Great Leadership With Jacob Morgan

One of the aspects of being a servant leader is practicing self-care. During times of crisis, we often forget to look after ourselves, which is a mistake.

If you want to show up and be your best self for your family and employees, then you need to remember to take care of your emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health. Even with coronavirus, I still make time to exercise each day, eat healthy, and spend time working on chess because these things make me happy!

What are you doing to look after yourself during these tough times?

Direct download: 5._What_Are_You_Doing_to_Look_After_Yourself.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 1:55pm PDT

Alex Osterwalder is the bestselling author of Business Model Generation, Value Proposition Design, and Testing Business Ideas. He also released a new book back in April called The Invincible Company: How to Constantly Reinvent Your Organization with Inspiration from the World’s Best Business Models

Alex is ranked #4 on the Thinkers50 list of the top 50 management thinkers in the world. Along with Yves Pigneur, Alex invented several practical business tools, including the Business Model Canvas, that are used by millions of business leaders today. For this invention they won the Thinkers50 Strategy Award in 2015.  

He is also the founder of Strategyzer, a company that provides organizations with corporate innovation strategy, training, tools, and software. 

This episode is brought to you by Cisco. Nearly overnight, the entire world has found itself adapting to a new way of working. The future of work requires a modern approach to collaboration – helping people securely connect wherever they work, while staying safe and being productive. Cisco is shaping this path forward. Check out their new page devoted to the future of work to learn more and check out their resources including articles, videos, and a workplace maturity assessment..

In the midst of the pandemic organizations are facing challenging times and over the last few months we have seen positive and negative decisions occur in response to what is happening. There have been some companies who have handled tough decisions while still keeping their people first--showing employees respect, empathy, and transparency. And there are other companies who have made, what seem to be, harsh and unfair decisions in a way that create anger and chaos. The question is, is there a way for organizations to prepare for uncertainties and challenging times in advance, so we don’t have to get to a point where these tough decisions have to be made? 

Creating resilient organizations

There are situations where leaders will have to make tough decisions, regardless of how much advanced planning is done. But, as Alex’s book examines, there are ways to make our organizations more agile and fluid, so that when a crisis comes, they are able to not just survive, but thrive through it. 

Alex gives a great example of two companies who faced the same crisis and their different outcomes. There were two large photography/film companies, Kodak and Fujifilm. Both were extremely successful at one time, but when the industry was disrupted Kodak kept using the same business model, which no longer worked. As a result Kodak went bankrupt and completely went away. 

Fujifilm on the other hand had a CEO who had been obsessed with the thought of the company dying for awhile and had put a plan in place before it was too late. The company aggressively reallocated resources into a whole new way of business, which was cosmetics. It turns out the chemical process and the intellectual property related to aging film can be used in cosmetics for aging skin. So instead of staying on the same logical path of film, they saw the industry coming to an end and went an entirely different direction. They are still around today. 

The key is they planned for this extreme disruption before it happened. If you wait until a crisis happens to react, you are never going to have a resilient company. You can’t make a change that big overnight, which is what a lot of companies are trying to do right now. You have to do the work upfront and be a bit of a futurist so that you can see multiple possibilities ahead.  

So really, the responsibility for creating resilient organizations starts with the leaders. But the traditional way of leading organizations is not the right model for this type of change. We need a different style of leadership. 

Moving away from the stereotypical leadership style

In the past a lot of people have viewed a leader as someone who is the smartest one in the room, the one who makes all of the decisions and picks the right ideas. As Alex shares, if you as the leader are the smartest one in the room, you have failed in your hiring.


Being a leader is not about being knowledgeable in every aspect of business and it is not about making every decision, it is about creating the environment for great ideas to emerge and succeed. It is the job of the leader to create the culture that embraces creativity and innovation, and to give authority to individual employees to make decisions. 

Alex gives a great example from the German company, Bosch. They decided they were going to invest in 200 projects inside the organization. So they gave those 200 projects a budget of 120,000 Euros and they gave them three months. After the three months were up the company looked at the results from all 200 projects and they killed off 70% of the projects and re-invested a bit more into the remaining 30% based on the results they saw. The remaining projects got to continue on for a bit more time and then after that time was done they all got reevaluated. And based on the findings from the evaluation, they discontinued 75% of those projects. So at the end of the process they got down to 15 projects (out of the 200) to continue on with. 

The important part, as Alex explains, is, “It wasn't the leadership that decided on the ideas, per se, it was the evidence that showed if they would get follow up investment. So what's the leader's role? It's about creating the right environment where these teams can explore, fail a lot, and learn the environment where the teams that didn't get follow up investments are not kind of stigmatized as losers because they couldn't get the project, right? No, that's a normal ratio from early stage venture capital. We actually know that one out of 250 ideas is an outsized winner. So, it's that kind of culture you need to put in place. So we don't start to stigmatize those who didn't succeed, because they're contributing to the portfolio. So as a leader, again, you shouldn't be the expert, because then you hired wrong. That obviously depends on the kind of domain you're in. And your main job is to create the conditions for success to emerge. So,you know, that is one of the messages that I found really, really intriguing from Alan Mulally, he likes to say, sometimes, as a leader, you can create too much value.”

How to create a culture of innovation

Leaders can’t just let culture happen, culture has to be designed and managed. If you want to create a culture of innovation, it has to be done intentionally. A lot of organizations have failed at innovation because the CEO is not spending a lot of time focused on it. And if people inside the company see that the leaders don’t care about innovation, or worse, that leaders are punishing creativity and new ideas, then people are going to stop trying. CEOs do have to spend time focusing on executing and managing the existing, but if innovation doesn’t have enough power, it’s always going to play second fiddle.   

As Alex shares, “At Logitech, the CEO Bracken Darrell spends 40 to 60% of his time on innovation. That gives innovation power because it's symbolic if the CEO spends a lot of time on innovation. Then the next question is oh, so the CEO picks the winning ideas? No, the CEO creates the culture and metrics and spaces where innovation can emerge. And that is a partnership between innovation and execution. Those are two different domains and they need to live in harmony, not kind of entrenched in a kind of Warzone. So, sometimes innovators like to call themselves pirates or rebels. I think that's silly because pirates and rebels get killed. Like why would you want to be a pirate or rebel? It’s not about breaking the rules. It's about the leadership creating the right rules so we can do both. World class execution and world class innovation.”

If a leader feels like they just don’t have an innovative team, most likely there is a cultural problem. Either that leader or a previous leader in the company has punished people for actually exploring ideas or there is no incentive to innovate. The first thing that needs to happen to create an innovation culture is to tear down all of the blockers that are preventing people from innovating. 

One of the biggest blockers to innovation that Alex mentions is business plans. He says business plans are the enemy of innovation because it is an execution document where you describe a dream in detail and you execute it. Innovation is about picking an idea, adapting it, and then changing it until you create value. There are other blockers like focusing on the wrong metrics and leaders thinking they can do everything on their own. You have to get rid of all of the blockers to innovation before you can put innovation into place. Alex suggests leaders read the shareholder letters from Jeff Bezos, which are publicly available. 

How start building an invincible team

If you are a mid-level manager, or a leader who is responsible for a team, but maybe you are not the CEO of the company, what can you do to start building an invincible team? Using a method from Rita McGrath, Alex says the first step is to take a look at your CEOs agenda and see how much time is carved out for innovation. Or look at the company’s last four important meetings and see how much time was spent talking about innovation. In either of those instances if the answer is not over 40%, you actually need to consider if it is worthwhile to spend your time on innovation, because as he says you will be “fighting against windmills”. 

This is an important first step because you have to know what your company’s innovation readiness is. Is your environment ready for innovation to happen? If it is not, take a look at the top levels of the organization and ask yourself who can you get on board as a sponsor to support innovation. Is there someone at the top level who is willing to push for innovation and offer top level protection for people to explore? 

Alex says, “You need that top level protection, I'd say, because otherwise all you're going to do, and unfortunately we still see this in quite a few companies, all you're going to do is innovation theater. No company is lacking innovation activities. There's incubators, there's all that kind of stuff. I'm not even talking about ping pong tables, I'm talking about real innovation activity. But as long as it's not connected to strategy, it's really a little bit of a suicide mission. I know a lot of innovation leads are up for that suicide mission. That's why they call themselves rebels and pirates. But I think we need to be a little bit more pragmatic. And, you know, first understand, how ready is the company. And then based on that assessment, either change the job or say, Okay, here's the strategy.”

Direct download: Alexander_Osterwalder_Podcast_-_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:02pm PDT

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we hear a lot of stories about all the good things that companies are doing for their people. But why does it take a pandemic for companies to start being more human? We should be human all the time and shouldn’t wait for a tragedy to start doing the right thing.

During these hard times, we’re seeing more conversations around the importance of being more human; connections, relationships, and how to stay together. To beat this pandemic, people have to help each other.

Humanity is, and will always be, the most important skill that leaders and organizations need to have in order to succeed.

Direct download: 4._Business_is_still_Very_Much_a_Human_Thing.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 10:43am PDT

Gary Hamel is the author of five books including bestsellers What Matters Now and The Future of Management. His upcoming book is called Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them, which comes out in August. 

Gary has been on the faculty of the London Business School for more than 30 years and he is the director of the Management Lab. He has been named “The World’s leading expert on business strategy” by Fortune magazine, “the management innovator without peer” by the Financial Times, and he has been ranked by The Wall Street Journal as the world’s most influential business thinker. He is also a fellow of The Strategic Management Society and the World Economic Forum.


This episode is brought to you by Cisco. Nearly overnight, the entire world has found itself adapting to a new way of working. The future of work requires a modern approach to collaboration – helping people securely connect wherever they work, while staying safe and being productive. Cisco is shaping this path forward. Check out their new page devoted to the future of work to learn more and check out their resources including articles, videos, and a workplace maturity assessment.

There are some companies that seem to dominate at strategy and innovation--like Google, Airbnb, and YouTube. These companies found a way to create rule breaking strategies that have pushed them into the forefront in their industries. But why is it that some companies can figure out how to do that, while others (the majority) have such a difficult time innovating? That is what Gary has been trying to figure out over his career and what he found was that most organizations are alike--they are all using the same bureaucratic model that stifles creativity, innovation, and adaptability. As organizations we need to move away from this old way of leading, but how? 

Why we haven’t moved away from bureaucracy

One of the major reasons why organizations have not been able to move away from this outdated model is because leaders do not trust their people. But because of that lack of trust, it ends up being a self fulfilling prophecy. If leaders feel that they have to treat their people like children because they can’t be trusted, the people will feel that and they will stop making decisions on their own. If leaders try to control every aspect of the work, then what motivation does the employee have to do something new and innovative? 

Gary says, “I make the point in the book that there's a great irony in the fact that most of us, you know, at some point in our life, we're going to buy a car or two or three as we go through life, many of us will ultimately buy a dwelling of some sort. And yet those same human beings go to work and can't requisition a $300 office chair without somebody's permission. And we know from a kind of academic research that when you shrink somebody's autonomy, you also shrink their creativity, you shrink their courage and people just kind of give up. And so, where they may be very engaged in other parts of their life, they're not very engaged at work.”

The reason why Gary wrote his book was because he became frustrated looking around at a majority of companies that aren’t focusing on innovation. They are only changing when they face a crisis and have to change. And while 87% of CEOs think innovation is the top three priority, 94% will tell you their organizations are not very good at it. So Gary wanted to help organizations to see that you cannot become more capable of innovation if you don’t change the structures and principles that have kept organizations in a stand still up until now. He also saw that organizations are not utilizing their people to the fullest. Not only that, they are actually holding the people back. 

We have been using the wrong definition of leadership

There are many definitions of leadership, if you ask a room full of 20 people to define the word you will probably get 20 different answers. But Gary says we have been defining it all wrong. Over the last few decades the words leader and manager have been used interchangeably. And usually when we think of leaders we think of the top 20 people inside a company who make all the decisions. 

How does Gary think we should define leadership? He says “Ask yourself, if you had no budget at work, if you had no title after your name, what can you get done? And so people who need the stick of bureaucratic authority to get something done, I don't think most of those people are leaders, maybe very good administrators, they're not leaders. Leaders are people who know how to mobilize the people around them, know how to get folks to move forward together, and can be catalysts in making that happen. But they're not necessarily defined by a particular place in the organization. So probably, since Drucker was writing, we really know how to train managers, I don't think then or now we really know how to train leaders. But we kind of gave everybody a battlefield promotion when we started referring to managers and leaders. My argument is there are not a lot of managers who are leaders, anybody can be a leader. It has nothing to do with credentials. It has nothing to do with hierarchy, whether you have the courage, the compassion, the sense of community to step up and make something happen, even when you lack that positional authority.”

So should we get rid of the concept of management altogether? Gary says, we may need to change our language when it comes to management, as it does not refer to a layer of the company or a certain elite group of people. Management is really anything that helps us combine our efforts, do something consistently with purpose effectively multiplying our individual work. Gary believes most people and most teams today are capable of managing themselves. So we need systems and processes of managing together, but we don’t need multiple ranks of managers who see their primary role as control and oversight. 

How Adidas got rid of bureaucracy

Gary worked with Adidas and they brought him in to help them get rid of bureaucracy and to build a more innovative culture. They were lagging behind Nike and Under Armour in North America and they wanted to fix that. Gary says that in this instance he was able to train a couple thousand employees on how to think like business innovators. These employees were frontline, retail people who were now trained in innovating and then the company opened up the conversation to get ideas from these employees. Thousands of ideas were created in these open meetings and it got the employees excited and inspired for the first time in their careers. This was so successful they had a second round, but this time they focused on their manager model. They opened up the conversation about the business and the manager model to thousands of employees, which took a lot of courage on the part of the CEO. But that courage paid off big time. 

A lot of times it is the CEO standing in front of the organization giving their perspective on problems and issues. They are the ones giving the roadmap for how to move forward. But what if any individual inside the company could give an opinion, could have their voice heard, could help solve problems. 

Gary says, “ If you look back at all the people who changed our world, that's what they do, they're not waiting to be asked. They do not assume they're helpless because they don't have a title after their name. They see a problem. They build a community. They go, they build. They try something and they go from there. So these are the hackers. These are the activists who've changed things. And it's kind of amazing to me that, you know, I hear all these CEOs that say, “Gary, our organization needs to change faster”. So I ask them a question, “have you trained every employee to think like an activist? Do they know how to build a prototype? They know how to build a community around them to go try something.” “No,we've never done that.” So how can you complain that your organization can't change fast enough? Well, you haven't taught every single person how to be an agent of change in your organization.”

The 7 Principles of Humanocracy

In his book, Gary shares seven principles of humanocracy that define the DNA of a Human-Centric organization. They are: 


  • The Power of Ownership--Companies have a wealth of talented employees, but they aren’t given ownership of their work. Which means their ideas never see the light of day. Employees want to be passionate, engaged, and inspired. So give them the power to do so. 
  • The Power of Markets--While markets can’t function in the absence of appropriate regulatory structures, they are unmatched in their capacity to harness human wisdom and initiative. 
  • The Power of Meritocracy--If you want a human-centric organization you can’t have rigid hierarchies that make executives king-like and employees like underlings. Hierarchies should be natural and dynamic, based on an individual’s performance, not title or tenure. 
  • The Power of Community--As human beings we are programmed for community. We need to feel like we belong and that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Leaders need to strengthen the bonds of community within the organization. 
  • The Power of Openness--It is important for everyone in the organization to feel that they can voice their opinions. And people should be encouraged to voice different opinions and not feel they have to agree with the boss. Diversity of thought, background, culture, etc…is extremely important to the success of an organization. 
  • The Power of Experimentation--The pace at which any organization evolves is determined in large part by how many experiments it runs. You shouldn’t let your organization sit still and wait for a crisis to change. In good times and in bad, you must go try something new. 
  • The Power of Paradox--Conundrums are what make life interesting. You have to help your organization become a master of paradox. When you can master it, work will become more interesting and the organization will be more capable

If we want to see change inside our organizations, we can’t keep defaulting to the old way of work. As Gary shares in his book, “We need to embed new human-centric principles in every structure, system, process, and practice. If we’re serious about creating organizations that are fit for human beings and fit for the future, nothing less will do”

Direct download: Gary_Hamel_Podcast_-_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 5:12pm PDT

It's SO important for you to stay #positive and #optimistic during these crazy times with the #coronavirus. Here are 10 things you can do to stay positive and optimistic during tough times:

1. Understand that you control your actions and emotions

2. Avoid staring at your bank/retirement accounts

3. Don't keep the news on 24/7, set specific times to watch and focus on reputable sources

4. Stay away from negative and pessimistic people

5. Make sure you have a good POSITIVE support network

6. Remember that this is temporary, just like airplane turbulence

7. Take time for yourself and practice self-care

8. Remind yourself each day of what you have to be grateful for.

9. Focus your time and energy on something constructive whether it be work, starting a new business, playing chess, writing a screenplay, etc.

10. Use technology to your benefit to stay connected with friends and family

Martin Lindstrom is a New York Times bestselling author of seven books including Buyology, Small Data, and his upcoming book--The Ministry of Common Sense: How to Eliminate Bureaucratic Red Tape, Bad Excuses, and Corporate BS (Jan 2021).

Martin is the founder and Chairman of Lindstrom Company, a global branding and culture transformation firm working with Fortune 100 companies in more than 30 countries. He has advised companies such as Mattel, Pepsi, Burger King and Google. Martin has been ranked on the Thinkers50 list for 3 years in a row and TIME Magazine named him one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential people”.

This episode is brought to you by Cisco. Nearly overnight, the entire world has found itself adapting to a new way of working. The future of work requires a modern approach to collaboration – helping people securely connect wherever they work, while staying safe and being productive. Cisco is shaping this path forward. Visit  to learn more.

Have you ever had to deal with rules or guidelines at work that don’t really make sense? Have you ever had a great idea for your organization that would save time or money only to have the idea killed as it went up the corporate command chain? I’m sure we’ve all experienced this bureaucratic red tape in our careers and this is exactly what Martin is trying to combat. He is trying to bring common sense back into the workplace. 

How innovation is killed

For the past 20 years, Martin has been working with companies to transform their brand and corporate culture. And what he found was that every company has an immune system that works as a defense mechanism for change. 

He says, “Companies have it (the immune system) because as soon as they migrate from being a small startup company to become a real serious bureaucracy, what happens is that people are protecting what they already have. And through that, they create processes and compliance and rules and guidelines. And all that becomes almost an invisible straight jacket, which is almost sucking the oxygen out of the room in terms of innovation and transformation.”

He gave an example of something he experienced while working with McDonald’s many years ago. The company had come to Martin to help reinvent the happy meal. Martin and his team came up with a great concept of redesigning the meal to be healthy, but fun. They realized that in order for kids to eat healthy there had to be a narrative that made the food cool, fun and exciting. They came up with a story where the broccoli was the bushes in the forest, and the tomatoes and the cucumbers were tools and weapons in the story along with all of the other food. They tested this on kids and they loved it. Parents loved it. The McDonald’s franchisees loved it. So McDonald’s gave the green light to pilot the idea across Europe. After two years the company went to launch the new happy meal and guess what it was? The old happy meal food with an apple added. 

After that experience Martin realized he needed to understand the “immune system” and actually address the lack of common sense that happens with bureaucratic red tape and corporate command chains. Since then they have actually hired psychologists to join the team at the Lindstrom Company. 

Why companies need to think like entrepreneurs

So what can companies do to start removing the red tape and stop killing innovation? Martin says they need to go back to the concept of entrepreneurship. One key trait entrepreneurs have is they see the world through the eyes of a customer or a consumer, they don’t see things through the eyes of a business person. Usually the reason an entrepreneur is starting a new business or service is to fill a gap they experienced so they are the consumer. They have felt the pain or frustration on the consumer side, so they know how to make the experience great for others. But what happens over time is the company grows and the entrepreneur starts getting nervous about others stealing their idea or that some of their 3000+ employees will mess up the company brand or philosophy. That’s when the safety net comes in, in the form of rules, regulations, policies, etc...And slowly the company starts seeing the world from the inside out instead of the outside in. This is when the common sense starts fading away. 

As Martin shares, “When you lose a sense of common sense it is quite often because you lose contact with the consumer, the customer. Really the people who are paying your salary, and you need to reconnect with the real world. And most companies today believe that they’re doing that through data, they believe that the spreadsheets and all these statistics and research studies are telling them the truth. But the reality is, there's one little thing missing. And that thing is empathy. The ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person and feel what that person is feeling. And as soon as that happens, it's almost like you're resetting the whole mindset. And that's where common sense is coming back.”

The six roadblocks to common sense

In Martin’s new book he lays out six of the most common roadblocks to common sense. They are:

  • Bad customer experience--The company is not feeling the pain the customer feels so no one inside the company acts on behalf of customers to fix problems. The way to fix this is through empathy--finding ways to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. 
  •  Politics--There are two issues in this roadblock. First not knowing what other people in other departments or divisions are feeling and not caring. And the second issue is the KPIs that are not aligned. 
  • Technology--Technology is a wonderful thing, but there are always multiple issues with it throughout the day that can be a time waster and it can build frustration. We spend around 15% of our day fixing tech issues. It can be a tool or a weapon
  • Meetings and PowerPoints--Not only do we have too many meetings, but almost everyone is multitasking in them and the culture most companies have created around meetings is toxic. They run over, everyone has their own agenda, people are trying to show off instead of be productive. We cannot be productive if we spend all our time responding to emails and sitting in meetings. 
  • Rules, regulations, and policies--There are a lot of rules, regulations and policies inside of organizations that just don’t make sense. We have to be able to question rules and eliminate them if they are not reasonable. 
  • Compliance and Legal--A lot of times people in this function of the company say no just for the sake of saying no. When this function has too much power, it can destroy your company and how it evolves. You have to have the right balance between keeping the company safe and secure, but also they have to be service minded and remember that any rules put in place should be sensible and be for the best of everyone involved. 

How do we get back to common sense?

We have all probably experienced at least one of the six roadblocks, if not all six. So how do we start moving our organizations back to common sense? Martin’s advice is, “First of all, acknowledge there is an issue. Number two, map down what the issues are. And the best way you can do that is to look around in your office everyday, take photos and map this down. Then the third thing is then to categorize it. The fourth thing is to create a whole new business model around it. So you actually are both earning money while you're fixing the problem at the same time. And the fifth issue I would suggest, is really to celebrate this whole thing internally.”

Why should we celebrate internally? A lot of times we want to change, but we don’t dare to. He gives an example of a group of chickens he had that were kept in individual cages for 6 months and then the cage doors were opened for them one day. They all went out the door of their cage for 30 seconds and then went straight back to the cages. So in order to get them to come out he had to put corn in front of their individual cages and each time he would put the corn further and further outside the cage. 

Martin says, “That little piece of corn just outside the chicken case, I call a 90 day intervention. These are short lived, very quick changes you make in the organization. And what you do is whenever you succeed, you're celebrating that throughout the organization. And the celebration is really important, because if you celebrate when picking up the first corn, all the other chickens are looking around, and they feel Wow, I want to feel that too. And it kind of justifies or verifies, or at least it somehow tells the world this is the right thing. And it changes the culture as a consequence of that. And if you continue having these small wins, time after time, certainly it's solidified the fact that we are on the right path. And that's where you have a transformation of a culture happening. So really what I'm saying here is it's super important for you not to just have these long term goals and talk about what's happening five years from now is the goal still fine. But you have to break it down to small bite sized things and celebrate it every time. And I think the key problem in organizations today is that companies are setting those small goals sometimes, but they're not celebrating the success of them, the victories, and that's just as important as fulfilling them.”

Direct download: Martin_Lindstrom_Podcast_-_done.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 2:09pm PDT

Money is no longer the number one tool organizations have to retain and attract top talent. Just because you created a sustainable company doesn’t mean that every employee wants to work with you and customers want to transact with you.

Employees and customers around the world want to be part of an organization that positively impacts the environment, society, and communities around the world.

What you need to be asking yourself is what can you do to create an environment where your employees actually want to show up to work? What can you do to create an environment where customers genuinely want to transact with you?

Direct download: 2._Customers_and_Employees_Care_for_More_than_Just_a_Paycheck.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:56pm PDT

Chris McCann is the CEO of 1-800-Flowers, a floral and gourmet food gift retailer and distribution company with over 3000 employees. The company was started back in 1976 when Chris’ older brother opened his first flower shop. In the 1980s Chris joined his brother in the business and they have been working together ever since.   

Chris was named to the National Retail Federation's "The List of People Shaping Retail's Future 2018." And under his leadership, 1-800-Flowers was named one of 2017's most innovative e-retailers on the Internet Retailer 'Hot 100' list.

This episode is brought to you by Cisco. Nearly overnight, the entire world has found itself adapting to a new way of working. The future of work requires a modern approach to collaboration – helping people securely connect wherever they work, while staying safe and being productive. Cisco is shaping this path forward. Visit to learn more.

Chris actually studied political science in college with the hopes of being a lawyer. When he was back home for holidays and weekends he helped out with the family businesses which included his father’s painting business and his brother’s floral business. When the time came for him to decide whether or not to continue on to law school, his brother convinced him that there was great opportunity in the floral business, but no other company was filling that role at the moment. No one had taken the opportunity to become what Jim described as the McDonald’s or the Holiday Inn of the florist world. 

When Chris realized there could be a great future in his brother’s business, he decided to jump in and try it. The brothers agreed to a six month contract and they have been renewing that contract 6 months at a time to this day. Chris is currently on his 72nd six month contract right now. 

Learning to lead 

Chris had worked other roles inside his brother’s business throughout the years, including delivering flowers to customers, but once he decided to go full time with his brother he soon took on a leadership role. He talks about the process and how he really learned along the way. Later on he did take some leadership courses at Cornell University, but in the early part of his career he had no formal training. Mostly he learned from other leaders he came to know, including the CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon and the former CEO of AXA Financial, Ed Miller. 

Chris gave an example of a time when he had turned to Ed for advice when having to let a person go. “As we were growing our company, we had people that were with us for a long time. And sometimes you run into a situation where the job outgrows the person, but yet the person was very loyal to you and very important in growing the business early on. And letting that person go would be very, very difficult to do. And I remember having conversations with Ed about this. He said, “You're not being loyal to that person”. I said, “Well, I sure am, I'm keeping them in a job”. He said “no loyalty is making sure that every person on your team is in a position to succeed, whether inside your company or outside your company. So if the job has outgrown someone and you don't have a position in your company. It's your responsibility to do everything you can to get them the right job outside of your company”. And that really transformed the way I thought about people.”


Chris also learned a lot from his brother, who not only started the floral company, but he also worked full time as a social worker who helped troubled boys. Jim brought a mantra into 1-800-Flowers that he learned from his time as a social worker. When working with kids in difficult situations, Jim said, in order to connect with them and be able to help them he realized he first needed to build a relationship with them. So he brought that mantra into the business, you build a relationship first, you do business second. And that really shaped Chris as a leader. 

How to lead in turbulent times

Chris has had to lead his team through some very challenging times. He led the company during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, during the recession, and he is leading them now through the pandemic. When leading in times like this Chris says the most important things for leaders to focus on are communication and visibility. 

He says that as leaders we need to communicate a lot more than usual during tough times to let people in the company know that you are on top of things and that you are looking out for their best interest. As leaders you also need to make sure you are visible to people during these times too. Even in normal times you shouldn’t be sitting in your office all day, but especially in times of turbulence people need to see you and they need to feel like you are accessible. People today are fearful and they have had their lives disrupted, they need to know that the mission of the company hasn’t changed, that they are still impacting the lives of their customers, and that the leaders of the company acknowledge times are hard. 

As Chris shares, “There are some things that will not change, and that's our commitment to our vision, any company's commitment to their vision and their values is very important to be communicated to people. I think that at the same time, you have to be flexible, because you have to as a company respond to the changes being thrown at you. You don't have to change as a company, but you have to change the challenges being thrown out.  And then also, I think, the most important thing that we've done in this situation, which is different than the financial crisis, it's certainly different than the 9/11 attacks. The fact that people needed to know that every decision we made would be made with the safety and health of our associates, our customers, our vendors, first and foremost.”

Dealing with tough decisions

When it comes to making tough choices Chris has learned that the first thing leaders must do is make the decision very diligently, you can’t just react. It is important to take a step back, look at whatever data you have, and analyze all the impacts of your decision. In almost every decision there are positive impacts and there are negative impacts. Know what the positive impacts are and figure out how to manage the negative impacts appropriately. 

“For example, if you close a facility, it may be the right decision for the business, it may be the right decision for the profitability of a company, but there's negative impacts on the people that are in that facility. What do you do for them? How do you help manage that process? It goes back to our earlier conversation about loyalty. So I think, as we look at this, you need to really understand the information, assess the possible outcomes. And then most importantly, I think, take responsibility. Once you make that decision, you can't pass that responsibility on to someone else. It's your responsibility to make sure it's successful.”

You may have to involve other people in your decision, but regardless as the leader, the responsibility always falls back on you. So it is important to think decisions through carefully. 

Dealing with imposter syndrome 

It is very common for leaders to struggle with self doubt or a lack of confidence, especially when they don’t get formal training. Chris admits he feels imposter syndrome from time to time. When asked how he deals with it, Chris says it takes time and experience. Each time you face a tough decision or a problem within the company it will take you to the next level. And the more experience you have the more comfortable you will be to the point where you can feel like you know what you are doing and it doesn’t matter what others are doing because you are measuring your success based on the inputs and successes of the people around you.

Chris shares a few theories he and his brother used in their business. He says, “I remember as we were growing our business early on, we said there are two management theories that we will follow. One we call the Nike theory. And it was just do it because there's nobody else here to do it. So figure it out and get it done. And then the other was the Reebok management theory. And Reebok at the time was all about cross training. And we made sure we did that, made sure we'd rotate people throughout the company. And as you do that, and you get experience in each of these different areas, you really build your own self confidence.”

Direct download: Chris_McCann_Podcast_-_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 8:34am PDT

A few years ago, I was asked to give a talk to a few thousand people. A week or so after the talk, the client sent me feedback from the attendees and it was...terrible! I scored below a 3 out of 5 and was shocked!

I was confused and asked the client to send me the actual responses so I could see why I scored so low. As I read through the feedback it all made sense--context!

For starters, from the thousands of people in attendance, only 60 filled out the form. As I read the comments I saw people complaining that there was no restroom break, they didn't like the food, it was too dark, it was too loud, etc.

In other words, 95% of the feedback had absolutely nothing to do with me at all! Context matters a great deal in business and in life.

Direct download: Context_Matters_in_Business_and_in_Life.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 2:54pm PDT