How Effective Leaders Handle Mistakes

February 9th, 2018

I recently filmed a DVD program for my online training platform at 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.

What’s Your Leadership Legacy?

August 31st, 2017

The best leaders leave a legacy by reproducing themselves into high-potential team members. While leaders should train, coach, motivate, and care about all team members, mentoring is reserved for a select few. However, many mentor/mentee relationships are never maximized for two primary reasons:


  • In today’s microwave culture, time is not set aside for this essential leadership practice.



  • There is no clear structure or plan to systematically grow a mentee from “Point A” to “Point B.”


It’s been said that inheritance is what you leave behind, whereas legacy is whom you leave behind. This piece will outline nine basic tenets of mentoring high potential team members to help you multiply your leadership, grow others to their fullest potential, and edify your organization in the process.  



  1. Choose carefully. Don’t just mentor whoever is available, those who claim they want to be developed, or people you “like” or are comfortable with. The potential mentee must be ready, willing, and able to grow. Otherwise, you waste two people’s time in a low-return endeavor. You must be able to expect a significant return, over time, for your investment of additional time, energy, and resources.



  1. Think small. Mentoring effectively requires a meaningful time commitment; thus, if you are going to do it right, you can only expect to be an impactful mentor when mentoring a small number of people at any one time. One is preferable; two is ok; three or more is risky in that through your effort to mentor many, you will grow none in a meaningful manner.



  1. Think big. If you carefully choose the right mentoring candidates, and focus your energies on a small number of high-potentials, you should expect high-impact results over time: the key being, “over time.” Thus, it’s important to keep in mind that your role as a mentor is not to comfort the mentee; it is to grow him or her to entirely new levels of thinking, habits, skills, and accomplishments through following an intentional step-by-step process. Your time is too valuable to invest it intensely for anything less.



  1. Set specific objectives. Building on the last point, you should begin your mentoring relationship with specific objectives in mind. They can include: specific things to learn, tasks to master, habits to start or break, attitude or integrity areas to fine-tune, and precise objectives to accomplish. Define clear targets up front, and realistic deadlines to work towards. Once this is done, you have created clear expectations for a return on your investment, while offering the mentee clear growth objectives to work towards, creating an accountability benchmark in the process.




  1. Provide resources. You can’t just tell someone to run a marathon and expect them to be successful if all they have ever been trained to do is run around the block. Based on the specific objectives you have created, determine what you must do to resource the successful attainment of the objectives you have established: books, online courses, seminars, an outside coach, and the like.



  1. Provide empowerment. Equipping people and then restraining them is frustrating and wasteful. Once you have set clear objectives and trained the mentee how to do what is necessary to reach them, you must give the latitude and discretion they need to apply what they have learned. This step may also include you removing red tape or other road blocks that are potential minefields on the path to success. Frankly, if you are not prepared to let go of some authority and shift it to the mentee so they become less dependent on you and more effective in the process, you will never grow people to their potential. If it’s a matter of trust, then you have obviously chosen the wrong mentee. If, on the other hand, it’s a matter of your personal insecurity that causes you to hold your authority in a death grip, you will need to grow up emotionally so both you and the mentee can go up to higher levels of effectiveness.



  1. Give it away. Building on the prior point of providing empowerment and giving authority away at the appropriate time to a mentee, you can also create a win/win when you mentor someone in how to perform a task you are currently doing. Ideally, this would be in something that takes you out of your zone, but would increase the mentee’s capabilities and make them more valuable to the organization. Start with one particular task that doesn’t bring a high return for you and perform the task with the mentee, explaining why you do it that way. Encourage him or her to find a better way to do it as long as they achieve the desired result, in the desired time. Then have them do the task while you watch (an inventory, interview, conducting a meeting, etc. are some possibilities), providing feedback afterwards to help them improve performance. Then, when you feel they are ready, let go and let them run with it.




  1. Be available. Mentors should meet regularly with mentees to accelerate coaching, determine additional needs or challenges, gauge progress, and continue to build their relationship. This is why an effective mentor must be willing to start investing greater amounts of time into smaller groups of strategic people, and not take on too many mentees at once. You can’t mentor by memo, voicemail, or e-mail. Those are supplements, and not substitutes for your personal presence, engagement, and impact.




  1. Teach this process to the mentee so that he or she can pay it forward. This is where it really gets good. Ideally, the mentee will have someone in the organization—a direct report—they can implement the same mentoring process with. As they invest in others, they will grow their own skills and further add value to the organization by developing a deeper bench and culture of growth.

Going A.P.E for Attitude, Passion, and Enthusiasm

July 18th, 2017

In September of 2017, my fourteenth book, Unstoppable will be released. In the book, I discuss four types of performers: undertakers, caretakers, playmakers and game changers, and outline steps to elevate one’s personal and business life to game changer status. The eighth chapter is titled, “Go A.P.E.,” and it outlines the importance that attitude, passion, and enthusiasm have in excelling consistently well in any endeavor. In this column, I’m sharing a sneak preview from that chapter. This is a topic I will also discuss in an upcoming episode of my podcast, The Game Changer Life. Use this to evaluate and elevate your own level of attitude, passion, and enthusiasm, and to inspire more in others.

Attitude, passion, and enthusiasm are “inside jobs.” While one person may alter the mood of another based on how they treat them, one’s prevailing attitude, passion, and enthusiasm starts from within. They are also critical success factors that help lift one to unstoppable status and are greatly triggered by your personal WHY, your personal purpose and most compelling reasons for why you get  up each morning.

Lesser performers require excessive external stimulation to elevate their attitude, passion, and enthusiasm. It seems every day they need to be hugged, burped, coddled, cajoled, begged, bribed, or pumped up in order to deliver anything over and above baseline work. If this describes you, or someone on your team, you have work to do.

For the sake of perspective, consider the definition of each of these three vital traits:

  • Attitude: “A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior” (Google).

The odds of someone changing another’s “settled way of thinking” are more than remote. The reality is that attitude is a choice. While you cannot control what happens to you, you can choose your response. And the quality of your career and life will depend greatly on the quality of that choice. Stoppable people choose the wrong response to setbacks, disappointments, rejection, defeat or failure much—or most—of the time. Then, they wrongly blame someone or something for “giving” them a bad attitude.

Be thankful that no one or nothing has the power over your life to open your head, shove in a bad attitude, and leave you to suffer. YOU get to choose your thinking, your attitude, and how you will respond; and the game changer wouldn’t accept anything less.


  • Passion: “A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something, or about doing something” (Merriam-Webster).


Feelings of enthusiasm and excitement caused by external stimulation are short-term spikes that fire you up for an instant and fade just as quickly. It is the excitement and enthusiasm birthed from within, from one’s WHY, that burns consistently and intensely over time. No one can make you passionate about someone or something. Real passion comes from the heart-out, not from the external-in. Passion is not something you seize; it is something you are seized by.


  • Enthusiasm: “Intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval” (Google).

The origins of the word “enthusiasm” come from the Greek word “enthousiasmos,” meaning that one is “possessed by a god, inspired” (Google). To be enthusiastic then, in essence, means that you are filled with God.

While passion and enthusiasm are similar, the “eager enjoyment” aspect of enthusiasm makes it stand alone. This is the mindset to be content and enjoy—to the make the best of—any state you are in. To not only be enthusiastic when things go well, or when you have the wind at your back, but to enjoy the challenge of: learning the lesson, leaving a comfort zone, making a change, taking a risk, and accepting coaching that hurts because you know it will make you better.


People with the right attitude, passion, and enthusiasm magnify whatever talent and skills they have exponentially. Those lacking any of these three qualities marginalize whatever talent and skills they have drastically.


Check Your Birth Certificate


When you check your birth certificate I can promise you that you will not find, “Has a great attitude, passion, and enthusiasm” listed anywhere on it. Nor will you find the words: negative, lifeless, and indifferent. Nope, these are states you create for yourself, from within yourself, and based on how you choose to see life, the philosophy you create and embrace, and what you decide to make of your one opportunity on this planet. This is both great, and bad news. The great news is that living an unstoppable life anchored in right attitude, passion, and enthusiasm are all within your control; no one can prevent you from becoming these things, or cause you to become unlike these things. The “bad” news is that if you have been accustomed to traversing through life as a sniveler, blaming other people or things for why you have the wrong attitude, or no passion and enthusiasm, then you are going to have to toss that crutch away and emotionally grow up so you can go up to your fullest potential as a human being.  To sum it up, the bad news is, it is all on you.  The great news is, it is all on you. It all decides on how you choose to look at it. And someone aspiring to become unstoppable and live their life dominated by the game changer mindset understands that choosing to see this reality as great news or bad news is one of the easiest choices they will ever delight in making.

In case it hasn’t sunk in yet, you own your attitude, passion, and enthusiasm. To become an unstoppable game changer, reflect and take steps on the following four points:

  • Knowing how much it will affect your attitude, passion, and enthusiasm, have you clearly defined your compelling WHY, your bold purpose for doing what you do each day? Is it in writing? Are you reviewing it each morning to help get focused and in the zone?  The WHY fuels attitude, passion, and enthusiasm.


  • As you review the definition of attitude (“A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior” (Google)), what about your “settled way of thinking” must change for your attitude to improve? Might it involve blame, excuses, a focus on external conditions, the ease with which you are offended, your philosophy towards work ethic and doing all you can, et cetera?


  • As you review the definition of passion (“A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something, or about doing something” (Merriam-Webster)), what must you start doing and stop doing to increase your excitement and enthusiasm for what you do each day—despite external conditions that may seem to conspire against you?


  • As you review the definition of enthusiasm (“Intense and eager enjoyment, interest or approval (Google)), where can you increase your sense of enjoyment in areas where you are currently prone to get out of your zone—setbacks, rejection, a lost sale, a bad game—by focusing on how you can become better and more unstoppable as a result of it?


You can rest assured that as a leader, your level of attitude, passion, and enthusiasm will set the pace for the team. Your speed is their speed; for better or for worse.

Arguing with Success

June 8th, 2017

Arguing with Success

Dave Anderson


In an episode of my podcast, The Game Changer Life, I talked about workplace “undertakers.” These team members fit into two primary categories:

  1. They do sub-baseline work. Someone else has to do their share, clean up their messes, or follow them around doing damage control.


  1. Toxic achievers. These team members may be a top performer, or even the top performer, but they cut corners, violate core values, demonstrate substandard integrity, abuse other people on the team, and the like


Oftentimes, managers are prone to look the other way concerning toxic achievers, because they are a top performer. In their reasoning, “You can’t argue with success.” They are wrong. Dead wrong. You absolutely can argue with success if you are getting results the wrong way. It’s the difference between building your success on sand versus stone. Building it on a sand foundation where corners are cut or values and people are abused is unsustainable. It’s like the college basketball coach who wins the championship, but in the process violates recruiting rules, pays players, and manipulates academic records. His results would suggest he is highly “successful,” when the reality is that his success is an illusion, a fraud, and in time he will self-destruct.

Following are four “successes” you can argue with. They are danger signs that your (or another’s) success is built on sand; and, that time will show it to be unsustainable.


  1. You are successful because you are a micromanager. You are really good at what you do, so you make every decision and have all the ideas. In fact, everything has to be cleared through you.

An inconvenient truth is that micromanagement often works in the short-term; but, in the long term, you will become overwhelmed, your people will be demoralized and feel stuck, and the organization will decline as a result.


Remedy: To build your success on a foundation of stone, work to make your people less dependent on you, not more so. This frees you up to do bigger-picture leadership tasks: to create vision, determine strategy, and build your culture. Leave the decision of what type of paperclips to buy to someone who is closer to the situation, and someone more likely to make a good decision as a result.


  1. You are successful because you are a jack-of-all-trades, and can do everyone’s job; in fact, you often do.

While it is helpful to know a little about a lot of things in your dealership as it gives you a more valuable perspective, it’s not wise to do a little of a lot of things, as that will continually break your focus and momentum, and take you out of your strength zone far too often. Working on too many things, rather than on the right things—the big-picture- leadership things—is a recipe for eventual decline and irrelevance.


Remedy: Jacks-of-all-trades are, of course, masters of none; but, while many brag about the first half of the cliche, they conveniently forget the consequence so clearly spelled out in the second half. Highly effective leaders delegate weaknesses, and staff weaknesses; they don’t engage in them. To excel at anything, and leadership is no exception, you have got to spend more time in your strength zone doing what you are wired to do, the tasks you are best at, and what is most likely to leave you most fulfilled personally, and leave the dealership most profitable.


I have met managers with immense people skills who can inspire, stretch, and develop people to entirely new levels of performance, but they never spend time with people because they are still designing the weekly ad, or writing out next week’s schedule— something they should have delegated long ago.



  1. You are successful because you work bell-to-bell and never take a day off.

Do I really have to explain why this is unsustainable? Perhaps you are already suffering marriage problems and health issues, and are experiencing the consequences a severely out-of-balance life brings, and know full well. If not, you have probably seen it if you have been in the business a while. Don’t be foolish enough to think that you are somehow the exception.


Remedy: A key to having a balanced life away from work is getting better at what you do while you are at work—both personally and through building a team. This will result in your not having to spend as much time on the job as you are now, and mean you can actually have a life. Until you learn how to work smart, from your zone, and consistently execute (with excellence) the non-negotiable activities most predictive of creating the desired result, you will just be another overworked, out of shape, twice-divorced, addicted-to-something, “car dog,” who makes a good living but never really has a great life; one who has been “lived,” but never truly lives.



  1. You are successful because you lie, cheat, steal, or shortcut processes.

Ok, this one is uncomfortable, but I would be remiss not to mention it. It happens. Like me, you probably know someone, or multiple people, it has happened to over the years. They looked good for a while, and may have even been the person pointed to as an example: to be like “Joe” or “Jane.”  But then the storm came, and the success built on sand crumbled almost overnight. You can call it cause and effect, sowing and reaping, or whatever else you like. I call it inevitable. It will happen. And it will happen to you if you are guilty. It is just a matter of time.


Remedy: If you are really as good as you think and say you are, do you really need to lie, cheat, steal, or shortcut processes to get results? Is it worth losing your self-respect, reputation, family, and possibly your freedom?


There are numerous other examples I don’t have space to elaborate on: having a hot product or robust economy that puts results on steroids and seduces you into abandoning sound disciplines because it’s gotten so easy, and more. But, as it should be quite obvious, you absolutely can argue with success. Because what’s more important than the fact you are achieving success is how you are getting it. The how tells the real story about where you are headed—to an unsustainable foundation of sand that is here today and gone the next quarter, or to a do-it-right  foundation of stone that stands the test of time.

How to “Win the Locker Room”

April 13th, 2017

How to “Win the Locker Room”

 Dave Anderson


“Losing the locker room” is not a condition limited to athletic teams. Any leader engaging in destructive, selfish, or other counter-productive behaviors risks losing the hearts, minds and esteem of his or her team. Following are five ways to be a leader who wins your “locker room,” and consistently draws the best effort and results out of your team.


Three Signs You Have yet to “Win the Locker Room,” or Have Outright Lost It


  1. Team members comply, but they don’t commit. They routinely do just enough. They don’t initiate. They appear more indifferent about what they are doing than passionate about it. In fact, you can gauge your success in winning your locker room based on the amount of discretionary effort you routinely receive from team members. Discretionary effort is the above-and-beyond effort you get from others without having to ask for it, threaten them for it, or bribe them to get. Without discretionary effort, you may be losing, or have already “lost the locker room.”


 2. Team members aren’t engaged. A “happy” or “satisfied” team member isn’t necessarily engaged. After all, droves of folks are happy and satisfied to do the bare minimum each day, never be held accountable, and expect a maximum return. Engagement however, is when your people are emotionally invested in the company’s goals; they care deeply about the organization and their ability to contribute to it. If they’re not engaged, you may be losing, or have already “lost the locker room.”


 3. Team members don’t buy into new changes, processes, strategies, and more. They overtly, and covertly, resist anything new. Their attitude is mostly cynical, and sometimes hostile to your ideas. When people don’t buy into anything you try to do or change, it’s often because they haven’t bought into your leadership, which indicates you have lost or are “losing the locker room.”


Five Ways to “Win the Locker Room”


“Winning your locker room” starts with having credibility not only as a leader, but as a person. You also “win the locker room” when team members can see and feel the positive impact you’re having on their growth and development. Here are key actions that address both of these factors:


  1. You “win the locker room” when you “own it.” Owning it includes taking responsibility for the team’s results, admitting your own mistakes, and giving away credit to others who deserve it. These high-integrity actions build trust and belief in your leadership. Owning it also includes personally renouncing excuses, and setting the right example by focusing yourself and your team on the aspects of your job you can control; and, not allowing yourself or team members to become “victims.”


2. You “win the locker room” by keeping your commitments. If you commit to do something with—or for—a team member, you are obligated to do it; even if it takes more time, inconvenience, or expense than you first estimated. If you “talk right and then walk left” you break trust and leave your people behind. At the end of the day, if people can’t count on you, they won’t trust you; and, if they don’t trust you they won’t follow you.  And who can blame them?


 3. You “win the locker room” by making team members feel part of something special. People spend immense amounts of their adult life in the workplace and are more engaged when they feel part of something special—a meaningful team mission and vision. High quality people want, and expect, meaningful work. Making people feel part of something special also mandates you make their own contribution towards that end very personal, so they more clearly see their role in helping the organization’s success. How clear is your mission and vision? If we were to survey ten people at random today and ask them what the mission and vision are for the organization, would their answers be identical? If not, you potentially have chaos in the cubicles, competing agendas, people with “jobs” rather than “causes,” and are on your way to losing, or have already “lost the locker room.”


 4. You “win the locker room” by helping team members grow personally and professionally. When people feel they’re getting better on your watch, loyalty kicks in. Training them, giving fast and candid feedback, increasing their latitude and discretion, and letting them make decisions on their own are essential steps to helping leave people better than you find them. Helping your people grow also means you set personal growth objectives for a quarter, year, etc., and then resource that growth as is necessary. Human beings develop to their potential in structured environments, buttressed by intentional growth objectives—not by chance, or simply by showing up each day. If your people aren’t growing, not only will their ability to contribute to the team plateau, their own self-esteem will as well. Team members who feel stale or stuck become apathetic and indifferent—a sure and eventual recipe for “losing the locker room.”


 5. You “win the locker room” when you develop a team that wins. Little unifies a team and builds buy-in to your leadership faster than winning. Getting results as a team builds unity, momentum, morale, as well as your personal credibility. People may like you, but if they don’t eventually feel like they’re winning, that they can win, or that you’re a winner, they will mentally check out on you. Winning, winning often, and doing it the right way, go a long way in helping you win the affection and respect of your team, and to “win the locker room” as a result.

Accountability is up to YOU

April 13th, 2017

  Accountability is up to YOU

Dave Anderson


By definition, someone that leads is expected to “go in front; to show the way.” A key to leading by the right personal example—showing the way—is holding people accountable for behaviors and performances you’ve determined as essential for the organization’s success. Frankly, if you’re in a leadership position, holding others accountable isn’t an option—it’s your duty. Failing to consistently execute this duty results in ongoing damage to: your culture, team morale and momentum, your brand, the customer experience, your personal credibility, and more. Doing your job and holding people accountable however, brings forth numerous benefits that enhance your organization’s fitness.


Following is a compelling handful of benefits that should encourage you and your leaders to work harder to develop both the skill set and the mindset to effectively hold others accountable; in essence, making sure every person in your dealership is held responsible for both the behaviors and results you’ve outlined as non-negotiable.


Benefit #1: Holding people accountable protects and strengthens your culture.

When deficient behaviors or results cause your dealership’s culture to weaken, the foundation of your entire organization is at risk. By doing your job and establishing clear values and standards, a compelling mission that unites a team, and providing team members the training and tools they need to be successful while holding them accountable throughout the process, you become a productive chief architect and primary influencer of your culture.

The alternative is to fail in shaping your culture according to the right standards, and allowing outside forces—often influenced by societal trends like a rising sense of entitlement, a growing absence of absolutes, and a participation-trophy-non-performance-mindset—to shape your culture in its image. After all, you can’t not have a culture. The telling questions are whether you’ll take control and shape it according to productive values and standards, or leave it up for grabs and allow it to be shaped from the outside-in. Many weak-minded, untrained, politically correct people in leadership positions today are choosing the latter route and reaping a resulting banquet of mediocrity.


Benefit #2:  Holding people accountable ensures they work towards their fullest potential.

Effective leaders are effective developers of human capital. Through coaching, training, mentoring, empowerment, resolute clarity, and accountability, their objective is to continue to stretch team members to their fullest potential. Frankly, that’s not going to happen if you let people just “get by,” because you lack the skills or mental toughness to hold them accountable for using the resources and opportunities you provide, and for executing what you’ve determined as essential for their growth.

Political correctness has seduced some leaders into believing that it’s somehow harsh or offensive to tell people the truth about how they are doing, or apply consequences for behavioral or performance failures. But what’s truly harsh is letting people fail on your watch because you won’t do your job. Overall, the objective of accountability isn’t to fire people; but rather, to prevent you from having to fire them because you don’t let things get that far. Accountability also ensures that top performers continue to grow rather than slide back into their comfort zones. We live in a pampered age where many people have been lied to and coddled long enough about the realities concerning their performance. If you care about people, you will: challenge them, equip them, empower them, and confront them when necessary.

The most effective leaders I know convey the following with both their words and actions:

  • “I’m hard on you because I believe in you.”
  • “I hold you accountable because I care.”
  • “I stretch you so you never have to regret giving less than your best.”

These leaders understand that in their endeavor to help the people in their charge reach their fullest potential, they are never likely to hear these words—or words like them:

“Thanks for being easy on me. You changed my life.”


Benefit #3: Holding people accountable facilitates effective execution.

This one doesn’t require much elaboration: without effective execution, vision is irrelevant and strategy is worthless. At the end of the day, people do what they are held accountable for; you teach them how to treat you. If there aren’t consequences for poor behaviors or performances, you can expect to see more of them. The behavioral science principle rings true: if you want to change a behavior, you must change the consequence for that behavior.


Benefit #4: Holding people accountable ensures better team member experiences.

This one is obvious, and painful. When people don’t do their job, or don’t live the values, productive team members can become distracted, overwhelmed, and demoralized. They also tend to feel they’re working in a less special workplace since people who shouldn’t even be there in the first place are showing up and being paid every day—and making their lives miserable in the process.


Benefit #5: Holding people accountable ensures better customer experiences.

Since employees having a better experience will create better experiences for customers, the stakes are high that the prior point is a reality in your culture. The payoffs are numerous, but perhaps the biggest is that customers who enjoy better experiences are more loyal and find price less relevant, are more likely to return, and are potential referral machines.

There are many more benefits, but let’s conclude with this thought: to earn greater buy-in and leadership credibility, it’s essential to understand that holding yourself accountable to values and standards as a priority is where accountability must begin. Your number one duty where accountability is concerned is first expecting more from yourself than you do from others—being a living embodiment of consistently excellent performance and living core values. In my two-day workshop on How to Master the Art of Accountability, we spend a fair amount of time evaluating our own attitudes, behaviors, adherence of values, and execution of job duties to ensure our talk and walk are consistent. Letting ourselves slide while we preach accountability to others is a pathetic form of hypocrisy.

It’s also important to repeat, and recall that it is essential we as leaders provide the clarity, feedback, tools, and empowerment our people need to live out and execute the behavioral and performance objectives we have set forth for them. Thus, our first duties where accountability is concerned are to do our job well and walk our talk.


Consequences Aren’t What’s Harsh

April 13th, 2017

Consequences Aren’t What’s Harsh

Dave Anderson


In today’s pampered age and increasingly politically correct climate, “applying consequences” has somehow become perceived as harsh, unfair, or as demonstrating excessive intolerance. Frankly, however, what is truly harsh and unfair is allowing people to underachieve—or fail outright—on your leadership watch because you don’t have either the skill set or mindset to effectively apply consequences. What’s also harsh and unfair is allowing someone to lower team morale, create poor customer experiences, violate your values and break team momentum because he or she isn’t held accountable with consequences for their actions. And speaking of “intolerant,” the highest performing cultures happen to be highly intolerant of certain behaviors and performances that may put the entire entity at risk. I recently filmed a DVD on this topic, and placed it on our virtual training platform. The feedback was so overwhelmingly positive, that I want to share some of the principles in this piece.


A consequence is defined as the result of an action or condition. An important Law of Behavioral Science states that, “If you want to change a behavior, you must change the consequence for that behavior.” Without consequences for inappropriate behaviors or results, you must continue to revisit the same issues continually without any long-term change in behavior, or improvement in results. Bearing this in mind, consider these seven rules, thoughts, and strategies concerning the effective application of consequences:


  1. Consequences are not one-size-fits-all’s. They should be customized to fit various offenses. Obviously, you’ll most likely have a different consequence for someone who is ten minutes late to a meeting than you would the person misusing a company credit card.


  1. Consequences are most effective when spelled out in writing. For example, in your employee handbook, you may have something like this clearly outlined: The first time you’re late to work within a twelve-month period, you will receive a verbal warning; the second time, you are written up; the third time, your employment is terminated.


These, of course, are just examples and I’m not recommending them; nor am I recommending you not use them. Again, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy. Consequences may vary depending on your culture’s makeup, what you’ve done previously, and more.


  1. Depending on the offense, consequences often include a form of progressive discipline. As set out in the prior point, the severity may increase with frequency of offenses.


However, for more serious offenses like sexual harassment, lying, cheating, theft, and the like, you probably don’t want to give multiple chances. In strong cultures there is no tolerance for those behaviors and the consequences philosophy is pretty much “one and done.” It’s wise to check with your HR team and legal counsel, as laws concerning outlining and applying certain consequences may vary from one city or state to another.


  1. Once established, consequences must be enforced. Make exceptions to stated consequences at your own great peril. You can destroy your personal credibility and open yourself up to discrimination suits.


As weak and pathetic as the following will sound, it is true: you are better off not to have a standard at all, than to have a standard with a pre-established consequence that you fail to enforce. As parents who raise spoiled brats can testify, you’ll actually have more credibility not establishing a rule or standard than you will by doing so, declaring a consequence, and then flinching when the time comes to apply it.


  1. Consequences must be specific in order to be effective and enforceable.


“If you come in to work late again there are going to be consequences” is worthless. What does that mean exactly? They get a spanking? You’re going to egg their house, or give them a wedgie? Laying out specific consequences is both more effective and credible.


  1. You don’t necessarily need consequences for everything. In strong cultures, things like peer pressure provide an unwritten consequence for things like leaving dishes in the sink, taking someone else’s lunch, or keeping a sloppy work area. However, you should absolutely have consequences for your non-negotiable behaviors (core values), outcomes, and the essential activities and processes most predictive of creating the prescribed outcomes.


  1. Consequences can include a wide array of possible actions.

 A.Verbal warning.

 B. Written warning.

 C. Suspended without pay.

 D. Loss of privilege.

 E. Loss of responsibility.

 F. Probationary period.


Keep this in mind: whenever you begin to tighten up clarity and consequences in your business, some may accuse you of micromanaging. This is nothing more than an attempt to manipulate your behaviors to their advantage, hoping you back off. Micromanage is defined as: to control with excessive attention to minor details. Bearing this in mind, it’s easy to point out that non-negotiable behaviors like core values, your desired outcomes, and the essential activities and process most predictive of creating those outcomes are far from “minor” details. In fact, the failure to execute said behaviors, activities, and outcomes puts your entire organization at risk.

Followers Are Earned

April 13th, 2017

Followers Are Earned

By Dave Anderson


The first section I teach in my Up Your Business 3.0 Super Leadership workshop is called, “How to Become a Leader Worth Following.” In it, I list eight essential traits leaders should demonstrate daily to add value to their team. I open the section with a few points for perspective on leadership:

  • A title doesn’t make you a leader; it simply buys you time to become one—to earn influence or to lose it, to get the job done or to blow it.
  • Ultimately, leadership is performance, not position. It’s a daily choice you make, not a place at the head of a conference table where you sit.
  • It’s delusional to believe that someone in a leadership position has “followers” simply because he or she has a leadership title. Followers are earned; they are not automatic.

In this column, I’ll address the third point and include steps to convert subordinates into followers. But first, here are three quick opening thoughts to set the stage:

1. Subordinates are not committed, they are compliant.

By definition, a subordinate is “a person under authority or control of another within an organization.” Frankly, this sounds more like a driven stake than a stakeholder. At the end of the day, a compliant subordinate tends to do just enough to get by and then stop. They have a “job,” and nothing more. It’s safe to say that you won’t build a great organization around this baseline level of effort.

By comparison, a follower is defined as, “a devotee to a particular person, activity or cause.” Someone devoted is far more likely to go the second mile than one who is just under authority and compliant.

2. Before you earn followers, you must first earn buy-in from your people. 

Buy-in is never automatic, regardless of how long you’ve been the leader, or even if you own the place. And until people buy into you, they’re not going to buy into your vision, ideas, changes, processes and more. Here’s a quick run-down of what subordinates must buy into to become followers:

  • Your character. They ask, “Can I trust you?”
  • Your competence. They need to see that you: know what you’re doing, make good decisions, and are steering them towards success.
  • Your consistency. Do you demonstrate sound character and competence consistently, or only every once-in-a-while?
  • Your compassion. Do you care about them, or are they just another head in a herd of cattle—a means to an end that you use to get what you want out of life?

3. Just as your leadership style can convert subordinates into followers, so can it demote followers into subordinates.

Your leadership ultimately elevates or devastates team effort and performance.

With the following points in mind, here are four steps to convert subordinates into followers:

4. Enroll team members in a mission and vision bigger than themselves.

Mission and vision unify a team around a common purpose and direction. This addresses an important human need, not just in the workplace, but in life: human beings want to feel part of something special; that they have a cause—a campaign—and not just an existence.

Mission is your purpose and defines why you exist as an organization. Without a clear and compelling mission, team members are prone to develop their own agendas and do what’s right in their own eyes, instead of what moves the team forward as a whole. Vision is a specific and quantifiable direction, giving the team a common goal to unite behind and work towards. Strong mission and vision bring clarity to the workplace, and clarity empowers people, focuses attention, and ignites effort.

 5. Prepare to earn buy-in daily.

Buy-in earns the discretionary effort necessary to move subordinates into the ranks of a true follower. Discretionary effort is the extra work someone puts in because they want to, not because they’re required to. It’s the mark of strong teams, robust cultures, and effective leadership. In fact, you can measure your own leadership by how much discretionary effort you’re currently getting from your team. If it’s a lot, then congratulations. If it’s anemic, you have some work to do.

 6. Learn how to motivate team members as unique individuals.

You must know people to move people; and, when you take the time to find out what moves each of your people personally, you help build the personal connection that foreruns commitment. Did you get that last point? Connection foreruns commitment. That being said, do you spend enough time connecting with, building relationships with, and trying to understand the unique makeup of each of your direct reports? If not, you have even more work to do.

7. Invest heavily in their development.

Knowing that they’re growing motivates, stretches, and inspires team members to give greater effort to apply what they’re learning and achieve even more. One of the greatest triggers for extra performance in the workplace is knowing you’re getting better and wanting to show it. As you spend time and money investing in your people, they tend to want to use what they’re learning and will become more committed performers in the process. Frankly, if you don’t invest in your people, not only do you not deserve buy-in from them, but you also don’t deserve to retain them at all; and, you probably won’t—it’s just a matter of time.

As you become more aware of the steps you need to take to earn and keep buy-in, and convert subordinates into followers, you’ll find it’s not a to-do list item that you ever scratch off as “complete.” Rather, it’s a daily leadership discipline that pays substantial benefits for the leaders who care enough about their people to prioritize their people in this manner.