Todd Nielsen-Leadership and Execution Guru

Dr. Amit Nagpal: Todd, welcome to the chat. Why did you name your Blog as 'A Slice of leadership'?

Todd Nielsen: Thanks Amit. Leadership is a fascinating topic to me and the intricacies of leadership run far and wide. 

A blog is a place to explore a topic or topics in small increments, so I felt the analogy of consuming small "slices" to be a good fit for consuming the enormous topic of leadership and self-development.

Dr. Amit: Interesting and true! I find western cultures are far better in execution and Indians (and other easterners) are great at conceptualizing but often need to improve on execution. What makes westerners good at execution? Is it experience, exposure or a managerial rather than a creative bent?
Todd: That is interesting that you mention that, as execution is the niche that I serve and do workshops and speeches on. Execution is the foundational problem in which almost all other problems in business originate? It could be poor sales, poor service, poor morale, weak profits or many other things; but if people can’t get the right things done, in a timely manner, then they will never be successful. The same is true in life.I am not sure what would make western cultures better at execution, but it is still a problem. A recent survey stated that 70% of strategic business failures occur due to poor execution. While it may happen more in certain cultures, it is still a problem everywhere.

Dr. Amit: How do we create a culture of execution?
Todd: A culture of getting things done, or a culture of execution is dependent on many things. The most important aspect is aligning the behaviors and actions to the top-line goals of a company. But people have to be inspired and should want to work hard for those top-line goals. They have to have a Driving purpose and a plan to align their behaviors. I teach a method that gets an entire organization motivated and moving toward those top-line goals. Part inspiration, part strategic goal making, part accountability and lot of other "slices" are needed to truly make a culture that can execute. I have seen some amazing successes at making this happen.

Dr. Amit: Is it necessary to be a hard taskmaster to be good at execution in your view?
Todd:No I do not think so. I think you have to be clear about your activities and what will produce results and what will not. Your behaviors and those you lead must be aligned, and there must be sufficient intrinsic motivation for people to want to achieve their goals and the organizations goals, even if their part of those grand organizational goals is small and seemingly insignificant. People also need to understand why the goal is so important and how (the process) that they are going to get there. It helps them to understand how they fit into the puzzle.

Dr. Amit: I think a strong process orientation is necessary for good execution and so is flexibility. How do you find a delicate balance?
Todd: Well the devil is in the details for sure. When you have a goal that you are reaching to achieve and there are a team of people working towards that goal, and they are keeping each other accountable, they will emotionally be attached in it so much that they cannot bear the thought of not achieving the goal. So if a group or a person is getting off track, then you have to be flexible enough to say, "Hey there is something wrong with our process, or our plan, let’s reevaluate and make a course correction." I don’t think it is a so much of a balancing act as just a mentality that people have to get used to. Sometimes people are afraid to speak up, to disrupt the process, even if it is about to go over a cliff. So it is important to maintain flexibility on the process and is of course needed to achieve a goal.

Dr. Amit: Your Twitter profile says "Seeker of wisdom.” How do we find wisdom in this crazy world?
Todd:By keeping an open mind and searching it out. I read a lot and try to always recognize when I have weaknesses that need improvement. There are so many great books, and blogs, and knowledge in the world, but many people will not take the time or spend a few dollars to seek out the wisdom from others to fix their own problems. Seeking wisdom is a never ending journey in business, and in life.

Dr. Amit: What about seeking the wisdom within? Have you tried any contemplative practices?
Todd: I think internal reflection is important. I used to do a lot of meditation but have let it go by the wayside for the last few years. I think inner wisdom is all about personal understanding. It helps us focus and become more aware of ourselves, who we are, what we want, and what we are capable of. It is something I need to begin again.

Dr. Amit: Tell me something about Leadership Gold nuggets from around the world, series I see on your blog.
Todd: In March of this year I ran an International Leadership Blogathon. I had people from all over the world contribute posts. The gold nuggets were a series of posts that I did following the blogathon, in which I pulled out quotes and nuggets of wisdom that I felt needed to be emphasized and shared. There will be another International Leadership Blogathon in 2013, and I am planning a Young Leadership Blogathon soon, as well.

Dr. Amit: Interesting, young leadership means a certain age group?
Todd: Yes probably college level or under.

Dr. Amit: I notice that you also do a lot of writing outside of leadership, please tell us about that?
Todd: For the last 15+ years I have served as an executive in the technology industry. So my alter-ego does a lot of writing on technology, IT channel topics, and cloud computing. I write for Wired on Cloud Computing and various other publications on IT industry topics, but leadership and execution is what I am most passionate about. Great things can happen in any industry with great leadership and effective execution.

Dr. Amit: Very true! Tell me something about your interest in the outdoors.
Todd: I have always loved the outdoors, hiking, camping, and especially rock climbing. In fact, my book on execution, that should be out later this fall, is a business fable that starts off with a climbing disaster that actually happened to me. It goes through the process of creating a culture of execution in a company through the story.

Dr. Amit: Which two common mistakes weaken a personal brand in your view?
Todd: I think there are LOTS of mistakes that weaken your personal brand, but the primary one is not having a plan. One must have a plan for who they are, and where they are going in life. The plan helps you get there. I actually wrote a guest post on this topic for Kimberly Bordonaro. You can check it out here:

Dr. Amit:  Thank you Todd for the amazing conversation and your time.
Todd: Thank you, I enjoyed chatting. Please let me know if there is anything I can do or answer for your followers.
About Todd
Todd Nielsen is an experienced IT & Telecommunications Executive. Todd writes on Cloud Computing for Wired Magazine. He also writes in IT Channel topics at IT Channel Insight. He is passionate about leadership and writes on his award winning blog at which has been rated 
6th Best Leadership Blog on the Internet.  He is also considered the 10th Most Influencial Leadership Persona to follow on Twitter.  But Todd is always learning and always seeking greater wisdom and understanding.


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