Spotting the “Right” Leaders in Your Organization

August 10th, 2018

How do you spot potential leaders in your organization? Is it the person that keeps asking for the promotion, for more responsibility, and has the drive to push their way into a leadership position? Probably not. To paraphrase Oswald Sanders, “The office should seek the leader more than the leader seeks the office.” This is not to say that ambition to grow and to want promotions is undesirable. It is, in fact, desirable as long as the person clamoring for more power is not in a state where his ambition exceeds his competence or character.

While there is not a fail-safe criteria for selecting potential leaders, the following seven guidelines should be a helpful checklist as you select the next leader for your organization.

1.    What has the person done with their life?
Past accomplishments are a solid indicator of future performance. What is the most significant impact the candidate has had in a current role, or in past roles? What has he or she overcome, stuck with, fought through and gotten done? Past experience doesn’t equal past accomplishments. In fact, ample experience accompanied by minimal accomplishments, strongly indicates the person shouldn’t be placed in an even higher position to accomplish little in.

2.    Does the person demonstrate leadership in their current position?
Regardless of title, true leaders begin acting like leaders before they’re in leadership positions. They put in extra work, solve problems, bring you ideas, demonstrate integrity, take responsibility, are coachable, are eager to help others and put the team first, and the like.

3.    Is anyone currently following the person?
In other words, does the person have influence in their current position? Since a key aspect of leadership is influence, whether they have influence now is a strong indicator of leadership. Do people listen to the person, trust the person, and aspire to be like the person? And is the influence they have gained used for the good of the team or just for his or her selfish agenda and benefit

4.    Is the person faithful in their current duties?
If not, they’ll only further abuse resources, people and opportunities they have once they’re at a higher level. Incidentally, failure to keep commitments—even “little things” like being to work on time — is a red flag that should disqualify them from a larger platform to demonstrate similar disrespect for others, until they clean up their behaviors in the position they’re currently in.

5.    Does the person have a thirst for growth?
How do they respond to feedback you give them in their current position? Do they enjoy training or look at it as an interruption? Are they working on, and investing in their own growth? Frankly, as pertains to getting better on the job, you don’t have the time or energy to smack someone in the head with a bat and drag them around the bases. Nor should you have to beg or bribe someone to work on themselves. A “been there, done that,” know-it-all mindset is dangerous in any position, but it’s particularly devastating if the know-it-all is in leadership.

6.    Do they possess the traits you cannot effectively teach them or change about them?
Since among other traits, you cannot teach character, drive, motivation, talent, attitude or a higher energy level, it is important that the candidate bring these traits to the table.  Believing someone who is negative, low-energy, untalented, corrupt or undriven is going to magically change just because their title, office, or responsibilities change is nonsense. People like that don’t need a change of scene, or position; they need a change of self.
While you can teach skills and knowledge, the adage is true: you can’t put into someone what was left out. You can only draw out what was left in. If someone lacks these traits in their current position, don’t believe for a second that they will all of a sudden develop them if you promote them, or change in the moving van from one business entity to the other.

7.    Does the person accept responsibility for their results?
While this is certainly an aspect of character, it’s an important enough trait to warrant its own category in this article. Frankly, if someone plays the blame game as a follower, they will certainly do it as a leader, and until someone develops the integrity to accept that it’s their personal decisions more than outside conditions that determine their success they are unfit for leadership.

There are additional factors you could add, but these areas can help you get through the emotional sway of promoting someone because you really “like” him or her — or because they’ve tenured and you feel you owe them a shot — and look more objectively instead at whether they are actually fit for the job and have the makeup to do the job with the excellence you expect and deserve.

Learning Leadership from Coach John Wooden

July 11th, 2018

The late and legendary John Wooden is regarded by many to be one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. In his storied 40-year career as a coach his name became synonymous with success, having had only one losing season: his first. As the head of UCLA’s men’s basketball program, his teams won 10 National Championships in a 12 year span – 7 of which were in a row – and had four undefeated seasons. Prior to his death in 2010 at the age of 99, he was honored in the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Success leaves clues, and hungry leaders who are in search of effective principles to use with their teams have much to gain from the “Wizard of Westwood.” For years I have used his quotes and examples in my seminars, and after countless remarks about how helpful they have been to attendees, I want to share some with you in this piece. Following are 5 principles you can apply to help build your own championship team.

1.    Don’t become infected with success. Far too many leaders and organizations for that matter, can’t survive success. They develop a been-there-done-that attitude, grow complacent and stop executing the essential disciplines that made them successful in the first place. Leaders stop holding people accountable, stop recruiting, stop training people, and the list continues. Becoming infected with success has nothing to do with your skills, knowledge or talent as a leader; it’s all rooted in your mindset. Wooden said it well, “You become infected with success when you think that your past wins future games.” The mindset to live in the past, both in the victories and defeats, is a dangerous trap that will cause you to let up. Rehearsing past setbacks, defeats and rejections can make you hesitate to take the next shot, while reliving past wins (the big month, quarter, or year) will cause you to sit on the ball when you should be running up the score. As a leader you can’t borrow credibility from what you did once upon a time. Shift your focus away from “living” in the past to “learning” from the past; prove yourself over again each day; and attempt, as Wooden put it, to make it a “masterpiece.” If you’re not doing this as a leader, I promise your team isn’t either.

2.    Bring out the best in people. Wooden said, “You don’t handle people. You handle farm animals. You work with people.” Bringing out the best in people is purely an issue of skillset, and if you haven’t developed it you’ll find yourself more often “handling” people than “working” with them. Here are some simple yet overlooked ways to help you develop the human capital on your team. First, keep respect and consideration for others foremost in your mind. People don’t buy into leaders who bully, continually berate, or only tell people the ways they’ve fallen short. You can’t expect to bring out the best in people if you can’t even respect them as individuals. Next, try to make the work environment fun – just not at someone else’s expense. We spend a lot of time in the workplace, and people that have fun are generally more productive, and more engaged. Lastly, seek out individual opportunities to deliver a sincere compliment to someone. The quicker you can do this following a productive behavior or performance, the more it will mean to the individual, and the more likely you are to see that same result again. Remember that sincerity, optimism, and enthusiasm are more welcome than sarcasm, pessimism, and getting personal.

3.    Don’t blame, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses. This is pretty straightforward so I won’t spend much time on it other than to say: If your mindset is to blame others and make excuses for why the job didn’t get done, you’re teaching your people by example. Wooden understood this, and neither gave nor accepted excuses.

4.    Dispense discipline and accountability effectively.  This takes a blend of both skillset and mindset. Knowing how to hold people accountable is important, but the follow through in actually holding a performer accountable is equally essential. Some of us know exactly what to do, but we choose not to in order to avoid potential discomfort, or hurt feelings. Understand though, that accountability, discipline, and criticism aren’t tools to humiliate, demean, or punish. Their objectives are to correct, redirect, and to improve performance; to correct something that is preventing better results. Protect your culture, team morale, and the customer experience, and help the person by caring enough to confront them and potentially make you both uncomfortable as you exercise this leadership duty. Very simply, coach Wooden said “Even if there is a price to be paid, don’t be afraid to use appropriate discipline. It may hurt in the short term, but will pay dividends in the future.” Rest assured Wooden wasn’t slacking up on accountability in the midst of UCLA’s 88-game winning streak. He was holding his team accountable daily both on and off the court.

5.    Treat people fairly. Don’t fall for the politically correct nonsense that treating people fairly means you have to treat everyone alike. Fairness is giving everyone the treatment they earn and deserve. It doesn’t mean treating everyone equally. That’s unfair because not everyone deserves equal treatment.  Now obviously you treat everyone alike in terms of courtesy, respect, and regard as a human being. Those are non-negotiables. In terms of opportunity, rewards, privileges, and even scheduling however, you should dispense according to what people earn and deserve. Now Wooden was very good at treating people in accordance with this, understanding that what people gain too easily they esteem too lightly. In doing so he enhanced teamwork, and prevented entitlement form taking over.
As you work to build a team of champions, which of these basic principles have you gotten away from? Prioritize one or two key things you need to start doing – or stop doing – to coach like Wooden and leave your lasting leadership legacy.

Giving a “Little Bit Extra”

June 21st, 2018

In my Mission Unstoppable workshop (based on my book Unstoppable) I play a short video of six-time national champion and legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant speaking to new recruits about the power of every player giving a “little bit extra” — across the board and at every game. There is a leadership application of this philosophy in business for, over time, lifting “caretaker” status team members to levels of performance that both they — and their manager — may not have thought possible. For perspective, and to get you on the same page in the event you haven’t read Unstoppable or listened to my podcast “The Game Changer Life” where I speak about improving performance, here’s some quick insight.

In any organization you have four types of mindsets that dominate the performance of the people on those teams: undertakers, caretakers, playmakers and game changers. These categorizations are not determined by years of experience, talent, or knowledge of skills, as much as they are by one’s mindset. The caretaker is a particularly frustrating team member because in many cases they can do more but choose not to. They do baseline work — period. They don’t initiate, solve problems, ask for more responsibilities or look to help anyone else. They soldier on daily in their role, pledging allegiance to their job description, romancing the status quo, and doing what is minimally required of them, but nothing more. Their mindset is, “I’m doing my job, so what’s the problem,” and fail to realize that in high-performing organizations “doing one’s job” is not heroic, and barely adequate for survival; that team members are ultimately measured by how they do over and above what is minimally expected of them. Caretakers can populate any department from top to bottom, in any sort of organization, not just in dealerships. How do you raise this person’s sights? How can you “push the right buttons” to lift them to consistently perform at a higher level — a level you know they’re quite capable of? You’ve probably tried pep talks, bribes, and guilt trips to try and get them to “step up for the team;” and, while they may occasionally — very occasionally — show a flash of brilliance, those moments seem to come around about as often as Haley’s Comet. Here’s where Coach Bryant’s “little bit extra” application can help.

First, we must understand what won’t work: trying to raise them to their full potential in one fell swoop. Even if they are capable skills-wise, if their own mindset—their attitude—doesn’t buy into the goal it’s not going to happen. In fact, psychologists warn us that if goals are either too high or too low that people don’t buy in and mentally check out of them. And while the little bit extra strategy can work with any position, I’ll use a scenario where a sales manager is coaching his salesperson to call more of their customer base to stay in touch, build relationships, re-engage them in another car deal, and get referrals. In fact, let’s consider an underperforming veteran salesperson sitting on a gold mine of sold customers over a past decade or two, but who still only manages to sell an average number each month. This, in my opinion, is one of the most costly and infuriating wastes of assets within a dealership.

In this scenario we’ll assume the salesperson is required to make a minimum number of contacts with their customer base daily. You’re convinced he or she can make ten, has the time to make ten, the talent to make ten, and that making ten would add several sales and referrals each month. But, you also know if you approach the veteran caretaker with moving from six to ten you’ll be met with disbelief: incredulity, a rash of excuses, and the possible accusation that you’re endangering their health by insisting on an activity that will raise their blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of stroke or heart failure. Or, even if they do agree with the new standard just to get you off their back, you know full well they’re unlikely to actually do it for long.

But what if you had a conversation that explained how the entire team was faced with higher goals and expectations this year; and, while that no one person is expected to increase their output to an unreasonable level, that everyone would need to do their share and contribute a “little bit extra.” You then ask—don’t command—if he or she thinks that based on their vast talent, experience, and robust customer base, they would be able to make one additional quality contact per day for the next sixty days. It’s almost completely certain they will not argue with this expectation, but will in fact be so relieved it’s so “low” that they will quickly buy into it and agree to do it. Then explain to him or her that so everyone understands their new role and there can be no misunderstandings, you’re putting everyone’s new expectations in writing, asking them to sign it acknowledging that you’ve both agreed this is a reasonable number, and that he or she will be able to retain a copy for their records.

With this seemingly unimpressive commitment you’re actually reaching agreement for nearly a seventeen percent increase of daily productivity. You then reinforce the new behavior often, thanking the team member for “doing their part and keeping their commitment.” After the sixty days you meet specifically to review this new standard and discuss their success, the impact it’s had, the improved results, and then collaborate to reach a new goal for the next sixty days that includes just one additional daily contact. At this point—especially if you can get the person to agree that making the one extra daily call was a no-brainer for them—it’s logical to step it up incrementally more and follow the same pattern, with every right to expect that within the next sixty days you will have raised their daily productivity in this particular area once again, and that in a four month period their quality customer contact production will have risen 33%. You can continue this “little bit extra” method into future sixty- day periods as well, and in doing so will have steadily and consistently, over time, helped change this person’s mindset to the point that they’ll be producing twice the quality contacts they once were — a goal they would have scoffed at initially.

Now here’s where this strategy really gets valuable: remember that Coach Bryant’s principle was that every player would do this little bit extra, every time. Multiply the impact of each person on your team — not just the caretakers — lifting their level of performance. Even if only two-thirds or half your team steadily raises their performance over time by giving a little bit extra, the return will be exponential and you’ll increase sales dramatically without having to add headcount.

I’ll close with this thought: low expectations presume incompetence, and when you presume incompetence you eventually create it. People will live down to them. Raise the bar, but do it intelligently, gradually, collaboratively, and consistently over time and you can help grow your caretakers into playmakers, and possibly even game changers.

If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

May 23rd, 2018

In a world increasingly picking up speed, passive leaders have never been more vulnerable. Recent history has demonstrated in business it’s no longer so much a matter of the big eating the small, but the swift eating the slow.  Obviously, this dynamic puts the careers of those content to wait for things to change on a leadership endangered species list. You know what I mean—those content to wait for:
•    A better product: “Once the ‘X’ or ‘Y’ model gets here we’ll be rocking.”

•    A better month: “Don’t worry, our busy months are still ahead of us this year.”

•    A better time of the month: “When the end of the month gets here we’ll make up for our slow start.”

•    A better day of the week: “Things are slow, but it’s only Tuesday. Don’t panic; Saturday will be here before you know it.”

•    A better economy: “The news says things should get better economically in the next quarter.”

•    A better advertising campaign: “When that mailer drops we’re going to kill it!”

•    Better incentives: “I hear they’re doubling the incentives on the stair-step program next month.”

•    A competitor to stop doing something: “They can’t keep giving cars away forever.”

•    A manufacturer to start doing something: “Rumor has it they’re going to close two of the smaller points in this region, which means more for the rest of us.”

•    A workforce to step up: “The new spiff program we’ve got planned for the weekend will shift these guys into overdrive.”

•    Another department to straighten out: “Once they get the right people and improve their processes we’ll be able to sell more.”

•    The new facility to be ready: “We’re only three months away from moving into the new facility, and there will be no stopping us then.”

•    Things to get easier over all: “The worst is behind us. We should have smoother sailing the second half.”

Here are a few realities concerning change that all dealership leadership should understand, and the sooner the better. They should simultaneously present a jolt of reality, as well as an encouraging boost for your morale. The reality jolt is that if you’re waiting for things to change, you’re not only too slow, you’re as good as done. Eventually the passivity and indecision you’ve sown will manifest in decline. The encouraging boost is that YOU can decide to do better, to initiate the change, to act on what is within you and around you, rather than react to what is happening to you. That being said, here are the four realities of change to consider:
1.    Nothing much changes for you until something changes within you. In my book, “Unstoppable” I clearly lay out the case for, and steps to, building your mindset into something far more productive than it is. There are attitude adjustments you can make, excuses you can give up, people or things you can stop blaming, and corners you stop cutting that will lift your personal performance to new levels, and inspire others to do likewise. You can marginalize the adverse conditions mentioned before by making better decisions within yourself in the areas I’ve outlined in this point.

2.    Nothing much changes for you until something changes about you. It’s safe to say that the daily routine or habits you’ve developed that have gotten you to “here,” won’t be what it takes to get you to “there.” If they were adequate for the task, you’d probably already be “there.” John Maxwell said it well, “The secret to success lies in your daily routine.” And the sad fact is that many leaders have daily routines that are poorly planned, absent of structure, and are downright seat-of-the-pants-, surrender-to-every-emergency-, work-long-and-hard-but-not-smart pathetic! To reach the next performance level there are aspects of your daily  routine you must decide to stop doing that you’re currently doing; aspects to begin doing that you’re failing to do; things to do more of, do less of, and do all consistently and with excellence. What they are will vary from leader to leader, and according to his or her team makeup, personal strengths, and responsibilities.  Rest assured of this concerning the connection between your daily routine and the results you’re getting: if nothing changes, then nothing changes.

3.    You’ve got to stop waiting for the things around you to change, and start changing the things around you, starting with what’s within and about you. Once you embrace this mindset shift and address the first two points, you will start to play to win again; and, if you’re already winning, you’ll run up the score. You will move away from the demoralizing and draining tendencies of reacting and holding ground, towards getting the upper hand on your attitude, focus, behaviors, schedule, and your time—attacking the day and shaping it to your liking, rather than being passively shaped by what’s going on around you.

4.    Once you change, adverse things are less likely to happen to you, and you’re more likely to happen to things. My seven-time world champion karate instructor taught me that when facing an opponent, it’s not wise to spend immense time trying to figure them out and responding to what they throw at you. He said instead to develop a mindset to hit him fast, hard, first, last, and to keep attacking so he was reacting to me—to make him figure me out, and for me to be the competition rather than worry about the competition. I find the same focused, energetic attack-mindset works wonders in business as well. When you decide to be proactive, prepared, in your zone, and locked in on what’s truly essential each day you’ll never again have to start a day in neutral. You won’t have time for blame, excuses, or worthless activities and conversations. You’ll kindle within yourself a killer instinct and unstoppable approach that you would never have while waiting, wondering, reacting, blaming, complaining, or wishing it were easier or that things would start going your way. The late, great Jim Rohn said it well, “Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.” To that I will add that getting better all starts with decisions and changes within your control, not on waiting for conditions outside your control to change for you.

Promotion Principles to Protect Your Organization

April 13th, 2018

Some leaders excel at picking others for promotion and development while others lead their organizations into chaos or ruin with poor choices in this regard. Following are principles from two men who were, arguably, two of the best people-pickers of the last century—General George C. Marshall, and Alfred Sloan of General Motors—as related by one of my favorite minds on the matter, Peter Drucker.

Step 1: Think through the process.

Look first at the nature of the assignment for the next eighteen months to two years: is it to rebuild a department; pioneer a new position or division; take an already successful department to a higher level; and so forth? Each of these roles may require very different strengths from a candidate in order to succeed.

Step 2: Look at the right strengths when evaluating the candidate, and don’t overemphasize “like” or tenure.

The assignment and the position need to fit each other. Thus, the central question is not, “What can this or that candidate do or not do?” It is rather, “What are the strengths each possesses and are these the right strengths for the assignment?”

Step 3: Look at a number of potentially qualified candidates.

You should look at three to five qualified candidates for each position. If you don’t have this number of qualified candidates under your roof, you must look to the outside.

Step 4: Make sure the candidate understands the job.

Clearly spell out desired behaviors and outcomes up front. Then after the candidate has been in a new job for a month or two, he or she should have transitioned to a point of focusing completely on the demands of the job, rather than on the requirements of their preceding job.

A strong exercise is for the appointee’s manager to have a meeting with that person and say:

“You’ve been the sales manager for six weeks. What do you have to do to be successful in reaching the behavioral and outcome requirements I’ve established in your new job? Think it through, come back in a week and show me in writing.”

Be aware that the things the person did to get the promotion are almost certainly the wrong things to do now. Based on this, be prepared to refocus the employee on what it will take to be successful in their position. Undoubtedly you did this prior to putting them in the new job, but oftentimes when a person is actually in the position, they lose sight of the big picture and start to get bogged down into low-return activities or spend more time where they’re most comfortable: doing the work of his or her former peers for them, rather than equipping them to do better work on their own. If you don’t follow this step, don’t blame the person for poor performance. Blame yourself for failing to properly prepare and guide them in your duty as a leader. While your job is not to micromanage, it is to keep clarity of expectations at the forefront of each person’s mind and to help make sure that they are exercising the handful of high-leverage activities necessary to be successful in that particular job.

Step 5:  Watch the candidate’s fitness for temperament in their new job very carefully.

While it is difficult to predict whether a person’s temperament will be suited to a new environment—you normally only find this out by actual experience—if the move from one kind of work to another does not work out, the manager who made the decision has to redirect, retrain, reassign, or remove the misfit—and fast. To keep misfits in a job they cannot perform is not kind; it is cruel to the person floundering in a job for which they are ill-suited temperament-wise, as well as the team members suffering under his or her poor leadership.

Step 6: Beware of abandoning or skipping these steps and promoting politicians.

If “Joe” gets promoted because he is a politician, everybody will know it. They will say to themselves, “Okay, that is the way to get ahead in this company. They will despise their management for forcing them to become politicians but will either quit or become politicians themselves in the end.

Or, if they discern that those who get promoted are tenured people management feels they “owe” a shot, rather than those most qualified to succeed in the position, they will leave for companies that value performance more than sentiment. Remember: people in organizations tend to be influenced by how they see others being rewarded. And when the rewards go to non-performance, to flattery, to tenure, to the cause of “diversity for the sake of diversity and bereft of merit,” or to mere cleverness, the organization will soon decline into nonperformance, flattery, and cleverness.

Making a poor decision when promoting others sentences your organization to a term of     misery on the installment plan. Day-in and day-out morale, momentum, the culture, brand, customer experience, production, and your own credibility suffer incalculable damage. On the other hand, getting the job done right from the outset makes life at, and away from work, better for all involved. Take your time. Keep your emotions out and execute these steps without fail. The rest of the organization will love you for it, and you’ll love seeing that monthly financial statement even more as well.

The Cost of Choosing to be Offended

March 13th, 2018

This article is about staying more focused on what matters most so you can get more of the right things done daily and improve results. But first I need to set the stage by presenting what is often the biggest obstacle to that goal: getting sidetracked throughout the day by what—in the full scope of reaching your potential as a human being—is trivial and in some cases, doesn’t matter at all in that regard. In other words, choosing to be offended by someone or something and stepping out of your personal high-performance zone in the process. If you have listened to my Game Changer Life podcast episodes, or have read my new book, Unstoppable, you are fully aware of this danger and how to overcome it.
Without question, one of the chief culprits that inhibits maximum productivity for multitudes is a growing and uncanny knack for choosing to be offended by what is minor—often dozens of times throughout the day—and losing focus on what matters most in the process. The good news is that no one can offend you without your consent; you have to take the bait and step out of your zone, and thus diminish your effort, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus, and productivity as a result.
In today’s politically-correct charged, hyper-sensitive culture of crybabies, there’s seemingly no shortage of opportunities from which the masses have chosen to be offended by on a daily basis. It’s not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be offended by, but to bring to your attention to a wide range of culprits today so you can evaluate which offenses you have invited into your life, and determine if they are worth the loss in effort, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus  and results they incur.
Here’s a sampling of common offenders: public prayer; the pledge of allegiance; religious symbols on gravesites; the headlines; the book title; a comic strip; FOX News; MSNBC; an announcer’s commentary; a speaker’s voice; an Instagram post; her hairdo; that tie; a pastor’s sermon; the nut job in traffic; another’s belief system; this kind of music; that politician; her singing voice; the flight attendant’s attitude; their protest; the waiter’s lack of urgency; his glance; the fact she ignored me; the amount of time she spent on my issue; the way he answered my question; the dessert they brought to the dinner party; the punishment I got; the punishment he didn’t get; having only two restroom choices (Men and Women); right wingers; left wingers; that team’s mascot; I only got three “like’s” on the photo I posted; those late-night TV jokes; he said “midget;” she said “handicapped;” what the president said; her constant sniffling; he blew his nose too loud; the gift she gave me; he never gave me a gift; what they provided for lunch; they didn’t even give us lunch; the time I spent on hold; his sock color; her dress; those 150 year-old statues of old dead guys; your pricing; that advertisement; her accent; his flashy watch; that beat up car; their failure to take a stand; a certain point of view; his loud mouth; her silence; his firm handshake; his flimsy handshake; he didn’t even shake hands with me; referring to the former Bruce Jenner by the wrong pronoun; and I’m sure that for some readers now scurrying off to their safe space to speed-dial momma and their therapist and report they have been offended—this article in general up to this point.
Am I saying you should be a doormat and just put up with anything without addressing it or mentioning it in some way? Of course not. But I am suggesting you become far more concerned with what you invite into your life and evaluate the following to determine the negative daily impact it has on your effort,   energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus, and overall productivity:
1.    Just how easy are you to offend, and how many times does that break your focus and cause you to spend time out of your zone during the day saying and doing less than what’s optimally productive?
•    Examples: getting worked up over what another department, coworker or customer said or did to you; fretting because you didn’t get the credit, or because someone else got more than you believe they deserve; and the like.

2.    How often do you share what offends you with others, and what impact does that have on their attitude, focus, and productivity?
•    By spreading the misery you’ve invited into your life with others, you also take them out of their zone, and can diminish their efforts, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus and productivity.

3.    How much longer are you willing to invite into your life what really doesn’t matter when considering the big picture of fulfilling your potential as a human being?
•    Maturity is about gaining discernment, knowing which battles are worth fighting, and understanding that to maximize your results daily you don’t have time to set everyone straight, enter every debate, and be more consumed with being “right,” than remaining effective.

4.    How much of your limited time and energy are you willing to invest in things you cannot control, and render yourself a powerless victim as you complain about it?
•    Blaming, making excuses and investing your energy into what you can’t control all combine to create an anti-focus that can turn you into a pathetic, powerless, whiney victim unfit to lead a lemonade stand, much less a more substantial enterprise.

5.    When was the last time choosing to be offended by something helped you stay focused, motivated, and achieve your goals?
•    If it’s not moving you toward becoming a better person, making a great contribution to your team or family, or elevating results in some way, how much time do you want to waste on it?

6.    Would you recommend whining and complaining to your team members or kids as viable strategies for reaching their goals?
•    If this is what they see you do, they’re learning from your example. Everyone leads by example, that’s not the question. The questions are: what example are you leading by, and how does that impact those following you?

7.    Is what you’re offended by worth your loss of peace, focus, attitude, time, energy, enthusiasm, passion, and productivity? If it is, do more of it. If it’s not, grow up, give it up, and go up.
•    Samuel Johnson said, “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.” The stakes are too high for you to choose to be easily offended. Effort, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude and focus misspent and lost is gone forever.

The question many leaders must look into the mirror to face and fix so they can grow up and go up is not how offended they are by what has happened, but this:

How did they get so mentally soft and emotionally weak in the first place? That is what should offend you.

How Coachable Are You?

February 26th, 2018

Coachability is about demonstrating the willingness to be corrected, and to act on that correction. Coachable people are prepared to be wrong, and withstand—even welcome—high degrees of candor concerning their performance with the goal of improving it. As a result, coachable people are able to grow to levels that life’s “know-it-all’s” never experience. So, how coachable are you? The answer has much to say about your personal and professional potential. The following are criteria to help you personally evaluate and adjust where necessary. They should also lend insight into what you can expect from those on your team you’re trying to develop, especially in relation to your potential return on investment of time and resources into their development. It’s not enough for someone to want to grow; they must be ready and able to grow. Success or failure in this regard will depend largely on the quality of one’s attitude, character, and humility in response to coaching.

In this piece, I’ll present three opening and foundational bullets on the topic of coachability, and then proceed with seven ways to become more coachable.

1.    If you’re un-coachable, it’s probably not a secret. After all, it’s very difficult to disguise the arrogance of being a know-it-all for very long.

2.    In essence, coaching is feedback. Thus, a key indicator of how coachable you are is how productively you respond to feedback.

3.    While not all feedback is helpful or valid, one’s attitude upon receiving it reveals much about their coachability; regardless the validity.

Seven Ways to Become More Coachable

1.    Change your attitude about feedback. Don’t look at it as an attack, or as an insult, and don’t take it personally. Rather, look at feedback as a chance to make changes that will allow you to live your career and life at a higher level—as something that happens for you, and not an offense that happens to you. Even if the feedback is presented to you poorly, don’t miss the potential value in the message because the delivery was lousy.

2.    Ask questions to clarify the feedback. Don’t do so defensively, but to encourage the giver to be more specific so you can better evaluate changes you’ll need to make. After all, general feedback is not nearly as helpful as feedback that is specific and given with examples. Sometimes a giver will offer general feedback to gauge your attitude in receiving it, before taking the risk of becoming specific or outlining particular behavioral examples.

3.    Maintain good eye contact and positive body language when receiving feedback. Not only does this make you feel better about yourself, it increases the chances that the individual giving the feedback will feel comfortable to be completely honest in their conveyance.

4.    Resist the temptation to reflexively make excuses for your actions, or to try and justify them. Focus first and foremost on the message and consider if there isn’t at least a grain of validity or truth you could possibly benefit from, and grow from as a result. Practice the discipline of suspending judgment of the feedback, and of the giver, until you’ve had a legitimate opportunity to consider its value. To become more coachable you must prioritize getting better over being “right.”

5.    Don’t just agree with feedback, change your behavior because of it.  Just affirming that feedback is correct or helpful doesn’t deem you as coachable unless you actually change something because of it. At the end of the day, acting on feedback, and doing so quickly, is the true test of coachability.

6.    Overall, the proper attitude and response to feedback—even feedback that is off-base—is to sincerely say “thank you.” This doesn’t affirm you agree with the feedback, or will change because of it (it could be misguided or based on wrong information), but it does demonstrate a humble attitude and eagerness to consider uncomfortable situations that may be able to help you grow.

7.    Be proactive and seek out feedback, don’t just sit around waiting for it. This attitude takes your coachability to a higher level, and can absolutely accelerate your growth. Ask questions like:

“What do you suggest I do to improve performance?”

“Where do you see that I’ve gotten off track?”

“How can I make this even better than it is?”

“What can I do to have a more positive impact on teammates?”

“Where have I developed blind-spots that I need to fix?”

When you ask questions like these in earnest, they demonstrate strong humility and coachability which, when all is said and done, are essential allies in your endeavor to improve who you are, what you do, and the results you reap.

How Effective Leaders Handle Mistakes

February 9th, 2018

I recently filmed a DVD program for my online training platform at www.AndersonVT.com on the topic of handling mistakes, and the response was even more robust than normal. I believe that’s because handling mistakes—ours and others’—is such an ongoing, real-world leadership responsibility that affects everyone both at work and at home. How you handle your own, and others’, mistakes also goes in long way in determining the level of trust, buy-in, connection, and positive impact you can have on your team. Following are thoughts and strategies to help you master this important leadership skill. This piece is divided into two sections: handling your own mistakes first, and then effectively handling the mistakes others make.

Phase One: How to Handle Your Own Mistakes

1.    Admit a mistake as quickly as possible. Waiting to acknowledge a mistake gives the perception you’re either oblivious to what you’ve done, or that you may be looking for a way out of taking responsibility. As a result, delayed confessions allow a hiccup to become a cover-up, and then a conspiracy. This perception will break trust and build disgust amongst the ranks. Don’t try talking yourself out of something you behaved yourself into. Own it. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it, just own it. The objective is to bring closure to a mistake quickly, so you can focus on moving forward. As an aside, if you admit an error, don’t marginalize your effort by making an excuse for it (what about “just own it” don’t you understand?). This models a positive leadership example your team will pick up on.
Leaders with bloated egos or gross insecurities never manage to execute this first step. They wrongly believe admitting a mistake makes them look weak when the opposite it true. Admitting mistakes requires strength, and earns respect because others know how difficult it would be for them to do the same thing in your situation.

2.    Learn from the mistake, then don’t repeat it.  This well-known quote sheds insight onto this point: “You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice.” Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant offered sound advice along these lines when he famously said, “When you make a mistake admit it, learn from it, don’t repeat it.”
The reality is that anyone who tries new things, seizes the initiative, and makes decisions is going to make mistakes. We all do “stupid” things from time to time. But the key to growth is doing “new” stupid things, not the same old stupid things. Doing the same stupid things indicates you are unaware, unteachable, undisciplined, or worse. Doing new stupid things demonstrates you’ve left your comfort zone, tried something different, and now have an opportunity to learn what didn’t work, so you can get it right next time.

3.    Teach others from your mistakes. This builds trust, connection, and bondedness with team members. John Maxwell put it well: “If you want to impress others, talk about your successes. But if you want to impact them, talk about your mistakes.”

4.    Get over it and move on. Continuing to rehearse, rehash, or blame yourself for the mistake is a mistake that compounds the original mistake. If you’ve admitted it, learned from it, and adjusted because of it, move on to gaining new ground.

With the four previous tips in mind, let’s move onto Phase Two.

Phase Two: How to Handle the Mistakes of Others

1.    Don’t get personal. Focus on the issue without getting personal with the individual that caused the issue. There’s a big difference between calling an action “idiotic” and calling someone an idiot. Attack the performance; coach the performer.

2.    Address a mistake in direct, professional terms, without unnecessary drama or exaggeration. Again, be direct and professional, but also be conversational. There’s no need to pile on by injecting unnecessary hype or drama with statements like, “I can’t BELIEEEEVE you could do something so INSIPIDLY FOOLISH and CARELESS! If ignorance is bliss you must be the happiest man on earth!”

3.    Focus the person on solutions not on scapegoats. An employee mistake is an unparalleled coaching opportunity. Look at it as a teaching tool, not a battering ram. Help the person think for themselves and take ownership concerning what they could have done better and how they’ll improve next time.
Asking questions like: “What should you have done better, or instead?”, “What do you recommend we do from here?”, “What did you learn and how can you ensure you don’t repeat the error?”, are non-confrontational, collaborative ways to help the person grow by causing them to think and commit to act.

4.    When confronting a mistake, don’t rattle off their rap sheet of past unrelated mistakes. Again, this is a coaching opportunity, not an indictment. You’re not proving a case in court; you’re addressing and correcting a behavior. Keep the main thing the main thing. Rehashing past, unrelated mistakes is debilitating and distracts from the matter at hand. Engaging in “rap sheet rehearsal” will also break trust and credibility if you do the same with family or friends. It’s a recipe for ending up miserable and alone in your life.

5.    Encourage the person to take another shot. Making mistakes can cause others to procrastinate, become passive and lose their killer instinct; especially when a mistake is handled improperly. It’s a shame when this happens, because mistakes are a part of the growth process. When someone stops trying, both they—and the organization—miss out and fail to cash in on the mistake’s benefits of: learning from the errors, learning a better way, and growing as a person. In such cases all they, and we, pay is the price for the error and never get the payoff the price could have brought us.

Are You Truly Committed?

December 7th, 2017

In twenty years of teaching LearnToLead seminars in seventeen countries, across multiple industries—both for profit and non-profit—I’ve concluded that one of the least understood, most overused declarations from a performer at any level in an organization is, “I’m committed.” Sadly, most people are not; they are interested, but not committed. Being “interested” means to be curious about something; being “committed” means to pledge oneself to something. The difference between the two is staggering, and it rarely takes long when observing one’s behavior or listening to one’s conversations to discern that only a handful of those espousing to be “pledging themselves to something” are actually paying the price on a daily basis to validate their assertion. The rest are talking right then walking left.

Real commitment is about paying a price, consistently over time, to achieve a goal. I’ve recorded two podcast episodes on this subject that you may wish to listen to for further depth on the topic (The Game Changer Life podcast episodes are: “The Price is an Installment Plan” and “What Real Commitment Looks Like.” If you have Apple products, you can find The Game Changer Life podcast on your iPhone or in iTunes; and, if you’re an Android user, you can listen through the Stitcher app, or Google Play Music).

Following are seven traits and behaviors that demonstrate true commitment. There are certainly more than seven, but this is a good start. Evaluate your own commitment level towards your most important goals, and measure others against these criteria as well.

1.    Commitment manifests in sacrifice. Sacrifice is defined as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.” You may need to give up certain habits you enjoy but are unproductive, pastimes that are trivial and nonessential, excuses, attitude, and more. Sacrifice may involve spending less time with unproductive or negative people who distract you from your goals—even though they’re longtime friends. When you’re willing to give up what you enjoy now for what you want most, you demonstrate commitment.

2.    Commitment manifests in change and risk. When you pledge yourself to something you deeply crave, you’ll need to change what you’re doing to achieve it. In fact, if doing what you’re doing currently was enough to attain the goal you’re committed to, you would probably already have it. Thus, you will need to give up what’s comfortable and familiar in some areas for what’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar, in order to grow to the point that you can reach your goal. The old adage is true, “If nothing changes, then nothing changes;” so, committed people are willing to sacrifice temporary ease for temporary discomfort, to attain significant achievement.

3.    Commitment is about having a cause bigger than yourself which you put ahead of your own selfish agenda. If you’re on a team it means putting the welfare and goals of the team before what’s best for your comfort zone or pride. In a family, it’s about sacrificing for your spouse, kids, and your future together. As John Maxwell said well, “If you’re just in it for yourself you’re in a mighty small business.” Commitment to a meaningful cause can often draw out in you what you never knew existed in the first place. It gives purpose and passion not just to work but to life.

4.    Commitment manifests in persistence. Persistence means “to steadfastly advance in pursuit of a goal despite obstacles or setbacks.” Thus, persistent people don’t quit when it gets tough, when they lose, or when it hurts. When you pledge yourself to something you work through those things because what you aspire to be, or to have, is worth the fight. This is why it’s important to carefully choose what, or whom, you commit to: it needs to be worth the sacrifice, pain of change, risk, and persistence required to attain it.

5.    Commitment manifests in resilience. Resilience is different than persistence. Resilience means “an ability to recover quickly from disappointments, setbacks or defeat.” One may have persistence to keep fighting through a tough month, but lack the resilience to get back on track and motivated after the month turns out poorly. There will be setbacks and disappointments on the journey to what you’ve committed to. That’s not the question. The question will be: How quickly can you recover, get back in your zone—mentally and physically—and begin executing again what matters most daily?

6.    Commitment manifests in personal responsibility—owning it. Truly committed people don’t have time for excuses, blame games or other various “loser’s limps” to explain away their lack of progress or results. They are so focused on what they can control and impact on a daily basis that they don’t have time to whine about conditions they can’t control. They remain humble and teachable, believing that ultimately, it’s up to them to make it happen—and genuinely committed people wouldn’t have it any other way.

7.    Commitment manifests in consistency. Consistency can actually work against you when you consistently execute what’s ineffective or unproductive. However, consistently making sacrifices, changing and risking to break from comfort zones, subordinating your agenda to a greater cause, and demonstrating persistence and resilience can make you unstoppable as you pursue your personal and business goals.

So, if your team were grading you on these seven items as being a leader who was truly committed, or simply interested, how would you fare? And how is your personal example impacting the team’s own level of commitment on a daily basis? As a leader, if you’re not committed, you can hardly expect your people to be. You have no credibility asking your people to run through a wall unless you’re willing to go first, and do it every day.

How to Manage “Management Jerks”

November 1st, 2017

A “jerk” is defined as a contemptibly obnoxious person. Sadly, there are too many jerks in management who seem to believe their position gives them permission to abuse, micromanage, continually criticize, demean, complain about, disrespect or intimidate others. The costs for such behavior are staggeringly far reaching. In this article, I’ll outline common behaviors of management jerks and suggested remedies, for curtailing their behavior. While anyone may temporarily veer off track and demonstrate “jerk” behaviors occasionally, the persistent offender—the manager who is known for it—needs to change or be “changed.”

Four Quick Openers on Management Jerks:

1.    They are immature. They grow old, but they don’t ever seem to grow up. Their emotions control them, more than they manage their emotions.

2.    They often resort to jerky behavior to disguise their limitations.  Acting loud, obnoxiously, profanely, or disrespectfully can create diversions from limitations like incompetence, inexperience, ignorance or stupidity.

3.    They have a corrupt understanding of what it means to be a leader. They expect to be served by others, rather than look for ways to serve others and add value to them. He or she believes that people are there for them, and doesn’t grasp that he or she is there for their people. They behave more like a tyrant than a leader.

4.    Senior leaders who tolerate management jerks are spineless sell-outs who betray all those who suffer beside or under the jerk. They put their culture, team morale, momentum and results at risk because they don’t have either the skills or the guts to do their job and hold the jerk accountable.

Five Tendencies of Management Jerks:

1.    They privately and publicly criticize, yell, demean and/or disrespect others. This behavior may also include off-color language, or getting personal.

2.    Even when not engaging in egregious language like that in Point 1, management jerks tend to talk down to people. They are often short, sarcastic, and dismissive, and act as though everyone else is stupid or clueless.

3.    They rarely give positive reinforcement. On the occasions when they do commend someone for doing a good job, they tend to balance it out with something the person did wrong, or must do better. “Joe, you did a nice job with that customer….but it doesn’t make up for failing to make the last three deals.”

4.    Management jerks tend to be narcissistic in nature, and project a superior attitude that creates resentment and resistance in others. Those working for them work hard out of fear, not as a result of engagement or commitment.

5.    Management jerks are prone to self-destruct over time. They wear out their welcome by abusing customers and employees, disrespecting other leaders, toxifying the culture, and more. Of course, in their mind it’s never “their fault.”

Five-Step Remedy for Managing Management Jerks:

1.    Redefine, in writing, behaviors that are no longer acceptable and outline                       what you expect instead. Frankly, if you want great job performance you must define it and should have done so long ago. Be specific and give examples. Eliminate all loopholes and gray areas. Also make certain you explicitly explain to them the costs of their continued behavior: damage to morale, momentum, production, culture, brand, credibility, increased turnover and more. It’s important they see the big picture, and don’t just believe you’re nit-picking over “little” quirks in their personality.

2.    Discuss possible consequences for continued errant behaviors. There is no one-size-fits-all consequence in this instance since there are such varying degrees of possible wrong behavior. Thus, point out potential consequences depending upon the offense.

3.    Give immediate positive feedback on improved behavior. Whenever you’re trying to influence behavioral changes, you’ll need to reinforce it more often, and faster than in the past. Here’s why: behaviors that are reinforced and rewarded are behaviors that get repeated. But remember, the longer you wait to reinforce a behavior the less impact it has.

4.    Secure help: resources, a course, a coach, and the like to help equip the manager with better tools and more awareness to manage more effectively. When we ask someone to improve behaviors or results, it’s essential that we resource those changes with tools and training.

5.    Understand that you cannot change another human being in this regard. THEY must decide to change, and make the change. If after all the above steps are unsuccessful, demote, transfer, or remove the person. Demoting or transferring should involve moving the person into a position where they are humbled and are no longer in a capacity to abuse people—if such a slot is available—otherwise you should remove him or her. While the upfront costs of losing and replacing a manager can be high, the price you pay for keeping a management jerk is staggering in the long term. Bottom line: if someone wants to leave your organization because you expect them to live values they’re unwilling to live, let them go. It’s kind of like the trash taking itself out.