Six Things That Can Hide Bad Leadership


Over the years, I’ve encountered some terrible leaders – many times in situations where their employees and coworkers actually thought they were a genius. Maybe you’ve experienced that as well. I started thinking I was an idiot, and it bothered me for a long time, until I realized that there are some key situations and cultures to watch for in organizations that can actually hide bad leadership.  Here’s the six most damaging:

Why You Need to Understand How Your Business Works


The last thing most of us creative types want to do is learn the business of anything. I want to create, and I’ve spent my adult career looking for a business partner to help me navigate the media industry. I’ve learned I won’t get very far if I don’t know how to make my creative dreams work in the real world.  Knowing how the publishing industry works won’t compromise your original idea, and it might open you up to

Leaders: Is A Member of Your Team Holding You Back?


I write a lot on this blog about freelancers, creatives, and vendors who work for large organizations.  But on this post I want to deal with organizations themselves.  One large organization needed to hire an advertising agency, so they interviewed and evaluated five choices. The leadership team made the final decision, so after careful consideration it was decided by a majority which agency would be best. However, the organization’s communications director – the in-house person who would be the point person with the agency, didn’t like the choice. He wanted another agency he knew and was more comfortable with, but he had to abide by the leadership team’s decision.  However,

Being Best Is Better Than Being First

Detailed view of a sprinter in the starting blocks

There are many brands out there that we consider the best in their category such as Google, Amazon, or Gillette. But those brands weren’t the first in their category. In case after case innovative companies (some ahead of their time) ended up in the trash heap of history. That’s a good thing to remember when someone beats you to the market with an idea. In some cases, the first to launch isn’t ready, the product isn’t perfect, or the marketing is poorly executed. In other cases, the

Leaders: Cutting Back Can Make You More Successful


In consulting with nonprofit organizations around the world, our team at Cooke Pictures has discovered that the most successful are deep, not wide.  In other words, they know how to focus on one big thing, instead of trying to do many things badly.  In this video I talk about why it matters, and how being lean and mean can make a huge difference.  If you know a leader of a bloated or ineffective organization, make sure he or she sees this: 

End Runs? Don’t Do Them


Last week I was in a meeting with Michael Solomon, former Chairman of Lorimar Telepictures (the largest TV production and distribution company in the world at the time), and then President of Warner Brothers International Television.  Now he’s the founder and CEO of the online Christian network Truli.  We were meeting at his house with a friend discussing an idea for a new TV program. At one point, the friend had a concern about a previous production relationship and wondered if it was worth going around them and using another company. With Michael’s long experience in the media business, I was fascinated with his answer:

The 5 Stages of Innovation


My friend Josh Craft showed me this chart of the steps people go through with innovation and I have to admit, it’s spot on.  I’ve seen this exact sequence play out so many times it’s not funny, but it’s worth repeating.  The next time you want to make real change happen in your organization, get ready to experience this sequence:

This is the Age of Nimble


Bureaucracy is dead. This is the age of “nimble.” Trust me on this – if your organization has silos, turf battles, or is overwhelmed by policy manuals, you’re about to get squashed by smaller, nimbler, and hungrier organizations. You see bureaucracy everywhere today – the government can’t even pass a budget because of the number of special interests they have to please. Hostess, the maker of Twinkies is out of business because among other things, their Union rules required cake and bread to travel in separate trucks, and barred drivers from loading and unloading. Nimbler firms were

Making Leadership Transitions Work


While writing my book “Unique:  Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media,” I discovered that far too many businesses and nonprofits struggle with leadership transitions, especially moving from founders to what I call “second generation” leadership.  Whatever transition you’re in (or see coming up), this short video is worth watching.  The stakes are too high to fail: