge to the number two person.

5. Opportunity to be mentored for the CEO job.

I well remember being appointed as president of a group in Brazil after being a vice president, and being mentored by my predecessor. He continually assured me that I could do it even though ten years earlier he was clear that I couldn’t. His faith in me at the right time was a real confidence builder.

A recent study of top positions in US corporations indicated that 60% of those second in command did not aspire to the top job. However, in the world of the startup and especially Business as Mission initiatives, there is high probability that the entrepreneur or founding owner may not survive until profitability. Thus, he or she must be on the lookout for number 2 or 3 individuals as part of succession planning. In small startup companies, a person with aspirations and competency for the CEO role may have a shorter pathway to the top role than in big corporations. Taking the number two position, when determined to learn and grow, can be a great positive factor.

2. Fisher, Anne. Fortune, July 3, 2014.The subtle advantages of being No. 2

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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May 1: International Workers’ Day – or International Customers' Day?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

May 1 is considered Labor Day in most every country in the world. With its roots in the labor movement in the late 19th Century, the day commemorates the world’s workers with celebration and holiday.

While it certainly is important to celebrate the historic gains made by the world’s workers as well as the more recent fair trade legislation which addresses exploitation and excess, I wonder if it is equally important to celebrate the world’s customers to help us all realize that without them there would be no business and thus, no jobs for the workers.

Of course, such an idea seems extreme since we are all customers and consumers, but can we think a little more deeply on the subject? We live in time of increasing distance between the rich and poor nations with increasing poverty, injustice and unemployment worldwide. Entrepreneurship has never been more important than it is today – and by definition entrepreneurs depend on customers for success and economic growth.

Jim Clifton in his book The Coming Jobs War 1, states that the most powerful predictors of GDP now lie within the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation,” (p. 50). He then devotes an entire chapter to the customer entitled “Customer Science.” He speaks about what it will take for entrepreneurs and other “job makers” to win customers and thus create jobs and grow their companies. Clifton says,

“What customers at any level really want is somebody who deeply understands their needs and becomes a trusted partner or advisor.” (p. 121)

“Most jobs occur when entrepreneurs start companies…and these jobs occur where new customers appear. For that reason the science of customers, often referred to as customer insight or customer centricity, is more important today than ever before.” (p. 188).

Another author calls it the “Tao of business: Care about your customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well…its’ counter-intuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.”2; Certainly that explains what offshore companies like Toyota and Volkswagen did in breaking into the US market. It also explains the rise of WalMart and Costco. Companies that best know the needs and preferences of customers will have a prohibitive advantage.

All Kingdom business startups as well as businesses in a scale mode, must make their first and foremost question, “who is my customer and what does he/she most want?” Ask – what is his or her problem? – before trying to create a solution! Remember the sage wisdom of Sam Walton, the founder of WalMart:

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” 3

1 Clifton, Jim. (2011)  The Coming Jobs War. New York:  The Gallup Press.
2 Sivers, Derek. (2011) Anything You Want.  Amazon:  The Domino Project.
3 Allen, Kathleen (2016)  Launching New Ventures – An Entrepreneurial Approach. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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5 tips for long term survival and success in high risk countries

Sunday, April 23, 2017

I just spent a week with several business owners and humanitarian workers who work in a high risk country. 1 I marveled at their commitment, perseverance, competence and productivity in their chosen calling.  Many were business people while others university professors and medical professionals.

1. Pray and Trust. One veterinarian stated it this way. “We are on our knees a lot.”  Their entire team of expats have a meal and pray together daily. Team life is protected and each member is challenged to grow as a person and in relationship to others, while totally depending on God for unity, wisdom and protection.

2. Learn and Love. A business owner with 22 employees stressed how important it is to love the people around you, always listening and caring while displaying attitudes of love for the people.  This must be a natural part of life, not just something which you have to work hard to accomplish.  Many stated repeatedly that “the citizens are always watching us…they see how we forgive and how we love.”

3. Respect and Honor.  It is crucial to respect local customs, regulations and cultural icons.  One transportation company vice president said, “it is important to pay attention to the Great Leader of the country.”  National symbols such as statutes or prayer traditions must be accepted and respected. In short – follow the rules!

4. Bless the Nation and Create Value. It is important to meet real needs that are tangible and visible and easily identifiable.   Veterinarians heal animals; businesses create jobs, physicians and physical therapists treat real people; chemistry professors create value for students; coaches for national sport teams seek to bring honor to the country; researchers produce reports useful for development progress.  Just as God asked Abraham in ancient times to bless others, so too our goal is to bless the nation and its peoples.

5. Have Vision and End Goals.  Everyone I recently met, and most others over the years have a clear understanding of why they are there.  D has a vision for clean water for every family in his province; A wants everyone with autism to have access to treatment; J manufactures soy oil for sale to relief agencies feeding the starving; M wants to create a dozen more jobs; C operates a tour company and wants one hundred more tourists this year who can demonstrate that America is not bad and how a Jesus-follower lives.

1.  A high risk country is one which considered to be a top tier country on scales such as Transparency International (www.doingbusiness.org/rankings); and Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.net); Corruption Watch (www.corruptionwatch.org.za/report/corruption)‎.  They are highly corrupt; usually anti-West; lack basic infrastructure amenities such as electricity, internet, clean water; and they make it difficult for Christians.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Patrick Lencioni’s 3 essential virtues of a team player

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The other day I was on my walk in Magnuson Park near our place in Seattle. The park has sizable wetlands and I have been enjoying seeing various kinds of ducks and geese in typical spring activities. There are ducks such as Buffleheads, Scaups, Grebes, Coots, Wigeons, Goldeneyes, and Mallards. And there is the Canada Goose, perhaps my favorite.

Unlike the ducks, Canada Geese mate for life and I got to wondering how they choose a mate. And after the annual breeding, feeding and maturation of the young, comes the fall migration where they team up with others in the long journey to warmer climates. It seems like ornithologists and biologists still do not have conclusive answers to some of these questions about how mates and teams are generated.

It is funny how the mind wanders when observing something like geese in the springtime. I got to thinking not so much about how humans choose their mates (there is plenty written on this) but on how business teams are selected. It seems that here too we still are learning about the most important qualities to look for in team formation and top level executives.

The March 2017 Entrepreneur cover story piqued my interest. Entitled, “Build the Perfect Team”, Paul English of Kayak fame asserts “…the key to success is the people I hire.” Later in the article he says, “The most important thing any entrepreneur can do is focus on the team.”

Most of us have read at least one book or article by Patrick Lencioni. While waiting for my flight recently in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, I stopped to read part of his most recent book, The Ideal Team Player.1 Lencioni boils the decision down to three qualities: Humble, Hungry and Smart.

Humble. C.S. Lewis states, “humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Not unlike Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Or “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2.

Veteran Kingdom entrepreneur Bill Job, says that the definition of Business as Mission is simple. It is “walking with God at work.” He tells the highest officials in his Asian country, “I don’t own this business…I am simply a steward for the owner.” The companies which have spun off from his parent company give evidence of the ability of Bill to find humble people and help them continue that even with success in business.

There is an adage which stages “…hire for character and train for skills.” There is a lot of truth to consider in that. Wild Bill Donovan who headed the OSS intelligence unit for the USA during World War II stated, “the most important qualification for our operatives is strength of character.” The OSS became the forerunner of the CIA.

Years ago, Samuel Johnson said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, but knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” Warren Buffet says it this way: “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. But if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

Hungry. Lencioni means that he looks for employees that are self-motivated and diligent in their work. This is close to what Buffet calls energy. Hungry, means they have a strong work ethic, are determined to get things done and contribute any way they can, says Lencioni. He continues…people who are hungry, but not humble or smart can be called a Bull Dozer. They have lots of drive and ambition, but they can’t work with others. And they leave a trail of dead bodies around them. Know anybody like this? They are likely contributing to a dysfunctional team.

How about people who are humble and smart but not hungry? These people survive in organizations a long time. They mean well and people like them. They just don’t want to do that much work, they do just enough work to make it hard for you to do something about it. Hard workers get really frustrated by this person.

I have been around Not-For-Profits a long time and there are many people like this. Lencioni calls them lovable slackers. I once had a colleague who said, “I would rather keep trying to reign in a galloping horse, than try to kick a dead one into action.” I agree.

Smart. Lencioni is not talking about intellectual smarts but about common sense around people. Smart people are people who are good at practicing emotional intelligence. They know what they say to others and how it impacts them. Hiring for intellectual smarts is not a good idea.

I once had a staff member who had just read Daniel Goleman’s book on EQ. She came quietly into my office, shut the door and said, “John has an emotional intelligence of zero”. She was obviously frustrated with another employee who was really intellectually smart and experienced, but lacked common sense in working with people.

Lencioni goes on to define smart as one who generally understands what others are feeling during meetings and conversations. He/she shows empathy for others on the team, and demonstrates an interest in the lives of his/her teammates.

Whether these three virtues are called humble, hungry and smart, or something else, they are worth consideration in our pursuit of team players, top leaders and others partnering with us in business startups.

1 Lencioni, Patrick. The Ideal Team Player – How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, 2016

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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