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The Ancient Wisdom of Teams

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For a team to be successful, team members must put the interests of the team above their own. It’s necessary for team members, at times, to sacrifice their ego, play a supporting role, and in some deep sense, care more for the success of the team than for individual achievement and glory. These are timeless truths with roots extending far back to the very dawn of human culture. Cooperation has been reinforced, generation after generation, through the evolution of human culture. Agriculture...

It’s Not Who’s On Your Team, It’s How You Work Together

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If your boss came up to you today and asked you to form a team for a high-profile strategic project, what would be your first task? If you’re like most people, your thoughts would immediately turn toward whom to select to join your team. After all, we’ve been conditioned to believe that the most important factor for any team is the quality of the players. If you want a super team, fill it with superstars. Just look at the Golden State Warriors. Now suppose your boss gave you a further...

How My First Boss Saved Me From Failing

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I was 23 years old, in my first professional job and I was failing big-time. My boss had recently handed me a list of five-hundred names and phone numbers and instructed me to cold call them. I picked up the phone and started dialing. I felt a palpable sense of fear and anxiety as I reached for the phone to make each call. I experienced a wave of rejection the likes of which I had never before seen. I was demoralized. My boss could see I was floundering and ready to quit. After a few days, he...

What We Can Learn from Jeff Bezos about Decision Making

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For the past few years Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has shared his approach to decision making in his annual letter to shareholders. Given Amazon’s ability to innovate, and its meteoric rise to retail dominance, there is much we can learn from Bezos and his tips for better decision making. Type 1 vs. Type 2 Decisions Bezos categorizes all decisions into two types. Type 1 decisions are big, strategic and consequential. These decisions must be made very carefully and methodically. They are irreversible...

The Man Who Beat Vegas & Wall Street

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Edward O. Thorp is not well-known outside of finance, but within the investment community he is revered like a rock star. Over two decades, Thorp recorded average annual returns of 19.1%, an incredible achievement. In his recent memoir, A Man for All Markets, Thorp tells his amazing life story, from a child of the depression through an early career as an academic and finally as a successful investor. Independent Thinking Early on Thorp developed a fiercely independent mind that guided his...

Innovation, Risk & Failure at Pixar

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In a recent interview, Ed Catmull, the cofounder of Pixar, shares his views on risk, failure and culture. The entire interview is worthwhile, but I found Ed’s perspective on these three issues to be especially insightful and applicable to all industries. Taking Risks The nature of innovation requires risk taking. This creates a fundamental tension for leaders who are simultaneously tasked with providing clear, stable leadership and managing a process that creates something new and of...

Good Leaders Promote Emotional Well-Being

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Things don’t make you happy, but experiences and relationships do. Highly productive people understand this and apply it in their own lives to maintain spiritual and emotional well-being. Great leaders also leverage this truth to create a positive culture and get the most out of their people. If you survey the happiness literature, one theme you’ll find is that happiness depends on one’s ability to accept the world for what it is, and to be content with what you have today. From the ancient...

To Make Better Decisions, Think Independently

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Photo by Rachele Caretti, Licensed under CC by 2.0 One of the qualities shared by great decision makers is the rare ability to disregard the opinions of others and think for themselves. There is a strong gravitational pull to conform to the conventional wisdom. If you’re looking to avoid accountability or even regret (which is a powerful force in decision making), then it’s much easier to agree with the group as opposed to doing the research and analysis to make your own determination. It’s...

Lessons from a 630-Year-Old Family Business

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The Cantina at the Antinori Winery. The Antinori family of Italy traces the founding of its family-owned wine business to 1385.  That’s 630 years and 26 generations of business continuity. Consider the risks that a business faces over a span of that period, including war, plague, economic crisis, political turmoil, family health, and sibling rivalries just to name a few.    Any one of these events could easily end a fragile family business, and many Antinori generations have faced more than one...

7 Leadership Lessons from a CEO

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I recently had an opportunity to hear Gail McGovern speak to a group of high-potential leaders at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC. She shared her personal history from her early career at AT&T where she started as a computer programmer and rose to Executive Vice President. There were a lot of lessons learned along her career journey, and here are seven she shared with the next generation of leadership at the Red Cross: 1. Pick the best people. Attract, retain and...

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