Archives for July 1, 2018

I Tried To Find Out How Many Thought Leaders Are on LinkedIn. I'm Still in Shock

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Many people are headed to the beaches.

They’re running away, desperate to get a little rest and a few rays of hope.

I live in California, however. 

We have an overabundance of beaches, sun and hope. 

So I have to look elsewhere for respite and inspiration. 

Which is why a thought popped into my mind and took the lead over all the other thoughts hovering there.

The thought is:  How many thought leaders are there on LinkedIn?

I wanted answers, so I took the simple first step. I inserted the phrase Thought Leader into the LinkedIn search box.

I wasn’t sure how many people had designated themselves Thought Leaders

Truly, I’m not sure I know what one is, save for a pair of words that purportedly makes you sound interesting.

Well, what a surprise. 

My search for Thought Leader brought up 306,531 results.

There are that many of these precious people? Have they all done TED Talks? That would be 4,597,965 minutes of TED Talk, if the average length was 15 minutes.

That would be far more thoughtful leadership that there’s been in Congress for the last 10 years. No, 20.

I want to know that thoughts these 306,531 people have had. I want to know how many people they’ve led to superior thinking. 

There should be a scoreboard that ranks Thought Leaders according to their Big Think score.

I regret to say that, stunned from having performed this search, I didn’t stop.

Next was a search for Guru

I stopped breathing for several hundred seconds when I saw LinkedIn throw up 474,602 people.

It takes quite some estimation of one’s own self-worth to self-designate as a guru.

I should add, of course, that Guru is a first name, so this may mean there are still more Thought Leaders than, you know, Gurus.

Still, I was now emboldened beyond control.

I searched Visionary.

Oh, Lordy. That threw up 293,537 results. Which seems a little short-sighted on the Imaginative Title scale.

People on LinkedIn really think a lot of themselves, though, don’t they?

So I searched Successful.

I braced myself for the result.

5,641,454 people or entities responded to that description.

They can’t have all been guided by one of the mere 160,138 people on LinkedIn who are entitled Business Coach, can they?

I tried Inspirational Leader.

Pah, a mere 57,874 results. Now we’re getting to the heart of the issue. A lot more people think they’re Thought Leaders Than Inspirational ones.

Doesn’t that tell you something about those who write self-help books?

I was numb from all this excellence. I wanted to email Tony Robbins to ask him what he thought all this meant.

Instead, I girded myself for one more push.

There was only one search left to make. There was one search that would surely reveal those who truly knew themselves, those who bathed in reality, rather than puffery.

I searched Idiot.

A mere 7,907 results. 

Please, I know that these searches have a few flaws.

I know that my Idiot search includes those who work at Idiot’s Guide, those who perform Idiot tests and those who come up for no apparent reason whatsoever, save that LinkedIn’s algorithm seems to think they have some connection with idiocy.

Still, I’m the sort of idiot who wants to find moments of amusement amid a cavern of bloviation. 

So, for the next week, I’ll contemplate the fact that there may be 60 times more people who think they’re Thought Leaders than think they’re Idiots.

Why do I think it should be the other way around?

The No. 1 Mistake People Make When Handling Tough Conversations

I hardly have to tell you that the role of a leader is an important one. You’re responsible for guiding and motivating your team to achieve its goals, and when things don’t go right, you’re the one who needs to offer guidance and constructive criticism. Doing that can be tense and awkward for some people, but when you’re able to effectively communicate what needs to improve, these conversations can be easier and more helpful for everyone involved.

When it comes time to prepare for these conversations, there are a lot of things to consider. You’ll want to be specific in your feedback so that everyone knows exactly what happened, what needs to change, and how. You should consider your team members’ personalities and how they respond best to challenging situations.

Too often, though, leaders ignore these important considerations and worry instead about their own performance. And that is the single biggest mistake they can make.

Many leaders want to make a strong impression, so they write out what they want to say and enter the conversation with a script. Sure, everyone wants to feel ready for a tough situation, but there’s a big difference between preparing and performing.

If you want to be the kind of confident leader who can handle tough conversations well and inspire your team to keep going, you’ll need to ditch the script. Here’s why:

1. You can end up derailing your self-confidence.

Have you ever had a meeting where you were supposed to give a presentation and just drew a complete blank? I know I have. Many people create scripts to avoid this very situation, but as it turns out, scripts create that scenario more often than they prevent it. Think about it: If you’ve memorized a script and forget a sentence, how do you feel? What if you’ve missed an important point? What if you forget more?

Trying to stick to a script makes you feel more and more flustered with each word you forget, and then you just spiral. It destroys your confidence because you’re trying to rely on a piece of paper and not on yourself. Instead, spend your preparation time developing your ideas and rely on yourself and your knowledge of those ideas in your meeting.

2. You probably won’t sound like your authentic self.

I remember when “Frozen” came out and my kids were very into all things “Frozen” — dolls, games, accessories, you name it. One toy of theirs would sing the same part of “Let It Go” over and over again. Was it OK to hear it repeatedly for the first couple of days? Of course. That song is a classic. But after a while, hearing the same things again and again can wear on you — and your team feels the same way about your scripted meetings.

These people work with you day in and day out. They know how you speak normally, and they can tell when you’re reading from a script and trying to check all the boxes to say the right things. Rather than trying to pass yourself off as some amazing orator, just go out and be yourself. You’ll be much more comfortable and able to elaborate on problems in your own language: one that your team will recognize.

3. You can’t predict surprises.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that tough conversations never go how I expect them to. There could be personal issues in the mix that you don’t know about, or maybe someone was given incorrect information to start with that led to a mistake. You never know what information is going to come up during these conversations that can totally change your viewpoint.

A script renders you totally useless when circumstances change — and they almost always will. While it’s true that you can’t prepare for everything, you can mentally prepare yourself in a way that’s flexible and leaves room for new ideas and information.

4. Your focus should be your team, not yourself.

Leaders should be supporters and helpers to their teams, not dictators. Scripts are inherently self-serving because they totally ignore the viewpoints of others. When you rely on a script, it’s about “making sure that my team understands my plan to reach my goals,” no matter how many times you might use the words “we,” “us,” and “our.”

While you do need to be decisive as a leader, you’ll do your team a disservice by focusing exclusively on methods and solutions that you identified alone. Monologues can be scripted; conversations can’t be.

Preparation, on the other hand, encourages conversation. When entering a tough conversation, you should be familiar with the situation — what happened, why, and who was involved — but you shouldn’t immediately assert how you think it should be fixed.

Instead, have an open conversation with the right people to find the best resolution. When you’re prepared and understand how the issue came about, everyone is much more likely to have a positive experience than if you just read your solution out loud to them.

Even the best leaders struggle to have difficult conversations with their teams. It’s only natural to try to prepare what you want to say to avoid an awkward situation, but in many cases, scripts do more harm than good. Rather than spending time writing a script that covers all the bases in an eloquent way, prepare by learning everything you can about the issue and having a genuine conversation with those involved.