3 Leadership Nuggets From Chicago Ideas Week

By Kelsey Ogletree, October 21, 2016

I’m officially drinking the Kool-Aid of Chicago Ideas Week. The weeklong ideas fest founded by Jessica Malkin in 2011 draws nearly 30,000 attendees each year to hear from more than 250 speakers. After attending only one talk on Thursday, “Business in Motion: The Keys to Creating a Company That Thrives,” I went home with six notebook pages of ideas I couldn’t wait to begin implementing in my own career and personal life.

Chicago Ideas Week>> Choose not to see the obstacles.

Maryam Banikarim, global CMO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, has held a lot of jobs in her impressive career. The reason: “When things aren’t working, I’m willing to leave,” she said, plain and simple. “The question comes down to impact. Can I actually make a difference? And am I given the bandwidth to do so?” If the answer is yes, she powers through the toughest of challenges. “I choose not to see the obstacles,” she said. “I choose to focus on the work.”

>> Focus on meaningful experiences.

Co-founder Nick Kokonas’ goal in starting Alinea—widely recognized as one of the best restaurants in the world—a decade ago was to create an emotionally intelligent experience for guests. The restaurant business, he quipped, was built on lies—from guests not showing up for a reservation to restaurants not having their table ready when they arrive. So he created a successful system of prepaid restaurant bookings that invites them, instead, to “book your experience.” “The goal is to reframe dining into a meaningful experience, not a transaction,” said Kokonas. “That’s a win for both sides.”

>> Seek to empower others.

By any standard, Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s Corporation, has been a wildly successful businessman. But when you consider he grew up just outside Cabrini-Green in Chicago, it makes his climb up the ladder that much more remarkable. But he hasn’t gotten there by stepping on toes. In fact, he’s lent a hand along the way. One of his top leadership tips: “Set an environment where others can achieve their highest level of aspiration.” Empowering others is the ultimate purpose of a CEO, he said. “Be able to look back on your life and be really proud of what you see. Have you left things better than you found them?”

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