Here’s what I want to offer and do next for you ….
I love talking and learning about our natural strengths — both for myself and my teams.
And particularly so I can better leverage them in my life and leadership and help my team do the same.
The first meeting of my leadership small group — You and Your People — was on this subject and it re-energized me on how foundational knowing my strengths has been for my own leadership — in building my confidence, so that I can be more authentic and impactful.
When you understand and know yourself better, particularly your unique and natural strengths, you can better leverage them for yourself and your team.
And the more natural and authentic we are as leaders, the more impactful, effective and productive we are.
I want to help you be more of yourself as a leader …
Over the last 10+ years as a leader, I’ve found 3 tools to be particularly helpful in knowing myself so I can better leverage my unique strengths and lean into my own unique style and approach of leadership.
(By the way, there are two more I could include, but I don’t want to overwhelm you.)
Here’s how it’ll work …
Over a couple of days or weeks (whatever pace you choose, but not in the same sitting or day even), you’ll go take each assessment.
For each tool, I’ll have a short video introducing it and sharing my personal experiences along with examples of how I’ve used it in my leadership.
Additionally, I’ll have questions and assignments for you to reflect on and answer in the private member area at Leader.Team.
Once you’ve completed the assessments, posted your results and done the assignments, we will schedule a 30-minute call to discuss it all and I will provide feedback and answer questions you might have.
After months of preparation and planning, I’m excited today to rollout Leader.Team officially with my co-founder Jeff Meziere.
Our vision is simple:
to build a community of dynamic leaders, who want to learn and grow, together.
When I first became a leader of a team over 10+ years ago, I remember how scared I was and inadequate I felt. Being a leader and manager was often a daunting task, without much support, and as my team grew so did those feelings as well as the pressure and responsibility.
What I yearned for most as a leader and came to rely on later was having a set of trusted peers that I could share perspectives and experiences with to learn and grow, and get feedback and support on the challenges and struggles we all face on the never-ending road of leadership.
A few years into my first role as a leader, I found all of that and more in a peer group based in Oklahoma City, where I live.
Being a part of that peer group changed my life for the better. (One of the members of that group, by the way, was my co-founder, Jeff.)
I can point back to that group as a catalyst for my growth and success as a leader. It’s been so impactful on my life that I helped start two other in-person groups.
And today …. we want to offer a similar experience for you.
We’re rolling out Leader Huddles … which are facilitated online peer groups of 4-8 leaders, meeting once a month for 90 minutes to learn and grow, and support and encourage each other.
Mark Maunder of CEO of Defiant, who builds Wordfence a WordPress security plugin, came to Oklahoma City a couple weeks ago to interview me after leaving the team and company I started over a decade ago. I’ve known Mark for a number of years and so much appreciate him asking amazing questions that allowed me to share my story again.
What I really wish is you would have seen us just talking … Mark is incredibly smart and caring and passionate. And it was such an amazing time of two entrepreneurs and humans sharing openly together about our experiences.
Mine just happened to go live.
So here are some direct links in the interview to listen in:
Allen shatters the myth that some are just born creative. In the book he write:
“Creativity is accessible to all, but most people just don’t have the right tools.”
The Four Laws of Creativity
In The Creative Curve and this interview, he shares the Four Laws of Creativity he’s unearthed from extensive research and interviews, which are:
Consumption — he says we need to be spending 20% of our waking hours consuming information and knowledge in your field, in order to develop mental models, particularly exemplars, and be able to see patterns and opportunities.
Imitation — he calls this the Franklin Method, after Ben Franklin, who learned to write better by observing and recreating the structure of the best writing of his time.
Creative Communities — I’ve been thinking more and more about this, but Allen shares there are four key members/groups in Creative Communities: Master Teacher, Conflicting Collaborator (i.e. my partner Jeff has been fantastic in this role for me), Modern Muse, and the Prominent Promoter.
Iteration — particularly with the use of data to refine your work, the four steps are: Conceptualization, Reduction, Curation and Feedback.
Allen’s Advice for Me
In fact, I asked Allen on the interview for advice specifically for me.
Dive into Primary Research – he suggested getting as niche-y and technical as you can in a field of interest; go meet and interview the researchers.
Marry the Fringe and Establishment — he said the best teams, particularly when starting new businesses, consist of people on the Fringe (who bring a fresh perspective) and Establishment (embedded in industry or field who bring credibility). Been thinking about this with areas of interest I have for potential businesses but in fields I’m not embedded in and finding a partner/collaborator who is embedded.
In the last couple of days and in multiple conversations, I’ve used the snowball metaphor as a way to describe where I am currently — Starting Again — and for how I’m approaching what comes next.
You get the idea of the snowball …. it starts with just a small ball of snow clumped in your hand. Rough and crude it starts slow and seemingly insignificant but with sustained effort builds and builds to something bigger and better.
It’s how I think about building anything because everything of worth and value has to start somewhere … but the ultimate goal is to build forward momentum and inertia, where the snowball can eventually get even bigger with less effort but also with help from others.
But here’s a lesson I’ve learned …
I didn’t have another snowball rolling in tandem
Even though today I am starting with a bigger snowball than I did 11 years ago, I wasn’t purposeful or consistent or deliberate enough to have built my next snowball while the other snowball — iThemes — had gained substantial momentum and now is rolling successfully without me.
For the first five years or so of my previous business I never thought, purposefully and naively, about exiting or leaving it. (I didn’t want to ever exit it. I simply wanted to keep renewing the best gig with the best people I’d ever had in my life.)
But that left me a little behind where I would have wanted to be currently.
Although I’m not starting from scratch, I’ve got a lot more work to do than I think I needed to do building this new snowball because I hadn’t properly built another one alongside it.
My personal brand is my foundational and fallback snowball
For starters, I am focusing on building a snowball I’ve had for years — my personal brand and relationships and audience.
I did use and leverage my personal brand where it fit and helped my previous business over a decade — and by doing so was also building it simultaneously. And it was effective even though some cautioned me of attaching too much of my persona in the business.
For instance, when I got asked to speak in our industry, WordPress, I dove in because I knew where I went, so did the business. Then eventually I sought out those opportunities, not because I just relished being a public speaker, but because it had benefit to the snowball.
But my personal brand eventually became additive to the other main bigger snowball that had my sustained focus, energy and effort for so many years. And honestly for good reason.
I don’t live in regrets or try to wallow in mistakes. But I’ll use this experience and knowledge as I create my next thing and continue to nurture my personal brand as my base, my hub. Always. So that I can start again down the road in a better place.
For example, I have a few hundred emails subscribers here … not a carefully curated and targeted audience of thousands to build from.
Snowballs are platforms for options and opportunities
And specifically, I want to build a platform or platforms. And my personal brand is currently my default starting place.
I say platform very specifically because my mindset is that I want a platform that I OWN, perhaps forever, and OUT of which can produce useful and needed and profitable things.
Because I sold my platform. And didn’t properly build another one in parallel.
Two good examples of what I’m talking about and seeking to do now are (1) my friend Syed Bahlki of WPBeginner and (2) Brian Clark of Copyblogger fame. Both have deftly used either a main platform and/or their personal brand as a powerful place to launch multiple successful endeavors.
With that in view, this time I won’t let my personal brand and platform drift off in neglect.
I’m talking about snowballs and platforms so much here because I deeply believe in them. I’ve seen how they work and their effect. And I want it again.
I know how much incredible work they take early on to build into something significant and impactful and yes profitable later. And once they get going they are a force.
For instance, once we got iThemes up and rolling after the first year or two, it was much easier to start new snowballs within it, which also kept me interested. So we launched a bunch of things out of that one, some flopped, but a couple hit big time. One was BackupBuddy, another was our Training division, and then eventually iThemes Security (which already had snowball momentum because we acquired it with hundreds of thousands of installs).
So I know first-hand … the things I’m doing or starting today will take years perhaps to gain the momentum that I want or intending. And they won’t take just time they will also take focus and care.
Early snowball building is real grunt work, but the best work
It’s the late night pings or followups. The chasing down of tasks. Hitting publish. The searching for and experimenting of new things and the failure and learning that follow. The flow of good conversations with good people.
Over and over and over and over. Until the snowball starts to roll mostly by its own momentum.
That’s what leads to success. And I’ve got countless examples of it.
It is this early tireless, thankless toil of snowball building that is the magic that comes later.
That first ugly clump can become something.
With work. The sweaty, gritty hard work starting, building, maintaining something so one day the snowball is rolling almost on its own BECAUSE of all that hard work and sleepless or late nights NOW.
So I don’t take this season for granted. It’s imperative to the success of what comes next for me, which is why I’m finding myself going back to my roots and beginnings of starting the snowball.
I know they work … with enough care and effort.
Consistently. Deliberately. Building the snowball.
Snowball building is FUN
And honestly it’s been refreshing work less than a week into new snowball building mode. (Ask me how I feel in a month because I ain’t 30 anymore!)
Even though the work is hard I remembered … I really like starting snowballs.
This time, however, I’ve got some snowball lessons to do it again … just a little bit smarter.
How about you? I’m curious, what stage is your snowball in?