6 Skills Today’s Leaders Need To Turn Your Big Idea Into Reality

6 Skills Today’s Leaders Need To Turn Your Big Idea Into Reality

INNOVATION! You see the word everywhere today, in every business journal and even on billboards. Everyone is talking innovation these days, because we are all competing to find the next big idea…a way to make our next million!

But what does it take to truly be innovative? See, innovation to me is a bit different than creativity. From my perspective, creativity is thinking of new ideas. The majority of people say that they have creative ideas all day long, but they never do anything with them…they don’t speak about them, write about them or do anything to try to get them into the marketplace.

Innovation is a bit different. It is a process which may or may not start with creative thinking sitting alone in your home office. From my observations, innovation is much more related to a creative thinker being out in the world, noticing something odd or something new and asking the question “WHY?” and then “HOW?” She then goes and answers the question “WHY?” by coming up with the “HOW?” and then creating something brand new that never existed. So, the creativity is sparked most often by a question or an observation in life or noticing that something can be better or different from what it is today.

I have never met Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos, but the stories and interviews I have read and heard go something like this.

Bezos is of course one of these computer geniuses who in the early 1990’s noticed that internet usage was increasing by 2300 percent a year. At this time, the internet was not really being used for commerce (a small bit but not to a great degree) but he knew it was coming, so he immediately began looking at what type of offering he could make on the internet that would change the way we all do business.

So, Bezos went about reviewing the top 20 mail order businesses and began asking himself several questions such as “What type of business could be conducted more efficiently over the Internet than by traditional mail order Because there were no comprehensive mail order catalogs for books, he believed that the internet would be a perfect vehicle to set up an online bookstore.

Bezos began attending book conferences, publishing events and becoming masterful on how to best sell books. This venture of selling books online started in his garage (how many times have we heard this scenario about innovation? Starting in a garage or a bathroom?), and here we are today…buying everything under the sun from books to clothing to beauty products to party favors to televisions to foods we eat on a daily basis…all on Amazon.

I could probably go on and on about other great innovators like Steve Jobs, whose big motive was to “Put a ding in the universe” or Bill Gates, whose vision was to see every home in the world with a computer running windows (that was going to be possible until Steve Jobs came along and said…I think we can do this better and in a way that is really hot/cool”). But, the bottom line is that these innovators all used certain skills including:

1. Breaking up the status quo.

Innovators don’t accept that what is available is the best option. They take ideas that are already in existence and make them better.

2. Questioning everything.

Innovators invest a great deal of time each day asking questions…asking “Why?” and “How?” and “What’s next?” By sitting down and writing out some questions that are the unthinkable each day, you can exercise your innovative thinking and move our world into the future.

3. Brainstorming.

Most innovators are not sitting in their offices alone thinking up ideas. They get out and talk to people and get ideas. Think about building a house. You will more thank likely hit about 100 snags, and you then go to four crew and say “Okay…we have this issue, let’s talk options…what are all of the possible solutions?” And, as soon as the best one comes to the surface, you act…but trust me…you will be relying on the bright ideas of others to make your new home beautiful and truly efficient and effective.

4. Nosy-ness.

Most innovators are nosy. They get into doors and look around. They open drawers and look at files and scope out retail shops and look around. They take in everything, and pull it all back in and

5. Problem Oriented Passion.

The majority of people I have met who are truly innovators started their big idea because they quite frankly got ticked off about something not working in life. The positive passion and inspiration are great, but the majority of time, something is missing in life or someone needs something to make life easier, and the innovators of the world go out and find a way to make it happen. Duct Tape was invented to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases (see…a problem was here…moisture was getting into ammunition cases). Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as “Duck Tape.” Of course, now, we use Duct Tape for everything…to plug a hole in a boat to making a dress for prom night.


I am not 100% sure of the accuracy of this quote, but quote masters say that Thomas Edison said “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” Whether or not this is an accurate quote, I have studied Edison enough to know that he was a master of sticking to a project and continuously experimenting so that he could get it right. He did indeed finally discover the magical formula for the light bulb.

So often, we stop our innovative processes after failing one single time. If you are going to lead the edge in your industry, you have to be willing to stick to it until you reach your new idea comes to life and make continuous improvements to keep your ideas relevant.



Are You Being Limited By Your Assumptions?

Are You Being Limited By Your Assumptions?

In business and leadership, we all spend a great deal of time living with assumptions that are just no longer relevant.  Our outdated beliefs, the way we operate, the books we read and the people we spend time with help contribute to our dedication to those assumptions.  If we live with outdated assumptions, we will never get ahead and be as successful as we want to be.  We all have to be constantly challenging our assumptions to see if they are serving us or holding us back.

As I am writing about this, I cannot help but think about some of the most famous entrepreneurs who have challenged assumptions only to become some of the world’s greatest business leaders.

Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple:  Jobs challenged the assumption that the only way to get access to legal music was to buy it from a music store and to buy it on a CD that included at least a dozen songs.  He looked at what Napster was giving away for free (illegally of course), and he saw the ability to download 10,000 individual songs onto a small device that could fit in the palm of your hand.  Anyone can now buy just one song on iTunes for a little over $1.00, and most brick and mortar business stores have said good-bye to the consumers of music.

Fred Smith, Founder of Fed Ex: In the shipping business, there was an assumption that the fastest way to get a package to a buyer was to ship it directly.  Smith then thought of shipping the package to a central hub in Memphis, TN and then to get the packages from there to the shipper using all shipping logistics…to make things quicker and more efficient.  His idea was comical to many, and Fed Ex was born.  I don’t know about you, but I just don’t think I could make it without Fed Ex.  I love having something I need now delivered overnight.

Ted Turner, Founder of CNN:  The old assumption was one that said that news would be delivered for 30 minutes each evening around 6:30 or 7:00 Eastern, and that would be it for the day.  Then, Ted Turner had an idea…What if news could be delivered 24 hours a day?  We could get breaking news out immediately as it was happening.  Again…people thought Turner was crazy!  Yep…crazy like a fox, and CNN was born.

Tom Anderson,  Founder of My Space.  The old assumption was that talking, texting or email were the only ways people could communicate.  Then My Space came along (yes…before Facebook), and people began communicating in online communities and sharing their lives with the world.  Other social networking platforms popped up, but My Space was the first big one that broke through the ceiling.

When it comes to entrepreneurship and leadership, I am always asking my colleagues and team members to look at any limiting, outdated beliefs, systems, procedures or processes that may be getting in their way of success.  I encourage you to do the same.  These four people did not let their old belief systems get in their way.  They knew what the public wanted even before they knew they wanted it. I cannot imagine life today without the above four people challenging their assumptions and bringing new products and services into my life that do make life easier and more fun.

As I close this post, I want to ask you “What assumptions are you holding in your mind that are getting in your way of success?”  I encourage you to leave your comments below.

M Stands for Moving On – 10 Signs It’s Time for a New Leader

M Stands for Moving On – 10 Signs It’s Time for a New Leader

When I see a business or team in distress, my question is always “Why is it so hard to tackle the obvious?”… or as the old cliche goes… “Why is no one talking about the big elephant in the room… the elephant that is so big that we can’t even see the elephant anymore… we are standing in the room and see that the room has become fuzzy… crowded… dingy, but the elephant has gotten so big that it’s shape has disappeared into a big blob of grey?”

My answer is this… your team has become comfortable with mediocrity… things have always been done a certain way, so there goes the mindset… into the ditch.  You will hear things like:

  1. Eh… performance is okay… it could be better, but it’s fine.
  2. There’s really no need to change… it’s too hard, too time consuming and way too costly… let’s just focus on the status quo.
  3. We do things around here “this way” and this has worked for decades… our approach is doing a “fine job”.
  4. I don’t like these people on this team or who work for this company anyway… let’s just stay in mediocrity, and maybe they’ll just “go away”.

When I hear this, I usually start digging a bit deeper… to find that

  • the same people are in the same place they were a year or more ago.
  • the same practices are being implemented that were applied 1, 3 or 5 years ago…no new practices have been implemented, and people are just bored.
  • the same things are being measured which are now obsolete… why are you measuring things that no longer matter?
  • the team leader is clueless about what the competition is really doing in the current times…so the team is living in the past.

If you are a business leader, and you are reading this article, it is going to take guts to make a change… a change in yourself or a radical move to step up to the plate and admit that “I cannot change, and it is time to move on.” There is a 99% chance that you, yourself, will not feel like you need the change… if you are a person who lives in mediocrity, you are probably very comfortable getting up every day and rolling out of bed on the very same way on the same side, drinking coffee out of your same mug, showering with a bar of old soap, putting on the same old clothes, eating the same food for breakfast, backing out your driveway the same way and driving the same old route to work. The only way you are going to truly know if it is time to move on is to look at your team and people to see if these 10 signs are evident. And… this might take bringing in someone from the outside to look at your team to see if they will HONESTLY answer these questions. Most stuck people don’t think they’re stuck… they think the rest of the world is crazy:


1. Your team is bored.

They look bored, have scowls on their faces and they drag around if they have a ball and chain wrapped around their ankle.

2. Your team is not only progressing with enrolment… they are actually getting worse at their jobs.

Their talents are actually turning into their biggest weaknesses.

3. Your team has lost their passion.They just don’t have the fire in their eyes

. They look flat and disinterested.

4. Your team members are skipping important meetings and making excuses for not showing up for events.

When people love their leader and your business is thriving, they not only show up but they show up for events, they show up with excitement and passion.

5. No one is joining your team.

Remember the time when you were actively desired by others? Everyone wanted to be a member of your team and your business that was once thriving? Those days are over. Remember the time when you were worried that your rock stars would be so successful, they would leave your team? No need to worry about that one. No one is growing, because you have taken them from rock star to rock-star wannabees.

6. Team members, clients and competitors are gossiping about your lack of leadership.

You may not know it, but your team members and colleagues do. It’s a very small world. With the internet, people are probably blogging about you too and talking about you on social media sites.

7. Your superstars are no longer talking about their big plans for a great future.

They’re becoming stuck in a rut just like you are… you are the leader, and they are following your model of mediocre leadership.

8. Your superstars are NO LONGER complaining and giving you suggestions.

For a while, they had great ideas on how the business could improve and they may have been complaining a pinch, but they now know that their voice is falling on deaf ears, so why bother. The saddest part of this is that they know you don’t really care.

9. Your team begins to make uncharacteristically careless errors.

You don’t care, so why should they? But of course, you are probably blaming them and taking NO personal responsibility for your business problems.

10. The element of fun is gone.

Yep…the fun has been zapped, and of course, people who once came around for the fun and to celebrate success are moving on or quitting their quest of becoming a successful entrepreneur. They have no interest in hanging around a leader or a business that is losing, and they are moving on to the winners’ circles.

Okay… I’ve given the bad news, so the solution:  Hire a coach or a mentor to work with you and your team before you completely give up.  You have worked too hard to just throw your business away.  If you are not willing to change as a team leader, it is probably time to move on and allow your team to join a new team…one that is passionate and achieving success.

Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto:  Part 2

Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto: Part 2

In a recent post, I presented the first seven principles of the Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto. This post will present part two of the Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto.

1. While every entrepreneurial opportunity has potential risks and pitfalls, they can be avoided when understood and anticipated.

The critical element is thorough preparation. The right mentors can show you how others have succeeded in the past. And more importantly they can show you why some have failed. By understanding someone else’s failure you are better equipped to avoid your own.

2. Contributing to the success of others will accelerate your success over time.

Your own success increases when your focus is on helping others. When you act as a role model your example will be duplicated and therefore multiply success for everyone involved.

3. You can attain entrepreneurial freedom through part-time effort; even in tandem with another fulfilling income-earning vehicle.

Build your new entrepreneurial enterprise while you maintain the security of your present employment. Move forward on your enterprise at the pace that suits you. When the time is right for you, step away from the past and make your enterprise your future.

4. You can transition from a life of satisfaction to a far more gratifying life of fulfillment.

Building a successful entrepreneurial enterprise goes well beyond achieving a secure financial future. It gives you the freedom to define your future by living an optimal life that brings you pleasure and fulfillment. And allows you the time to share that life with those you love.

5. How we generate our income should not define or limit who we are, it should only be the vehicle that funds who we want to become.

You can be many things in your one life when you have sufficient income and time away from work. The entrepreneurial life lets you be a traveler, painter, writer, photographer, sailor, actor, musician, or whatever else inspires and delights you. With the income from your entrepreneurial enterprise you are free to pursue your passion.

For more information about the Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto, visit http://cliffwalker.com.

Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto: Part 1

Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto: Part 1

As you begin to consider becoming an entrepreneur, I encourage you to focus on these founding principles…the entrepreneur’s freedom manifesto will guide you to the freedom and success you want to achieve.

1. High income is just a number unless you have time to enjoy your life.

If you’re working 12-hour days…or longer…six or seven days a week, your bank balance might be impressive, but you’re probably missing out on life itself. There’s no time for the things you like to do, no time for your family, and certainly no time to travel. You are proving the point that money can’t buy happiness.

2. An entrepreneurial enterprise is the only real path to true financial success. .

If you are good at a traditional job, if you are great at a traditional job, even if you are told you’re the best person on the team…you cannot control and insure your own success. Entrepreneurship gives you the tools, the flexibility, and the ownership to achieve financial success on your own terms.

3. Having a vehicle that creates income is better than simply having a job. .

With a traditional job you are trading time for money. You are also allowing someone else to determine how much money for each hour, how many hours you’ll work, and on what schedule. By building an income-generating vehicle you gain the ability to produce income on your own time and your own terms.

4. True wealth can only be achieved when income is also generated for you, not solely by you.

The well-designed income-generating vehicle works even when you do not. It has the ability to grow organically, and as it grows you will receive income from other entrepreneurs who want to be part of your enterprise.

5. Success in your enterprise requires initial training and ongoing coaching from seasoned and successful entrepreneurs. .

Working on your own no longer means going it alone. Experts in marketing, communications, management, digital technology, and other necessary business skills are available to help you start, grow, and nurture your entrepreneurial enterprise.

6. If an entrepreneurial enterprise can’t work as well without you as with you, it is simply a job with longer hours. .

The well-designed entrepreneurial enterprise does not require your hand on the switch every hour of every day. It is not based on working harder, but on working smarter. You will be able to travel, relax, and enjoy friends and family as your wealth grows.

7. The successful entrepreneur brings total focus, commitment, and persistence to the enterprise. .

He or she must direct energy and intellect at the enterprise, must commit time and attention to its development, and must stay the course throughout that development process. The rewards will come to those who take responsibility for their own success.

Please revisit this blog next Monday to read Part 2 of Entrepreneurs’ Freedom Manifesto.

Are You a Successful Entrepreneur…Or…Are You Just a Jerk?

Are You a Successful Entrepreneur…Or…Are You Just a Jerk?

So, you say you want to become an entrepreneur, and you want to be wildly successful?

There is a fundamental truth in business that states: “People do business with people they know, like and trust.”

This is a rule of business we have all heard and has been repeated over and over again, but for some reason, certain business owners just don’t follow the rule, and people just simply don’t like them and have no interest in doing business with them.

So, as someone who wants to become an entrepreneur, do you want to be successful, or are you just an unlikable jerk? Take this quick quiz to determine if your personality is truly designed to be a successful business leader. These 7 behaviors will hold you back from being able to be as successful as you could be:

1.Do you have an incessant need to talk about yourself?

When it comes to business, people don’t really want to hear you go on and on about your life and how great you are. They want you to show an interest in them and their business and lives. Shift your focus from you to them by becoming curious and asking questions about their business, life, family, hobbies, travels and interests. Let them talk and for you…just listen!

2. Do you give unsolicited advice?

No one wants to hear your two cents of advice each time they speak about a problem or concern. If someone asks you for advice, then give it. Otherwise, avoid giving advice at all times. You will be viewed as someone who thinks they “know it all”, and no one likes a “know it all”.

3. Do you blame other people for your problems?

It is so much easier to blame others for your problems and shortcomings or to admit that you made a mistake. It is much harder to take responsibility for your problems and actions. If you have a problem in your life, there is a 99% chance you had something to do with the issue. Step back from the problem long enough to consider how you played a role in the problem or failure, and admit to others what role you played in the problem.

4. Do you have a need to be right?

Are you someone who has to win at all costs and in all situations…even when winning and being right really don’t matter. Just like unsolicited advice, people don’t want to get into a “right vs. wrong” conversation with someone who always has to be right. Let other people “win” in the conversation, and they will be much more attracted to you and your business.

5. Are you known for making destructive, negative comments?

Some people have a need to make sarcastic, cutting remarks. They think it makes them sound witty, but the reality is that sarcasm can often feel like a form of verbal abuse. If you can’t say something nice about another person or a situation, don’t say anything at all. People will quickly tell others what you have been saying, which can ruin your reputation as an entrepreneur.

6. Do you claim credit that you don’t deserve?

If you are claiming credit that you don’t deserve, you won’t be fooling anyone. This is probably one of the most annoying ways you can claim success. Give other people the credit they deserve, and allow other people to acknowledge your contributions to a successful project. You will come across a someone who is humble and grateful, and both habits are admired by others.

7. Do you just not listen?

When someone is talking, are you looking at your text messages, looking around for “someone better to talk to” or are you interrupting others at every turn? If so, you are turning someone who could become a friend, colleague or client into an instant enemy. People want to be heard, and they want to see visual clues that you are actually listening. Practice looking people in the eye, and focus on what they are saying and how what they are talking about is impacting their greater world.

As you are beginning to build a business and begin walking down the road as an entrepreneur, focus on providing great service, listening to and inspiring others and building a team of people that are both liked and trusted. Focusing on making money is a great goal, but if you want to be truly successful, it is critical that you focus on people and doing everything you can to help them get what they want and need.