Lead and Succeed by Seeing the World With New Eyes – Part 1

Source: Todd Cherches, used with permission

Todd Cherches is an introvert and inveterate doodler. Author of VisuaLeadership: Leveraging the Power of Visual Thinking in Leadership and in Life, his raison d’etre over the couple of decades that I’ve known him has been to evangelize about the power of pictures—and yes, the thousand words they can convey.

Most recently, Cherches has been doing the coronavirus-safe version of singing from hilltops about leading through a crisis using the power of visuals. He gives multiple examples of how leaders are conveying their points through memorable visuals of everything from “flattening the curve” to the coronavirus molecule, with its familiar protrusions—making the “invisible visible,” as he says.

Cherches, CEO and co-founder of BigBlueGumball LLC, a New York City-based management and leadership consulting, training, and executive coaching firm, is passionate about helping you see the world through a different lens—to solve business problems, advance in your career, and live a better life. Since that’s no small order, I’ve welcomed him here to answer a few questions to get the ball rolling (to get you in the mood for more visual metaphor!) in this two-part interview.

First, we’ll focus on how to communicate best using visuals amid the COVID-19 crisis. Then we’ll cover some of Cherches’s favorite techniques to help you think, communicate, and lead at your best—in any environment.

NA: Amid the current pandemic, we’ve been bombarded with news. How are world leaders using visuals most effectively to convey their points simply?

TC: One of the things effective visuals help us do is simplify complexity. And one of the people I have been most impressed with is Dr. Anthony Fauci. For example, his constant reminder that the return to relative normalcy will not be as simple as “flipping a switch,” but more like very slowly turning up a dimmer.

NA: What a simple way Dr. Fauci conveyed his idea in a relatable blink! What got you to write VisuaLeadership?

Source: StockUnlimited, used with permission

TC: The short answer is that for so many years, people—friends, peers, clients, and students—have been asking me, “When are you going to write a book?” So, now they can, finally, stop asking me that. The lengthier, and more serious, answer is that over the course of my career, one of the things I have been most known for is having worked for some of the worst bosses who have ever walked the face of this earth.

In the course of reading one management and leadership book after another, in search of a better way, I discovered my passion and purpose: to help make the world a better place—one leader at a time. To me, everyone is a leader in one way or at one time or another. I’ve also learned from experience that the best way to teach people how to lead, and to get others to “see” what you’re saying, is through the power of visuals. That, in a nutshell, is what my VisuaLeadership concept is all about.

NA: What have you learned about navigating your career as an introvert?

TC: It took me a long time to figure this out, but I eventually realized, while still early in my career, that the single biggest difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is confidence. The confidence to raise your hand and say, “I’ll do that!”; the confidence to speak up and to speak out in a class or a meeting; the confidence to have impact and influence.

I had assumed that my knowledge, intelligence, hard work, and high-quality results would speak for themselves. But they didn’t. I needed to speak for myself and, as an extreme introvert, it was beyond my comfort zone to do so.

NA: How frustrating. Would you give an example?

TC: When I worked in the TV industry in Hollywood, I kept getting not invited to meetings, having my ideas go unheard, and being passed over for promotions time and time again, while my more extroverted peers loudly tooted their own horns, barged into meetings when they hadn’t been invited, schmoozed with executives, and made a ruckus—as Seth Godin would say—as I sat there horrified by their behaviors.

NA: How did that play out?

TC: Those were the people who moved up the ladder while I sat there overlooked, underappreciated, and ignored. So, I learned that, even as an introvert, to navigate your career, you need to figure out some way to get noticed. I call it my “Three Vs”: Visibility, Voice, and Value. You need to figure out a way to be seen, to be heard, and to have your contributions recognized.

NA: You’re a highly popular professor in the Division of Programs in Business, where we both teach master’s candidates at New York University. What is your favorite visual tool for bringing out the best in your students?

TC: Wow. That’s a tough one—like asking a parent which one of their kids is their favorite! But if I had to pick just one of my original visual tools it would be my Passion/Skill Matrix model. I have a chapter on it in my book. To sum it up, it’s a four-box matrix in which my students are asked to plot out what they are good at, and what they’re not; and what they like or love to do, and what they don’t—to figure out how their responses match up against their current reality.

Source: BigBlueGumball, used with permission

I’ve found, from personal experience, that if you can find a way to spend at least 80 percent of your time “above the line,” you are more likely to be happy in your career and in your life. There’s much more to it than that, but that’s a metaphorical “taste” of how this visual model works.

NA: I like the crispness of the model—and how it gets us to think visually. With plenty of food for thought, I’ve enjoyed chatting with you today. In the second part of our interview, I look forward to discussing the power of daydreaming, how showers cleanse more than your body, and your favorite visual models for leading visually through the current crisis, and way beyond.

Copyright 2020 © Nancy Ancowitz

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