Monthly Archives: February 2014

Leadership is purpose, plan, people, and priorities

Leadership is purpose, plan, people, and prioritiesWhether you are leading a team of thousands, hundreds, tens, or just yourself:

Purpose, Plan, People and Priorities are essential for success.

Without these four P’s of Leadership you and your team are like a boat without a rudder, drifting on the sea in an unknown direction.

Leadership is about choosing the destination and navigating the ship on the right course.



Before you begin to lead a team you need to clearly understand where you and the team will be when success comes.  Only then can you articulate the greater good to your team members so they understand where they will be when the team is successful.

“There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose” – Napoleon Hill.


Once you are clear on your purpose, you must plan a course to reach that purpose.  Great leadership requires that the leader navigate the team to success.  Sailors understand that the wind and waves can shift in a moment.  Successful sailors know how to adjust their sails and sometimes their direction to make use of any wind conditions to achieve their purpose.

 “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”  – Pablo Picasso


You brought your team where they are today, but you can’t bring them any further on your own.  No matter how clear your purpose is, no matter the strength of your plan, if you want to extend the positive results beyond what you are accomplishing now, you will need to make room for others to share in the success of your leadership journey.  You must surround yourself with the right people.

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers” – Denis G. McLaughlin


I summarize the first three P’s of leadership like this: Achieve your purpose by executing your plan through your people.

In order to get started finding that solution, boil down the activities to the smallest step you can imagine.  What do I know my team and I can do tomorrow? 

How to avoid overload at work: Clarify

lack of clarity signYou are operating on overload. Even if you didn’t add one more thing to your task list, there is no way you can get all of this done.  But how do you tell your boss that you are overloaded on work without seeming like you are trying to pass of work?


Clarify the expectations of the tasks, projects, deliverables…and clarify the expectations of your role in their outcome.

Not all bosses will tell you what to do first, second, third… but if you ask them what they would do if in your place, they know – So ask.  Remember, you are not asking to do less of everything, you are asking to do more of the right things.

Clarify what must be done versus what could be done. Too many people think that they have to accomplish everything – not so. For me the secret is to first eliminate what can wait, then create the list. 

  “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

Clarify when it must be done versus when it could be done. Even after you have your list of what’s called important, the key is to know what’s the most important then do that first.

“If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important then give it all you’ve got.” – Lee Iacocca

Clarify who must do it versus who could do it. Even the narrow list of the most important items can seem overloading, so share the load.  You have to know what your part is and do that well, don’t carry everyone else’s load too.

 “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

Finally, use your feeling of overload to learn and grow.  Take a shot at thinking how you would prioritize if you were the boss.  When you talk to your boss, offer your suggestions and see how you do. 


Your strengths are like diamonds in the rough.

strengths are diamonds in the roughDiamonds are carbon that has fully developed its strength. It is a naturally occurring mineral, the hardest mineral known today. All diamonds start as carbon in its most basic form. Only after mining, cleaning, and cutting are they ready to be used in industrial tools or polished into beautiful jewelry.

Just like the diamond in the rough, everyone is born with strengths inside of them, but that potential needs to be set free. Michaelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Here are the three steps to bringing forth the leader inside of everyone on your team.

Prepare them to recognize and use their potential.

Mining for people’s strengths can be a challenge. In this area I am a big fan of the Strenghfinders books and tools. I have used these for many years with several hundreds of former and current team members. The key concept in the book is that each person is born with certain natural strengths. Some might call these talent. These strengths are in areas such as communication, strategy, learning, maximizing, analytics and others. Your strengths do not define what you can do, but they help you understand how you could best approach what you do.

I start every mentoring relationship, and every leadership assignment with a thorough review of the Strengthfinders results. As the author Tom Rath said, “The key to human development is building on who you already are.”

I have not once had anyone disagree with their Strengthfinder results. But, somehow seeing their strengths in print as strengths, frees people to use them to their maximum potential.

Polish their strength so they can shine

The true beauty of a diamond does not show until it is cleaned and polished. Recognizing the potential of your strengths only offers potential success until your strengths are allowed to shine. Once my team knows their strengths we use every opportunity for them to practice. We work together to bring their full potential to the surface. This brings rewards in two ways: my team develops confidence in their strengths, and other people recognize their success.

Marilyn vos Savant, the columnist Ask Marilyn, is known as the person with the highest recorded IQ at 228. Her take on this area is, “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”

Point them in the right direction

Not all diamonds are destined for the jewelry store. In fact about seventy-five percent of diamonds are used for industrial cutting tools. Of the twenty-five percent that are used for jewelry, each diamond’s use is based on the four C’s: color, clarity, carat, and cut.

Your final job as a leader is to place your team in the roles that will allow them to make the most of their strengths. This gives each member of the team personal success, and it provides the best opportunity for team success. Five time NBA All Star Paul Westphal said, “The key to any game is to use your strengths…”


How to lead a multi-generation workplace

405_GenerationalWorkforceEach generation wants to change the world. The world they live in and the specific issues they are faced with may be different, but in general they revolve around three areas: economic, social, and international. There are three larger generational age groups that are most frequently talked about today. The Great Generation, The Boomer Generation, and The Millennial Generation.

The great generation and the boomers grew up changing the world from the top down – political and civic leaders were the driving force. The Millennials have only known a world with instant communication and movements that can start online. For them change comes from within the individual, and across communities.

The Great Generation was born between 1901 and 1924. Their world saw The Great Depression, the formation of social safety nets, and World War II. For this generation the National Government intervened. The military protected the nation from aggression and government programs like Social Security, The GI Bill, and The Federal Housing Administration were formed.

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Boomer Generation was born between 1946 and 1964. They experienced economic growth, a focus on equal rights, The Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Charismatic leaders of the day encouraged this generation to make their voices heard so that change would come.

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.” – John F. Kennedy

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”­ – Martin Luther King Jr.

The Millennial Generation was born between 1982 and 2003. We live in this world today. The Great Recession, the explosion of Social Media, and The War on Terror are in the forefront of every national discussion. The individual’s voice can be heard around the world in an instant. Not confined to turning the large ship around slowly, the Millennial seeks to be the change themselves.

“A few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinion efficiently to a lot of people. Bu now they do. Right now, with social networks on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voices be heard.” – Mark Zuckerberg

The workplace today is largely made up of Boomers in leadership positions and some nearing retirement age, and Millennials entering the workplace and looking to begin their career.

The key to leading in this multi-generational workplace is to recognize that each generation wants to make a difference in their own way. Don’t sacrifice one method for another, but allow both to thrive together.

If you are a Boomer, talk about the past but listen to the present. You know where the company has been and how it got where it is today. You know the markets, the products, the regulations. Don’t just teach the Millennials what you know, give them the opportunity to learn and ask questions and dig deeper. This knowledge adds great value to the conversation. Equally important is to listen to the Millennial’s view on what is happening today. How to market to the new generation, how to reach a global economy. Invite the Millenials to be part of the solution.

If you are a Millennial, listen to the past, but talk about the present. Invest time learning the history of the company and the industry. Ground yourself in the experiences that brought your coworkers to this place. Equally important is to share your views. Ask to be on projects and teams where you can talk about the needs and desires of your generation.

A final thought to guide these and future generations:

Each generation, like each person, has a unique set of strengths that can be leveraged for success. Seek to understand and develop these strengths.

How to encourage game changing ideas.

everything-begins-with-an-ideaEvery team has different methods to generate ideas. It may be formal and happen in committee meetings or it can be informal and happen in the hallway or over email or phone calls.  Whether your team is formal or informal you’ll have to follow the three steps below – there’s no shortcut to successful innovation, “Everything begins with an idea.” – Earl Nightingale.

To turn really interesting ideas…into a company that can continue to innovate for years…requires a lot of discipline.” – Steve Jobs



Get everyone thinking.  Those closest to the process, product, and people (customers) have the best view to opportunities for game changing ideas.

“At Microsoft there are lots of brilliant ideas but the image is that they all come from the top – I’m afraid that’s not quite right.” – Bill Gates

Get lots of ideas.   Don’t settle for the first new idea.  Keep digging and asking questions.  The most important two words are “What Else?” Trust me, your team members have a lot of new ideas.  

“Ideas can be life-changing.  Sometimes all you need to open the door is just one more good idea.” – Jim Rohn

Get going and do something. Once you settle on which new ideas to pursue, get going. Implement them, monitor them, and adjust them as needed.   

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines…You make progress by implementing ideas.” – Shirley Hufsteddler







How do you lead disagreeable people?

disagagree without being disagreeableThere is a difference between being disagreeable and just disagreeing.

Honestly disagreeing is healthy and adds to the growth of a team. Being disagreeable causes strife and turns the team’s attention away from the issues and opportunities that need to be tackled and instead focuses on the actions of the disagreeable person. A leader must resolve this division before it goes too far. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Being disagreeable can take many forms: A disagreeable person can be critical, negative, and even passive aggressive – undermining the success of the team with their actions or lack of action.

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and …don’t let you know.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

This may seem a bit odd, but The key to leading a disagreeable person, is to help them turn into a disagreeing person.

A disagreeing person is one who openly and professionally shares their opinion. They offer a dissenting view, alternate ways of achieving the goals, or even different goals entirely. They thrive in the challenging atmosphere of brainstorming sessions, continuous improvement, and strategic planning. Not every view of a disagreeing person is adopted, but many are.

Everyone wants to feel that their views are heard and taken into consideration. Everyone wants to be valued. The difference between being disagreeable and disagreeing is open communication.

Leaders therefore, need to offer an environment where the opinions of the disagreeable person are heard and acted upon based on their merit. They are more used to not sharing their views publically and acting upon them privately. You will now have to draw out their ideas into the open during meetings and brainstorming sessions and make a point to give them credit for sharing their disagreement and when their ideas are acted upon.

You will show the disagreeable person what disagreeing people have learned, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Your Experience Is Required

own your own experiencesYou are new to this job of leadership and have much less experience than the people you are supposed to lead.  Maybe you have recently just graduated from college. Or maybe have worked for a while but this is your first role leading others who have been with the company for years.  I am probably not the first one to tell you that experience does matter.

Your experience may be limited, but rest assured, education and experience go hand in hand.

Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.” – Immanual Kent

In coaching new leaders I find a common misperception: experience that isn’t directly related to the type of job you have now isn’t relevant, you can’t rely on what you’ve done before in this leadership role.  Well that is just wrong.  

Every new role you are seeking will have some element of responsibility that you have not done before. Some part of your background may match the requirements of your new role exactly, but even more important is the diverse experiences you do have in adapting to new environments and taking on new challenges, or in organizational design, or social media strategies, or any number of areas. You do bring something to the table that can add value, but there is more for you to learn. 

Here are a couple of ways for you to add to your experience:

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. Fast track to successful experience by having mentors.

Don’t short change yourself or the importance of your personal experience.  But don’t forget to learn from the experiences of others as well.


How do you lead colleagues with more experience?

Listen-to-your-elders-adviceFirst, people with experience don’t always knows what is right. But if they are successful now, they have likely experienced being wrong – and learned from it.

Second, everyone has more experience on their job than you – after all they do it every day. 

Third, your experience in life is different than your colleagues.  Your background and education will be different than others.  Together, you can make your combined experience work to be mutually beneficial.

Finally, as a leader your job is not to do your colleagues job, or tell them how do to their job.  The leader’s job is to set the stage so that people of all experience levels can excel at their job.

Here are four areas for every leader to focus on, regardless of their level of experience:

Engage in relationship building with your colleagues.  All work takes place with people.  Even the most automated business has people running the automated processes.  The foundation of all leadership is the relationship between the leader and the team.

“If you believe business is built on relationships, make building them your business.” – Scott Stratten

Enlighten yourself and your colleagues on the strengths of each individual.  You have strengths and each person on your team has strengths.  It is through the joining of these strengths that success comes.

“The strength of the team is each individual member.  The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

Equip your colleagues with the tools and support they need to perform their role to the fullest.  Invest your time in providing opportunities for them to succeed. Make sure they have the best training, technology, and time management (priorities) you can provide.

“We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

 Empower your colleagues to succeed.  When you have engaged, enlightened and equipped your team, the best thing you can do is get out of the way. 

 Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell


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