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Organizations talk about continuous improvement. Better processes. Improved customer interactions. Product innovations. More efficient workflows. Enhanced financial results. But few apply this process to the heart of all improvement: leadership. Leaders drive improvement at every level of an organization. So, wouldn’t it follow that leaders who are continually improving will drive improvement in the work they lead?

Mehran Assadi, the CEO of National Life Group, believes that the continuous improvement of his organization starts with him.

Every Sunday morning, Assadi brews a pot of coffee at home and reflects on his past week. He does this with deep intention: he seeks continuous improvement—in his personal and professional life. Assadi has done this weekly reflection consistently for the past twenty years. His focus on self-evaluation, serving others, daily learning, and what he calls the “seven Cs of leadership” have fueled his personal and organizational success for more than two decades.


As CEO of a 168-year-old Vermont-based company that insures millions of people, Assadi knows that the success of his business depends on his leadership. In order to deliver on his organization’s purpose of bringing peace of mind to its customers, he must be able to engage with those around him. In the insurance industry, there is nothing more important than ensuring that customers feel that their policies will be fulfilled when needed.

“I learned early in my career that leadership is a privilege and not an entitlement.  Inspiring teammates to be their best and to reach their fullest potential is a priority for me,” Assadi says.  To keep himself centered as a leader, he uses muscle memory—a method of consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. Basically, creating a muscle memory requires that you repeat the same behaviors over and over again until they become a natural extension of who you are. They are something you do but don’t have to think about deliberately.

Since his first leadership role in the 1990s, Assadi religiously practices weekly self-evaluation, a ritual taught to him by a mentor early in his career. His Sunday morning process is the same every week, and it takes place in the den of his home before his family is awake.

“I walk back over my week,” Assadi explains, “working through meetings and decisions, assessing how I showed up. Showing up for me means that being an active listener is more important than speaking; it means that I have to seize opportunities to provide positive feedback as well as constructive coaching advice; it means that I have to invite debate and intellectual wrestling; it means that I have to welcome different opinions and points of view.”

Assadi’s review of his week consistently leads him to the realization that there was something he could have done better, something that he could have tweaked or approached differently. “Some of my colleagues tell me that I’m too hard on myself or that I have overly tough standards. However, I feel that being focused as a leader is what my colleagues deserve,” Assadi affirms.

Serving Others

When a person moves from an individual contributor role or mindset to a people leader, they shift the focus of their work. They must serve others before themselves. This shift fosters growth and success for the leader and those they serve.

“I learned how to lead people from my mom and dad. When you’re watching your parents give so much to you and others, you learn how to show up in life,” Assadi suggests. While some people may not have been fortunate enough to have such a keen example of servant leadership in their childhood homes, most can think of someone in their lives who demonstrates the qualities well. This foundation is key to Assadi’s success as a leader.

According to Assadi, great leadership requires an element of IQ, plus emotional and social intelligence. “We are all born with certain gifts that are part of our DNA. If you have the IQ, can you teach people the emotional and social part? Maybe, but the key is finding satisfaction in serving others. You have to lead with a servant heart and show up in authentic ways,” Assadi insists.

Learning Every Day

Assadi attributes his dedication to lifelong learning to the childhood influences of his father. “I love learning,” Assadi declares. “When you learn, you are growing. I believe deeply that we can all improve ourselves daily. Self-improvement is a personal commitment.”

“Many people have a false belief that being a CEO means that you’ve gotten it all figured out. I feel the opposite. I work every day to be a better leader today than I was the day before,” Assadi explains.

Daily learning for Assadi may be as simple as watching how a teammate handles a sensitive situation or how she successfully influences others. His trick is to learn from those moments—he works to add the new skill to his muscle memory, and to make it part of his DNA.


Seven Cs Of Leadership

During his weekly ritual, Assadi focuses on areas he calls the “seven Cs of leadership.” This sequential framework provides a structure for assessing and measuring his effectiveness as a leader and for examining ways he can do better. By asking, “How well have I embraced these seven tenets during my week at work and in my personal life?” Assadi can identify the actions he needs to stop, start, or continue as a leader.

Assadi’s “seven C’s” of leadership are:

1. Comprehension—clarity of mind and thought. All leaders must be able to gather information by asking the right questions and listening intently to the responses. “This first C allows me to anticipate what is ahead and what changes in direction I will need to make to avoid danger and seize opportunities in my business and life,” Assadi explains. By being proactive in this way, a leader moves from firefighting to true strategic planning.

2. Competency—once a leader has a clear view of the road ahead, he must be able to navigate accordingly. “This requires that I be able to get the right people around me to help make the change happen,” Assadi says. He believes that clarity without competency has no value.

3. Confidence—having clarity and the skills to make needed directional changes reduces self-doubt. “Leaders who lack confidence struggle to make decisions and create a sense of uneasiness in those who follow them,” Assadi asserts. Conversely, a leader who exhibits confidence fosters confidence in those who follow him.

4. Courage—an element of personal risk is required of those who wish to succeed in life and business. However, Assadi warns that the risk must always be a calculated one. The right ideas are meaningless if you don’t have the ability to turn them into reality. “Dreams without execution are hallucinations,” Assadi insists.

No one can know all the possible outcomes of a decision. A clear understanding of the landscape, proper preparation for the journey, and faith that you will get where you want to go creates fearless leaders. Such well-equipped leaders take paths others avoid. As we have seen from history, these less-travelled roads often lead to undiscovered opportunities and riches.

5. Conviction—doing the right thing, not just making the right decision. “As a leader, you must always ask: What is the right thing to do? It is about respect. If you do the right thing, people will have respect for you whether they like you or the decision itself,” Assadi suggests.

6. Communication—not just the ability to speak, but to listen, too. “Strong communication is about inspiring your team to become part of the solution and take their own personal risks. You must use words that they understand, instead of speaking over them,” Assadi explains.

Assadi started his career as a software engineer in 1982. At the time, people considered engineers geeks because they spoke in code. “We took pride in speaking in acronyms that no one else understood. I now lead a sales force of fourteen thousand. I must be able to effectively and clearly communicate with them. I practice speaking and listening. Considering that English is my second language, the challenge has been even greater for me. My focus is always on breaking my message down, not dumbing it down. You must make sure the person sitting across from you has an appreciation for what you are saying,” Assadi says.

7. Character—as a leader, people look to you for guidance. They watch what you do. Your actions often dictate behaviors of others. “You have to be comfortable with living in a glass house,” Assadi says. People want to be led by leaders who have a solid and strong character. Good leaders engender a sense of trust and display a high level of ethics.

“My biggest commitment is to the people I serve,” Assadi says. “The decisions I make not only affect the life of those who follow me, but the lives of their families, too.” If you lead an organization of a thousand people and each has a spouse and two children, that is four thousand people. If you have one thousand customers, that is another four thousand people. Two thousand people turns into eight thousand. A leader must show those around him that he feels an obligation to his coworkers, customers, and their families to always do the right thing.

“Continuous improvement starts and ends with me. My weekly assessment ensures that I am giving my very best every day,” Assadi asserts. “I am not a finished product; I do make mistakes. The only difference is I am committed to learning from them. A leader must be at peace with the fact that he may be wrong from time to time,” Assadi adds.

Assadi first introduced the seven Cs at a National Life leadership conference a few years ago, where he presented awards to leaders who exhibited these traits. As the seven Cs support National Life’s values, mission, and vision—informing processes from recruiting to leadership development to performance management—they align with the organization’s leadership and people efforts, and convey a consistent message and expectation.

One Person, One Leader

Assadi takes his leadership very seriously and believes it defines him in all avenues of his life. “You can’t be two people as a leader. The leader you are in the office must be the leader you are at home and in your community,” Assadi insists. All the same rules and his seven Cs apply to every aspect of his life. Business values are life values, and leadership is about giving in all areas of life.

“I teach my three sons the same lessons I teach my leaders at National Life. If you are giving, good things in life are going to happen to you. For me, it’s about spreading positive energy rather than being cynical. You need to inspire yourself and others to do great things instead of just looking for a big paycheck. When you do the right thing, everything else is going to take care of itself.”

Above all, Assadi treasures his quiet moments of reflection. He knows that those Sunday mornings make him a better leader and ultimately make National Life stronger. His stellar results support his assertion. National Life Group’s insurance sales have doubled since 2011, its customer base has grown from 796,000 in 2014 to 843,000 in 2016, and the face value of its life insurance policies just exceeded an historic milestone of $100 billion—$20 billion of it added in the last two years. He is one of the top-rated Glassdoor CEOs, with a 98 percent employee approval rating.




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Boeing working on software update to boost safety, says CEO




Boeing’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dennis Muilenburg said  the aircraft manufacturer is taking actions to ensure the safety of its 737 Max jets in the wake of two crashes that killed 346 people.

In an open letter addressed to airlines, passengers and the aviation community, Muilenburg said Boeing will soon release a software update and offer related pilot training for the 737 Max to “address concerns” that arose in the aftermath of October’s Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189.The planes’ new flight-control software is suspected of playing a role in the crashes.

Muilenburg said Boeing representatives are supporting investigation into the cause of last week’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 that killed 157.The United States and many other countries have grounded the Max 8s and larger Max 9s as Boeing faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software contributed to the two crashes in less than five months.

The letter reads: “We know lives depend on the work we do, and our teams embrace that responsibility with a deep sense of commitment every day.

“Our purpose at Boeing is to bring family, friends and loved ones together with our commercial airplanes—safely.

“The tragic losses of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 affect us all, uniting people and nations in shared grief for all those in mourning.

“Our hearts are heavy, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board.

“On safety measures, he said: “Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone.

“This overarching focus on safety spans and binds together our entire global aerospace industry and communities.

“We’re united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies.

“Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.

“Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

“Our team is on-site with investigators to support the investigation and provide technical expertise. The Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau will determine when and how it’s appropriate to release additional details.

“Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years and we’ll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots.

“This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer. Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident.

“We’ve been working in full cooperation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board on all issues relating to both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines accidents since the Lion Air accident occurred in October last year.

“Our entire team is devoted to the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support. I’ve dedicated my entire career to Boeing, working shoulder to shoulder with our amazing people and customers for more than three decades, and I personally share their deep sense of commitment.

“Recently, I spent time with our team members at our 737 production facility in Renton, Wash., and once again saw first-hand the pride our people feel in their work and the pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies.

“The importance of our work demands the utmost integrity and excellence—that’s what I see in our team, and we’ll never rest in pursuit of it.

“Our mission is to connect people and nations, protect freedom, explore our world and the vastness of space, and inspire the next generation of aerospace dreamers and doers—and we’ll fulfill that mission only by upholding and living our values. That’s what safety means to us.

“Together, we’ll keep working to earn and keep the trust people have placed in Boeing.”

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Google Moves To Disrupt Video Games With Streaming, Studio




Google set out to disrupt the video game world on Tuesday with a Stadia platform that will let players stream blockbuster titles to any device they wish, as the online giant also unveiled a new controller and its very own studio.

The California-based technology giant said its Stadia platform will open to gamers later this year in the United States, Canada, Britain and other parts of Europe.

For now, Google is focused on working with game makers to tailor titles for play on Stadia, saying it has already provided the technology to more than 100 game developers.

“We are on the brink of a huge revolution in gaming,” said Jade Raymond, the former Ubisoft and Electronic Arts executive tapped to head Google’s new studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment.

“We are committed to going down a bold path,” she told a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The Stadia tech platform aims to connect people for interactive play on PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

Google also unveiled a new controller that can be used to play cloud-based individual or multiplayer games.

Stadia controllers mirrored those designed for Xbox or PlayStation consoles, with the addition of dedicated buttons for streaming live play via YouTube or asking Google Assistant virtual aide for help beating a daunting puzzle or challenge.

Chief executive Sundar Pichai said the initiative is “to build a game platform for everyone.”

“I think we can change the game by bringing together the entirety of the ecosystem,” Pichai told a keynote audience.

‘Netflix of gaming’

Google’s hope is that Stadia could become for games what Netflix or Spotify are to television or music, by making console-quality play widely available.

Yet it remains unclear how much Google can grab of the nascent, but potentially massive industry.

As it produces its own games, Google will also be courting other studios to move to its cloud-based model.

Google collaborated with French video game titan Ubisoft last year in a limited public test of the technology powering Stadia, and its chief executive was in the front row at the platform’s unveiling.

A coming new version of blockbuster action game “Doom” tailored to play on Stadia was teased at the event by iD studio executive producer Marty Stratton.

“If you are going to prove to the world you can stream games from the cloud, what better game than ‘Doom’,” Stratton said.

Streaming games from the cloud brings the potential to tap into massive amounts of computing power in data centers.

For gamers, that could translate into richer game environments, more creative play options or battle royale matches involving thousands of players.

At the developers conference, Google demonstrated fast, cloud-based play on a variety of devices. But it offered no specific details on how it would monetize the new service or compensate developers.

Money-making options could include selling game subscriptions the way Netflix charges for access to streaming television.

“I think it’s a huge potential transition in the video game industry, not only for the instant access to games but for exploring different business models to games,” Jon Peddie Research analyst Ted Pollak said of Stadia.

“They say it’s the Netflix of gaming; that is actually pretty accurate.”

Ubisoft on board

Ubisoft, known for “Assassin’s Creed” and other titles, said it would be working with Google.

Its co-founder and chief Yves Guillemot predicted streaming would “give billions unprecedented opportunities to play video games in the future.”

An “Assassin’s Creed” title franchise was used to test Google’s “Project Stream” technology for hosting the kind of quick, seamless play powered by in-home consoles as an online service.

The reliability and speed of internet connections is seen as a challenge to cloud gaming, with action play potentially marred by streaming lags or disruptions.

Google said its investments in networks and data centers should help prevent latency in data transmissions.

In places with fast and reliable wireless, internet players will likely access games on the wide variety of devices envisioned by Google, while hard-core players in places where wireless connections aren’t up to the task could opt for consoles, according to Pollak.

“I think it is good news for everyone,” Pollak said when asked what Stadia meant to major console makers Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

The US video game industry generated a record $43.4 billion in revenue in 2018, up 18 percent from the prior year, according to data released by the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group.


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Bezos Selfie Controversy Triggers Alarm For Billionaires Worldwide




Even the world’s richest person couldn’t stop a nude selfie leak.

When Jeff Bezos alleged in a blog post Thursday that he was the victim of blackmail attempts by the publisher of the National Enquirer, he underscored risks particular to billionaires in the digital age.

“The perception among very affluent people is often ‘I have this level of wealth, I’m untouchable,’” said Mark Johnson, chief executive officer of Sovereign Intelligence, a McLean, Virgina-based risk analytics firm. “But the systems they have in place for protecting their personal identifiable information are very weak.”

Ask any family office about its biggest fears and cybersecurity is near the top. Personal protection no longer involves just bodyguards and a top-notch alarm system. The internet age has seen a massive shift in people storing their most sensitive and personal data online, where it’s vulnerable to hacking and intrusion.

‘Absolute Disconnect’

Ultra-wealthy individuals are particularly susceptible because so much of their data are often centralized through family offices, which typically lack the robust firewalls and encryption capabilities of banks and large corporations.

Johnson, a former case officer with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said he’s worked with clients with more than $40 billion in assets who had a “Secret Service-type physical security — probably even better — and yet there was an absolute disconnect between that physical security and the digital protection.”

It’s unclear how the tabloid obtained Bezos’s texts. The Inc. founder, who has a net worth of $133.9 billion, said in his blog post that he’d authorized security chief Gavin de Becker “to proceed with whatever budget he needed” to get to the bottom of the leak.

Security experts say potential entry points for a digital invasion are numerous.

‘Legacy Risks’

“We all have devices we carry and they each have their own point of vulnerability,” said Kris Coleman, founder of intelligence-services firm Red Five Security.

Banking information, identity data, even health information and travel schedules can expose someone to a breach. Those in billionaires’ inner circles are a particular risk for the information they have access to and could share, either maliciously or inadvertently.

“Private, affluent families need to consider themselves targets that are on par with nation states,” Coleman said.

Coleman and Johnson are both members of RANE, a network of risk-management professionals from banks, law firms, family offices and corporation.

The wealthy aren’t just at risk of losing money through hacks. Their brands, reputations — or, in family office parlance, “legacy” — also can be damaged. On Tuesday, news website Splinter published a trove of racist emails sent and received by TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. founder Joe Ricketts that included anti-Muslim slurs and conspiracy theories. Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, issued a statement on his personal website, apologizing for remarks “that don’t reflect my value system.”

Protecting Zuckerberg

Providing security services to the growing ranks of the super-rich is an expanding field. Federal agents and military personnel, including former Navy Seals, Secret Service and Mossad agents, SWAT team operators and Scotland Yard detectives, have found second careers protecting billionaires, where they can earn double what they did working for the government.

Facebook Inc. spent $7.3 million in 2017 on personal security for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, an expense the company defended as necessary considering his “position and importance.” Last year, the firm said it would give him an additional $10 million annually to beef up his security. Its executive protection program is run by an ex-Secret Service agent, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Amazon spent $1.6 million last year on security for Bezos, according to regulatory filings. His Bezos Family Foundation also has taken physical precautions. For example, the foundation’s mailing address is a post office box in a nondescript strip mall in the Seattle area.

De Becker, a best-selling author, made his name as a security consultant to Hollywood celebrities and co-created MOSAIC, an assessment tool that was originally used to analyze threats against Supreme Court justices and members of Congress. He describes himself on the firm’s website as “the nation’s leading expert on the protection of public figures.”

Red Five’s Coleman didn’t express shock that Bezos’s racy text messages were vulnerable.

“My message to affluent families: don’t assume you’re OK,” Coleman said. “Because most of them aren’t.”

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