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Scott Eblin

Found in Translation

by Scott Eblin on January 21, 2011 10:30am

in The Next Level

China-state-visit One of the big stories in Washington this week was the state visit of Chinese President Hu to the White House.  Most of the early analysis and reporting suggests that, all things considered, the meetings between the Chinese and the Americans were worthwhile. There are probably a lot of leadership lessons to be gained from how the meetings and dinners were handled by the principals. Here’s a quick one that dawned on me as I was listening on my car radio to the joint press conference between President Obama and President Hu.

What if we had to wait on a translator to repeat what we had just said in every meeting or conversation we’re in? 


Book-business-happiness Last week,
thinks to the vision and initiative of Laura Mendelow and Kevin Keegan,
two friends at Booz Allen Hamilton, I and about 90 other people had the
gift of listening to and speaking with Ted Leonsis for about 90
minutes.  The event was the book club of the local ASTD chapter
and he was there to talk about his book,  The
Business of Happiness

Readers in the Washington, DC area probably know the
name, Ted Leonsis. If you don’t, the quick version of his life is grew
up as the son of a waiter and a secretary who never made more than
$30,000 a year;  founded and sold his first new media company
at age 26 for $60 million; co-founded AOL; bought the Washington
Capitals; won an Emmy; was nominated for an Academy Award; bought the
rest of the Washington Wizards; sits on the board of Groupon. 
He explains how all of that happened in his book.

What he spent most of his time talking with us about is his life
list. Early in his life, Ted started making a list of the things he
wanted to do. His list is in the appendix of his book.  Here
are some examples.  Fall in love and get married.
Check  Pay off college debts. Check. Net worth of one hundred
million dollars after taxes. Check. Change someone’s life via a charity.
Check. Go one on one with Michael Jordan. Check. 

He told us that several years ago someone approached
him about buying the Washington Capitals NHL franchise. 


Image001 As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., I thought you might appreciate this post I ran last year on six qualities that made MLK such a great speaker.

Whether you’re looking for speaking tips, want to remember one of history’s most important leaders or both, I hope you enjoy the post and accompanying video clip.


A friend recently gave me a copy of a new book that’s out now, The Price of Everything by Eduardo Porter.  As someone who loved taking economics in college (Thank you Dr. Nelson.),
I found Porter’s book to be a fun and thought provoking read. He
basically takes some of the principles you learn in microeconomics to
discuss why we pay what we do for different things in life. Some of the
chapters include The Price of Work, The Price of Free, The Price of
Faith and The Price of the Future.

As an economics geek, I
figured Porter had to discuss my favorite principle, opportunity cost,
somewhere early in the book. Sure enough, he says this about that in the
first chapter:

“Our most important currency is, in fact, opportunity.  The cost of
taking any action or embracing any path consists of the alternatives
that were available to us at the time.”

Easy to say, harder to do.  My observation in working with leaders is
that there is often a short circuit in their decision making process.
Especially for leaders with a lot on their plate,  it can feel like
there is a premium on making decisions quickly and moving on.  What gets
lost is a thoughtful consideration of the opportunity cost of pursuing
one decision over another. This is especially true for smart leaders who
seem to get to “the answer” faster than everyone else.

So what
can you do to improve the quality of your decision making?  Or, what can
you do to coach someone through a more robust decision making process? 


Crossedfingers As I wrote in a post, Leadership Lessons from Yoga, a few weeks ago, I’ve been a regular at my local studio since last October. On January 2, I realized that if I wanted to get a space for my mat in class, I needed to get there earlier.  The studio was packed to the walls.  It stayed that way for every class until a couple of days ago when things started thinning out.  Last night, January 13, there was plenty of room.

My guess is that there’s an algorithm  that correlates the extra space at yoga with the annual new year’s resolution attrition rate. 


Recently, I spoke about leadership to a group of newly promoted senior managers. Like just about every other leadership group I speak to everyone in the room agreed that one of their biggest challenges is getting any work done other than going to meetings. One fellow diplomatically noted that his company’s culture is very collaborative and, as such, the tendency is to invite lots of people to meetings so they all have a chance to provide input.  With such large invitation lists, it frequently happens that a lot of people don’t even know why they’re in the meeting.

Faremeter This manager had an interesting idea when he said, “I wish there were a meter running so people could see what the total cost of the meeting is in the salaries that are represented in the room.”  That got me thinking about how you might implement a system to make sure that the time managers and executives spend in meetings actually adds value. 

I think I’ve come up with something that could work.  Every manager gets an annual meeting budget.  It would work like this.  


Leaders, Your Words Matter

by Scott Eblin on January 10, 2011 9:30am

in The Next Level

In response to the horrific wounding of
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others and the killing in
Arizona this weekend of a nine year old girl, a Federal judge, a
Congressional staffer and three citizens who came to the local shopping
plaza to talk with their member of Congress, President Obama has asked
for a national moment of silence at 11:00 am on
January 10.  Let’s use that moment of silence to remember the
dead and wounded, but let’s also use it as a pause to consider the
impact of what we say and how we say it.


Last month, I was interviewed by Kristi Hedges, executive coach and columnist for WomenEntrepeneur.com, on how women leading their own businesses can develop themselves for next level performance.  The article came out this week and Kristi did a great job putting it together.  It’s a perfect time of year for it as lots of folks are still mapping out their development game plan for 2011.

A lot of what we talked about applies to leaders in other organizations or who happen to be men.  Here are the first couple of questions to give you a flavor of what we covered:

How does next-level leadership apply to women entrepreneurs?

Leading a business, like life, is an ongoing series of transitions. With just about any transition, there are different results that are expected. If you need different results, you likely will have to do some things differently. There are things that have worked for you in the past that you’ll need to keep doing, but there are also new behaviors and mind-sets that you’ll have to pick up, and others that you’ll need to let go of to lead and succeed at the next level.

What are some typical habits you have seen that entrepreneurs need to let go of?

The lowest-rated behavior in our research on leaders is the skill of pacing oneself by building in regular breaks from work. That can be a particular challenge for entrepreneurs who are trying to do it all. The entrepreneurial mind-set is often that of the “go to” person. You’ve gotten where you are because you get stuff done. You’re the closer. It’s all too easy to get sucked into that mind-set and lose your perspective.

The interview continues with some easy, low cost or no cost steps you can take to raise your game this year.  Check it out at this link.

And, if you’re working on your roadmap for this year, be sure to join me on January 13 for a conversation on “Charting Your Course in 2011 with a Life GPS®.”


In late September, Blockbuster Video, with a billion dollars in debts it can’t pay, filed for bankruptcy. What a great case study in how an organization can go from king of the mountain to yesterday’s news. So what could Blockbuster have done to survive? The same thing any organization that wants to survive and win needs to do these days—ask tough questions.


Hopefully, I’m catching you with this
post at a time when you still have a bit of that post-holiday season
reflective, what am I trying to do with my life thing going
on.  My research with leaders shows that increasingly many have
very little time to think about what’s most important and what they’re
really trying to accomplish.

Before you get too
deep into the mode of running flat out, here’s a question that might be
worth considering.  What’s your vocation?  By
vocation, I don’t mean your job or your career.  I’m going back
to the Latin root of the word, vocare, which means “to call.” 
Years ago, the American writer Frederick Buechner summed up the idea of
vocation pretty well when he wrote, “Where our deep gladness and the
world’s deep hunger meet, we hear a further call.”

In an interview with PBS, Buechner
explained what he meant by that:


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