Posts by: Denis McLaughlin

Denis McLaughlin is the author of the best-selling book The Leadership GPS, which reached Number 1 in Amazon’s Job Markets and Advice, and Top 25 in Team Management and Leadership. Featured in John Maxwell’s “What I am reading, Spring 2013 edition,” The Leadership GPS was highlighted by Kirkus Reviews as “An engaging, unusual business book full of practical advice,” and “Its leadership lessons are on point and lavishly illustrated with stories of great leaders past and present, from Michelangelo to Steve Jobs.” Of the author, Kirkus Reviews says that “McLaughlin’s storytelling format brings each stage of leadership to life.” Denis has held executive leadership positions at several leading banks over the last twenty-five years. Along with his executive responsibilities, he also speaks, teaches, and mentors on leadership both in the workplace and externally. Denis was trained and mentored by some of the most well-known leadership experts today including John Maxwell – International leadership authority, Paul Martinelli – President of The John Maxwell Team, and Bob Burg – Best-selling author and expert on influence and success.

Why comes before How

Understanding how to accomplish something is an important part of being successful. You won’t go far if you don’t know what you are doing. So first we learn how, then we can succeed, right? Wrong. If you really want to win, you first understand why – the purpose of the something you are doing or learning how to do. Because very little that we do is always easy and you will need to hold on to your why when the how is hard.

“Winners are people with definite purpose in life.”– Denis Waitley

Clarity of purpose is especially important when it’s not just you alone working for success, and this is almost always. For some the identification of the team you are on is obvious, for others it is more nuanced. But for almost everyone, you are relying on others to accomplish their individual parts in order to win. The only way this works if there is alignment on purpose.

When you’re surrounded be people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”– Howard Schultz

A few examples of Why

Music – “Bob Marley is a huge influence…I love the purpose of the songs he writes…It takes your worries away and makes you feel good.” – Cobbie Caillat

Research – “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”– Zora Neale Hurston

Political Leadership – “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”– John F. Kennedy

Art – “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”– Pablo Picasso

We are more likely to win when we keep our focus on why – the purpose – of what we are doing.

Do you know your facts?

Whether in discussion, debate, or decision, you have to know your facts. In order to formulate a well thought out opinion that you can support, you need to do your research, ask questions, and gain a mastery of the topic at hand. You will never know everything you would like to, but you can enhance your chance at success by knowing more than you do today.

The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said, “I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts.” The next step after obtaining the facts is putting them to use. As former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. opined, “The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts, but learning how to make facts live.”

Discussion. The best way to get your message across is first and foremost to have a great message. With an understanding of the facts – the vision of where you are trying to go, the conditions under which you are operating, and your plan to achieve the vision – you’re sure to have positive discussions.

“A good rule for discussion is to use hard facts and a soft voice.” – Dorothy Sarnoff

Debate. If you want to make real progress you sometimes have to be willing and able to debate and stand up for your positions when you don’t yet have support. The best debater knows the facts and how to use them to support the position.

“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.”– Margaret Heffernan

Decision. In the end, the true measure of how well you know your facts is the decision. If you know your facts, then a decision will be made. If you don’t know your facts well enough, then discussion and debate may continue beyond their productive use. It is not that the decision has to be the one you first proposed, but it must be the one that the facts support.

“A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.”– Tony Robbins

Are You Prepared to Succeed?

A guest post by Mark Miller on the launch of his new book Leaders Made Here Originally published on GreatLeadersServe.com

I’ve been thinking more seriously about the issue of being prepared. I have several observations and ideas to share.

Here’s my first observation:

The best leaders seem to consistently show up better prepared than others.

That idea alone makes me want to be better prepared. However, there are other reasons preparation matters…

When you are prepared, you get better outcomes. I don’t know about your organization, but in mine, I’ve watched this play out for decades. Those who are better prepared are allocated more resources – both people and dollars. For me, that’s enough incentive to get my act together the best I can. There are no guarantees, but I’ve observed a striking correlation between preparedness and positive outcomes.

When you are prepared, people take you and the work more seriously. This may be obvious, but I still see leaders miss this one. If you don’t care enough about your work to prepare, whether a budget presentation or a keynote, why should others care? I want my level of preparedness to speak volumes about the importance of whatever it is I’m presenting.

When you are prepared, you set a good example for your team members. I’ve said this for years: People (your people) always watch the leader (you.) One of the things they are looking for are clues regarding what’s important. They’re also looking to see if you are trustworthy. If you talk about preparedness and don’t model it, you’re done. Your people won’t trust you nor will they do what you ask them to do – at least in this arena. You’ll have no moral authority.

When you are prepared, you strengthen your personal brand. If I asked those who work with you to describe your brand, what would they say? Would their description be what you want it to be? Would preparedness be part of their commentary?

What are you doing to show up prepared?

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

 

Paving the way for success, one step at a time.

Your best is always in front of you. You should look to succeed more today than yesterday, and more tomorrow than today. Everything you do in the moment should be paving the way for your next step.

Adopt a paving the way mentality. Paving the way for success is a long-term job, you are not paving a dead-end road. Recognize that you may stop and rest, but you cannot just stop. Comedian and actress Lilly Tomlin observed that, “The road to success is always under construction.”

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth…To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.”– Henry David Thoreau

Access the paths you can. It’s ok to walk on paved roads if they exist. Use past victories to pave the way for future success. These past victories may be yours or those of others. But sometimes you may find there is no path. In the case that you can’t find a way, create one – use your imagination, your dreams, your goals and reach success.

“The imagination is the golden pathway to everywhere.”– Terence McLenna

Adjust your plans – often. Never lose sight of your success, but expect that your path will not be clear and straight. After all, if a goal was that easy than many others would already be there.

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”– Frank A. Clark

Time to Think

I have a method for learning I call the think principle: think about what you are being taught and understand how to do it right, think and then do it right, do it right without thinking. I use these three steps as a guide for my learning process.

There are a variety of learning styles – visual (images), auditory (listening and speaking), read & write (reading and note taking), and kinesthetic (hands on) but they all follow this simple pattern of thinking. The difference is in how any one person receives the information they are learning and makes it part of their thinking pattern. I myself am a reading and note taking learner.

Ancient Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius placed great importance on thinking and said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

 

Here are the three steps to learning unpacked and explained:

You start out not knowing. If you aren’t confused at first, then you don’t understand how complex learning is. You must remain open to the fact that every time you learn something new, you will need to take time to think about what you are learning. If you aren’t willing to have this level of discomfort than you won’t learn new things.

In 1913 Niels Bohr built the first model of electron orbitals on the hydrogen atom based on quantum theory. Bohr is quoted saying, If you aren’t confused by quantum mechanics, you haven’t really understood it.”

Then you start to know. Think about how you are going to accomplish the challenge, not why you can’t. Once you understand how something should be done, you must think through the process while you repeat what you learned again and again until it becomes second nature. Failing at this point is just one step away from success.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”– Zig Ziglar

Now that you know, you should go. Don’t overthink that which is simple, and don’t underthink that which is complex. The level of thinking involved in learning anything new is dependent upon the complexity of the task. At some point you have to trust that you can do it, and then just do it.

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee

 

 

 

What’s your message?

So many choices for communicating your message today: in-person presentation, email, text, tweet, blog, Instagram, snapchat and others. It doesn’t matter what the medium is; the message is what matters.

“Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience.”Steve Burnett, The Burnett Group

Depending on the medium you will structure your message differently; It could be 125 characters or less, or a picture with a quote, or a 300-word article, or even a 30 minute story with audience participation. The forum doesn’t matter, what matters is the message you want to deliver.

Here’s three key points you need to cover in every successful message:

What do you want them to receive? Focus. What are the key points? How does it all fit together? Every message should be a well crafted story that has a beginning, middle and end.

“The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others.” – Gilbert Amelio

What do you want them to give back? Questions, ideas, even challenges. How do you get the audience engaged in discovering the solution? This is a mix of visualization – word pictures, anticipation – looking for the punchline, and competition – positive reinforcement of participation.

“Leaders who make it a practice to draw out the thoughts and ideas of others and who are receptive to even bad news will be properly informed.” – L.B. Belker

What do you want them to take away? Excitement, direction, action. Every message must include a call to action – the next step the audience should take based on what they just received.

“Good communication is just as stimulating as coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

 

You do make a difference.

To make a difference to someone, you don’t have to change the world, you simply have to change their world. That which seems like a small thing for you to do, can have a big impact on another. As Winnie the Pooh said, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.”

You can make a difference. Do you think you don’t have anything to offer? If you do, you would be wrong. Here are some things that everyone can offer: encouraging words, a listening ear, ideas from your own experience, a smile and a hello, a thank you.

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room.”– Anita Roddick

Do it, don’t just think of it. We are not measured by our intentions, but by our actions. You may want to make a real difference, a big gesture, something that will be remembered. Well, the smallest action is better than the biggest intention. What can you do today that will benefit someone? That is the question to be asked and the surest and fastest way to make a difference.

“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”– Peter Marshall

What about those big things? Good news. We have discussed the little things that you can do every day that make a difference in someone’s life. As it turns out, the big things are made up of the little things that you do.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

 

 

 

 

Take action now to get a chance to succeed big later.

Don’t wait for the big opportunity before you give it your all. Instead grow where you’re planted; when you outgrow that you can be replanted somewhere else. Every professional was once an amateur who took action where they were to get where they got. Bob Proctor once said, “One difference between successful people and all the rest is that successful people take action.”

The action that successful people take isn’t just any action. For it to be impactful that action must be taken timely, early, and fully. Timely – do it now. Early – do it first. Fully – do it best.

Timely. What are you waiting for? You don’t know every answer and every turn you should take, but you do know where you want to go. Start from where you are, doing what you can do, and start today. I’ve heard it said that there are seven days in the week, and someday is not one of them.

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”– Napoleon Hill

Early. Starting today happens every day. You have a choice when you start your action on each day. Start early and do what’s important first. Read, reflect, and rejuvenate through daily exercise to fill yourself up before you give of yourself.

“Get up early. Show up fully. Serve massively. Make history.”– Robin Sharma

Fully. Go big or go home. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing great. Your daily actions, no matter how small the task, should be your best. Make a difference with what you do.

“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.”– Og Mandino

 

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If you want to be the best – invest.

We often use the words spend and invest interchangeably. But the action created by these two words leads to very different outcomes.

According to Dictionary.com the difference between spending and investing is this: When you spend you “Use up, consume, or exhaust,” but when you invest you, “Put to use in something offering potential profitable returns.”

There three areas where leaders need to invest to be the best: Time, Talent, and Treasures.

Time – don’t spend your time, invest it. Warren Buffet has a great quote on financial investing that I think applies to how we should view our time as well, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” If you want to be the best, you should only spend your time after you have invested your time in generating a return.

Every activity has the potential to generate a return. Investing your time means setting a goal for the outcome. Some of this can be subtle as you may well say you’re spending time reading. I prefer to think of my reading time as an investment in my education. With that thought in mind I am particular in what I read and I take notes so that I have something more to take with me then when I started. We may also say we spend time exercising. Again, I invest my time in exercise with a certain goal of improvement expected and being measured. Once those investments are taken are of I may indeed spend time reading a book only for pleasure, or take a bike ride only for the sights.

Talents – don’t use your talents, invest in them. We all have innate talents that if developed and applied properly could place us ahead of many in that specific area. Without the proper work investing in their development, many talents are just being used as opposed to making a difference.

Author of the Harry Potter series of books, J.K. Rowling said she “Would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.” Note the focus on being the best she could. J.K. Rowling invested her time from a young age writing fantasy stories and reading them to her sister. As an adult, the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a delayed train ride. She immediately began writing and continued through her mother’s death, the end of her first marriage, and being on welfare to support her and her daughter. After twelve rejections from publishers, the book was picked up and the rest is history.   Rowling never wavered in her work on developing her talent and most would agree did her best in this area.

Treasure – don’t hoard your treasures, invest in them. When we hear the word treasure we usually think of money, jewels, gold or other valuable possessions. While those are indeed treasured for many, I like the other ideas of treasures listed below that should be invested in if we want to be the best.

“Treasure your relationships.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

“Knowledge is the treasure of a wise man.” – William Penn

“Treasure the love you receive above all.” – Og Mandino

“Contentment is the greatest treasure.”– Lao Tzu

“There is more treasure in books than all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”– Walt Disney

 

 

Don’t have a mind full of things. Instead, be mindful of the important things.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the AutoSyringe and Segway and a member of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame discussed focusing on important things when he said, I do not want to waste any time. And if you are not working on important things, you are wasting time.” And if you want to know what things are important, Kamen goes on to say, “I don’t work on a project unless I believe that it will dramatically improve life for a bunch of people.”

Focusing on what’s important is a full-time job. For this to work you don’t get to do this once and expect everything to work out. Success will come from the many choices you make each day that lead to accomplishing the important things.

Listed below are the three important choices you’ll face each day:

Eliminate what’s not important. You can’t do everything in one day. Be realistic and make your to do list only that which is a must do – then stop thinking about the rest for the day. Keeping things that you hope to get to on your list will only lead to frustration. You’ll have another chance tomorrow to consider what didn’t make today’s list, but that’s tomorrow. Author Seth Godin correctly points out that, “Until you remove the noise, you’re going to miss a lot of signals.” When you have too many things on your mind you can’t pay attention to all that is important.

Elevate what’s important. Now that you have only important things on your to do list, you should prioritize that which is most important. The first things on your priority list must be those items that support and strengthen your ability to accomplish the rest. By that I mean Exercise: walking, jogging, yoga…the format that gets you going. Education: reading, listening, experiencing new information…the format that keeps you growing. Evaluation: thinking, writing, recording your thoughts…the format that keeps you knowing. Jim Rohn summarized it in this way, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Make sure you’re ready to take care of the important things.

Celebrate achieving what’s important. With your to do list focused and prioritized to the most important things, you are bound to succeed – in the end. Recognize that everything we do, even if it is important things, won’t always work the first time, or second time for that matter. With diligent effort, you will succeed if you keep focusing on the important things. It’s not a matter of what you are trying to accomplish, it’s only how, and you’re always one decision away from a totally different life. Successful inventor Dean Kamen says, “Most of the time you will fail, but you will also occasionally succeed. Those occasional successes make all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.”

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