Twitter: Here's What Happens Next

By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success
Twitter: Here's What Happens NextAs you’re no doubt aware, Twitter’s future is at stake. Having put out a ‘please buy me’ sign and had no takers, once golden-boy CEO Jack Dorsey has announced that the company will lay off 9% of its workforce and shutter (or sell off) its once-lauded video platform, Vine.
How did Twitter, one of the foundational pillars of social media, fall so far from grace?
While Facebook – once derided by Twitter users as a frothy upstart – now has over 1bn daily active users, and revenue of over $17bn (compared to Twitter’s 320m users and around $2bn in revenue)?
The Curse Behind Twitter’s Decline
Interestingly, the genesis of Twitter’s demise goes way back to its very earliest days, when it was run by the current CEO, Jack Dorsey, together with his co-Founder, Evan Williams. (The third ‘founder’, Biz Stone, wasn’t active in day-to-day management.)
From that moment on, Twitter has suffered the curse of co-CEOs: competing vision. Put simply, a company cannot survive with competing visions at the top, and Twitter’s entire history has been a succession of competing visions.
First it was Dorsey and Williams (Dorsey ‘won’, and Williams was forced out). Then it was Dorsey and Dick Costolo (William’s replacement). Again, Dorsey ‘won’, with Costolo leaving in mid-2015 and Dorsey being hired back by the board as CEO for the third time.
By now, Twitter surely deserved (and desperately needed) all of Mr. Dorsey’s attention and vision, but incredibly, the board allowed Dorsey to also remain active CEO of Square, his other start-up.
In an amazing act of hubris on Mr. Dorsey’s part, and stupefying denial on the part of the board, the company was relegated to being a ‘side gig’ for its CEO.
The Consequences to Come
The lesson? You can’t spend your energies fighting competing internal visions and hope to survive – just ask RIM and Yahoo shareholders, both of whom saw their companies crippled forever by early competing vision.
And for poor, unloved Twitter – what happens next? Watch for either a mercy sale (someone buys it for next to nothing and turns it into a ‘feature’ of some other product or service), or a quiet transition from product to ‘public service’ a la Netscape/Firefox. It sure ain’t going anywhere else.
 



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Summer Reads Suggested By Our Team

Summer’s beginning here in the northern hemisphere. For most, it’s a time to relax and recharge.
Whether you have vacation plans, or are hoping to catch up while your team members take off, it’s a perfect time to fit in some summer reading.
Since there are so many great titles to choose from, we thought we’d share some of our favorites – both for business and for fun.
Take a look at the suggestions below, and let us know which ones make it on to your list of “must-reads”!
 

Suggestions from Les 


Les McKeown – CEO


 
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York 
By: Robert A. Caro
About: This Pulitzer-prize winner examines the “hidden story behind the shaping (and mis-shaping) of twentieth-century New York (city and state)” and how one man’s legacy continues to affect and plague us to this day.
Why Les recommends it: “I’ve been reading this book for almost three years now and I’m still only half way through. Ostensibly the biography of Robert Moses, the man most responsible for the city of New York as we see it now, it’s in actuality a vivid, dense, extraordinarily detailed examination of how power corrupts people first, then entire institutions.”
 
My Brilliant Friend
By: Elena Ferrante
About:  Written by one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, this is a “rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila”. Not only does it paint a portrait of friendship, it also tells the story of a nation.
Why Les recommends it: “Wonderful prose, deep insights into why we are who we are, and the first in a ‘trilogy’ that actually comprises four books – what more could you want for the summer?”
 

Suggestions from Dave 


Dave McKeown – President


 
The Sales Development Playbook
By: Trish Bertuzzi
About: Building a robust, scalable, repeatable outbound sales strategy.
Why Dave recommends it: “The world of sales is constantly changing. This book is a great ‘how to’ on building a team for the future.”
 
Elon Musk: Tesla, Spacex and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
By: Ashlee Vance
About: Story of Elon Musk’s journey from South Africa, his early days at PayPal and using his wealth to build things to benefit the world.
Why Dave recommends it: “A good look at an arsonist Visionary trying (and at times struggling) to use his talents to build a better world.”
 

Suggestions from Carissa 


Carissa Figgins – Consultant


 
Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters
By: Jon Acuff
About: In the past, the road to success has been obtainable through a predictable path. However, what we’re seeing now are a lot more people stuck in careers and jobs that don’t matter to them and are certainly not leading to success. Acuff addresses how fear can be escaped to do work that really matters.
Why Carissa recommends it: “I’m a huge Jon Acuff fan. Admittedly I’m addicted to his blog and Instagram feed. He is a highly relatable and transparent author with solid honesty, advice and motivation for anyone.”
 
Outlander Series
By: Diana Gabaldon
About: In the midst of reuniting with her husband after returning from WWII, former British combat nurse Claire Randall walks through a standing stone and finds herself suddenly “a Sassenach — an ‘outlander’— in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.”
Why Carissa recommends it: “I am absolutely losing sleep over this series. I love historical fiction and this series fits every genre within historical fiction with steamy love scenes, epic Highlander battles, archaic medicinal treatments, and blips of historically accurate events. I’m not even bothering with the TV series at this point. Gabaldon is a master word painter!”
 

Suggestions from Scott 


Scott Propp – Consultant


 
Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking
By: Roger L. Martin
About: How can you become a more open and critical thinker? The author’s thesis is that great insight comes from holding two opposing ideas and creating a better way forward by synthesizing a third way.
Why Scott recommends it: “When working with leaders to build their vision muscles, this book lays out in practical terms and with specific examples how to see more, form stronger insights and develop more robust and unique responses.”
 
The Emperor’s Revenge
By: by Clive Morrison and Boyd Cussler
About: Historical action fiction, anchored in Napoleonic history with present day drama.
Why Scott recommends it: “I’ve read 99% of the Cussler series, and honestly wondered if the current one would have the juice to span 400 pages. I’ve been delighted to find that it’s just good clean fun, with lots of nautical action taking place in western and central Europe. A great kindle vacation read.”
 

Suggestions from Kris 


Kris Casariego – Marketing Director


 
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
By: Rick Hanson Ph.D. (Author), Richard Mendius MD (Contributor)
About: Buddha’s Brain draws on the latest research to show how to stimulate and strengthen your brain for a greater sense of inner confidence and worth. This clear, down-to-earth book is filled with practical tools and skills that you can use in daily life to tap the unused potential of your brain and rewire it over time for greater well-being and peace of mind.
Why Kris recommends it: “I’m a firm believer that strengthening your brain/mind connection in ways typically thought of as spiritual is immensely useful in one’s business life.”
 
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
By: Sue Monk Kidd
About: Inspired by the remarkable historical figure Sarah Grimke, the author takes us into early nineteenth century Charleston where we meet “Hetty ‘Handful’ Grimke, an urban slave…who yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women…”
Why Kris recommends it: “Exquisitely written, this book will completely sweep you away.”
 

Suggestions from Heidi 


Heidi Overman – Client Delivery Manager


 
First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living
By: Richard Bode
About: Whether you’re a sailor or not, the good-natured parables in this book will teach you valuable insights about yourself and your approach to life’s challenges, both great and small.
Why Heidi recommends it: “As a kid, my dad sailed a lot on Lake Michigan and my sisters and I learned how to sail at a pretty young age. I first read this book twenty years ago but have reread it several times since, and it always reminds me of summers in Wisconsin. The author is really great at pulling messages out of ordinary experiences, and relating learning to sail lessons to simple and clear life lessons that can be applied to both home and work settings.”
 
Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers
By: Nick Offerman
About: This book offers a humorous, educational and engaging look at twenty-one heroes from throughout America’s history – ranging from George Washington to Willie Nelson.
Why Heidi recommends it: “Nick Offerman played the role of Ron Swanson on Parks & Recreation and, if you don’t know already, is an incredibly smart and funny man. I had the opportunity to attend a book reading of this book a few months ago, and was blown away not only by his humor and storytelling abilities, but also by his spirit, optimism, and pride in the hard-working, courageous pioneers he describes throughout the book. Not your typically comedian-written book, I learned a ton and was motivated by what I read. It was extremely fun to read as well!”
 

Suggestions from Paris 


Paris Connolly – Creative Manager


 
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
By: Guy Kawasaki
About: Every business wants to be as enchanting as Apple. Executing tactics of traditional communication rarely garners this result. As explained by Kawasaki, enchantment is not about manipulating people. It’s about discovering shared passions and evoking personal goals and desires to not only get what you want, but to transform any situation into an enchanting cause that others can believe in.
Why Paris recommends it:  “As simple as the principles are, the golden nuggets of real-world application make the concept of Enchantment feel easily achievable. Kawasaki uses a combination of anecdote, relevant quotes and quick, actionable advice, along with a ‘My Personal Story’ section featuring a different contributor at the end of each chapter to drive home the teaching. This is an easily digestible read I can absolutely see being enjoyed with toes in the sand. You’ll feel inspired and want to get started enchanting right away!”
 
Tales of Accidental Genius
By: Simon Van Booy
About: Van Booy gorgeously fastens together this collection of short stories to capture the notion that the most spontaneous acts of genius happen all around us by average individuals showing kindness to others. Each story focuses on the everyday-ness of a particular character and his or her life, and how a series of circumstances leads to an opportunity for generosity and second chances.
Why Paris recommends it: “Mr. Van Booy is a beautiful writer who has found a way to draw his reader in through minimalistic detail and relatability. His stories are so honest and real, it’s hard to find a way around them when you can so easily envision each situation unfolding in your head. Through the imperfection described in each character, there’s a sense of humility that’s refreshing, resulting in a feeling of pride as they each show their true genius and heart.”
 

Suggestions from Sarah 


Sarah Berger – Content & Community Manager


 
Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done
By: David Allen
About: Known for his ground-breaking Getting Things Done methodology, David Allen takes his productivity principles and distills them down into 52 quick, easy-to-digest essays, complete with questions to help guide you.
Why Sarah recommends it: If you’re feeling overwhelmed and have no idea how to fix it, this book will put you on a positive path, one chapter at a time. For followers of GTD, this book provides good weekly reminders of how to regain clarity and focus.
 
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
By: Matthew Dicks
About: Budo is an imaginary friend to an 8-year-old boy named Max. He narrates this creative and gripping story about the challenges of childhood, relationships and putting others first – even when it could cost you everything.
Why Sarah recommends it: “Whether you had an imaginary friend growing up, or know a child who does, this book will make you laugh, bring tears to your eyes, and stay with you long after you finish it.”


We hope you enjoyed this inside look at some of our top book suggestions! If you want even more inspiration, check out our recommendations from last year.
Here’s to a wonderful summer.


 

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Jeffrey Katzenberg Has a Howard Schultz Problem – And Here's Why That Matters to You

A version of this article appeared at Inc.com
Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. has declared 2015 a year to ‘reset’ the company’s vision. It isn’t going to work, whether with Shrek on his side or no. Why? Two main reasons.
1. Delusion doesn’t scale.
2. Superheroes don’t scale (and I don’t mean the sort Mr. Katzenberg features in his movies).
Consider this 30-second, 2-decade recap of the history of DreamWorks:
1994: Katzenberg leaves a storied career at Disney to found DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen (hence the ‘SKG’). The industry is a-twitter (albeit before Twitter) about how transformative the new studio will be in overhauling the then-moribund studio model of picture production.
2004: DreamWorks Animation is spun off and goes head-to-head with Pixar in the battle to take over the world of successful animated movies. By many measures, it wins (Shreks 1 through 3; sundry Madagascars; endless Monsters V Aliens; a zoo full of Kung Fu pandas, etc.)
2014: After a series of massive flops, including “Turbo”, “Rise of the Guardians” and “Penguins of Madagascar”, Katzenberg initiates two sets of takeover discussions (with Hasbro and Softbank), both of which come to nothing. The company makes a loss of $263m in the final quarter of the year. Katzenberg subsequently cut 500 jobs (a fifth of the workforce) and instituted a significant management shakeup.
So, what’s going on here? How can such a formerly high-flying, iconic organization come so close to crashing and burning?
The answer comes in a couple of easily missed observations in a recent lengthy article on the subject by the Wall Street Journal (and in much more detail, if you like gossipy business books in Nicole LaPorte’s lively account of the history of DreamWorks, ‘The Men Who Would Be King’). Notice these observations by people who worked closely with Mr. Katzenberg from the WSJ article:
“I would read his blog and get exhausted,” says a former DreamWorks production coordinator… She noticed a pattern: The busier Mr. Katzenberg was, the more off-track the studio…seemed to her and fellow production managers. “The creative confidence wavered because of his absence.”
“His peripatetic itinerary reflected a desire to branch into multiple platforms and industries—from television to publishing, theme parks to YouTube, mall attractions to children’s toys.”
“Evidence Mr. Katzenberg was overtaxed showed …[H]e was there “when he could be,” says one. “He was spread in a thousand different directions. He was basically running an empire. When ambition and capacity began to hurt each other, it might have happened around that time”.
Essentially, Mr. Katzenberg has a Howard Schultz problem (and, not coincidentally, a Michael Dell one), which is that heroic leadership doesn’t scale.
The answer? Jeffrey Katzenberg can re-org all he wants, and he can somehow find an extra two days in the week to do everything he wants to do, but until he learns to de-personify his vision and drive it deep into the company, he’ll still be pushing a rock uphill.
Sound familiar? Have you started to institutionalize your vision? Or are you still trying to scale your superhero powers (and your self-delusion)?
Discover how to drive vision and leadership throughout every level of your organization. Learn more here.

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If You Want to Leave a Legacy, Start Now

A version of this article appeared at Inc.com
Last week, as Bill Gates watched the company he founded come to the end of a clumsy, inarticulate search for a new CEO, he stepped back in to the front line wagering that his personal presence can help revive its momentum – sagging at best, but hopelessly lost, more likely.
This isn’t an uncommon pattern. In 2000, Howard Schultz stepped down as CEO of Starbucks, only, pointedly, to return in 2008 with a mandate to rescue the company’s plummeting stock price and insistently bad press.
Michael Dell has been through the same process, as has Ted Waitt at Gateway and Jerry Yang with Yahoo – none of them with any lasting success.
The desire of founders to leave a legacy is both understandable and widespread. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, almost the first words out of Jobs’s mouth are that he wanted to ‘…create a company that…would outlive [him].’ We are – right now – watching in real time to see if that will happen.
So how come founders (mostly) have a lousy record when it comes to building a lasting legacy? Why is it that when Schultz, Dell, Waitt and Jobs (the first time he left Apple) departed, the vision left with them?
Well, the reason is just that – in each case, their company’s vision was personified in them. When they left, the vision went too.
Which is a little strange, when you think about it. No CEO worth their salt (or founder, for that matter) would leave the day-to-day operations of their company vulnerable to such a loss of key personnel. The CIO doesn’t get to walk off with the company’s IT infrastructure when they leave. The business’s accounting processes don’t disappear when the CFO retires. Warehouses, product and trucks don’t evaporate the same day the EVP of Logistics goes to work elsewhere.
And yet, again and again, we see exactly that happen with the organization’s vision: the core beliefs that sparked the organization into existence, and carried it to great success, walk out the door when the founder steps down.
So the question is this: If you want to leave a legacy, what are you waiting for?
The time to start is now. ‘Later’ is too late. Take a look at your calendar – what’s on it that involves you consciously, overtly, avowedly institutionalizing, de-personalizing, your vision?
If the answer is ‘nothing’, then what you’re building isn’t a legacy. What you’re building is the complete opposite: you’re building a culture of dependency. Dependency on you.
Yes, it’s great to be wanted. It’s comforting to be needed. But neither will build a legacy.

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4 Signs You're a Terrible Communicator

 A version of this article first appeared at Inc.com.
Visionary leaders like to communicate – a lot. Whether glued to their cell phone, firing up Skype, chatting face to face or just grabbing whomever happens to be passing for a rapid-fire brainstorm, you’ll rarely find them lost for words.
But just because a leader talks a lot doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good at communicating. In fact, many leaders confuse eloquence with clarity, and as a result, often leave the people who work with them bedazzled by their verbal dexterity, but entirely confused about what to do next.
Here are the four cardinal sins of eloquent miscommunication. Which of them are you guilty of?
1. Talking to think.
Visionary leaders (those who think strategically and work with the big picture, as opposed to ‘operator’ leaders who are more focussed on tactical detail) use their verbal communications as a tool to think.
As result, having a ‘discussion’ with a visionary leader often means little more than being present while they externalize their thought processes – and while a seasoned employee or colleague who is used to such monologues learns simply to smile and nod at the appropriate moments, those less seasoned – those who assume they are involved in an actual discussion in which they expected to engage – can find the process entirely bewildering.
And it’s not just bewildering – ‘talking to think’ is also highly demotivating: Frustrated that their attempts to engage are either ignored or glossed over, bemused that their colleague has just talked herself into her own solution, puzzled by the pointlessness (from their perspective) of the exchange, the recipient is often left feeling like a stooge who has been used, rather than a colleague with valued opinions.
2. Setting up Aunt Sallys.
Visionary leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty – they rarely feel the need to grab for an answer as soon as an issue or problem comes along. As a result, they’ll often set up one or two Aunt Sallys – notions, ideas or proposals that are merely hypotheses – a starting point (in their eyes) for rich discussion.
The problem? The ‘Aunt Sally’ comes wrapped in the usual Visionary eloquence and passion, leaving their colleagues unsure whether or not this is indeed just a jumping off point, or a genuine proposal that they are intended to act upon.
3. Encouraging ‘debate’.
Unlike their ‘operator’ colleagues (who prefer action and eschew unnecessary discussion), visionary leaders enjoy nothing more than a robust debate. They like to engage in verbal conflict – as we’ve seen, it’s how they think things through.
Unfortunately, what, to a visionary leader looks like a healthy, profitable exchange of views often appears to others to be little more than a fruitless argument, with all the associated interpersonal fallout: personal attacks, bruised feelings and ruptured (or at least somewhat strained) relationships.
4. Providing the answer.
Ever listened to a friend or spouse sharing a problem then find yourself prating back at them with your brilliant solution – only to find that they didn’t want your clever answer – just a sympathetic ear? That’s the visionary leader on steroids.
Because their leadership identity is tied up in being creative and thinking strategically, visionary leaders find it well nigh impossible to talk about something without providing at least one – often multiple – ‘brilliant’ solutions. Encouraging others to think through issues for themselves, or simply being there as a supportive colleague is not their strong suit. As a result, visionaries often find themselves being bypassed by others who aren’t looking for a clever idea or an innovative solution – but who just want encouragement and fellowship.
Thankfully, the answer to these four pitfalls is straightforward. In my experience, simple awareness is the key. If you recognize in yourself any of these traits, grab a notepad or journal and for one week monitor your interactions with others. After each meaningful conversation, simply jot down the name of the person and the topic, and tick off which trap you fell into. You’ll soon find yourself recognizing these traits in advance and correcting accordingly.

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Sobcon 2012: Finding success patterns amid overwhelm

Earlier this month I presented a session at the Sobcon 2012 event in Chicago on identifying success patterns in the midst of overwhelm.
Here’s the video of the event (32m 22s) – enjoy:

(If you like videos, there are more here.)

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Don't confuse brilliance with Vision

Apologies for the Yoda-like speech pattern, but a brilliant Processor doth not a Visionary make.
Some Processors are truly geniuses in how they use their P skills, but the sheer brilliance they exude in doing so is not the same as being a Visionary – even though, at first glance or from a distance they might look the same.
Some companies – especially in the tech arena – are suffering from this category error. It took Jerry Yang almost 15 years to work this out (even though Yahoo [YHOO] shareholders got there long before he did). Everybody realized it in the case of Bill Gates at Microsoft [MSFT] (including I think, Bill Gates himself). I believe time will show it to be true of Larry Page at Google [GOOG].
Tech isn’t alone in making this mistake, mind you. Vikram Pandit is a P struggling mightily at Citibank [C] at a time when it desperately needs a V. Leo Apotheker fooled no-one in his short, ignominious stay at HP [HWP].
That’s not to say there aren’t times when a Processor isn’t the right person to lead a company – BP [BP] needed one a decade ago, and if it had one, it might have avoided the recent spill disaster. JetBlue [JBLU] needed one coming out of the David Neieleman Whitewater experience, and Netflix [NFLX] could do with one now. Almost all of Japanese industry benefitted from Processor leadership in the 80’s.
Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve got a Visionary leader when you’ve actually got a pyrotechnically brilliant Processor – it’s a very expensive mistake to make.

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