6 Strategies for Developing Capacity to Lead Beyond Capability

Today’s leaders are often still “manager technicians” at the same time, juggling some of the work of the organization.  On top of that, innovations in work methods and technology has expanded individual capabilities and seems to make these efforts more effective, leaving the question of how much is too much unanswered as leaders keep pushing along.


“What we know” is comfortable, reliable and predictable.  While “what others know” is a mystery sometimes fraught with stress and unnecessary drama — not necessarily due to others, but often due to our expectations. Now, I’m capable, but do I have the capacity to be capable at the level at which the work is growing?  This is the challenge I’ve faced as Hypatian Institute, Inc. evolves, and these strategies grew out of that experience:

Plan and Strategize
Simply handing off a responsibility is the best way to ensure the least amount of efficiency and the most turbulence.  Before the hand-off consider what is new to the teammate, what might they encounter, what doesn’t need re-inventing, and when the assignment needs to be complete.  And determine a system that works for you.  Even though we’re in a nonprofit setting, we’ve started using Agile Methodology, often incorporating two-week SCRUM sprints to help move projects along.

Set Clear Expectations
Essential to planning and strategizing, but still worthy of it’s own category, is setting well outlined, clear expectations about the outcomes you’re looking for in the end. How should this assignment be delivered?  Should drafts be submitted for feedback?  What’s your criterial for quality?

Allocate Time
Maybe it’s going to take you a day to do this assignment and that’s a day you don’t have, so you delegated.  But this teammate needs to catch up, so plan for 300% more time.  Maybe this is urgent.  That just means you’ve got to schedule opportunities to touch base and receive status updates.  It won’t suck up your day, but you’ll need to . . .  

Be Available
Assume the questions will come, and that they’ll come at the least favorable time. Being prepared to plan your day(s) accordingly will alleviate stress.  You’re mentoring this team member and preparing them to succeed in this instance and into the future. Fostering skill development and confidence takes time.  However that’s less time than continuing to do it yourself forever, or not taking the time up front to help the teammate, and the team, succeed.

If I always waited for my team to communicate with me about their new responsibilities, I’d increase my stress levels. Not to mention the amount of uncertainty they’ve got to wade through that detracts from their professional development. So, I check in with a tone that emphasizes polite inquiry and no judgement.  I often learn something new in the process.  And I offer encouragement, kudos and guidance as appropriate.  The side benefit is that if they know you’re going to check in, they won’t procrastinate either.

Let Go
Letting it go means more than just putting a responsibility on someone else’s plate, it also requires reflection, the ability to control your impulse to step in, and thoughtful, constructive feedback.  A lot of times, you’ll have to send something back for refinement or with edits and changes.  Taking something back to add finishing touches or polish off ideas is tempting.  You can do it quickly, but the whole point is to not do it at all.

It’s a process, so the more you do it, the smoother the process will become.  At the same time, you’ll find your teammate brings something unexpectedly new to the way you think about the responsibility and how it’s delivered.  And that, my friends, is expanding the capability of your organization, as well as increasing its capacity to produce.

What Dreams May Come

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine.  And, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”
– Trevor Noah, comedian and Host, The Daily Show
Credit: TrevorNoah.com

Credit: TrevorNoah.com

In his book Born a Crime, Trevor Noah weaves together the tale of his childhood and coming of age in South Africa – pre- and post-apartheid.  His indomitable mother is the central figure throughout the autobiography.  And, there’s a moment when he describes how she raised him to look beyond the boundaries of his life; to see past the constraints of his environment.  

In essence, she helped him develop an incredible visioning muscle.  Now, it becomes clear that it takes him awhile to exercise that muscle to it’s full potential.  He remained happily carefree within the limitations of the suburban and township communities where he lived and pursued not altogether legal entrepreneurial ventures.  And even as Noah shares his experiences and escapades, anyone can see that he’s aware of the opportunities on which he’s taking a pass.  But it’s also obvious that his friends, partners and employees had little, if any, idea of the things the world has to offer beyond the borders of their lives and communities.

Thanks to his mother’s mentoring, Noah possessed a competitive advantage that comes from the intersection of knowledge, access and opportunity.  He knew there was much more available and how to figure out a path to that future.  He had exposure to the systems, institutions and communities where those opportunities lie in wait. And, he most definitely understood how to identify opportunities.  Even more than the skills he’d developed, Noah had the talent to leverage those opportunities – but his talent wouldn’t necessarily have mattered without knowledge and access.

These two attributes form a framework that facilitates growth and serves as a catalyst for self-actualization.  We gain strength and confidence.  We build that visioning muscle through the lessons and information from the people around us – our families, friends, communities and institutions.  And as we become leaders, the challenge we must all meet is to help those we manage and mentor look beyond their immediate boundaries.  Just as Noah’s mother did for him.  What he learned from her has taken him to the other side of the world on an amazing adventure.

Are you dreaming big enough?  Are you helping someone else learn the many places their imagination can take them?  Listen to the passage in Born a Crime via Audible.



Leadership Moment: Stepping Back to Allow New Leaders to Step Up

The latest Born Leader podcast focuses on the second life career Maestro Ulysses James of the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association, highlighting a challenge leaders often face – stepping back to allow others to step up.

Does this sound familiar? You’ve spent years learning every aspect of your profession so that you can now lead an organization – nonprofit, for profit, government agency . . . it doesn’t matter.  It’s been a long journey.  You are sure of your skills and knowledge, and that confidence is well earned.

But shifting into that leadership role requires giving up management and trusting the team.  Sometimes, that means letting the team we’ve trained grow and learn through the same experiences that benefited us.  Or, it may mean learning to share responsibilities with fellow volunteers on a board of directors.  It can also mean realizing that while we have the skill and talent to do it all, we don’t have the capacity – that’s time and energy – to be all things.

The evolution of an organization is an opportunity for a leader to grow and continue to learn the many facets of leadership.  So, the next time you tell a team member not to worry and that you’ll do this task, here are some things to consider:

Although it may be true that could do it better yourself, that will continue to be the case until you teach someone how to do it.

Maybe, you think it’s easier to do it yourself because teaching someone takes so much time. Is it really a better use of your time to continue performing this task for the foreseeable future rather than focusing on more strategic concerns?  Leverage that broad skillset and knowledgebase for your organization’s benefit.

Or, could it be that this is something you truly enjoy and you hate to give it up?  Remember that you won’t always have the time and your organization needs the security of greater capacity. Find balance by training a protégé and only occasionally dipping your toe back in the pool every now and again to fill your well.

Once you make that shift from management to leadership, like Ul, you’ll find that your experience is still valuable and you’ll learn to leverage it in increasingly impactful ways.

Learn more about how Ul James cultivates a culture of teamwork and respect at WMPA in Episode 6 of Born Leader wherever you listen to podcasts. Or let us know your thoughts via email or through our Facebook page, Born Leader LinkedIn group or on Twitter (@HypatianInst).

Setting the Stage for Success: The Key Reason to Apply for the Hypatian Institute College Fellowship

We’ve already hosted a few Virtual Information Sessions for the 2017 Spring College Fellowship, and a some themes keep popping up.  Aside from confirming that the Fellowship is free, there are questions that reflect concerns about personal challenges – completing the application, comfort with navigating the DC Metropolitan Area, and simply taking the leap.


One reason we designed this Fellowship the way that it is today is to help students build the experiences and confidence that will serve them now and in the future.  We don’t expect Fellows to come with all the answers or be ready show mastery of the Knowledge-Possibilities-Potential framework that guides the Hypatian Institute.  All we ask is that Fellows come prepared to dive in and discover what our faculty, mentors and communities have to offer.

The College Fellowship was designed to help students set the stage for continued success – in college and beyond.  Through monthly group meetings, coaching, and special opportunities (designed specifically for each participant), the program creates an atmosphere that builds on students’ strengths and helps them meet challenges head on.

If you, or someone you know, might be an ideal participant in the program, please visit our website to learn more and apply for the program.  We also have a few more Virtual Information Sessions scheduled over the next week:

  • Saturday, January 14 at 11:00-11:30 am
  • Monday, January 16 at 5:00-5:30 pm
  • Wednesday, January 18 at 12:30-1:00 pm
  • Thursday, January 19 at 1:30-2:00 pm

Sign-up for the Virtual Information Session online.  Or contact us at 571-418-3805 or apply@hypatianinstitute.org.

The True Legacy of Tuskegee

My grandfather was a Tuskegee Airman and, while his achievements were impressive and inspiring, they never really mattered to me. All that ever mattered were things accolades, money and prestige can't buy. At the same time Pops wasn't a Werthers-original-in-his-pocket kind of grandfather. He was an uncompromising, tough old bird. When I showed him my A-, he asked why it wasn't an A. If I was bawling like a champ, I had better have a broken bone. He was looking for smarts and sharpness. He had high expectations.

So, it took many years for me to understand him, with those last few being a real joy for us both. But, I didn't truly appreciate him as a complex human being until his passing. Fellow members from the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.(ECCTAI) spoke at the funeral, sharing stories of his commitment to the organization from its founding. And, most especially, his friends spoke of Grandfather's commitment to young people.

ECCTAI has a Youth in Aviation Program (YIAP), which introduces youth to aviation and trains them to fly.  All those years, I'd never known how he championed the program, or the difference he made in the lives of the young people he mentored through encouragement and his example. To think, we shared a passion for youth empowerment we'd never discussed, and that he'd touched lives so directly and personally.

Now, you might be thinking, "But he did so much for his country as a fighter pilot. And he touched lives by trailblazing." Yes, indeed, he did. However, all too often, we forget that those we admire have had struggles and set-backs. Young Woody Crockett had another path in mind originally. He was a gifted mathematician who teachers called on to substitute for them, but he couldn't afford tuition and dropped out of college to join the Army. Ever a practical person, when he saw an opportunity to earn more income as a pilot, he pursued it. 

But before that life, he was a talented, promising young person who didn't have a system to support the pursuit of his academic dreams. That's the true legacy of the Tuskegee Experiment -- young men who broke barriers and continued to pay it forward for years to come so others could achieve their dreams. They knew it didn't all end with them.

Not everyone gets an opportunity like training at Tuskegee Army Air Field. Some seven decades later, too many young people balance on the precipice - achieve success or become a statistic. And all too often, that barrier to success may be relatively small, but has far reaching impact.  Transportation costs, choosing between food and books, and lack of mentoring can stop a student in her tracks.  So, I encourage you to make an impact in your own corner of the world by:

  • Voting in the KINDcauses competition for the Hypatian Institute Youth Leadership Fellows program we're launching this fall,

  • making a donation to YIAP (contact ECCTAI President Jerry Burton),

  • taking the lead to mentor a young person in your life,

  • providing internships,

  • speaking at workshops for teens, or

  • donating to organizations that provide the wrap-around services to create support networks for promising youth.

And if you comment below, you're absolutely welcome to share how the Tuskegee Airmen have inspired you, but I sure would love to hear how you're helping young people, too.

Our Promise to the Next Generation

via iStock.com   

via iStock.com


When we tell our children they can be anything they want, what does that really mean? We encourage and support. We caution about as yet unknown but survivable challenges. But, do we really prepare them to resiliently, resourcefully and relentlessly pursue their dreams?

There are three keys to meeting the challenges life doles out regularly -- gaining knowledge, understanding possibilities and harnessing potential. You have to build the knowledge to see and understand possibilities, which you learn to leverage in order to determine and reach your potential. These three keys are not only interconnected, they're interdependent building blocks.

Some of us are lucky enough to grow up around those who mentor and shape our young minds, imparting these keys -- often without even realizing it. However, some of us grow up with limited access and resources that could help foster personal growth. This creates a competitive advantage gap, and closing that gap is the purpose of the Hypatian Institute, Inc.

As an organization dedicated to life-long leadership education and development from youth to seasoned professionals, we're excited to roll out our first program, College Fellowship, in the next couple of months. Talented young people from low access communities are particularly vulnerable during the transition to college. Not only are they entering a new environment, but an entirely unknown world. Our goals are to develop confidence, resiliency and resourcefulness, and to enhance skills through a curriculum focused on problem-solving and community service.

We're inspired by the experiences of youth in programs that realize a 30% higher matriculation rate. Of youth, who with the support of those around them, are able to achieve success rather than become a statistic. You can help by voting for the program at KINDcauses where the Hypatian Institute is competing for $10,000. You can also help every day by:

  • taking the lead to mentor a young person in your life,
  • providing internships,
  • speaking at workshops for teens (including the Fellows program), and
  • donating to organizations that provide the wrap-around services to create support networks for promising youth.

We hope you'll vote today at http://bit.ly/VoteFellows (and 3 more times!) to support the Institute in delivering on that promise to the next generation.

5 Entrepreneurial Leadership Lessons from the Raptor Playbook

photo credit: Universal Pictures

photo credit: Universal Pictures

Before you read further, be warned: spoiler alert. Turn away and go see Jurassic World first.

It's not easy being Blue . . . that is Blue the Raptor.  As the beta to human alpha Owen, she's negotiating some interesting dynamics.  Although she's the leader among the raptors, these humans have had the upper-hand since she was born, raising her in captivity.  While she respects her human alpha, he sure does look tasty. And now, she's all the sudden out of raptor prison and learning to lead without the usual constraints. Here are some lessons from the Raptor Playbook.

Keep It Real

Blue is unapologetically "raptor". She sticks to her core values and core nature, and everyone is clear on her lethal purpose. Entrepreneurs who articulate, communicate and follow their mission and core values will find opportunities better aligned with their goals. Its one reason business plans and annual strategies are so important. You're less likely to stray from your priorities and will stay focused on reaching measurable goals. Not everyone has the primal instincts and focus of a raptor.

Be a Team Player

In classic raptor style, Blue and her team work together to achieve goals and trust in one another's abilities. Whether pursuing a juicy pig or overtaking a careless human, the raptors make their plays together. A strong team is a business’ greatest asset. No one is an island. Even while taking the lead, an entrepreneur needs to coordinate and communicate with his team to realize success.

Be Nimble

Nothing says "raptor" like managing change and pursuing new opportunity at light-speed. Some humans find this out the hard way in Jurassic World. If you free raptors into the wild, don't be surprised if you become raptor kibble. Recognizing the new situation, Blue and the Raptor Pack switched gears in less than a minute. Opportunity can appear quickly and conditions can change with little warning. Entrepreneurial leadership requires seeing it, and having made preparations along the way, strategically leveraging resources to pursue it.

Get Back Up

Raptors, like entrepreneurs, are highly competitive, self-motivated and driven to succeed. There's nothing like being soundly knocked down to take the wind out of your sails and send you into the Trough of Sorrow. In grand Hollywood (and raptor) fashion, Blue never says die. Grit and perseverance are required to succeed. Set-backs are to be expected, but you've got to take courage, pick yourself up, and regroup. Lesson learned. Your next attempt will be more successful.

Collaborate on Big Jobs

Being beat down and thrown around like a rag doll by an overwhelming force can truly bring home the reality of your situation. When T-Rex enters the battle with Indominus Rex (no comment on the name), Blue partners mid-fight with T-Rex to take on a big job neither had the capacity to manage alone. Not only lethal but vicious, Indominus Rex required a teaming of strange bedfellows. In business, seek out partners who can complement your strengths and collaborate harmoniously to achieve success.

In short, take a page from the Raptor Playbook and kill it, metaphorically speaking.

And, yes, I kinda want a raptor for my birthday.

Find Your Joy to Inspire Innovation

The first time I just about lost my mind with a camera was on vacation in Alaska. Maybe the landscape offered the inspiration I'd never before encountered -- to the tune of 600+ pictures.  Some were good. Some were great. Some . . . let's just leave those for another discussion.

As with any new adventure, I soon wanted to do it really well.  (What's the point of learning something if you don't do your best?)  So, I went to iStockPhoto.com and learned about all of their rules and guidelines.  Then, spent about three-days time over the next few months sorting through all of my photos to select the best ones. The process taught me a lot about what makes a good photo and how much work the professionals put into their craft.

Now, this had little to do with my marketing services, yet I was intense and intent. The foray into the creative brought me joy.  And, it brought me out of my bubble.  Now, I can't help but approach work with my evolving photographer's eye. That was an unexpected, though welcome, side effect.  I look at aberrations, emphasis and harmony differently in everything from social research to entrepreneur consultation to desktop design. Photography has brought a fresh focus (pun unintended) and creativity to nearly every aspect of life, and revived my innovative mind.

Sometimes, it's important to step away from your everyday routine to discover a new approach or innovation to the challenges and opportunities you encounter.  What brings you joy and fulfillment?  And, are you taking the time to pursue it?  You may not think you have the time to invest, but you may find the investment paying off in ways you didn't predict.

Got a few minutes to look at nature's beauty? See my emerging photography portfolio online. Let me know what you think and share the ways you feed your inner creative.

Copyright 2015 Gaea L. Honeycutt. All rights reserved.

Cultivate Young Leaders & Be Inspired

(l to r): Eric Dawson, President and Co-founder of PeaceFirst, with 2014 PeaceFirst Prize winners -- Amit Dodani, Matthew Kaplan, Eli Erlick, Imani Henry, and Amanda Matos.

(l to r): Eric Dawson, President and Co-founder of PeaceFirst, with 2014 PeaceFirst Prize winners -- Amit Dodani, Matthew Kaplan, Eli Erlick, Imani Henry, and Amanda Matos.

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting a workshop to Venture Fellows with LearnServe, an organization that identifies high school students with the passion to make a difference and equips them with the knowledge, business tools and relationships they need to transform their schools and communities. Right now, these inspiring young leaders are in the process of developing their business ideas, building teams, learning to budget, and launching their ventures. So, we focused on cultivating contacts and building a network -- especially, how to work a room, finding the courage to initiate contact, and following up.

By season's end, they'll be pitching their ventures to panels of business and community volunteers at the Venture Fair. This was my introduction to the nonprofit last year. We fielded pitches for a range of projects -- peer-to-peer support of homeless teens, connecting nonprofits and potential supporters, bringing clean water to communities abroad, peer-to-peer ESL tutoring, and gamifying women's history. The fair part of the event is a cacophony of noise, excitement and connection as youth present exhibits.

Scott Rechler, Co-Founder and CEO of LearnServe, at February's Snowball Effect Gala that spotlighted the  new Incubator program  and honored social entrepreneurs.

Scott Rechler, Co-Founder and CEO of LearnServe, at February's Snowball Effect Gala that spotlighted the new Incubator program and honored social entrepreneurs.

Want to be inspired by young social entrepreneurs? Serve on a panel for this year's Venture Fair, mentor a Fellow, host a visit at your business for Fellows, or make a donation.

How did I get involved with LearnServe? I met Co-Founder and CEO Scott Rechler at an advisory board meeting for PeaceFirst, an organization that exists to create the next generation of peacemakers. They view children as natural problem-solvers and creative thinkers, and invest in their ability to see themselves as leaders. Formerly PeaceGames, the organization pivoted a few years ago, releasing its K-8 peacemaking and conflict resolution curriculum to educators and the public for FREE, and started recognizing young social change agents with a national award.

Over the past two years, 15 young peacemakers have each received $25,000 to pursue their social ventures and realize their dreams. PeaceFirst Prize nominees and recipients demonstrate compassion, courage and collaborative change. Ranging in age from 10 to 22, past winners include:

This year, PeaceFirst is expecting to surpass 2014's response, with applications from all 50 states anticipated by the March 31 deadline. You can help by nominating a young person who's making a difference in your community, encouraging him or her to apply for the prize, becoming a supporter, or making a donation.

Eric Dawson, friend and Co-founder and CEO of PeaceFirst, began a recent call with supporters by asking about what was happening in our lives that brings joy. Well,LearnServe and PeaceFirst are two of those things that bring me joy. It's a gift to be able to share my lessons with young social entrepreneurs and be inspired by their ventures, and to spread the positive messages of these organizations. And, I hope you will become involved and find joy in them, too.

6 Strategies for Developing Your Unique Leadership Voice

Image credit Jason Ralston

Image credit Jason Ralston

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by award-winning radio journalist Bob Edwards. He delivered a candid, intriguing presentation on the art of interviewing at the National Press Club. Between audio clips and stories about the making of those interviews, Edwards answered several questions. However, it was his answer to my question surprised me most.

When asked about his biggest lesson in the field, Edwards didn't talk about how to ensure balance in a story, or question preparation strategy, or even mastering new topics. He focused on a leadership challenge -- finding his own distinctive voice. His hardest habit to break was abandoning the voice of a journalist he'd long admired, and creating that unique sound, style and cadence we've all come to recognize through his more than 30 years in radio. 

This is relevant not only to broadcasters, but to those of us who seek to carve out a place in the world -- journalists and freelancers, researchers, performers, consultants and so on. Discovering and wielding our authentic voices -- through the flood of others' voices -- is a skill that's key to growth and personal development. It's that voice that guides decisions and reflects values. It's that unique voice that inspires and engenders confidence, trust and respect in those with whom we interact.

And yet, setting on that path to a unique authentic voice can be difficult to accomplish. What are some strategies to harness your unique voice?

  1. Determine your own definitions of progress and success

  2. Learn from the hard-won lessons of those who came before you

  3. Approach your work and life with questions before settling on the answers

  4. Be present

  5. Evaluate information with a critical eye and healthy skepticism

  6. Listen with respect and attention to others' points of view

This approach will lead to crafting your own informed perspective while fostering effective and constructive communication with those around you. It's respectful of difference and assists in identifying -- for yourself and others -- where that difference of viewpoint lies. And, this framework allows you to discover, as well as rediscover, your authentic leadership voice and style.

Keystones - A Lesson from Dr. King & Civil Rights Leaders

As we reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy and the principles freedom, equality and empowerment, we shouldn't overlook the leadership lessons he and the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement have left us. One of which is to focus on keystones.

Dr. King was tenacious in his pursuit of equal voting rights. He and his partners in the Movement recognized the importance of what so many of us take for granted today - the ripple effect resulting from having the right to vote.

  1. Municipalities build juries from the rolls of registered voters, and they, in turn, are eligible to serve on juries.

  2. Juries decide who receives justice -- including in cases involving elected officials.

  3. Only registered voters choose elected officials.

And the key to that whole series of connected facts was possessing the right to vote. This was critical to realizing social justice and human rights for African Americans.

Myriad distractions can lead us off track away from our goals, endangering our ventures. Leaders must navigate this minefield to identify the factors for success with a keystone impact that will influence major milestones. In planning to achieve your vision, consider:

  • What goal, above all others, will lead to what you've envisioned?

  • Where is the ripple effect? Which factors most impact other factors?

  • What must you achieve to realize the biggest payoff for your venture?

Pursue the keystones and you will remain focused on the most important priorities, as well as best positioned to see and leverage opportunities.

5 Road Rules for Strategic Partnership Success

There is this ridiculous intersection in Williamsburg, VA. As soon as westbound traffic passes through, the cars must then choreograph a merge in a very short space of time -- literally no more than about 20 feet and 3 seconds. Now, merging can be a pre-school level challenge with serious consequences under normal circumstances. But this merge is a left-to-right maneuver; not the standard right-to-left.

Yes, the left lane (the side with the oncoming traffic) disappears about 3 seconds after you cross the intersection. Not only do you need to find a way to play nice with the folks in the other lane, you've got to make sure you don't stray over the double-yellows into the grill of some guy's F-150.

And, truly, this is how it is merging in professional life. There are treacherous left-to-right challenges all over the place. We may not be talking life and death, but the principles are the same:

  • Get the right people at the table. Not all drivers are as skilled or focused, or have the same temperament. Yes, Ed's your good friend and Susan is a longtime colleague, but do their skills and talents fulfill the needs of the venture. Who among you is handling the key tasks and functions? Topical expertise doesn't equal business savvy or management chops. Nor does friendship equal long-term professional commitment. And in these situations, you can loose focus on the business of running your business.

  • Get everyone on the same page. In a perfect traffic world, people in the two lanes take turns, giving everyone a fair chance to enter the single lane without incident. In the business world, do you and your partner(s) have the same ideas about assignments and responsibilities? Or are you just assuming that any sane person would do things the way you would? Know what you want and what your own vision of partnership looks like before beginning.

  • Establish clear signs and indicators. Most of us understand and interpret directional signals the same way, but maybe there are distinctions that we wouldn't expect about one another. Is there a contract? Are there benchmarks that allow all parties to measure progress? Is there clear communication between you and your partner(s)? Is everyone listening? Does discussion turn into clear direction and action? Map out a plan for implementation together, and question your most basic assumptions.

  • Schedule enough time for the trip. Let's not have an accident due to race track maneuvers. A high-pressure or impractical timeline is no way to get started in a partnership. Is everyone truly on board with the timeline? When is it time to count your losses and pull out of the deal? Are you feeling rushed and uncomfortable? Make sure you're grounded and realistic from the start.

  • Be prepared for hazards. The accident has happened and it ain't pretty. What type of insurance -- literally and metaphorically speaking -- did you put in place to protect the venture or cut your losses? Create a dissolution agreement or a memorandum of understanding to ensure appropriate allocation of assets, and that breaking up is as painless as possible.

Putting a damper on your euphoria? Don't let it get you down, but don't enter into this venture blindly either. Give that merger, partnership or collaboration plenty of consideration and planning. You'll be better situated to handle whatever comes your way.

Originally published in the Weirding Word® Blog.

3 Business Innovation Strategies from the Zombie Apocalypse

After avoiding it in the theaters, World War Z now holds a place of honor in my Netflix cue. Look past the delightful, rampaging mayhem and puma fast zombies, and you have a strategy for business innovation.

What has me returning time and again is the premise of the nature of disease - of problems and challenges. In an early scene, the genius doctor (on whom ALL hopes are pinned!) speaks of piecing together the clues Mother Nature inadvertently reveals. That method of problem-solving leads our glorious hero (aka Brad Pitt) to follow the bread crumbs and help save the human race from extinction.

How did Mother Nature get away with so much? She hid the weakness beneath the most vicious characteristic of the disease - the zombies only attack the strong and avoid the sick. The characters had to get past what they thought they knew and re-examine the situation. Your stakes are likely not quite that high. However, therein lies a path to innovation for your business, too. Pitt's character drew on insights and information from other areas, went where the ideas and evidence led, and acted boldly and courageously.

Draw on Insights and Information from Outside Your Comfort Zone

What solution remains hidden from you because you're wrapped up in a conventional mindset? China's extreme measure of removing the entire population's teeth in a matter of days had left that nation intact in the film. Israel built a massive wall and those rabid zombies eventually climbed right on over. Needless to say, things weren't looking good when Pitt left Israel. Perhaps it's time to take a another look and consider something more extreme yourself. Deconstruct your business and piece it together from a fresh perspective. Include staff, advisers and partners to gain alternate points of view.

Go Where the Ideas and Evidence Lead You

Are you going to find the answer where you are now? As soon as Pitt gathered information and gained a solid, viable lead, he was ready to move. Answers in India? He's your man! Russia? Let's do it! Wales? Okay, less exciting, but bring it on! Innovation may be taking place down the street, in another state or a country thousands of mile away. Someone else's exact solution may not be your own, but it could be just the inspiration needed to find your path and take a leap forward.

Act Boldly and Courageously

Pitt's solution of infecting himself with a fatal disease to ward off the zombies was completely out of the box and extreme . . . and action hero brave. He'd followed Mother Nature's bread crumbs - seeing frenzied mobs of zombies literally flow around terminally ill humans. In following the clues around the globe, witnessed this in multiple countries. And, doing what entrepreneurs do best every day, he stepped out on faith and took a calculated risk.

Make Your Declaration

How can you create a space to deconstruct your business and declare war on stagnation. Is it a company-wide hackathon? Or joining a mastermind group? Or giving employees, and yourself, "study hall days" to pursue an idea that might just turn into your business' next innovation. Whatever the tactic, turn what you think you know on it's head.