Monthly Archives: October 2013

Words from leaders only work when they are connected to actions.


It’s true that great leaders are great communicators. You have to connect with people to share your vision. But words will only take a leader so far until actions that back up the words have to kick in.

Here are three thoughts for leaders on the importance of actions in addition to words:

Should, could, or would don’t equal did.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Talk doesn’t cook rice.” You might be the most talented speaker ever, but unless your words lead to actions in you or in the listener, not much happens.

Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold – but so does a hard-boiled egg.

Inspiration doesn’t always proceed actions, but some action always proceeds more actions.
Most people imagine that history’s greatest composers were overflowing with inspiration and simply wrote music after they were inspired. Musicologist Ernest Newman tells us a different story, “Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.

If you want to be inspired then get to work. The actions you take will inspire more action.

In the choice between say and do – do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Of course people hear your words, but they feel your actions and that drowns out your words, positively or negatively.

So given the chance to influence people through your words or through your actions, focus on your actions.

As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” – Andrew Carnegie

Leaders, you are the heroes of the day.


All throughout our lives we have heroes. These are people we look up to who fill a need that is the driving influence at specific times.

When we are children we need security through food, shelter, clothing, and most importantly, acceptance and love. Our heroes as children are those that provide for these needs and seem to know what we need before we do. For many this was your parents, or for others it might have been grandparents or other relatives. Still for some it could have been foster parents or group homes. Whoever provides for the security of children are heroes.

As adolescents we look for our individuality. We need to grow and learn and start to feel self sufficient in small ways. Our heroes during this time are our teachers. Many a teacher has opened the eyes of a young student to see the world around them. Most of us have a teacher that we remember for their ability to provide this window to knowledge in their classroom.

Young adults are seeking the future ahead of them. They want to know how they can make an impact on the world. Heroes at this time are often larger than life people who are known for their talent and influence – Superstars, might be one way to describe them. These can be famous people in sports or music. It could even be political figures or those that are the face of issues such as world hunger or poverty. They are all people who provide an example of significance.

When you are leading a team, you are much more than a goal and priority setter – You are a hero in the eyes of your team members.

You are the one who provides for their security. Your team members’ job, their livelihood, depends on the decisions you make and the opportunities you pursue.

You are the one who provides the window to knowledge. Your team members learn from your words and actions.

You are the one who provides an example of significance. Your team members will rally behind the vision you champion.

Leaders, you are the heroes of the day. I challenge you to walk worthy of the position you have, and the potential for life changing impact you can make.

Culture eats vision for breakfast. Teams have to work together to succeed.


You have a great vision, a great plan to achieve the vision, and great people to work the plan. But something is holding you back. Your team just can’t seem to achieve the success it should.

I have found that in cases like this you should check the culture.

Louis Gerstner was the CEO of IBM during the 1990’s success at saving IBM from going bankrupt and making it profitable again in the 1990’s when IBM’s culture had become siloed and insular. “The thing I learned at IBM is that culture is everything.”

Here are four steps to reinvigorate culture.

Clear the air
Have an honest conversation – what is going on with your culture? You may need an independent evaluation like Gallup so people will talk. A process that can share the facts in a non-judgmental way.

Tell your team that you are sorry that the culture got this way, and you didn’t see it. You are sorry they had to deal with the culture the way it was. And thank your team for being honest.

Listen to the results and accept responsibility to change the culture one step at a time.

Open up ongoing communication so culture doesn’t get this out of hand again. You don’t have to wait for the independent survey. “How am I doing?” “How is it going?” “How are you?” Are great ways to keep communication open.

It’s not will you need to lead through a crisis, it’s when. Here’s how.


If there is one guarantee in your leadership career it’s that your plans won’t always work. You will face a crisis or two that can derail your dreams if not handled correctly. Here is how other successful leaders have lead through crisis, come out on the other side intact, and gone on to achieve their dreams.

Aptitude. You have to know what to do in a crisis before there is a crisis.

During a crisis there is little time to think through options and there is no time to learn new skills. Experienced successful leaders already know what to do and how to do it when a crisis hits. How did they come upon this ability? They learned from others who were there before them and practiced before their own crisis happened.

Leadership expert John Maxwell tells a story about being on a private jet that hit a wind sheer during its landing. The plane turned sideways and bounced on the runway. As soon as wheels touched the ground, the pilot pulled the plane back up into the air, circled once and landed with no issues. John was impressed with the pilot’s actions and asked him when he decided to pull the plane up and out of the wind sheer? The pilot answered, “Twenty years ago when I learned how to react to any crisis that can happen during a landing.”

Attitude. You have to be willing to change course during a crisis to get back on course.

A crisis doesn’t mean the end to your dream, just a detour. Successful leaders never give in and never give up. They find a way to succeed.

I was in St. Thomas recently with a group of leaders and we had the opportunity to talk with three time Americas Cup winning skipper, Dennis Conner. We asked him what advice he could give us from his sailing experience on leading during a crisis. “It’s simple,” he said, “When winners face a crisis they just switch from being in front to finding a way to get back in front.

Altitude. You have to rise high above a crisis and be a beacon for others to follow.

The two most important words during a crisis are “Follow Me.” Now more than ever its time for the leader to be visible, vocal, and visionary. You own this one. It’s up to you to be right up front leading the charge.

Legendary French general and statesman Charles de Gaulle said, “Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”

Help wanted. Experience required


“So let me get this straight. To get this job, I need to already have successful experience in what the job requires. But if no one will hire me, how will I be able to get the experience I need to be qualified for the job?”

Has someone said this to you in an interview? Have you ever said this during an interview? It certainly is a troublesome, circular problem that is difficult to solve.

Here are some tips for managers and applicants that find themselves in this apparent no win situation:


You are given a set of goals and approval to hire a team of people with which to accomplish those goals. Your first instinct is to fill your team with only proven performers; people who have successful experience in the exact roles you need to fill. I call this method of evaluating applicants, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”

Managers who use this method pass up on new and uniquely talented applicants because they are only looking for people with the exact same experience, in the exact same role, in the exact same industry. This leads to repeating the exact same solutions in an ever changing world – not exactly a formula for long term success.

Managers who want long term success should instead look to hire people with a history of successful experience in diverse areas. These types of employees have demonstrated a history of hard work and adaptability that will allow them, and the team, to remain successful over the long haul.

When talking about computer hardware and software design Steve Jobs said, “The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”


You are new to the job search having just graduated from college. Or maybe you landed your first job and are looking for ways to get that promotion. I am probably not the first one to tell you that experience does matter. Your experience may be limited, but rest assured, you do have experience; and you can get more.

First about your experience. In coaching young job and promotion seekers about their resumes and interviewing I find a common misperception: Experience that isn’t directly related to the type of job being sought should not be included – that is just wrong. Every new role you are seeking will have some element of responsibility that you have not done before. Certainly you should point out where your experience does match the requirements. But even more important is to highlight your diverse experience in adapting to new environments and taking on new challenges. Show that you are someone who can learn and grow beyond your current experience.

So you come to the interview with only the experience you have. How can you get more?

First the obvious, do more yourself. As Harold Geneen said, “In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.” Take the lateral job move, volunteer for new assignments. Do the work now and when the opportunities come you will be ready.

Second, surround yourself with people who have been where you want to go and ask questions. As Voltaire said, “Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?” You don’t have to make all the mistakes yourself on the way to experience. Fast track to successful experience by having mentors.

Remember whether you are the manager interviewing applicants for an open position, or the applicant yourself; while some level of experience is important, diverse experience is essential.

Hope – It’s not what happened, it’s what’s going to happen.


Every day we deal with success and disappointment. We often spend time wringing our hands over what didn’t work instead of investing our time planning to repeat what did work. Hope is not just a wish that things might somehow work out. Hope is something deep inside that points us forward to reach for what we know can be.

How does hope work? Why does hope work? Read on for the three reasons you should hope.

Hope doesn’t leave. Hope isn’t a passing thought, or something you have to earn. We were made to hope for a future, therefore you already have hope and will always have hope – you just need to tap into it.

Hope is not a dream but a way of making dreams become reality.

Hope doesn’t quit. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, hope never throws in the towel. Hope doesn’t guarantee success at each step, but it enables you to take the next step towards success.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope doesn’t look back. Hope only works in one direction – forward. There is no reverse, in fact there isn’t even a rear view mirror, only an enormous front windshield so you can see all of the possibilities.

“A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.” – Charles M. Schulz

Remember, hope isn’t concerned with what happened, only what’s going to happen.

The Three C’s of Leadership Success


How can you achieve leadership success? Bill Walsh, former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers said, “The score will take care of itself.” His teams were known for focusing on the basics and not the score. This advice coming from one of the winningest NFL head coaches in history.

You too can achieve Leadership Success by following these three C’s:

Why are you in that position, at that company, at this time? What is your purpose? What are you going to accomplish? How are you going to get there?

Have it-You have to know what you are supposed to do. Without clarity of purpose you cannot lead.

“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity”- Francois Gautier

Write it-A dream remains a dream until it is written down into a goal. You aren’t really committed until you put pen to paper.

“Your mind, while blessed with permanent memory, is cursed with lousy recall. Written goals provide clarity. By documenting your dreams, you must think about the process of achieving them.” – Gary Ryan Blair

Speak it-A leader has to lead other people to achieve their goals. Unless you can communicate your purpose you will lack followers.

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”- Jim Rohn

We all have fears that can keep us from moving forward. What is your fear? What has been holding you back? Move forward.

Admit it-Fear is a normal emotion. You can’t deal with it unless you admit it’s there.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear” – Mark Twain

Face it-The more you think about fear the stronger it gets. Stop thinking and start doing.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

Conquer it-All your fears won’t disappear, but you can succeed anyway.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Find something that works and do it right – over and over.

Try It-Success comes from consistently trying. Don’t just take my word for it, test it out yourself.

“For the novice runner, I’d say to give yourself at least 2 months of consistently running several times a week at a conversational pace before deciding if you want to stick with it. Consistence is the most important aspect of training…” – Frank Shorter

Do it-Once you see the positive results, keep doing what got you there.

“Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius.“An Wang, the founder of Wang Laboratories

Achieve it-Like Bill Walsh said, “Let the score take care of itself.”

“In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.” – Tom Seaver

Teamwork: Sacrifice is the name of the game

sacrifice-quotes-and-sayings-780Baseball playoff season is here.  I love winter baseball.  Only the best teams remain; the ones that made the sacrifice to earn their place in baseball history by making the playoffs.  Teams that made it this far are already a success in my book.  These players sacrificed their time, energy, focus, knowledge and skill so the team could reach this pinnacle of their sport.  Every player chose to give of themselves to reach this goal.

Sacrifice is such a part of the game of baseball that it is part of the official rules.  Rule 10.08 is titled Sacrifices.  This section details the rules on a sacrifice bunt:

The official scorer shall score a sacrifice bunt when, before two are out, the batter advances one or more runners with a bunt and is put out at first base… sacrificing his own chance of reaching first base for the purpose of advancing a runner or runners.

The sacrifice bunt is the ultimate in teamwork.  A player intentionally sacrifices his chance at adding to his personal record solely to advance another player forward in an effort to help the team win.

Women’s soccer great Mia Hamm defined teamwork like this, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”

All teams, whether in sports or business, rely on teamwork to succeed.  And teamwork only works when the members of the team are willing to sacrifice for each other’s success, and for the success of the team.

“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.”  – Hill, Napoleon

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