The Nature/Nurture Debate & Developing An Eye-Cubed Leadership Team

4 09 2013

What was your reputation…____________?

  • As a young student?
  • In high school?
  • In your first job?
  • After the 90 days following that big career leap?

What are the reputations of your…____________?

  • Employees?
  • Teams?
  • Departments?
  • Companies?

Do you have a personal reputation filled with the Eye-Cubed qualities of a great leader that inspires others to innovate and implement?  I ask the following follow-up critical question:

Spring feeling

What came first, the reputation or your behavior that supported it?

This issue permeates psychology classrooms and has been debated among the greatest minds.  Have we developed the personalities, which form our reputations, as a result of “nature” (what we were born with and cannot control) or “nurture” (the environment in which we were subjected, exposed and molded).  This concept drives one of the key tenants on how to build an Eye-Cubed team that is inspired to achieve greatness and high performance.  In the Eye-Cubed world around us, we control that which we can and believe we have the ability to influence results by executing a plan.  As a result, I answer the nature/nurture debate as follows:  NURTURE!

“Give the people around you a reputation to uphold.”

When I was a young boy, I was wrought with “confidence” issues.  They manifested themselves in many ways. However, my mother Janice Sussman, refused to allow me to develop a negative self-image.  Her consistent words and actions gave me the confidence to believe in myself.  Over time, I grew to believe the positive stories she told me.  I developed the very image she demanded I have of myself.

In high school, there were two English teachers whose actions, words and behaviors damaged my confidence and belief in myself.  I nearly gave up writing completely as they said, “I have no idea how you ever got out of middle school English.  Your writing is remedial.”  However, there was another teacher, George Stone at The Hotchkiss School, whom I respected and admired.  I listened to him.  He praised my creativity.  He described me as “powerful”, “influential”, “creative” and as a “leader”.  He wrote a letter to my parents describing me this way.  I took those words seriously and focused on following the footsteps of one who had those traits.  I continued to write.

Throughout my business career, I developed the reputation of following in my father, Stanley Sussman’s footsteps as PFP’s innovator.  I took that as a responsibility and honor to maintain while I focused a tremendous amount of time and energy on providing that characteristic to the company.

  • Who can you influence by giving them a reputation to uphold?
  • What qualities will you identify as key?
  • How will you communicate the great news?

You, your Eye-Cubed leaders and their teams possess the qualities needed to excel (Read more about Leadership as the Prerequisite of Inspiration).  Many know it today and need to hear it from you.  Others need to hear it from you so they believe it tomorrow.  By providing a “nurturing” environment, your team will achieve your vision.


Why You Should Act (in social media) Like The Top 0.5%?

9 07 2013

Since Sept 6, 2012, I have been a fully engaged power user in LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress.  Having posted hundreds of updates on LinkedIn, tweeted 1500+ tweets and written 53 blog posts, I was asked two questions last night:


  1. Why are you doing this?
  2. Are you getting anything out of your efforts?

I knew I had his attention for about 15 seconds yet my answer was much longer than that.  As a point of reference, out of the five men sitting around the small table having a discussion, three of them read my work regularly.  That’s 60%!  (including me….see how numbers can play tricks on perception?)  I started to answer him but tailed off as he drifted to another conversation.  So I challenged myself to introduce the question and answer it over the next 325 words. (I try to keep my posts below 500 words…now I only have 297 words left). 

Why am I doing this? (And why you should be inspired to do it as well)

  • Thought Leader:

I want to be more than a legend in my own mind!  I need credibility.  My consistent presence and quality content will do just that.  If it is truly “good stuff” (you will be the judge of that), I will be looked at as the thought leader I wish to become.

  •  Value Generator to enhance my company’s image to clients and prospects:

We are reminded constantly that without value, we have no chance for business continuity.  CEOs and “C” level executives want to be engaged and I refuse to be considered a “vendor” to our client-partners.  Intellectual discussions about business challenges (coupled with solutions) bring the value for which I envision.  My presence on the web addressing critical Eye-Cubed issues reinforces the value added.

  • I’m more than an “owner”or SVP of PFP:

I have had a plethora of experiences since 1996.  However, keeping the lessons within my company limits the audience.  Others can gain perspective from my path.   Through speaking, writing and consulting, I can build my impact and influence. 

Am I getting results? (What is in it for you too?)

  • Thought Leader:

New opportunities have been uncovered as my reputation builds. 

  1. Radio Interview on implementing change. 
  2. Corporate Briefing interview on Collaboration with a strategic partner. 
  3. Speaking engagements to industry leaders on succession, growth and innovation
  • Value Generator:

At a high level meeting with one of our top three clients, a senior executive introduced herself to me and said: “Yes, we have connected on LinkedIn.  I read your blog.  It is good.  I get a lot of stuff thrown my way but I like your work.  I read it.”  We then talked about strategy and the future.  They wanted to know how PFP can help them reach their goals as an organization.

I went into this project with a long-term view and did not expect to have such measurable results so soon.  Businesses are evolving and the Eye-Cubed leadership needed to excel could not be more pronounced.  With the goal of continuing to add value every day, Eye push forward!  The results speak for themselves.

Innovate From A Position of Strength!

2 04 2013

There is smooth sailing in your company.  You have a great product, your service is needed in your niche and your profitable.  So if it aint broke, then don’t fix it!  Right?

Unfortunately, this philosophy may be a sure sign of doom.   We can never take current success for granted because we know one thing for sure and that is true for all income streams.  They share the same fate if left alone.  They will eventually dry up.  Nothing last forever.  So what are you to do?


Innovate when in a position of strength.

It is our roles as leaders to make our income streams wider, deeper or longer.  And even more important, we need to be capable of finding new streams of income.  There is no better time to dedicate your search than during good times.

There is a long timeline for successful innovation.  It may take years to develop a new idea, years to test it, years to gain the necessary buy-in for change and years to implement the innovation into the culture of your company.  What makes the process even more intense is the fact that more innovations fail along the way than are successful.  The odds are stacked against you.  To get one phenomenal innovation into the fabric of your company, you have to endure many ideas that fall by the wayside.

Therefore it is critical to continue to foster a culture of inspiration, innovation and implementation.  The Eye-Cubed atmosphere allows for a flow of results.  But it must be consciously maintained.  Decide on a specific budgetary item identified as “innovations” and invest annually in the process.  It takes time to build an appropriate pipeline to avoid skipping a year.

By maintaining the Eye-Cubed discipline of innovation, you and your organization have the greatest chance for sustained growth and flexibility on your way towards greatness.

Leadership, The Prerequisite of Inspiration

12 03 2013

What kind of leader are you?


When you are an Eye-Cubed leader, your attempts to inspire will be noticed.  Your words will be internalized and you will inspire movement and action.  Leadership moves perception from false preaching to truth, from irritating banter into music for their ears.  Fortunately, with real leadership, you will graduate from Eye-Cubed-U and will inspire all those around you.

Someone asked me:              How do you know if you are a leader?

For the answer, let us explore some Eye-Cubed-U vernacular describing two levels of leadership:

“Are you kidding me?” Leadership:              Leadership based solely on ones rank, designated title, organizational chart position or presumed status.

“You da man!/wo-man!” Leadership:             Leadership based on ones demonstrated action, personal characteristics, visible beliefs or undeniable skill.

Perhaps, like me, you are the second-generation owner of a family business and initially brought into the firm in a position of leadership.

Perhaps you have a friendship or family relationship with the supervisor, department manager or hiring manager and have been hired/promoted into a position of leadership.

Perhaps, like many sales managers, you were the top performing sales representative who was promoted to a position of leadership and now must manage former colleagues.

Perhaps, like many supervisors/managers of non-sales departments, longevity gave you the upper hand, thus affording you a position of leadership.

Perhaps you have graduated, earned a higher degree and have been hired into a position of leadership.

The aforementioned leadership positions give one the “Are you kidding me?” Leadership roles.  Your teams looked at you with raised eyebrows.  They spoke among themselves and with others about your lack of experience or demonstrated skill.  They watched you closely.  They looked for as many reasons to follow you as they did to reject you.  You were faced with the typical uphill battle to gain respect, goodwill and trust.  You needed to prove yourself and earn the leadership status you deserve.

However, you are an Eye-Cubed leader and place the greatest pressure on yourself to perform and grow. Your performance will move your status as an “Are you kidding me? Leader” to “You da man!/wo-man! Leader” for many reasons. You have integrity in your intentions and truth in your words.  You lead by example, are eager to roll up your sleeves and build a strong team of high performers. You will do anything for your team to help them reach their potential.  Your deep personal understanding of others creates a bond between you and your department.  You have the confidence in yourself to develop the leadership skills in others and promote them within your group and company.  You are “da wo-man” and are profoundly determined to build your leadership status.


When you develop the sought-after status as “You da man/wo-man” leadership, people want to follow you. They seek out your team and wish to join.  They love working on your team since you guide them to consistently produce at levels much higher than the expectations set by others.  They help each other succeed, excel as individuals and ultimately become the performing unit you desired and created.  Even more impressive, there will be folks who choose to follow you even though they do not have to.  You will reach the highest levels of leadership.

All Eye-Cubed Leaders are “You da man!/wo-man!” leaders.  It is a reputation difficult to earn and well worth the effort needed to acquire.  Now you are ready and willing and capable of inspiring your team.  However, your leadership goes beyond the workplace and so too does the network of individuals in which you infuse inspiration.  In my next post, let us explore the inspirational lifecycle as we strive to maximize our positive impact on others during our journey through life.

Inspire, Innovate and Implement Your House!

26 02 2013

Give yourself the personal strategic planning meeting you deserve!

Personal Plan pic

Where is the time to think about “me”?  Here is my schedule for a typical day last week:

4:45  Wake up….walk in circles and Work on social media plan

6:15  Make sure my daughter is awake and feed the dogs (that takes time)

7:00  Get ready to leave for work

7:45  Drive my son to school

8:00  Drive to the office

8:45  Daily responsibilities to run company

5:30  Leave for home

6:00  Check in with family – spin on bike

7:15  Family dinner (whenever possible)

8:00 Debrief, chill, do work online

9:00  Eyes begin to roll to the back of my head…

10:00  Fall asleep (30 seconds after I put my head on my pillow)….

Go ahead and move the times a bit.  Substitute “this” for “that”.  Regardless of what you do with your personal schedule on a particular day, I can guarantee one thing:

Your mornings, afternoons and evenings are full!

Everyone wants more time in the day.  However, what would you do with that time if you had it?  Would you sleep?  Would you read?  Would you spend more time with your family?  Would you work out more?  Would you make more plans with friends?

How many of you said….”I would spend more time thinking about me”?

Actually, how much time to you spend in a year thinking about yourself, planning, assessing, analyzing and setting a course towards your goals?

If you are anything like me, the answer is disturbing.  I squeeze these thoughts in between the craziness of my life, my day and while I am awake.  Frankly, if I were able to have a personal strategic planning meeting with myself while I was sleeping, that would be a great time-slot to work with.  But I am not talking about science fiction here.  I am talking about reality.

I heard a speaker present about developing a personal strategic plan as the outcome of a real process.  We can execute any “process” if we buy into it.  I have not done this yet.  However, I have been told that it is profound.  Here is my proposal:

Personal Plan Pic 2

You need two nights (three days)

You need to leave your home and go to a hotel, cabin or resort

You need to be prepared to “disconnect” for 48 hours.

You need complete buy-in from your family to do this before you leave.

When you arrive, your goal is to conduct a strategic planning meeting with yourself.

Give yourself the same treatment and attention that you give your businesses.

Analyze your past, your present and your future.

Write or type your findings and thoughts on each issue so you can refer to it throughout the year and as part of future personal strategic planning sessions.

Personal Strategic Plan Suggested Agenda Items:

Life Balance

Your Mind

Your Body

Your Career

Your Relationships

Your Finances

Motivation and Growth

Spiritual Status

Community Involvement

Open items…

Cabin pic

Begin the exercise with a “blank wall or canvas”.  By the end of your meeting with yourself, you need to have a complete assessment of where you have been, where you are today as well as your plan to get you where you want to go during the year.

I just got the “green light” from my family that I will do this in the next 11 months.  What are the chances that you will do this too?

Different Teams, Different Roles

12 02 2013

One of the most compelling lessons learned in competitive sports, even at thirteen years of age,  is to understand one’s role and to flourish within it while bringing the team towards greatness.

Imagine the fortunate experience to be part of several teams during one season where different roles are expected.  I find it invaluable that children have a chance to learn so much at such a young age.  Here is an example of a seventh grader I know.  He is a very talented basketball player, loves the game and dreams of playing in college.  This year, he is participating on three teams:  (Can you relate to his role on any of the teams I describe below?  Which one best describes your current position?  What can you do to enhance your role?)

7th grade basketball

Team 1:  Town recreational basketball (Are you dominant in your career role?)

As the most dominant player, he has a role and talent to carry the team.  He typically scores 60% of the team’s points, guards the opponent’s best player and loves the responsibility of being “the man” at these games.  With each game, his confidence grows as his results reinforce his role.  He loves playing on this team because he has a chance to do things he would never do if he were playing on a team where his role was more defined and limited.  This is the best role for an independent visionary leader.

Team 2:  YMCA Travel basketball (Are you working with talented colleagues and expected to deliver your best to make the team win?)

As the starting forward on this team and a solid contributor, he is a key member of a talented team and plays his role accordingly.  He has opportunities to contribute with a strong presence both offensively as well as defensively.  He scores when he can and plays defense against quality opponents.  His team is a strong unit and works well together.  The team’s talent pool is very balanced as there is no dominant player.  This role give the team player the greatest opportunity.

Team 3:  Varsity basketball for private Middle School (Are you perceived to be overmatched?  Is it necessary for you to prove yourself and gain additional skills?)

As the starting center on this team, he is one of a few boys who was selected on Varsity in spite of the fact that he is two years younger than his veteran teammates. The dominant players on the team are guards (mostly in higher grades) and the coach has designed the vast majority of plays around these players. He is a role player on offense and must assert himself by setting picks for his teammates and playing strong defense.  He has not yet established himself as an offensive option on this team.  The leader in this scenario plays an important role but is searching for the position he desires among the team.

Regardless of the team he is on, he is valuable and plays his role well.  He works hard to deliver what is expected of him yet is acutely aware that he strives to build upon his reputation by delivering results in all areas when given the opportunity.  When he shares his concerns with me about his role on the varsity school team (he wants to do more on the team), I make it clear to him that he must give the team what they expect of him and look for opportunities to give more.  Once he consistently gives the team more results, those results will soon be expected and the opportunity will present itself to gain additional responsibility.

corporate team

Life on the basketball court often mirrors life under the florescent lights of the corporate playing field.  Today, perhaps we need to learn a lesson from a young man rather than give him a lesson.  We are fortunate to have a chance to apply it tomorrow at “the office”.  Good luck!

The Innovative Path From Point A To Point B Is Not Straight.

5 02 2013

Your innovation will drive revenue and profit to your company.  Over the course of time, your results exceed expectations.  Well done, you rock!  But was the journey smooth?  Did you grow consistently each year, month, week, day or hour?  Of course not. The results of a successful implementation are not a straight line with ruler-like precision.  Any similar theory on  growth is just that…a theory.  There will be setbacks along the way, many of them and for a myriad of reasons.  So be prepared.


Obstacles of people:

It is difficult to align the priorities of everyone affected by the initiative.  If you are using your existing team, it is likely that they will give you some time for the program to work.  But never take their cooperativeness for granted.  Understanding the motivation of your team helps to uncover any disconnect between your desires and the desires of your team.  Most employees desire consistency, stability and financial reward.   If your new endeavor will negatively affect your team in any of the aforementioned areas, do not expect them to remain interested in implementing your innovation for very long.

This issue has caused me a great deal of stress along the way.  Essentially, for my team, forging new ground with innovations has destroyed consistency, eliminated stability and lacked enough financial reward to create a truly engaged and motivated team.  The tension and confusion were not good for morale or for the pending success of my fantastic innovation.

Valley of despair:

A new process is always challenging to implement.  There is a learning curve that results in the typical frustration referred to as the “valley of despair”.  While it is nearly inevitable that folks will end up there, it is not necessary for them to remain there for a long time.  With proper preparation, planning, training, effective rewards and attention to detail, they can coast through the valley of despair faster and more smoothly than ever expected.

Obstacles of process:

When innovations are first implemented, there is often excitement surrounding its success.  People go the extra mile to make it work, even if it takes them away from their daily tasks and/or if the process is inefficient.  The success that follows is an innovator’s dream.  Everyone wants more.  Unfortunately, the rapid growth uncovers all inefficiencies in the process and magnifies them exponentially.

Then comes the tsunami of success.  When a process is built on a weak foundation and then is coupled with the pressure to produce, the flood of expectations roll over the entire organization.  Cross-departmental issues are experienced from operations, sales, HR, recruiting, training, technology and other support areas.  Each area may need a new process to support the innovation.  It is difficult work to address this obstacle and correct the processes.  However, this must be done before moving forward.

There certainly is a roller coaster of emotions throughout the implementation process of new and powerful innovations.  And there is always a gap between an innovators vision and the resulting reality.  The vast majority of projects result in a process that does not look exactly like the original plan.  And the timeline to reach one’s goal seems to be consistently longer than anticipated.  However, Eye-Cubed leaders, teams and companies understand this challenge and embrace the process of moving from theory to practice, from point A to point B.