Leadership lessons from fear and cancer

Lead Change
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This is the latest in a series called Lead Human, which features interviews and profiles conducted by Elliot Begoun in search of answers to the question "What is it like to be a leader?"

Dan Shorr, the founder of Vice Cream, spent his college summers driving an ice cream truck. After college, he followed a typical career path. He went to work at a large consumer products company and started to climb the ladder.

Then, it all changed. Newly married, a first-time homeowner, Shorr was told that he had cancer. He was given a grim diagnosis.

Thankfully, he won his battle and is healthy today. Cancer changed his outlook. No longer did he want to simply live life, he wanted to indulge in it.

His brand is the embodiment of the indulgence. Cancer has also shaped his leadership and helped him overcome his fears.

I left our conversation inspired and a bit hungry for some ice cream. I hope you have a similar experience in reading what he shares below.  

Why are you doing this crazy thing?

“My first reaction is in our mission and our purpose. It's not just a bumper sticker. Our mission is to bring smiles to the faces of consumers, specifically cancer patients and their families.”

“On a personal level, I always wanted to start my own thing and, without sounding too much like Tony Robbins, I believe in the power of fear. I think fear holds people back in life, whether it's asking a girl or guy out or moving across country. Even with my experience in building the PowerBar brand and working at Pepsi, I was still scared to start my own thing.”

What got you over that fear?

“Two big events that kicked my ass. One was being around the finish line at the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. That was a very scary day and it made me re-evaluate what I wanted to do. Then I got diagnosed with cancer. I was told that I had 12 weeks to live. I beat it, I'm 100% fine, but both those things were enough of a kick in my ass to blow through that wall of fear.”

How do you deal with fear and doubt?

“I must say and it's not [BS], that I interviewed somebody recently, and this candidate, this 27-year-old asked me about fear and failure, and what's the chance of failure. I honestly have never thought about it. I have a very clear vision of our success, I have a very clear vision of where we're going. This kid spooked me. I haven't stopped thinking about it. I've never thought about failure once. Now I'm like, 'oh my God, I should never have met this kid,' he totally got me out of my zone.”

What have you learned about leadership?

“Probably my favorite teaching -- I saw Tony Robbins at a small MSNBC conference in L.A. a few weeks ago and he had a great phrase. I think it's really cutting-edge. What he said, which I really believe in, is that we need to be leaders and not managers. If we must manage, we have the wrong people. That's critical to where I am right now. It's my job to lead, to build the strategy, to build our plan, and to do what I'm uniquely poised to do, which is hire great people, sell, raise capital. I don't know if managing people drives revenue. If I find that I am managing the team, I think I have the wrong team as a small company. We all need to be doing heavy lifting, and I need to hire people that I empower, and who can execute.”

How do you make time for you, and for your family?

“My answer is that I'm still learning. I think it's building one building block at a time.”

What advice would you offer to an aspiring entrepreneur or leader?

“What I call BST and AST, Before "Shark Tank" and After "Shark Tank." I never miss an episode, but I think a lot of people see the excitement of an Airbnb being valued at $50 billion and Justin's or RX bar exiting at $650 million. Getting into the business for an exit may not be the right reason. Because, it's hard.” 

“I think the other advice I'd probably give people is something I've learned lately. You don't necessarily go with the team that you started with, and that's sad. It's not negative sad, it's just that my vision was we're all going to do this together, but not everybody is built for this startup life.”

What would your current self tell your former self?

“You're going to lose your hair and be a little bit more patient.”

He ended our interview by sharing, “At the end of the day, I go back to what we started with, I really do tap into my cancer experience. My team may be tired of hearing about it, but we had a really difficult situation with our co-packer yesterday -- you can print this -- where we were treated with incredible disrespect, and I leaned across the table and said, 'we're not curing cancer here, we're making ice cream.' Coming from me, it's not a cliché, so it makes the room stock still."

 

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Elliot Begoun is the principal of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on helping emerging food and beverage brands grow and become sustainable and investable. He works with clients to design and execute customized route-to-market and go-to-market strategies that build velocity, gain distribution, and win share of stomach. Catch him at FoodBytes in his role as a mentor and find his articles in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief, and FoodDive.

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When His Industry Was Hit With a Catastrophic Event, This Business Leader’s Response Was to Be as Transparent as Possible With Customers

After Lehman Brothers collapsed, Wealth Management Group sought to reassure customers by explaining what was happening.

8 ways to become a more approachable leader

The most effective leaders draw people to them. You know from your own career that while tough, stoic leaders may be revered or even feared, they don’t have that gravitas to build a truly great team of high performers.

If you want to ensure that your reputation for openness precedes you, read on for tips to improve your approachability.

Greet everyone

Just saying “good morning” builds your reputation in small increments every day. When you greet everyone warmly day in and day out, you convey that people matter to you. You let the office know that yesterday’s tensions are in the past and you’re ready to meet them all today for fresh new discussions.

Don’t be choosy with who you acknowledge -- greet those you don’t work with directly, including the clerical and maintenance staff, if you really want to say, “people matter.”

Do

  • Learn people’s names, and use them
  • Make eye contact

Don’t

  • Ask faux rhetorical questions, like “hey, how are you?” when you don’t have time for a real answer

Show you care

People are drawn to those who share a genuine care and concern for others. Set aside time in your week to check in with your team. Ask how about their tasks, about barriers they’ve encountered, about troubling factors and distractions from outside work.

Demonstrating that you care -- even when everything is going right -- makes it easier for people to come to you when they really need your help.

Do

  • Give your full, undivided attention
  • Ask follow-up questions
  • Reflect and recap what you’ve heard

Don’t

  • Take on every issue or problem as your own; instead, encourage suggestions on ways to move forward
  • Ask only when you know there’s a problem

Offer help

Asking “how can I help?” is a powerful tool in the effective leader’s toolkit. This simple phrase conveys so much -- it signals that you’re listening and are willing to aid in the solution. It encourages strategic problem-solving and offers up intervention only where requested, empowering others instead of taking over.

Do

  • Allow people to fully answer before offering your own suggestions
  • Be clear on next steps
  • Follow up with actions you’ve agreed to

Don’t

  • Simply take on tasks; instead, clear barriers and empower others.

Ask for help

Similarly, asking for help is something that great leaders do, and do regularly. The less experienced might incorrectly think that taking the lead means never requiring assistance. Most people genuinely do want to help -- it’s human nature. Asking for help provides opportunity for others to shine in addition to making sure you get the best solution and the right person doing the job. 

Do

  • Be specific about the problem you’re trying to solve and/or the kind of help you need

Don’t

  • Always ask the same people; share opportunity with your entire team.

Have a sense of humor

There are times that require absolute seriousness, and those that require levity. The best leaders know when to crack a smile, when to add in a joke and when to just laugh along with everyone else. There’s no science to it, so think about the leaders you’ve admired in the past and their approach to humor in the workplace.

Do

  • Be willing to laugh at the situation
  • Use a little humor to break tension

Don’t

  • Use cutting humor at anyone’s expense
  • Be too self-deprecating; it can be uncomfortable and make others jump to your defense

Be optimistic

One key leadership quality that is showing up more often on companies’ “most desirable” list is optimism. It can be tempting to express frustration and cynicism in the face of challenge, but great leaders can acknowledge that there are troubles, while expressing confidence in the team to make the most of it and get things done.

Believe in a better future, and then help make it happen. People are drawn to others with a positive outlook.

Do

  • Stay positive whenever possible
  • Acknowledge issues, but commit to helping find solutions

Don’t

  • Be disingenuous. When situations aren’t ideal, it’s still possible to believe in the ability to overcome or recover and to plan better for the future.

Make time to chat

It may seem most effective to be all business, all the time, but good leadership includes making time to connect with others on a personal level. Get to know people, discuss nonwork matters and ask about them and the things they care about.

This doesn’t have to take up a large portion of your day and can often be done in the small moments near the coffee machine or the walk to and from a meeting.

Do

  • Follow up from previous conversations – ask about kids, trips, activities. Show you’re invested in what they say

Don’t

  • Forget those who don’t seek you out or cross your path regularly. Make sure to ask after the team members who are more quiet or out-of-the-way

Loosen up

There’s always going to be some separation between leaders and those who work with them. While your role may be more formal, try not to bring that rigidity into your demeanor -- people are more likely to approach those who seem more familiar and on their level. When you can, ditch the tie or the formal attire in addition to the formal attitude.

Do

  • Be casual, but not shabby

Don’t

  • Fixate on hierarchy; think of your role as leader as facilitator, not dictator.

People are most likely to resonate with a leader who feels at their level but with the power to make their jobs easier and more successful. Teams want someone who will help figure out how to do things better and then help make that happen, not someone to assign work and finish tasks for them.

If you want to be approachable, think of the ways you can encourage others to come to you when they need you most. Oftentimes, that will be by making time for them even when they don’t.

 

Joel Garfinkle conducts executive coaching and is the author of "Getting Ahead." Garfinkle recently worked with an executive who was faced with building relationships with an entirely new staff, whose prior boss was a closed-door, remote vice president. By working with Garfinkle to make herself approachable, she was able to draw the team to her and build a high-functioning team. More than 10,000 people subscribe to his FulfillmentATWork newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” His website GarfinkleExecutiveCoaching.com has over 300 free articles on leadership, workplace issues and career advancement.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

3 Leadership Strategies That Will Help Your Business Grow

Hard choices and hard work await you, if you want to change your company's trajectory toward success.

3 Leadership Strategies That Will Help Your Business Grow

Hard choices and hard work await you, if you want to change your company's trajectory toward success.

Obituaries remind us to think about the legacy we’re creating

As anyone who has read my columns over the years knows, I am deeply indebted to obituary writers.

I like drawing nuggets that illustrate aspects of the human condition and serve as role models -- or sometimes caution lights -- to the rest of us.

Our lives, if we are lucky, are a long string of hits and some misses that are woven across a lifetime of living, interacting with spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends and colleagues.

At a certain point, you feel you have lived awhile but when you read an obituary, you see that you can sum up a life pretty quickly in 500 to 1,000 words.

Even a long obituary cannot capture the entirety of a person’s life. Nor should it. What you are going for is the essence of a person. What did she do? How did she do it? How did she overcome obstacles? And what to people think of her then and now?

Such questions might serves as notes of reflection for all of us. Thinking about our end is really thinking about our legacy. We will be remembered by those whose lives we touched.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Also in 2018, Inc.com named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. Global Gurus ranked him No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, Inc.com named Baldoni to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

Mark Zuckerberg Asked Bill and Melinda Gates and Lin-Manuel Miranda What Advice They’d Give Their Younger Selves

'Asking for a friend.'

Avoiding cross-cultural blunders

Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Donna Steffey.

Did you hear the one about the American businesswoman who went to China and dropped her chopsticks during lunch? The gracious Chinese manager quickly replaced everyone’s eating utensils with forks, making the American feel relieved but everyone else feel awkward.

Or did you hear the one about the Western businessman who unconsciously put his feet up on the desk, showing the sole of his shoe, in the Middle East? He so offended his clients that he lost a big opportunity.

We’ve all heard the cringe-worthy stories from colleagues who work cross-culturally about the gaffes they have inadvertently made while doing business with international partners. These blunders can sound humorous in the retelling, but they can lead to damaged work relationships and delayed business results.  

Here are three things you can do as a leader to ensure that you and your staff navigate the increasingly interconnected world of business and avoid cross-cultural blunders:

1. Offer cultural intelligence training to everyone in your organization, not just the folks who travel abroad.

It can be just as consequential to have local staff offend an international partner visiting the home office. I’m sure you heard the one about the IT guy who gave the “OK” sign to a female Brazilian manager and had to apologize afterward. The problem is that people think they can read a book or blog about a different culture and understand everything there is to know. We are often surprised to discover that the person or situation is completely different then what we expected based on our research, which is often stereotypical.

That is why cultural intelligence training involves 4 competencies.

  • Build desire for the work. Get your people enthused about working with people from other cultures. Discuss the opportunities that, by expanding beyond local boundaries, are available to people and businesses.
  • Learn about other cultures. Read books, blogs and newspapers from other cultures.
  • Strategize ways to work cross-culturally. If you have an online meeting coming up with international partners, plan how to make the call interactive. We have all heard the one about the conference call where the Western manager lectures for 20 minutes then asks if there are any questions. The answer is "No" because participants stopped listening 19 minutes ago.
  • Demonstrate correct actions. Learning and applying the correct verbal and nonverbal actions when needed in unfamiliar circumstances is essential. Utilizing awareness-in-action is also required -- the ability to read people around you and to know when it is necessary to self-correct or make amends for your mistake.

2. Conduct a talent audit to assess which cultures are represented fairly within your organization and which cultures are underrepresented. You can take it a step further and assess staffs for cultural bias. Researchers say that if you have a brain, you have biases. The secret is to learn to manage one’s own biases to not allow them to negatively impact decisions, behaviors, and actions toward others.

3. Be sure your talent development partners are role models of cultural intelligence. They need to know how to design and deliver content in an inclusive way to transfer learning. There are countless books, videos and other resources to learn about cultural norms and business dos and don’ts in other countries.

Did you hear the one about the knowledgeable business leader who trained his entire staff to manage their unconscious biases, use resources to learn about other cultures and successfully built a multicultural team? That manager can be you.

 

Donna Steffey, MBA, CPLP, is president of Vital Signs Consulting and an international trainer, author, facilitator of the ATD Master Trainer Program and adjunct faculty at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. During her career, Steffey has designed and delivered training programs in 25 countries. She worked with 15 other training experts to write "Destination Facilitation: A Travel Guide to Training Around the World," detailing techniques for needs assessments, design processes, facilitation and classroom management in whatever country or region you're visiting.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader and communicator. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

Avoiding cross-cultural blunders

Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Donna Steffey.

Did you hear the one about the American businesswoman who went to China and dropped her chopsticks during lunch? The gracious Chinese manager quickly replaced everyone’s eating utensils with forks, making the American feel relieved but everyone else feel awkward.

Or did you hear the one about the Western businessman who unconsciously put his feet up on the desk, showing the sole of his shoe, in the Middle East? He so offended his clients that he lost a big opportunity.

We’ve all heard the cringe-worthy stories from colleagues who work cross-culturally about the gaffes they have inadvertently made while doing business with international partners. These blunders can sound humorous in the retelling, but they can lead to damaged work relationships and delayed business results.  

Here are three things you can do as a leader to ensure that you and your staff navigate the increasingly interconnected world of business and avoid cross-cultural blunders:

1. Offer cultural intelligence training to everyone in your organization, not just the folks who travel abroad.

It can be just as consequential to have local staff offend an international partner visiting the home office. I’m sure you heard the one about the IT guy who gave the “OK” sign to a female Brazilian manager and had to apologize afterward. The problem is that people think they can read a book or blog about a different culture and understand everything there is to know. We are often surprised to discover that the person or situation is completely different then what we expected based on our research, which is often stereotypical.

That is why cultural intelligence training involves 4 competencies.

  • Build desire for the work. Get your people enthused about working with people from other cultures. Discuss the opportunities that, by expanding beyond local boundaries, are available to people and businesses.
  • Learn about other cultures. Read books, blogs and newspapers from other cultures.
  • Strategize ways to work cross-culturally. If you have an online meeting coming up with international partners, plan how to make the call interactive. We have all heard the one about the conference call where the Western manager lectures for 20 minutes then asks if there are any questions. The answer is "No" because participants stopped listening 19 minutes ago.
  • Demonstrate correct actions. Learning and applying the correct verbal and nonverbal actions when needed in unfamiliar circumstances is essential. Utilizing awareness-in-action is also required -- the ability to read people around you and to know when it is necessary to self-correct or make amends for your mistake.

2. Conduct a talent audit to assess which cultures are represented fairly within your organization and which cultures are underrepresented. You can take it a step further and assess staffs for cultural bias. Researchers say that if you have a brain, you have biases. The secret is to learn to manage one’s own biases to not allow them to negatively impact decisions, behaviors, and actions toward others.

3. Be sure your talent development partners are role models of cultural intelligence. They need to know how to design and deliver content in an inclusive way to transfer learning. There are countless books, videos and other resources to learn about cultural norms and business dos and don’ts in other countries.

Did you hear the one about the knowledgeable business leader who trained his entire staff to manage their unconscious biases, use resources to learn about other cultures and successfully built a multicultural team? That manager can be you.

 

Donna Steffey, MBA, CPLP, is president of Vital Signs Consulting and an international trainer, author, facilitator of the ATD Master Trainer Program and adjunct faculty at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. During her career, Steffey has designed and delivered training programs in 25 countries. She worked with 15 other training experts to write "Destination Facilitation: A Travel Guide to Training Around the World," detailing techniques for needs assessments, design processes, facilitation and classroom management in whatever country or region you're visiting.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader and communicator. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

Are People Born Leaders?

Author Joshua Spodek talks about how we are taught about leadership, but not how to be a leader.