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In Times of Crisis, Keep the Boat Steady

In a year defined by uncertainty, company leaders need to think differently about how to set their teams up for success….

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The CEO of my first startup was a competitive rower in college. One of his teammates, who went on to compete in the Olympics, started a management training course that integrated classroom discussions with lessons on the water, rowing with a team. Our executive team attended one of his sessions. There are three lessons I took away from it that have stuck with me and feel especially important given the tough year we’ve had and the uncertainty that all companies continue to face during the pandemic.

In one of the first exercises, the facilitator put us all on rowing machines. He asked an HR executive to sit at the front, start rowing and set the pace for the rest of us. She spent her time at the front watching everyone else’s pace, and we struggled to get into any semblance of a cadence. The facilitator then asked me to lead. Having seen how difficult it was to follow her, I became laser-focused on making sure that my strokes per minute didn’t budge. You could have used my pacing to calibrate the atomic clock.

Related: 7 Essential Soft Skills to Elevate Your Leadership During the Pandemic

When my turn was up, the instructor asked the rest of the group for their observations of our two styles. The HR exec was so busy trying to watch everyone else’s pace that she failed to build a cadence we could follow. She wasn’t leading the group; she was trying to figure out where it was going. Meanwhile, I failed in the opposite direction. I had my pace dialed in but I had zero awareness of the pace and pulse of the rest of the team. Half the people in the room were dialed in, but I had lost the other half completely.

Even in “normal” times, it is a challenge to set the right pace for your team. It is hard to lead if you spend all your time looking around to see what everyone else is doing. And if you’re not paying attention at all, it’s impossible to get it right. One of the things I learned about team rowing is it doesn’t matter if half the crew can pull hard and fast. If everyone in the boat isn’t in sync, the boat won’t go very far or very fast. An optimal cadence will allow your top performers to still pull as hard as they can, but provide opportunities for everyone to contribute.

The second lesson took place in a real boat on the water. Our boat consisted of me, our CEO (the collegiate rower), the rubber-necked HR exec from the pacing exercise and one of her colleagues. Our CEO obviously knew what he was doing and I was doing my best to keep up with him, but the other two were struggling with the timing and coordination. We competed against the other boats in time trials and despite having the best rower in our boat, we weren’t making progress. Our timing was off, and the boat was rocking side to side.

The facilitator asked the CEO and me to stop rowing, and for us to hold our oars flat against the water to keep the boat balanced. He then asked the other two execs to do all the rowing. We shaved five seconds off our best time. The strongest rowers were doing nothing to move the boat forward, but when we kept the boat from rocking we were still able to move the boat faster than the four of us combined. The lesson was pretty obvious. Sometimes the best thing you can do as a manager is to hold the boat steady so everyone else can get their job done.

Related: 3 Ways to Empower Your Team to Innovate During Uncertain Times

In my experience, most execs and founders are typically (or were) outstanding individual contributors. In rowing terms, this means they can pull harder and faster than anyone, and set a pace that is difficult for others to meet. In a management role, when things get tough, they may have an impulse to grab an oar and start pulling like hell — this is usually the worst thing they can do. Like an unbalanced boat, the company gets out of sync and the overall pace of the business slows.

There’s an adage in sales that the best sales reps are rarely the best sales managers, as the skills required to be great at the two roles are very different. The coaches, leaders and managers who are best at their jobs are the ones who can get the most from their team. Your ability as an individual to do the job is irrelevant in a management context.

Less than a year ago, most executives were leading a team that worked in the same office, with at least somewhat predictable and comfortable routines. Today, remote work, plus the added challenges of the pandemic — health concerns, cabin fever, home school — have completely changed our personal and professional context. The strengths and weaknesses of our teams have completely shifted in this new environment and that requires managers to take a fresh look at the optimal cadence for their team. What your team needs today is likely very different than what they needed pre-Covid.

So as a manager, what does this look like day-to-day? This is all still a work in progress, but at Skillshare, we’ve made some changes. First, we implemented more frequent “pulse check” surveys. Instead of our usual semi-annual employee engagement surveys, these are quick monthly surveys that give us more frequent data points. We’ve also added communications channels and increased the frequency of communication. I’m personally holding weekly coffee chats with four to five employees to replicate some of the serendipitous conversations we had in the office. Finally, we’ve also decided to move to a distributed working model and give up our NYC office, redeploying those expenses to employee development and improving the work-from-home environment. We are still testing new ideas, but we’ve seen positive signs so far.

Related: Smart Steps to Setting Your Team up for Success When Working From Home

I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist. I know that the future is bright, but the waters remain choppy and they may be for a while. Despite the uncertainty and anxiety that 2020 has brought, leaders, managers and HR teams should just remember to keep the boat steady. With a stable base, every company can find its own pace.

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How Success Happened for Josh Harris, Co-Founder of Apollo Global Management and Co-Founder of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

Harris has a knack for building and growing forward-thinking ventures.

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Harris has a knack for building and growing forward-thinking ventures.

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July 13, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Josh Harris has a short resume. For nearly his entire professional career, he has held only one job, sitting at the helm of Apollo Global Management.

Since co-founding Apollo in 1990, Harris has spent the last 31 years building and shaping what has become a leading alternatives asset manager. But even with 15 offices globally and over $460 billion in assets under management, Harris has found time to pursue passions outside of the financial industry. With an eye for uncovering potential value, the investor maintains a robust family investment office, is an active philanthropist through family foundation Harris Philanthropies, and has successfully launched a premier sports and entertainment platform, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which has grown to include the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center in Newark New Jersey.

Related: Check out recent guests Josh Harris and Thomas Tull on the How Success Happens podcast

Harris credits wrestling for unlocking his internal drive. After participating in wrestling at summer camp at a young age, he was hooked. The intensity of the sport and raw physical strength it demanded was motivating and compelling to his innate competitive spirit. But he quickly learned that without preparation — a healthy diet, cross-training and time on the mat — you get physically dominated. Once a struggling student, wrestling helped Harris turn his academics around and earned him acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania — and a coveted spot on the wrestling team there.

It was at Penn where Harris first got a taste of finance. An introductory economics class ignited a similar spark within him, compelling him to go to the fast-paced world of Wall Street. He transferred to Wharton and dove headfirst into finance.

“I was allured by [the idea of] helping companies grow,” Harris says. “I was a sponge for knowledge and wanted to learn everything I could … from the best people.”

The decision was made. He bought his first suit and headed to Wall Street.

“This is what I would recommend to [anyone just starting their career]: Treat your life like an investment,” Harris says. “Do something you are passionate about … look at the upsides, the downsides. What is your competitive advantage? … Really look at it analytically.”

Harris used that same lens when faced with an even bigger decision, several years into his career. After cutting his teeth at Drexel Burnham Lambert and attending Harvard Business School, Harris accepted a position at Blackstone. A few weeks in, he got a call from former colleagues Marc Rowan and Leon Black, asking him to join a new firm, the fledgling Apollo. Harris had worked only weeks at Blackstone — and used his signing bonus to pay off his student loans — but he was enticed by an opportunity to build with people whom he knew.

Fast forward thirty years, Apollo has become the second-largest alternatives and largest alternative credit manager in the world. Harris has been the architect of some of the firm’s most successful deals, including the historic LyondellBasell transaction, one of the most profitable deals in PE history.

In 2011, Harris applied skills from his day job to a new venture — joining forces with David Blitzer to purchase the Philadelphia 76ers from Comcast in a corporate carveout. One of the most rewarding aspects of owning sports teams, Harris says, has been serving as a steward of the city.

“[Sports teams] are public assets…you take on a real obligation to help the communities where you are playing,” he adds.

Related: Check Out These Top Sports Podcasts

Giving back to the communities where HBSE operates — namely Philadelphia, Camden and Newark — is of top priority for Harris. In our conversation, it was clear how deeply he believes in the power of sports to change lives, just as wrestling had changed the trajectory of his life. Through his many charitable endeavors with HBSE and Harris Philanthropies, Harris is focused on creating opportunities for kids to experience sports who might not otherwise be able to, providing access to sports programming and pairing it with academic resources and other support. More broadly, Harris Philanthropies is focused on catalytic giving and creating equitable opportunities in the communities where the Foundation has a deep connection.

In the past year, however, Covid-19 was front and center, requiring the Foundation to adjust their strategy to address needs brought on by the pandemic. We [immediately] had to pivot [our strategy] and lead,” says Harris, who through HBSE and Harris Philanthropies, set to work distributing food, medical supplies, frontline equipment, laptops and other resources to local communities.

Now Harris is starting a new chapter, returning to his entrepreneurial roots. Having recently announced that he’ll be stepping back from his day-to-day role at Apollo, Harris is excited about continuing to expand HBSE, as well as his multi-asset class investing business and diving deeper into social impact. But he hasn’t lost touch of what has driven him throughout his career — building and investing in success.

Related: Let us Help Your Brand Create Its Own Podcast

Related: Check out recent guests Josh Harris and Thomas Tull on the How Success Happens podcast

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Virgin Galactic Cleared by FAA For Passenger Space Travel

Will billionaire and founder Richard Branson beat Jeff Bezos to space?

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June 25, 2021 2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, in a statement, announced the FAA has upgraded its existing license to include passenger flights.

The company also says the approval is the first of its kind. Shares jumped 12% in premarket trading.

The journey, however, has been somewhat bumpy, Engadget reports. In December 2020, the company’s test flight ended in a motor ignition failure. In February of this year, Virgin Galactic delayed its tourism flights until 2022 saying more “technical checks” were needed.

Related: Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity Completes Human Spaceflight

The company then had to complete dozens of verification and validation requirements to clear the final two steps for the FAA’s approval. CEO Michael Colglazier says the crewed test flight on May 22 was a success:

“We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight… [which] performed flawlessly, and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system. [We’re confident] as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”

Related: Elon Musk’s SpaceX signs alliance with Google Cloud to offer satellite internet with Starlink

The company, which began working on its mission to space in 2004, says it’s preparing for the remaining three test flights.

Unconfirmed reports also suggest Virgin Galactic is working to send Branson on a suborbital flight during the July 4 weekend, according to Business Insider. That’s two weeks before Jeff Bezos is scheduled to board his Blue Origin’s New Shepard for space on July 20.

Related: Blue Origin Is Challenging SpaceX’s Artemis Lander Contract From NASA

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10 Deals for $20 That You Won’t Find on Amazon

After all, Amazon doesn’t have everything.

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After all, Amazon doesn’t have everything.

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June 21, 2021 4 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Despite diversifying its options over the past few years, Amazon doesn’t have everything. One of its biggest shortcomings is its lack of educational resources. If you’re looking for a more substantive purchase, consider investing in your own professional development. We’ve rounded up a collection of courses you won’t find on Amazon and, for a limited time, they’re all just $20.

The Professional Microsoft Excel Certification Training Bundle

The Professional Microsoft Excel Certification Training Bundle

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Microsoft Excel is the world’s most ubiquitous office software, used in just about every industry. You may think you know Excel, but after this eight-course bundle from Excel Maven, you’ll understand just how little you knew. You’ll cover advanced formulas, data visualization, PivotTables, and much more.

Get The Professional Microsoft Excel Certification Training Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,600) for a limited time.

The Fundamentals of Real Estate Investment Bundle

The Fundamentals of Real Estate Investment Bundle

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The real estate industry is booming, for both commercial and retail investors alike. In this five-course bundle, you’ll learn how to think like a professional real estate investor. You’ll explore pre-investing practices, wholesale deals, and much more.

Get The Fundamentals of Real Estate Investment Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,000) for a limited time.

The Google Analytics Master Class Bundle

The Google Analytics Master Class Bundle

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Google Analytics is one of the best tools for businesses to understand their web traffic. In this bundle, you’ll learn how to use GA to draw better insights from your traffic data and institute changes to make your webpages as strong as they can be.

Get The Google Analytics Master Class Bundle for $20 (reg. $995) for a limited time.

The Ultimate Financial Accounting & CPA Certification Training Bundle

The Ultimate Financial Accounting & CPA Certification Training Bundle

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Every business owner should have at least a functional financial skill-set. In this bundle, you’ll learn how to be the accountant for your business with the same education a Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) would get.

Get The Ultimate Financial Accounting & CPA Certification Training Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,592) for a limited time.

The Ultimate Candlestick Trading & Analysis Masterclass Bundle

The Ultimate Candlestick Trading & Analysis Masterclass Bundle

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Earn some extra money in the stock market by learning the trading techniques employed by the pros. This technical analysis bundle will teach you how to analyze candlestick patterns and use data to make more informed investment decisions.

Get The Ultimate Candlestick Trading & Analysis Masterclass Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,000) for a limited time.

The Premium 2021 Project & Quality Management Certification Bundle

The Premium 2021 Project & Quality Management Certification Bundle

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After a lengthy pandemic that hurt many small businesses, it’s important to hit the ground running in this hot economy with more efficient and productive processes in place. This bundle will introduce you to a range of project management methodologies, from Agile to PMP, to help you institute positive changes in your business.

Get The Premium 2021 Project & Quality Management Certification Bundle for $20 (reg. $4,400) for a limited time.

The 2021 Complete All-in-One Adobe Creative Cloud Suite Certification Course Bundle

The 2021 Complete All-in-One Adobe Creative Cloud Suite Certification Course Bundle

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Got a creative streak? Indulge it! This extensive bundle covers the entire Adobe Creative Cloud, teaching you how to edit photos with Photoshop, become a graphic designer with Illustrator and XD, edit videos with Premiere Pro, and much more.

Get The 2021 Complete All-in-One Adobe Creative Cloud Suite Certification Course Bundle for $20 (reg. $2,400) for a limited time.

The Complete Mobile & App Development Bundle

The Complete Mobile & App Development Bundle

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Got a brilliant app idea? Learn how to bring it to life with this nine-course bundle. You’ll get an introduction to building apps for iOS 14 using Swift 5, learn how to build apps for Android 11, get up to speed on Java programming fundamentals, and more.

Get The Complete Mobile & App Development Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,791) for a limited time.

The Create Your Own T-Shirt Side Business Bundle

The Create Your Own T-Shirt Side Business Bundle

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You know a great T-shirt idea when you see (or say) one. If you have a tendency to say “that should be on a T-shirt” after saying something out loud, you might just want to start a T-shirt side business. This extensive bundle will teach you everything you need to know, from printing shirts to packaging.

Get The Create Your Own T-Shirt Side Business Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,393) for a limited time.

The Cryptocurrency with Ethereum & Solidity Blockchain Developer Bundle

The Cryptocurrency with Ethereum & Solidity Blockchain Developer Bundle

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Take a deep dive into one of today’s most exciting, innovative technologies. Across six courses, you’ll learn how to build web apps that run on a blockchain using Solidity, launch an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), and even build a decentralized exchange.

Get The Cryptocurrency with Ethereum & Solidity Blockchain Developer Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,200) for a limited time.

Prices subject to change.

Get The Professional Microsoft Excel Certification Training Bundle for $20 (reg. $1,600) for a limited time.

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