Three "Spire's" of Great Leadership

slc church spire smallMy presentation at the emetrics summit in Washington DC is on the topic of “Creating a Data Driven Web Decision Making Culture” and the slides are forming in my mind right now.

One important element of a great culture is great leadership. Team’s, companies, organizations are truly a reflection of their leaders, it is really spooky how much that happens.

There are more books on leadership then you can count and even more points of view on what makes for great leadership. The great benefit of having a blog is that it is easy to add to the discussion. There is little damage I can do to the general world knowledge by adding one more point of view to this great topic. : )

There is nothing uniquely Web Analytics about this post, but for the last three years I have lead a Web Research & Analytics team and so perhaps there is something that that might have influenced my perspective.

When I think of great leadership in my mind it comes down to three extremely important things, I call them the three “spire’s” of great leadership (just like that picture you see up top).

So what is a spire:

spireslc church spire 2 small12
1. A top part or point that tapers upward; a pinnacle
2. A structure or formation, such as a steeple, that tapers to a point at top

The reason I choose this word is because when I think of great leadership I think of something high and up there and inspiring and something to look up to and something that points “upward” (translate that into some greatly inspiring thing, like this closeup of the middle spire in the picture).

The first “spire” of great leadership is:

1. To have a great ambition or ultimate goal; desire strongly: aspired to stardom
2. To strive toward an end; aspiring to great knowledge.

Great leaders aspire for greatness. For themselves, for their teams, for their companies, for each and every individual around them.

They are not content with what exists or what is possible. They are long term thinkers. They naturally want to knock the ball out of the park every time they are at bat. They have an elevator pitch handy of what their vision is, what they are trying to get done and how the team they lead can contribute to value for the employees of the company, the customers and the shareholders.

Great leaders are hungry, they want more and they are never satisfied with status quo. They want to change the world (even if it is their little ecosystem), again I stress for their employees, their companies and themselves (in that order).

They don’t care what is their business and what is not, they are content to “poke their nose” in any company business in order to satisfy a company customer, they are willing to fight “HR” for their employees.

They come to work because they want to and because they have a vision of what to do and how to achieve it. Vision that is not simply in the service of making money but vision that is in service to “making meaning” in this world. (And yes you can make meaning in the work selling tax software, as we do, or innovating plumbing supplies or running websites or writing blogs.)

The second, middle, “spire” of great leadership is:

1. Hard-working; industrious
2. Resistant to pressure; not readily penetrated
3. Performed with or marked by great diligence or energy; a project that required years of hard work
2. Sustained effort; “coming up with compelling plots is a little bit inspiration and a lot of sweat equity”

Great leaders work hard and work smarter, and more so with every passing day. My observation is not that great leaders are slave drivers who stay at work until midnight or make people work weekends (that is counter productive), but rather great leaders simply bring 110% of themselves to work during work hours and set a awesome example for all those around them.

There is often a misunderstanding that a great leader can review at a high level and cruise by, that is probably five people in the world. For the rest us us it is summed by by this quote:

Get up early, Work hard, Strike oil. – John D. Rockefeller

Great leaders stay focused, they don’t give up easily, they care about nuances and simply because of their love and passion to make meaning get everyone around them to bring their complete self to work.

The third “spire” of great leadership is:

1. To affect, guide or arouse by divine influence
2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion; hymns that inspire the congregation
3a. To stimulate to action; motivate; a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus

4. To draw forth; elicit; a teacher who inspired admiration and respect
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about; an invention that inspired many imitations

(The definition of inspire above is concocted by excerpted various different definitions to communicate all that I envision the word inspire to mean, its standard dictionary definition somehow felt, well, not inspiring.)

Great leaders inspire, above and beyond they are have this raw, unrestricted, awesome ability to inspire. It is not just sufficient to aspire, it is not sufficient to just perspire. No woman/man is a island that can succeed by themselves. Magnificent success (personal, professional) comes from the ability to inspire all those around you to contribute to create meaning in this world.

In my prior life I used to be a Senior Project Manager. Then I was “promoted” to be a Manager. During that transition I learned a very valuable life lesson: In Project Management you deal with Resources and in a Manager role you deal with People. The lesson was People are not Resources. It was a eye opening experience.

The greatest leaders are very good at communicating a vision, articulating a path to get to the promised land, and motivating each individual in a way that connects to that particular individual to get to the promised land.

They inspire because they aspire. They inspire because they perspire.

There is one other element that is the foundation for our “spire” structure. IMHO a deeply important quality that differentiates great leaders from ok leaders.

It is their ability to have empathy for those in their teams, people around them. Not sympathy, empathy. This is specially true for people managers.

The BBC Home / SOS Teacher website defines the difference between these two words as:

Sympathy is when you are able to feel sorry for a character, but empathy is when you can actually understand exactly what it would be like to be in their shoes. Empathy goes a lot deeper and you would fully understand someone’s thoughts and feelings and you would feel far more strongly about them and their situation.

While not the perfect Webster or Oxford dictionary definition it captures exactly how I like to think of these two words.

In my experience if a great leader does not have the ability to empathize it is much harder to motivate and inspire. If you don’t understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of people you are leading it is much harder to lead.

While this post is not directly related to my normal arena of Web Insights, I hope you find it meaningful. Please share your feedback / critique / lessons you have learned via comments.

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Trinity: A Mindset & Strategic Approach

napaliSome of you have heard me speak at a conference, I always have a deep passion and excitement when I talk about the “Trinity”. I wax and wane about it and go on and on about how fantastic the “Trinity” is.

But it took a comment from Lisa Seaman to make me realize that I had not written about the “Trinity” on this blog. So Lisa asks wisely: “I’m not sure I ever got what the “Trinity” is.” My fault Lisa, here’s a post just for you. : )

A couple of years ago we were grappling with the challenges of “web analytics” : ) and how to solve them. My thinking about web analytics at that time was that the traditional way of doing it was very much dead. So what is the solution?

trinityAfter a few days of thinking a “new” way of thinking about decision making on the web coalesced. The output was this little slide with three core components. That “mindset” got the name Trinity (and not for the nice lady on the right, though that would have made a cooler story).

Trinity also became the moniker that was given to the strategic approach that was applied in order to build out a world-class web decision making platform.

At the center of the Trinity is the reason it exists:

trinity center

The goal of the Trinity mindset is to power the generation of actionable insights. Its goal is not to do reporting. Its goal is not to figure out how to spam decision makers with data. Actionable Insights & Metrics are the uber-goal simply because they drive strategic differentiation and a sustainable competitive advantage.

The first component of the Trinity mindset is Behavior analysis, what we traditionally consider clickstream data analysis.

trinity behavior

We collect all the clickstream data and the objective is to analyze it from a higher plane of reference. No more measuring HITS. Do Click Density analysis, massive segmentation, search (both internal and external). The objective is to get really smart about clickstream analysis and get to really truly inferring the intent of our site visitors.

People usually expect too much of the clickstream data. The best we can do with clickstream data is infer intent, and we have to make peace with it.

The second component of the Trinity mindset is Outcomes analysis. I fondly call it the “so what” element.

trinity outcomes

This is critical for one simple reason, at the end of the day when all is said and done what was the outcome for the customer and the company.

I encourage you to ask a simple question to the site owners: Why does your website exist? (You might be surprised how many can’t answer that question quickly.) This element of the Trinity exists to measure how well is the website doing in meeting the goal of its existence.

In the simplest of terms this is measure Revenue for ecommerce websites (not just how much but also why did we make as much as we did) and measuring Conversion Rates smarter. But for support websites this is measuring Problem Resolution and Timeliness.

Every website should have a clearly articulated outcome, if you don’t have the capacity to measure all nuances of outcomes the recommendation is to give up on measuring Behavior (clickstream) all together. Why sink time into that? A bit extreme? Yes. Necessary? You bet your bottom.

The third component of the Trinity mindset is Experience. Think of it as “why did they behave the way they did!!”.

trinity experience

This is perhaps the most critical element to me, if I had to pick just one element (and it is hard to choose amongst your children : )) I would pick Experience. This is us attempting to get into the head of our customer. This is the Why. This is the warm hug when you are stymied and tortured by your clickstream data and you want to tear your hair out.

There are many different ways to understand the experience of customers on your website. There are surveys you can do. I am a huge believer of experimentation and testing (let’s have the customers tell us what they prefer). Doing Lab Usability testing is another great option. We love Follow Me Homes, a concept advocated by Scott Cook the founder of Intuit under his impactful Customer Driven Innovation mindset.

All these experience methodologies decked against one single purpose: Getting companies to listen to the Voice of Customer.

Now we can assemble the three components and the core center and voila you get Trinity:

trinity strategy thumb

The Trinity mindset empowers you to Understand the customer experience so explicitly that you can influence the right customer behavior which will lead to win-win outcomes for the company and its customers.

That last part is important: Trinity aims for win-win.

If the right version version of the product for you is Basic and not Premier then our job as site owners is for us to help you figure that out and buy Basic. We could make more money in the short term if you buy Premier today. But you will get it, use it, get frustrated as it is too advanced for you and you’ll never buy from us again. But if we help you buy the right for you version Basic then next year you’ll be back for Premier. Trinity aims to solve for the long term.

So there you go, it is just that simple. : ) [Lisa does it make sense now?]

Each element of the Trinity is supported by a tool and different methodologies and sustainable processes and, most importantly, key people skills. Just having the mindset does not solve the problem (though I guarantee it will put you on the right path). Executing on the Trinity strategic approach means creating the right organization structure and a move evolved culture. But these are all topics for a future post.

What do you think? Do you agree with the Trinity mindset? Too complex? Perhaps too simple? Is your website leadership executing against such a mindset? Please share your feedback via comments.

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