Leadership is About Impact by Jim Johnson

I met with my leadership team the other week to talk through a “what if” scenario.  The possibilities, as I explained, were exciting.  It would require more work.  It would require being challenged and stretched.  It would require change.

My leadership team then met (without me) a few days later to talk through this scenario.  They individually have shared with me some of what they discussed.

Not surprisingly, these leaders did not focus on how this scenario would impact them and their teams.  On the contrary, they focused on how they could impact the situation – how they would reallocate resources, elevate flexibility, and revisit procedures that had not been reviewed for a while.  They focused on how they could improve now to make the most effective impact later.

Today (it is a Thursday), try on a “what if” scenario for you and your team.  I’ll give you something to think about.

Imagine that your company measures NPS (net promoter score) as a metric that points to customer engagement/satisfaction/referrals.  Then imagine that your boss comes to you and says that your team’s performance in customer service had to improve from its current level of 59% NPS to 80%.  And you have 90 days to accomplish this.

Key Question:  how would you impact that challenge?

shocked womanI believe that many of us would quickly fall into the worry/stress mode of thinking:

  • “Is my boss nuts!?! That’s not possible!”
  • “Well, they better get me more staff if they want that to happen!”
  • “What do you want me to stop doing to start doing this?!”

But your boss is serious.  It has to be done.

So, what are you going to do to get there?

Start by envisioning a future that meets that goal.  Start by asking you and your team:

  • What would we do differently today to hit that goal in the future?
  • How would we think differently?
  • How would our team feel coming to work each day?
  • What would our customers experience differently as we worked toward this goal?
  • How would we shift from “this impacts me/us” to “how can I/we impact this goal”?

Brainstorm with your leadership team and members of your department.  Write down brainstormingyour responses to the questions above.  Agree on what the “new normal” will look like.  Then take action.  Yes, actually do this exercise as if it were real.  And watch what happens.  If you are the primary leader, take note of what the process in the 90 day time period:

  • How are natural leaders stepping up?
  • Who is “all in” and modeling the right stuff?
  • How is this exercise changing the team dynamic?
  • How are others outside of your department noticing what is happening (note:  don’t tell them you are doing this exercise – if your team is doing this well, others will notice)?

This is an exercise worth attempting especially if you and your team are “stuck” merely showing up for work, putting in the time, and then going home.  You and your team can make an impact – every day and in meaningful ways.

Leader, this all starts with you.  “Exemplary leaders are forward-thinking…Turning exciting possibilities into an inspiring shared vision ranks near the top of the list of every leader’s most important responsibilities.” (Kouzes & Posner)

Today, look for ways you and your team can impact your company’s results.  Dream.  Cast vision.  Push.  Impact.

Maxwell on leadership impact

First Fridays – focus on NE Indiana Regional Partnership

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On Friday, November 3, John Sampson (CEO of the NE Indiana Regional Partnership) will be the inaugural speaker at First Fridays hosted by Indiana Wesleyan University. In case you are not familiar with the Partnership, read the following excerpt and visit them at http://neindiana.com.

About the NE Indiana Regional Partnership

Increasing business investment. That’s what we’re all about. We’re here to support your business, build our community, and market our region to the world. How do we do all of that? Together. Collaboration is Northeast Indiana’s secret sauce and the key to building a globally competitive economy in our 11-county region.

Our mission is to build, market, and sell Northeast Indiana to increase business investment.

Our region is made up of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley counties.

Click on the link below to RSVP (required for attendance – seating is limited). Plan to be there.

First Fridays November 3

Leadership, Vision, and Grace by Jim Johnson

As I wrote earlier, one of my leaders invited me to lunch with Mayor Tom Henry of my hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  We just returned from this private luncheon.

mayor henry

Mayor Henry is a genuine leader with a gracious spirit and a keen vision for our city.  His strategic plan for growth has seen our downtown begin to be revitalized.  Our city is experiencing growth in new businesses which creates jobs.  His plans have created wonderful family attractions.  His plans for the future will do even more of this.  He openly shared his vision for more growth and expansion – and exciting days are ahead for Fort Wayne.

At the end of our meeting, we gave him our gifts and he also shared gifts with us.  He was honestly thrilled to receive the books.  We were honored by his gifts.

Mayor Henry’s family has been a part of our city’s history for over 100 years now.  You can easily perceive his passion for Fort Wayne.  While the Mayor is no longer a young man, he was energized when talking about the future.  Investors are seeking Fort Wayne out – great things are in store for us!

Our Mayor is a busy man. He is the leader of the 2nd largest city in the state of Indiana.  But he took the time today to have a relaxed lunch with the two of us.  There were no politics at play.  No trying to sell us something.  He genuinely loves what he does and loves to hear how his vision has positively impacted our city.

Leadership.  Vision.  Grace.

May we all embody those attributes as we seek to influence others to success.

People Follow Leaders with Vision by Susan M. Heathfield

​”When leaders share out a powerful vision and organize and staff the workplace to accomplish it, a powerful dynamic drives employee performance. When leaders walk their talk, it’s a demonstrated motivator for people. When leaders  share a strong vision, employees flock to it – even choosing the job in the company over other options.

These are the fundamentals necessary for a vision that excites and motivates people to follow the leader. The vision must:

  1. Clearly set organizational direction and purpose;
  2. Inspire loyalty and caring through the involvement of all employees;
  3. Display and reflect the unique strengths, culture, values, beliefs and direction of the organization;
  4. Inspire enthusiasm, belief, commitment and excitement in company members;
  5. Help employees believe that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work;
  6. Be regularly communicated and shared, not just through monthly announcements and reminders at the company meeting, it must permeate all communication at every level of the organization;
  7. Serve as the reason courses of action are chosen, people are hired, markets are selected, and products are developed; 
  8. Challenge people to outdo themselves, to stretch and reach.”


Read the entire article here:  https://www.thebalance.com/leadership-vision-1918616


Beyond Cool: Jamal Robinson by Jim Johnson

I had the privilege to have lunch with Jamal Robinson of Desiar at the end of October.  What is Desiar (pronounced “desee-aire)?  Here’s what Jamal says from his website, www.desiar.com:

“a new revolution of eyewear for the fashion-forward who want to become style legends”
“progressive eyewear line for the bold, the confident, the expressive”
“Desiar is the framework for individuality”
“FUTURE CLASSIC”

desiar 1

desiar 2

Jamal and I met at a mentoring program hosted by IPFW (Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne) where business leaders (Jamal and I) spend time with IPFW business students to help them connect, network, and create a context for their current learning journey.

Jamal began Desiar in 2011 after early adventures into entrepreneurship.  He has designed clothing for a magazine in Florida before he began to focus on eye-wear.  As the idea for Desiar matured in his mind, the designs moved from “glitter” to working with mediums not normally seen in glasses – wood.

So how did Jamal create and develop Desiar?  He used his resources to figure out how to start up this growing business.  He worked for an import/export company here in Fort Wayne and learned valuable lessons that he has directly applied to Desiar.  His work/mentoring experience here helped lay the foundation for Jamal.

I asked him how he came to find the overseas factory.  “The internet.”  Jamal is genuinely curious.  He is not afraid to research and learn. In fact, that is a primary characteristic of this young business man.  If he didn’t know something, he jumped in and found the answer.  Not knowing did not create obstacles that stopped him.  He pushed and climbed and questioned and researched.  He found his answers, and he moved forward.

He didn’t stop there.  As he developed his eye-wear line, Jamal would go to concerts and get back stage to meet the artists (if possible) to present his product and simply ask if they would wear them.  He asked for the business.  But he did it intentionally.  He would approach the artist and say, “I design glasses. If I gave you this pair, would you wear them?”  They did.  His “fashion-forward” eye-wear had to be in the hands of individuals who were already setting fashion trends – people that other people would and do take notice.  Smart, smart moves.

Those first glasses were made by Jamal himself.  But he soon he realized that he could not keep up if he wanted to broaden the scale of his business.  He knew he had to go overseas to bring scale to his production.  So how did he find a production company on the other side of the world?  “The internet,” Jamal answered.  He did his research.  He spent nights reading, talking with manufacturers, making connections. 

His fashion line developed into glasses made of wood and other mediums.  His business grew.  But now, he is about to launch (first of November) a new line of eye-wear made solely of wood.  And they are beautiful!

So did Jamal look overseas for a manufacturer to make these all-wood glasses? No.  These are made down the road (from where we ate) in a small town.  Who makes them? A furniture maker.  Only 2%-3% of eye-wear is made in the US.  And to Jamal’s knowledge, none are made in Indiana.  But he just changed that.

As he met with potential investors, he explained that his glasses would be “made in Indiana.”  They didn’t think that marketing line was a good idea.  Who would buy glasses from Indiana? It’s a state of farms, race cars, auto manufacturing, and Amish.  Wooden glasses exist in a different atmosphere, right?

wooden glasseswooden glasses in a row

Made in Indiana?  Jamal is “pretty pumped by that.”  He’s proud of this.

“By fate and a blessing”, he was called on by a company to help them. In doing research for them, Jamal learned about the kind of machinery that HE needed to produce his all wood glasses.  Through this experience, Jamal shared his vision and his designs and this company was able to produce the necessary machinery needed to manufacture the new Desiar line.  He then found a furniture company who is now producing his wooden eye-wear.

CollaboratePartner with Talked toLearned from.  This is Jamal’s path to success.  Just 15 minutes into our interview, I heard these words over and over again.  Sure, Jamal is incredibly gifted in the creative process.  He has a very strong vision for his business.  He is passionate about it.  But he knows that HE must work with others. HE must find partners to help him fulfill his company’s vision.  HE must do the hard work of research to find the answers to his questions.

Jamal explained to me how the wooden glasses are made.  He knows the process.  He knows how the wood has to be manipulated to form the correct bend. He knows what kind of machines are needed to do this. He is intimately aware of his products processes.  He knows his business.

Jamal is currently in China to meet his overseas partners.  Knowing Jamal, he will come back with more ideas, improved processes, and new connections.  It’s not a sight-seeing trip.  Jamal will turn it into gold.

I asked Jamal if he ever wakes up in the morning to ask himself, “how did this become my life?”  He reflected on his China trip.  “The world has become smaller.  I find it easier to make connections.”  He uses those connections to build his business.

Did Jamal begin Desiar as his sole source of income? No.  He bussed tables at a restaurant.  He worked a year and a half with one of his mentors who runs an import/export business.  He got a “real world perspective” from this.  And all from our town, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Jamal has mentors from all over.  Import/Export.  Online music equipment sales/service.  He’s learned why they are great at what they do.  He’s captured why they do what they do.  His desire is to have Desiar known just at Sweetwater is known in the music business.  Jamal listens, absorbs, and applies.

What keeps him up at night?  Not much. He’s not worried about tomorrow.  Jamal shared with me a question he asked himself – “what are you doing today that made the business better than yesterday?”  It’s about positive movement forward.  It’s about not settling.  His agenda daily must be involved in the things that truly help his business to grow.

He sets goals with his team.  But it’s not about the goals.  It’s about results.  What did they learn from their results? Did they miss the goal? Why?  What do they need to do to hit the results the next time.

I asked Jamal if he ever struggles with self-doubt. He stated that he wouldn’t be human if he experienced “hesitation” from time to time. He listens to a lot of motivation podcasts and videos.   He explained that he has learned some techniques over the years to deal with this.  When a self-doubting thought comes up, he simply says, “Thank you, but I’m not on the list for you today.” 

He explained it’s good to have a dream/vision.  But you have to write it down.  Look at it.  Talk about it. Bring life to it.  Always learning.  Always willing to be stretched.  Always being positive.

This young business man is grounded.  Solid family.  Solid beliefs.  Confident in his abilities.  Faith.  A vision beyond eye-wear.

This is Jamal Robinson.  This is Desiar.

Discover Desiar here:  www.desiar.com

Jamal Robinson