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So far Michael Canic has created 178 blog entries.
2 01, 2017

5 Ways to Think Like a Winner

By | January 2nd, 2017|Right Focus|0 Comments

The New Year is here. Are you reenergized, refocused, recommitted and ready to do what it takes to win? It starts with what’s between your ears. Here are five ways to think like a winner:

Focus Forward
Winners stay focused on what they want to achieve and are committed to achieving. And they make sure that focus is focused. Getting spread too thin undermines focus.

Think “Influence”, Not “Control”
Thinking “control” locks you into binary thinking: Can I control it or not? The game is won in the gray areas. It’s not just about what can you control, it’s about the larger sphere of what can you influence?

Becoming Better beats Being Good
“Being good” is static. “Becoming better” is dynamic. Static is a poor strategy for a changing world. Continually become better. And when you are committed to becoming better you learn from failures, you don’t ignore them.

Success is a Team Sport
If you’re a leader in any organization then achieving success isn’t about you, it’s through you. Develop the right focus, create the right environment, and build the right team so that the team can win.

Be Ruthlessly Consistent
It doesn’t grab headlines but it’s the one trait that makes winners unstoppable. It’s not what you do some of the time, most of the time, or when you feel like it time. It’s what you do all of the time because that’s who you are.

Now, are you ready to do what it takes to win?

Your thoughts?


25 12, 2016

How to Keep Improving, Keep Getting Stronger

By | December 25th, 2016|Right Commitment|0 Comments

In 1962, the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Punch Imlach, knew that his team had to improve to win the Stanley Cup. Prior to the start of the season he wrote to each player requiring they, “… report (to training camp) in good condition … able to do 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, and 30 knee bends.”

How times have changed. As in all fields, the standards for professional hockey players today are a world apart from what they were in 1962. And the bar is incessantly being raised. The need to improve, to grow stronger, is never-ending.

So how can you keep improving, keep getting stronger? Here are four ways (with thanks to leadership expert John Maxwell, whose ideas have helped crystalize my thinking*):

Right People

Friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors. Intentionally or not, the people you associate with will influence your beliefs, values and actions. If you want to keep improving then associate with people who inspire you, who you can learn from, and who help you to grow.

Right Media

You are your media. It’s easy to expose yourself exclusively to mindless media, or media that reinforces your existing beliefs. That’s not a formula for growth. Growth requires exposure to media that stretches you, educates you, and challenges you. Search out those media.

Right Events

Experiencing great events – courses, conferences, and the like – can inspire and shape you in unique and dramatic ways. Determine your improvement goals then commit to always having a next event you will attend.

Right Environment

There’s no question that your environment affects your psychology – how you think, how you feel and how you act. In some environments we flourish; in others we stagnate. Be purposeful. Identify, find or create the environments in which you thrive.

The need to improve, to grow stronger, is never-ending. And that Maple Leafs team that was challenged to report to camp “in good condition”? They went on to win their first of three consecutive Stanley Cups.

Your thoughts?


(* see Maxwell’s article: http://www.success.com/article/john-c-maxwell-how-to-design-an-optimum-life)

19 12, 2016

What Santa Wants You to Know About Building Trust

By | December 19th, 2016|Right Focus|0 Comments

In the original holiday movie classic, Miracle On 34th Street, Macy’s store Santa directs shoppers to rival department stores if they carry items that Macy’s doesn’t. Management, of course, is aghast, and when called to the office of Mr. Macy himself, they understandably fear the worst.

Instead, Mr. Macy recognizes the brilliance of their plan. It turns out that Macy’s has been deluged with phone calls, telegrams and letters from parents expressing their undying gratitude for helping them fulfill their children’s wishes.

“I’ve never done much shopping here before,” says one woman, “but from now on I’m going to be a regular Macy’s customer!”

Mr. Macy declares that he wants not just Santa but every sales person in the store to send customers to rival stores if Macy’s doesn’t carry what they’re looking for.

“No high pressure,” says Macy, “We want to be known as the helpful store, the friendly store, the store with a heart.”

The lesson is as simple as it is powerful: When we sincerely care about and do what’s best for others, when we’re not just self-serving, we connect at a deeper level; we build trust.

Santa knew it all along. And after all, who knows more about trust than Santa?

Your thoughts?


12 12, 2016

No, Culture Does Not Eat Strategy For Breakfast

By | December 12th, 2016|Right Focus|0 Comments

Peter Drucker was the “father” of management consulting. He was an insightful thinker and prolific writer, and his impact on business cannot be overstated. I have great respect for him.

Yet I strongly disagree with something he once said that has been much repeated in recent years: culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Now don't get me wrong. As those of you who follow my blog know, it's not that I think culture is unimportant. Just the opposite. Culture is critical … but it’s not separate from strategy. Determining the type of culture you should have is very much a strategic issue.

Strategy is more than just a mechanistic exercise that looks at products, markets, financials and things of that sort. A strategy blind to culture is a strategy almost certain to fail. Your strategic process should examine your current culture and identify your desired culture – one that is innovative, service-oriented, sales-driven, or whatever you deem necessary.

But there is also a more general sense of culture. Specifically, a culture that is engaged, that connects with hearts, not just heads, that is fueled by want-to-do, not was-told-to-do, is a culture that delivers discretionary effort and exceptional performance. Yet even in this more general sense, choosing to cultivate such a culture is itself a strategic issue.

Strategy without culture is half-baked. Culture without strategy is just an ingredient. But strategy that includes culture is a complete meal.

Bon appétit.

Your thoughts?


4 12, 2016

Why You’re Not as Committed as You Think You Are

By | December 4th, 2016|Right Commitment|0 Comments

I often start a presentation to organizational leaders by asking a question: How committed are you to winning? Unsurprisingly, almost everyone says they’re “totally committed”, “100% committed”, “all-in”, things of that sort.

Of course it’s a set-up. By the time I’ve finished the presentation they realize they’re not nearly as committed as they thought. (And therein lies the opportunity.)

If we look at those who are truly committed, we see what commitment truly looks like. Take Ashima Shiraishi, for example. Ashima is a 15-year-old girl. And it just so happens she is one of the very best rock climbers in the world. She has numerous “youngest ever …” and “first woman ever …” ascents to her name. So how committed is she? For the past nine years (you do the math) she has spent at least four hours, almost every single day, climbing. To improve, to hone her skills, to grow stronger.

Then there’s the grizzled veteran of rock climbing, 23-year-old Adam Ondra. Considered by many to be the finest rock climber ever, Ondra’s training regimen has been described as maniacal: one-to-two hard workouts a day, at least six days a week, for months at a time.

You know when they say, “Don’t work harder, work smarter?” Sure, work smarter. But if you want to be exceptional you’d better work harder too.

And if the prospect of that energizes you, then you’re doing what you should be doing, what you love to do.

So, how committed are you to winning?

Your thoughts?


28 11, 2016

Why Leaders Should Be Like Scientists

By | November 28th, 2016|Right Focus|0 Comments

If there’s one thing the growth of business analytics has made clear it’s that leaders need to think increasingly like scientists.

Consider Booking.com. Founded in the Netherlands in 1996, they are the world’s largest accommodation booking site. In addition to hotels, Booking.com offers over 6.6 million non-hotel locations – over three times as many as a company that generates a lot more buzz: Airbnb.

Booking.com’s innovation-driven culture is fueled by research-based decision-making and employee empowerment. Their development team is given wide latitude and conducts up to 1000 experiments daily (!) to test the subtle nuances of website content, design and features. Using a controlled “A/B protocol” each experiment tests one option against another to see which if either results in more bookings.

CEO Gillian Tans explains, “The quickest way to innovate successfully is to make lots of little mistakes on your way to getting it right. If you’re afraid of failure … you’ll never test out those crazy, off-the-wall ideas that may actually be genius. We celebrate failure because it’s a moment for us all to learn.”

Scientists speak of hypotheses. You have assumptions, beliefs, and hunches. Business analytics is the practice of systematically testing those through what scientists call controlled experiments. The outcomes of those experiments allow you to develop approaches or, using science-speak, theories about which actions are likely to lead to which outcomes and why.

“Even if you think you know what the customer wants,” says Tans, “you need to follow what they actually do to be sure.”

In other words, don’t guess, be a scientist.

Time for you to put the lab coat on.

Your thoughts?


20 11, 2016

What Your Lawyer Can Teach You about Hiring Right

By | November 20th, 2016|Right Team|0 Comments

So I’m having breakfast with my lawyer, Tim. I like meeting with Tim because he’s smart, pragmatic, and he doesn’t view our meetings as an opportunity to maximize his billable seconds. The topic turns to hiring so I ask him what he looks for in a new lawyer other than the obvious considerations of grades and a law degree.

“I like it if they’ve been a waiter,” he says.


“If they’ve worked in that kind of job then they’re used to a stressful environment. They’ve learned the importance of teamwork and they’re continually dealing with customer relations. And they’re likely to be trustworthy because they’re dealing with money.”

Ah, of course.

When hiring, it’s common to look for relevant traits and skills. Yet do you consider how those traits and skills might be revealed in activities completely unrelated to the position you’re hiring for?

Hmmm, I wonder if restaurant managers look for someone who has practiced law?

Your thoughts?


13 11, 2016

What Political Strategists Need to Learn About Organizational Change

By | November 13th, 2016|Right Focus|0 Comments

Over the past week I’ve been reading and reflecting on the surprising outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Imagining myself a political strategist – which I’m not – I’ve been pondering the question, “Why did it happen?” In doing this I’ve come to the conclusion that political strategists could learn a thing or two from business, especially about organizational change.

1) When corporate leaders become insulated from field employees the changes they impose are often out of touch with and resisted by those employees.

It’s easy for business leaders to stay rooted at corporate headquarters. When they do, they lose touch with what field employees think, feel and experience. They become captive to their own perspectives; they make wrong assumptions. Then they’re surprised when organizational change initiatives crash and burn.

Similarly, it’s easy to become isolated in the political world of Washington. And lose touch with what voters in places like Wenatchee, Wilmington and Wausau think, feel and experience. Look at the map. Trump won more than 80% of the country geographically. Many people in small towns and rural areas felt he was reaching out to them, he understood their concerns, and he would take action to right perceived wrongs. Clinton, on the other hand, was associated by many to be part of the insular and out-of-touch establishment in Washington, the authors of change who had wreaked so much havoc.

All of us need to feel heard. Understood. Respected. When leaders fail to meet those fundamental needs, it’s little wonder that people lose confidence and trust in them.

2) The greater the volume and velocity of change, the greater the resistance. That resistance is amplified when the direction of change runs counter to the values, beliefs and interests of those affected.

Just think of the volume and velocity of social change in recent years: gays and lesbians gaining the right to marry, fallout from the great recession, Obamacare, jobs lost to technology and offshoring, declining respect for law enforcement, Syrian refugees, the prospect of amnesty for illegal immigrants … and which restroom am I supposed to use now?

For many, it’s simply too much, too fast, and it’s going in the wrong direction. Is it any wonder that the candidate who passionately claimed he would reverse many of these changes is the one who resonated so strongly with the disaffected?

So, how can these lessons be applied in the political sphere?

Early on, candidates should connect with people beyond the corridors of power, beyond the traditional economic centers.  The first objective isn’t to convey a grandiose vision or to outline a detailed platform. It’s to ask, listen, observe, and understand. It’s to apply the practice that many business leaders have come to value in recent years: empathy.

Be sensitive to the amount of change people are experiencing, the pace of change, and their reaction to the direction of change. Too much, too quick, too contentious? Then reaffirm a commitment to bedrock beliefs and principles that continue to endure. Reinforce the familiar touchstones that people need so as not to feel they’ve been ignored or left behind. Demonstrate that the goal isn’t change for change sake, but well-conceived improvements prudently implemented.

Finally, embrace the core truth about effective leadership and change that applies in all organizations and all institutions: Ultimately, it’s not about what you do; it’s about what they experience.

Your thoughts?


6 11, 2016

The #1 Trait Winners Look for When Hiring Winners

By | November 6th, 2016|Right Team|0 Comments

Theo Epstein is the President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs – oh, did you hear? – just broke a 108-year “curse” by winning the World Series.

Epstein is a pioneer of the analytics movement in baseball: finding, understanding and relentlessly acting on the variables that truly correlate with winning. Prior to joining the Cubs he was General Manager for the Boston Red Sox where he helped them win two World Series titles (and break their own curse, albeit a meager one of 86 years).

Here’s an insight into Epstein’s unique approach: when it comes to player acquisition and development he focuses on personal traits, not just physical ability and skills. And the trait he looks for above all others? Overcoming adversity. Baseball, like any sport, like any line of work, like life, invariably brings adversity. How a player responds to adversity is a key determinant of success. So when considering a prospect, Epstein asks for three examples of how the prospect has overcome adversity outside of baseball as well as three baseball-related examples. Why? Because overcoming adversity reveals tenacity and persistence … and correlates with winning.

When you’re selecting people into your organization do you assess the traits that are critical to success? Do you, to use Epstein’s words, “scout the person more than the player”?

Your thoughts?


31 10, 2016

A Basketball Legend’s Three Keys to Enduring Success

By | October 31st, 2016|Right Focus|0 Comments

The legendary college basketball coach John Wooden led UCLA to 10 national championships including seven in a row. He was known for his principled leadership, meticulous organization, and unfailing persistence.

Once, when mentoring an eager young coach who himself would go on to a hall-of-fame career, Wooden passed on his three keys to enduring success:

First: “Always have better players than anybody that you play.”

Whether it’s sports, business, or any other competitive field, you must have the right people to compete and win. Don’t settle for good-enough. Don’t tolerate performance or conduct that won’t allow you to win.

Second: “Always get those better players to put the team above themselves.”

There’s an old coaching adage: the best players don’t necessarily make the best team, but the best team usually wins. When people are willing to sacrifice for the team, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.

Third: “Always practice simplicity with constant repetition.”

It’s not always about having a brilliant strategy. It’s about uncompromising execution.

Did you notice the common thread in Wooden’s three keys?


Doing the right things with ruthless consistency.

That’s the secret to enduring success.

Your thoughts?