Dig deep enough before making decisions

decisionsDon’t make decisions based only on where you are; make decisions based on where you want to be. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is quoted as saying, “We are not a product of our circumstances, we are a product of our decisions.”

Your circumstances do play a part in your future, but only to ground you as you decide what to do next.

Jonathan Schaeffer, the creator of computer chess programs, calculated that there are 197,742 different ways that the players in a chess match could play their first two moves. When you expand that to the first three moves the possible outcomes becomes 121 million. In chess, as in life, your decisions don’t end when you first decide, but continue through each step as you evaluate what’s next.

When faced with choices, before you decide, commit to settle for nothing less than knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Today we have the ability to receive more information than at any time in history. Take care to evaluate what you know before deciding where to go.

“It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within – not without.” – Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot

Invest the time it takes to be the best. How long should you think and evaluate options before you decide? It depends on the potential impact of the decision and the level of experience you have in the area. A greater chance of impact and a lesser degree of experience require more time. Stay with it until you feel that you have the ability to make the best decision possible.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”– Albert Einstein

Pay attention to how the facts fit together. The first step in decision making is a knowledge of the facts. Next comes an understanding of why the facts are what they are. Most important is to obtain the wisdom to apply what you now know and understand to make the best decision possible. This comes from broadening your view through other people and other similar decisions that have been made.

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” Marilyn vos Savant

Profit from your analysis. You will never have all the answers needed to make a perfect decision. Don’t let that stop you from asking as many questions as reasonable to make the best decision possible.

“I don’t pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about.” – Arthur C. Clarke

How are you doing? Read the signs.

read the signsDo you have to wait for someone to tell you how you’re doing to know how you are doing? Not if you read the signs along the way.

“Elaine, kudos for a job…done.” Seinfeld television show fans know that this is what the character Elaine heard from her boss when he returned from sabbatical to find his company in disarray after leaving her in charge. He said this right before he demoted her. Should she have seen the signs? Of course, this was a sitcom where the setup to this punchline was obvious – and funny.

Are the signs in real life as obvious as the signs in a sitcom? They are if you know how to read them. Here are three areas where leaders need to be successful and the signs that you should look for along the way.

Is your growth working? The world is constantly changing. Customer needs and methods to deliver these needs evolve at a rapid pace. How can you and your team be part of a changing organization in a changing world if you are not changing with it? If the only activities you participate in are those that you already know how to do well, then you are not growing.

The signs that you should look for to know if your growth is working are 1) The openness to consider new ideas before the final idea is settled on 2) The opportunity to pilot new processes before the final process is put into place and 3) The willingness to claim success when you learn what not to do because you tried something new.

“If you aren’t making any mistakes, it’s a sure sign you are playing it too safe.” – John Maxwell

Is your leadership working? We know that leaders deliver results through the people they lead. The success of the team depends on the success of everyone you lead. Personal and business success are both important and must be achieved together.

The signs that you should look for to know if your leadership is working are 1) The results that your team delivers on a consistent basis 2) The ability of each member of your team to do their best and 3) The desire for people to want to be on your team.

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily even if you had no title or position.” – Brian Tracy

Is your teaching working? The best leaders have teams that can execute on the vision without anyone telling them how to do it. The most important measure of success of leadership is the success of your team when you are not involved.

The signs that you should look for to know if your teaching is working are 1) The plans that are designed that are not just a repeat of your ideas 2) How often you are genuinely impressed by the ability of your team to accomplish things you couldn’t do 3) The pride you feel when your team goes further than you have

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, the children are now working as if I did not exist.” – Maria Montessori



Never underestimate the power of persistence

persistencePersistence requires that you constantly sell yourself on the idea that you will accomplish what you set out to do. You may not always know how, but you will succeed.

Cavett Robert, founder of the National Speaker Association talked about persistence when he said, “You don’t drown by falling into water, you only drown if you stay there.” You fell, so what, get up and get going. You only have to get up one more time than you fall.

Persistence is what makes people successful. President Calvin Coolidge wrote, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence… Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.”

There are three steps that you must take to tap into the power of persistence. Og Mandino authored a tremendous book titled The Greatest Salesman in the World. I have referenced some of his wisdom in each of the three steps listed below:

Take the first step – Determine to not stop until you succeed. Don’t start your journey until you are convinced you will reach the end.   Before you take a single action know that not every one will work out as planned, but that through all of your actions you will be successful,

“If I persist, if I continue to try, if I continue to charge forward, I will succeed.” – Og Mandino

Take one step at a time – Determine to enjoy the journey. The path to success is filled with wonders and opportunities to learn and grow. Be all in to every step, you never know what nugget of wisdom you will find.

“Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult.” – Og Mandino

Take the next step – Determine to always look forward. Your full reward for persistence is at the end of the journey. Never stop and never settle for anything less than completion.

“The prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginning…Failure I may still encounter at the thousandth step, yet success hides behind the next bend in the road.” – Og Mandino



Stop chasing what doesn’t bring success

chasing successWhat you do should align with your goals for success or you shouldn’t be doing it.

Eddie Rickenbacker had an interesting career. Throughout his life he was a World War I flying ace, a comic strip and book writer, the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the President of Eastern Airlines. When asked about the secret for his success he said, “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through – then follow through.”

Rickenbacker had hit upon the simple truth of success that many have found, “Decide what you want to accomplish, then go do it.”

If you know what you want, but don’t do anything to get it, there can be no success. If you don’t know what you want, and do anything without regards to where it will lead, there can be no success.

Here is how you stop chasing what doesn’t bring success:

First define success (what do you want to accomplish).

Earl Nightingale was one of fifteen marines who survived the 1942 attack on Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Arizona. In 1949 he was inspired when he read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and decided that the six words, “We become what we think about,” were the answer to his questions. Nightingale became a motivational speaker and produced The Strangest Secret, the first spoken-word recording to achieve Gold Record status and went on to write and record over 7,000 radio programs.

When you define success by establishing goals, you will focus on those goals and become what you think about. Nightingale was so sure of this that he said, “To achieve happiness, we should make sure that we are never without an important goal.”

Second design success (a plan to reach your goals).

Tony Hsieh started an online advertising network called LinkExchange which he later sold to Microsoft for $250 million. He joined Zappos as the CEO and later sold Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion and remains as CEO. Even though Hsieh has achieved professional and financial success, he has said the secret is to, “Chase the vision, not the money.” Hsieh had a vision, and demonstrated as CEO of Zappos, that happiness can drive success, “Whether it’s the happiness our customers receive when they get a new pair of shoes…or the happiness our employees feel being part of a culture that celebrates their individuality.”

When you have a clear vision for success you need an equally clear plan to achieve it.   Here are the core values of Zappos, the plan, they use to achieve success through happiness:

1) Deliver Wow Through Service 2) Embrace and Drive Change 3) Create Fun and a Little Weirdness 4) Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded 5) Pursue Growth and Learning 6) Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication 7) Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 8) Do More with Less 9) Be Passionate and Determined 10) Be Humble

Third align with success (adjust your plan and keep it focused on your goals).

Zig Ziglar was one of twelve children raised by a single mother, who he said thrived on adversity, after his father died when Ziglar was five years old. At the age of twenty-one he became a cookware salesman and manager where he learned and practiced techniques for success over the next twenty years. He published his first book, See You at the Top, when he was Forty-Nine, after it was rejected by thirty publishers. Ziglar went on to publish over twenty books with millions in print, as he traveled the world speaking and motivating audiences for nearly forty years.

If you want long term success you have to be able to adjust your plan without ever adjusting your goal. Zig Ziglar stayed focused on his goal of spreading the importance of a positive self-image even though his plan may have changed. He is quoted as saying, “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.”

How to help your team believe in themselves

i-believe-in-youYou are a leader with experience. You’ve accomplished a lot in your career and want to give back and help encourage your team to achieve the success that you have. You can see their potential and believe in them – you know they can do it.

Just because you can do it, and believe they can do it, that doesn’t lead to your team’s belief in themselves. For your team to believe in themselves, your belief needs to lead to their belief. They won’t believe until they learn it, know it and experience it. Your part is to teach them, develop them, then let them.

In The Last Lecture, Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch talked about believing in yourself (he called it self-esteem). He said you can’t give it to someone; it has to be developed. His process for developing belief is this, “You give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it.”

Here is that process laid out in three steps. Follow these and your team will believe in themselves.

Individuals learn when leaders teach them.

What am I supposed to do to be successful? In order to believe in yourself you have to know what is expected so you understand the definition of success. The only way that this happens is when the individual listens to what is being taught by the leader.

“I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.” – Ernest Hemingway

Individuals know when leaders develop them.

How do I do what I am supposed to do to be successful? Knowing what is expected doesn’t mean you know how to achieve it. This is where leaders show the individuals through side-by-side coaching and mentoring.

“A man only learns in two ways, one is by reading, and the other by associating with smarter people.” – Will Rogers

Individuals experience, when leaders let them.

What does it feel like when I do what I am supposed to do to be successful? Knowing what to do and how to do it is cemented in when you actually do it. Leaders let their team do it on their own so they work through their mistakes and get it right.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Leadership – Back to Basics

back to basicsEveryone wants to work on the next innovation, the next cool project, and the next big challenge – it’s easy to see why: it’s fun, exciting, and invigorating. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves – it’s easy to see why:   the impact is greater, the recognition is greater, and the reward is greater.

If you want to achieve the next fun, exciting, and invigorating goals – get back to basics.

If you want to have a greater impact, greater recognition, and a greater reward – get back to basics.

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequences of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” – Jim Rohn

Leadership: Back to Basics

The basics are the same but every project is different

Success comes from doing the basics right – one step at a time: How will you do it, who will do it, and when will you do it? Some may say those things are best left for others to think about – let’s focus on the big ideas. While big ideas are essential, executing the big ideas makes them real and not just ideas. Big ideas will remain just big ideas unless you get back to basics and implement them.

The key to making even the basics exciting is to be aware that even though the basic steps are the same, the project is different. Like a bike ride, or hiking, the actions are the same each time but the scenery is different at each location. Leaders need to celebrate the new success through the same steps.

Remember the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who said, “You could never step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.”

The basics get you started on the path to success

You have great ideas, you are going to change the world – ok, now what? You have to do something to start to change the world. Getting back to basics will get you started. How will you do it, who will do it, and when will you do it?

Doing something big requires you to start with something small. Vaclav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic said it like this, “The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.”

The basics are best done first so you can savor victory last

When you start something new it is hard to know exactly how it will turn out. You don’t know all the steps you must take to succeed. That’s why getting back to the basics is so important. It takes time and energy to think it through. How will you do it, who will do it, and when will you do it?

The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu is quoted often in saying, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with single step.” Wise advice for sure. But lesser known is the first sentence in his guidance, “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.”

Taking care of the basics first, will allow you to savor the victory last.


Growth: be who we’ve become.

growth - goldfishIt’s said that a goldfish will only grow to the size of the tank it is in. It would actually be more accurate to say that the environment that exist inside of a small tank can limit the growth of a goldfish. A high concentration of naturally occurring items such as nitrates in water and certain pheromones in the fish itself are what can limit growth. Moving to a larger tank where these items are diluted removes their negative effects and allows the fish to grow to its full potential.

Growth in individuals and companies is the same. We will not grow to our full potential if our environment is growth inhibiting. Do we have challenging goals that stretch our abilities? Are we surrounded by others who encourage our growth? If we are, then we are on our way to being all we can become. If we are not, maybe it is time to change the environment or change to a different environment.

 “Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not.  When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.” – John Maxwell

 Growth is not a destination; it is a direction. Growth is moving forward not backward. Growth is meant to be continuous.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have not meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

In fact, according to Henry Ford, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

When we grow we are like the fish who no longer fits into the small tank – we leave behind what we were so we can be who we’ve become.

Lead Through Stories

Story tellingThere are two ways to share knowledge; you can push information out to people, or you can pull people in with stories. Whether you are speaking to hundreds or coaching one person, if you want your message to resonate, if you want the listeners to take action, tell it with stories.

In his book, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall takes a scientific look at storytelling and says, “Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” This is how we learn.

Why are stories so important in leadership? Stories paint pictures. Stories connect facts. Stories bring success.

Stories paint pictures

The beginning of every successful project, team, or company is a picture of what it looks like when it is done, built, or running. Leaders paint the picture of success so their team has hope for the future. The best way to do this is through stories that describe what the future will look like when you get there.

Great stories come from great storytellers. One of the best was Walt Disney who said,

“That’s what we storytellers do…We install hope again and again and again.”

Stories connect facts

Some say we are on data overload in business today. We have enough facts to make every decision that is possible – several times over. The challenge is in connecting all those facts in a way that leads to the right answer for the right question. Stories can do that. Leaders need to weave the facts together so their team can see how it all connects.

“Storytelling is about connecting to other people and helping them see what you see.” – Michael Margolis, CEO and founder of Get Storied

Stories bring success

No matter what business you are in, your product has to sell for you to be successful. Sales happen when the customer can see themselves benefiting from what you offer. This only happens when the story you tell helps the customer see the benefit of using your product. In sales it is said that, “You sell the benefit, not the feature.”

“You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” – Beth Comstock, leads GE Business Innovations

Get on with your new job

new jobWhen you transition to a new job you have to leave the old job behind.

This doesn’t only mean if you move to a new company, this is for where you are now. It’s probably easy to think of leaving your old job behind if you change companies, but this is also for those who are promoted, transferred, or take on more responsibility within the same company. You have to leave the old job behind to succeed at the new job.

“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” – Albert Einstein

The key to success in this is not to just think of this when you accept a new job, it’s too late then. Plan for it to happen and it will. Your new job will need your undivided attention. There is work to do now. You have to leave your old responsibilities ready to run without you.

If you want that promotion, transfer, or more responsibility, start taking action right now in the areas of Education, Delegation, and Succession.


Provide the opportunities for your team to learn and apply what they are learning. Encourage them to take classes, and attend seminars. These are important activities for them to know what you know, and more.

There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.” While you will not be able to spend your days teaching your team personally, since you have your own job to do, you can invest your time sharing your knowledge and wisdom as you lead. Recognize that your team is watching what you do and listening to what you say and be purposeful in your actions and words so that they learn from you as well.


When a manager delegates, employees learn how to make appropriate decisions within their level of authority. John Maxwell says, “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”

This is an example of what Stephen Covey said about the importance of delegation, Organizations don’t grow much without delegation…because they are confined to the capacities of the boss.” Leaders have to delegate if they want their team to be able to do what they do so they can move on to their new job.


Succession planning is of equal importance to setting the vision and strategy for the company or team. I fact everything that leaders do should be about succession planning, including setting the vision and strategy. Leaders should use every opportunity to teach and grow leaders in the organization to be able to take on their job.

One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.” – Anne Mulcahy

If you aren’t teaching someone else how you do what you do, you are letting opportunity pass you by. Your main role as the leader is to prepare a successor while you lead the team. It shouldn’t be something that is part of your long term plan to get to when you are near the end of your season – that’s too late.

Wait for it, Work for it, and Win it

patience persistence and perspiration - napoleon hillYou have big dreams. You know what you want to accomplish and it’s impactful, life changing, and rewarding. You want to get there now because when you do it will make such a difference in people’s lives. But wait for it…Success will come, but only if you are willing to be patient and wait for the big payoff, be persistent and never give up, be willing to perspire and work hard.

 “Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill




Get the whole dream right, not just a quick imitation that won’t have lasting success. Daily accomplishments will lead you to your dreams. Don’t settle for anything less.

Arnold H. Glasow started his own business just after the depression marketing a humor magazine to businesses across the country. After sixty-years selling his humor magazine, he published his first book at the age of 92 titled, “Glasow’s Gloombusters,” which contained many of his humorous uplifting sayings. One of Glasow’s sayings stressed the importance of patience,

 “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”


You have admirable goals. You have a great team who supports your goals. But your plan failed. Now what? Create a new plan. If your goals are indeed admirable and you have broad support to achieve these goals, then don’t stop now.

Bjorn Borg was the first male professional to win 11 Grand Slam singles titles: six at the French Open and five consecutive at Wimbledon. Borg credits his success to his persistence,

“My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball…I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.”


Accomplishing things that matter is hard work. If it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it every day. Great ideas require great work to achieve great success.

Bil Keane, the creator of The Family Circus comic strip, worked hard to achieve his dream. He published his first cartoon in 1936 when he was 14 years old, in the amateur page of the Philadelphia Daily News. During his 3 years in the army Keane drew cartoons for the Yank, the WWII Army Weekly, and Stars and Stripes, the Department of Defense newspaper. After the Army, he drew for the Philadelphia Bulletin for 13 years. In 1960, at the age of 38, Kean premiered The Family Circus cartoon and along with the cartoon, published 86 books over 37 years.

Keane talks about his hard work creating the Family Circus when he said,  “In Roslyn, Pennsylvania, we started our real-life family circus. They provided the inspiration for my cartoons, I provided the perspiration.


1 2 3 22  Scroll to top