Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Run a “Red Belt” Business

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Within our LearnToLead Elite Training Center adjacent to our Agoura Hills, California offices, I have a “Wall of Influencers”. On the wall are three separate photo displays where I’m posing with a substantial mentor in my life: John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar and Johnny Gyro. Maxwell and Ziglar are renowned writers, speakers, teachers and motivators. Johnny Gyro is not known in business circles, but as a ninth dan seven-time world champion karate master, represented in three separate karate halls of fame, he is well known in martial arts circles. As my instructor for the past decade, Master Gyro has taught me plenty about self-defense, but I’ve also found his insights into the martial arts keenly applicable in the business arena. Following are four tenets taught by this martial arts genius that can improve your leadership and elevate your organization:

1.    Speed is a disguise for technique.

Martial arts application: This is a caution to crisply and precisely finish each move before rushing on to the next; that moving quickly in an attempt to disguise flaws may fool the amateur, but never an expert. By moving fast and without good form you reinforce bad habits, and build a faulty foundation that will slow further development.

Business application: Beware of the tendency to immerse yourself in a swirl of activity each day to try and hide your limitations. Don’t mistake motion for progress, speed for direction or activity for accomplishment by understanding it’s not how fast or often you move, but the direction you’re heading that’s most predictive of progress.

Examples of how speed can disguise technique include failing to plan your day around the discipline of priorities and simply reacting and putting out fires instead; rushing through the interview and hiring process just so you can claim to have “hired three new ones” in spite of them being the wrong ones; making snap decisions in an attempt to appear decisive without hearing all sides; listening efficiently rather than effectively and giving quick, snappy answers before moving on to the next emergency of the moment; a situation mostly created by your inability to focus on performing the basics of your job with daily precision in the first place.

2.    End it quickly.

Martial arts application: When attacked by an assailant, end the struggle quickly; the longer it lasts the more likely it is something really bad will happen. To accomplish this you must hit vital targets in quick succession. Repeatedly punch an arm and the fight goes on forever. Deliver a scoop kick to the groin, a knee to the head, and palm strike to the jaw and the battle is over in four seconds.

Business application: When executing a strategy, don’t contemplate everything you can do to move towards a goal; you don’t have the time, energy or resources for that. Instead determine the fewest battles necessary to win the war and execute them violently, diligently, and with excellence.

3.    Stay hungry with a red belt mindset.

Despite the fact that there are ten degrees of black belt in the Tang Soo Do style, when one passes his first degree test he often becomes complacent, cocky, or can turn into a know-it-all. The rank prior to black, red, on the other hand is known for training hard, being coachable, humble and aggressive. A key to sustained martial arts excellence is continuing to think like a red belt, even after you’ve “arrived” at the black belt level; to act as a challenger even though you may be the champ.

Business application: Having a record month, being “number one” in the region, or completing your best year ever can cause you to lose the red belt hunger and start thinking like the prideful “been there done that”, black belt. Three keys to overcoming complacency are having forecasts that stretch you, continuing to work hard on your own skill development, and holding yourself and others accountable for the daily execution of key activities responsible for driving the numbers. When I present these principles in my “How to Master the Art of Execution” seminar I’m always told by attendees that the daily focus, and daily accountability, is what’s most missing in their daily routine, and within their business culture.

4.    What gets you “here” won’t get you “there”.

During the ceremony when I was promoted from first red to a first degree black belt Mr. Gyro told me: “You’ve worked hard and deserve this, but what this really means is that now you’re an advanced beginner; there’s still a lot to learn.” Two- and-one-half years later after passing my second degree black belt test he told me: “Only ten percent of first degree black belts become second degrees. Always remember that the focus, discipline, skill level and desire that gets you ‘here’, won’t get you ‘there.”

Business application: The responsibilities and operations of many leaders have grown significantly in the past few years; the problem is they’re running them the same way. They haven’t upgraded their skills, narrowed their focus or improved their levels of discipline, and eventually they’ll plateau or decline because you can’t drive a “Mack Truck” the same way you drive a “Chevy Volt”. Along these same lines, who gets you here isn’t necessarily who will get you there. Some leaders, especially those like I’ve just described, get outgrown because they foolishly think they can create greater production without improving their personal capacity to produce.

I originally had nine lessons to share in this piece, but have run out of space, so I may discuss the other applicable martial arts maxims in the future. For now, reevaluate these four and determine if there is application that can improve your leadership, the team, and dealership overall.

The Foundation of Accountability

Friday, January 18th, 2019

I’ve written and spoken extensively about accountability in the twenty years since we started our company, Learn To Lead: how to do it, why it’s important, the consequences for not doing so, and more. In my recent How to Master the Art of Accountability seminar attendees found it helpful when I identified and outlined the two non-negotiable pillars of accountability, and how to develop both.

Essentially, holding people accountable requires both the right skill set and the right mindset. Knowing how to hold people accountable, but not doing it reflects the wrong mindset. Wanting to hold people accountable, but not knowing how to do it indicates a deficient skill set. In this piece I’ll go over the fine points of each of the two non-negotiable pillars for holding people accountable.

Three Quick Openers on the Importance of Accountability

  1. Accountability protects the culture, morale, momentum, the brand, the employee experience, the customer experience and the credibility of leadership.
  2. While the cost of holding someone accountable may seem high or uncomfortable, the cost for not holding someone accountable is staggering and creates more cultural discomfort. The cost is also enduring, rather than a one-time penalty. In essence, the consequences for failing to hold others accountable create a form misery on the installment plan.
  3. Accountability isn’t an option for someone in a leadership position; it’s a duty. If you can’t do it or won’t do it, you’re unfit for leadership. It’s THAT big of a deal.

The First Pillar of Accountability

  • Holding people accountable requires you have the right skill set.

This includes setting clear expectations for outcomes, essential daily activities and core values. Without clarity there can be no accountability because the question becomes, “Accountable for what?” It also takes skill to effectively give feedback on performance, establish and enforce appropriate consequences, and know what to say when you confront a poor performer. These are not tools that come to you in a dream one night after you’re promoted from advisor to service manager, or from salesperson to sales manager. They must be taught, learned, and applied to perform one’s duty as an effective leader. Because of this need for accountability “how to’s”, the accountability categories of our virtual training library are always the most used by managers from all departments in an organization.

I should emphasize that part of the skill set for holding others accountable mandates that you develop a skillful style as well: it should be conversational more than confrontational. Holding people accountable isn’t a license to be a jerk, to become profane, to shout, or get personal. In fact, those tactics make you look like a leadership amateur.  Your approach should be direct, respectful, firm, and attack the performance rather than the performer.

The Second Pillar of Accountability

  • Holding people accountable requires the right mindset.

Mindset is defined as “the established attitudes held by someone.” If you don’t have the right attitude concerning holding people accountable you’re unlikely to do it with urgency or consistency. The right accountability mindset is established when you realize and believe that holding someone accountable isn’t something you do to them, but for them. Frankly, if you believe you’re doing something “to” someone you’ll be reluctant to do it, and will likely apologize for doing your job – making you the “bad guy” and the non-performer “the victim.” However, when you believe you’re holding someone accountable to help them, to correct their course, to facilitate their growth, and to make them more successful, you’ll execute this vital duty without hesitation or apology.

 

In an age dedicated to political correctness and committed to not doing something that would offend someone else, holding people accountable has increasingly become seen as harsh or unfair. But is it really harsh to let someone know what is expected, how to improve, where they stand, where they need to be and by when, or what the consequence is for failing to do their job will be? If you think about it, it doesn’t really get any fairer than that. In reality, what’s truly harsh is letting people live in a gray area, allowing them to fail, fall further off track, and permit things to get so bad for so long that you have no choice but to remove them; and, they never see it coming or have a chance to correct their course because you failed to tell them. While it’s true that holding an accountability conversation can make both you and the person uncomfortable, that very discomfort is what’s necessary for you both to grow and get better at what you do. What’s more uncomfortable is failing to do your job and having non-producers, or toxic achievers remain on your team, which is unfair to the rest of the team and jeopardizes your own job.

 

The bottom line is that the best time to start holding people accountable would have been several years ago. The next best time is now. Where holding people accountable is concerned, if you know what to do, why it’s important, and what’s at stake if you don’t do it, and yet still fail to do it, YOU are the one that should be held more accountable for subordinating what’s best for the person and team to your own comfort level. When you think about it, holding others accountable is a cornerstone of any leader’s job description, so expecting you to do you job and hold others accountable seems like a reasonable expectation. Developing the right skill set and mindset—the two non-negotiable pillars of accountability—offers you a road map to get the job done.

Signs and Symptoms of a Dysfunctional Team

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

“Dysfunctional” is defined as not operating normally or properly; having malfunctions. Following are signs of a healthy and functional team, as well as their dysfunctional counterparts. Consider which characteristic most resembles the team you spend most of your time in your organization.

Two Quick Openers on Dysfunctional Teams:
1. Dysfunctional teams are often successful teams that in reality are missing their potential by immense margins. Ironically, the team’s successes mask serious dysfunctional aspects. Make no mistake though, the dysfunctional team is successful in spite of these dysfunctions, not because of them.

2. There isn’t a universal inoculation against dysfunction on a team; just about the time you get one issue resolved, a separate issue is manifesting. Because of this, no team can ever be considered as having “arrived” or as having crossed a definitive finish line. Eliminating team dysfunctions and replacing them with healthy aspects is an ongoing leadership discipline and responsibility.

Which is it: Healthy or Dysfunctional?

Have your managers place a checkmark by either A or B to indicate which tendency is present more than its counterpart and bring the results to your next meeting to discuss. If you fear the outcome of such an exercise, that’s the first sign you’re dysfunctional!

1.  An absence of conflict or dissent.

A. ___Healthy teams have productive conflict, where teammates can speak up and give a contrary opinion, challenge ideas, and address underperforming issues within the organization without getting personal or in fear of reprisals.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams have an absence of conflict. People just go along, even when they disagree or believe something is wrong or could be done better. They’re either afraid or indifferent.

2. Nothing can get done without the boss’ approval.

A. ___Healthy teams have people at all levels who can make changes or decisions (including those that cost money within pre-set limits) to take care of customers or improve their operations.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams have front-liners, and even middle managers, who can effectively do little or nothing concerning changes or decisions (especially if they cost money) to take care of customers or improve their operations without management sign- off. Even if they’ve been empowered to do so, they don’t feel comfortable using that power.

3. Bosses don’t move fast enough to implement suggested change to improve an organization.

A. ___Healthy teams have leaders who speed up change, encourage challenging the status quo and move quickly to act upon good ideas brought to them by others.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams have boss’ desks where all progress seems to go to die. The unspoken mantra seems to be “this indecision is final;” the boss has become an obstacle to progress rather than a facilitator of progress.

4. Meetings are marginalized as people are allowed to use computers or phones to get other work done while at the meeting. Meetings are for learning, sharing, brainstorming ideas, and discussing important topics. Engagement in these endeavors is weakened as others are at the meeting physically, but elsewhere mentally.

A. ___Healthy teams fully engage in meetings and aren’t allowed to use technology unless it’s somehow related to the topics being discussed at the meeting.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams have meetings where people are routinely present physically, but often checked-out mentally as they multi-task on technology.

5. Too many pointless or lengthy meetings are being held. If a meeting has no set agenda, routinely rehashes old topics, fails to add value or improve the organization, or discusses in person what could have been accomplished through technology, it is part of the problem.

A. ___Healthy teams have meetings that are focused and productive, and hold meetings for what can’t be discussed or solved without the meeting.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams meet to meet, have no agenda, get off track easily, revisit the same issues repeatedly, and routinely leave attendees wondering what, if anything, was actually accomplished.

6. Mediocrity is rewarded with too-generous pay, and excessive time and attention, while
top performers are routinely ignored or taken for granted.

A. ___Healthy teams are merit-based, and routinely give what’s best to the best and less to the rest.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams are pseudo-welfare states, where the strong are weakened to strengthen the weak; many of whom shouldn’t be on the team in the first place.

7. What matters is not what you’ve accomplished in a day, but how many hours you were at work that day.

A. ___Healthy teams acclaim, reward and recognize what gets done during the time one is at work more than the length of time one is at work. Accomplishment trumps activity.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams champion hours put in, and days not taken off, over what is actually achieved during those hours and days. Effort is acclaimed without enough regard to results.

8. By the time a non-performer is fired, it’s so painfully past due it’s become an ongoing distraction and cultural embarrassment.

A. ___Healthy teams remove perpetual poor performers quickly, professionally and humanely.

B. ___Dysfunctional teams keep poor performers so long that the number one question to leaders following their departure is, “What took you so long?”

9. Conspicuously posted vision, values, or mission statements serve mostly as décor, since many teammates have little or no idea of what they are, or why they’re important.

A. ____Healthy teams know, live, and are held accountable for these aspects of organizational clarity.

B. ____Dysfunctional teams either: don’t know them; know them, but don’t live them; know them, but don’t live them, and aren’t held accountable for it; or don’t know them at all, and don’t really care that they don’t know.

10. “Invisible elephants” are very real but disguised by an “attitude is everything” value system.

Further explanation: “Attitude is everything” is an unspoken value, especially in organizations where facts are inconvenient. In a dysfunctional family, there’s an invisible elephant – sometimes an addict or abuser – in the parlor, but no one ever mentions him. To appear sane, you have to pretend that the elephant isn’t a total train wreck or loser, and that is very difficult. Dysfunctional teams have invisible elephants, too. Usually they do things that might cause difficulties for people with enough clout to prevent their discussion. The emperor may be naked, but if you have a good attitude, you won’t mention it.

A. ____Healthy teams don’t have invisible elephants that create a sense of organizational denial.

B. ____Dysfunctional teams may have an invisible elephant but pretend it doesn’t exist. Thus, they persist and worsen.

11. History is prone to be revised to make management’s decisions look better than they really were.

A. ____Healthy teams admit mistakes, learn from them, and don’t repeat them.

B. ____Dysfunctional teams spin the truth, rationalize, and defend poor decisions all to save face and preserve ego.

12. Consequences for non-performance are vague, so leaders don’t paint themselves into the uncomfortable corner of actually doing what they said they would.

A. ____Healthy teams have clearly established consequences for non-performance that are applied throughout the organization as necessary, without partiality.

B. ____Dysfunctional teams leave consequences gray. When they are applied, it’s often random and inconsistent.

13. Rules are enforced based on who you are or who you know, rather than on what you do.

A. ____Healthy teams don’t bend rules or make excuses for toxic achievers, or tenured non-performers.

B. ____Dysfunctional teams pick and choose who the rules apply to based on tenure, nepotism, production, and other factors that shouldn’t matter.

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Friday, November 30th, 2018

It’s common to complain that “this or that person stressed me out,” or that a particular situation creates undue stress in your life. It’s even more common that these “stressors” are external conditions or people under which we have little or no control. This creates a feeling of helplessness that affects both confidence and effectiveness. A hard truth is that much of the stress leaders endure in the workplace, or in their personal lives, is self-induced. It’s not a matter of conditions, but poor decisions that either create completely, or exacerbate, the impact of conditions as they arise.
There’s always going to be some degree of stress in life and at work (a sense of urgency to make something happen or solve a problem, deadlines that create renewed focus and resolve, standards that stretch comfort zones, accountability that creates the discomfort that fosters growth, and more) and I believe that can be very beneficial. Where stress starts to chew us up and spit us out is when it goes beyond those beneficial bounds and depletes us, and that’s where we are prone to make things worse by poor decisions. Following are a handful of thoughts and strategies to reduce the unnecessary, self-induced, stress that inhibits your performance, and can hijack both joy and health from your life:

1. Don’t be your own worst enemy.

Where stress is concerned, one’s personal leadership style is often the biggest culprit. If you don’t trust others and thus micromanage them; do a poor job of controlling your emotions; don’t delegate; lack daily focus; overreact to what’s incidental; can’t get over offenses and move on; and the like, then no one will ever have to defeat you. You’ll blow yourself up. It’s just a matter of time. Most all of the issues mentioned here are matters of developing a healthier mindset. If you haven’t read or listened to my book, Unstoppable, do so as it will help you in this regard. So will listening to my podcast, The Game Changer Life. Your business is only going to get better when you do, and real improvement begins with upgrading the quality of your thinking.

2. Learn to say “no.”

To reduce stress at work you’ve got to stop letting your mouth overload your back by taking on more than you have capacity to handle, or allowing someone to dump more of their work on you because you won’t speak up for yourself.

For example, when someone asks you to take on something that you know you don’t have the time to do, say something like: “This sounds like a worthwhile project. Unfortunately, I have a number of pressing obligations at this time that would prevent me from doing a good job with what you ask. But I appreciate your confidence in thinking of me.” Or, to save time, simply say “no.” “No” is a complete sentence.
3. Delegate to competent others.

Delegate or outsource your weaknesses and non-priorities to others. This is especially helpful when it is something that someone else – who is closer to it that you – can do as well as you, or will become more productive and valuable in learning how to do it and not having to wait on you to get it done. Certain nickel and dime decisions that others constantly wear you out with are a good place to start in this regard. It’ll make both you and them more productive and less stressed.
4. Stop winging it and start preparing.

Making your day up as you go along because you failed to structure it properly creates a reactionary leadership style that worsens stress. Remember: the more you prepare, the less you have to repair. Wise leaders don’t expect to improvise their way to the next level. They understand that failing to prepare is both lazy and reckless.

Consider this: it is estimated by time management experts that the ratio of preparation to time saved in execution is 3:1. In other words, 10 minutes of preparation saves 30 minutes of execution, one hour of preparation saves three hours of execution, and so forth. This makes preparation one of the highest returning investments in business and life! And not only does preparation build confidence as you face a day, it also reduces stress in the process. In fact, lack of confidence is a common culprit of stress.

5. Upgrade your skill level.

A key reason leaders feel overwhelmed or inferior is that they don’t have the skills to perform their job at optimal levels. This is why lifelong learning for anyone in a leadership position is not just a “feel good” idea – it is mandatory to sustain your success, build your confidence, and eliminate stressful situations for which you’re not qualified to handle. Getting outgrown by peers and by the industry is stressful. It’s also entirely preventable. If you’ve been outgrown it’s your fault. So fix it.
6. Become more coachable.

Even the most seemingly harsh feedback or coaching often has a grain of truth in it that can help you improve if you’ll set your withering ego aside and consider it. Before you get stressed out and dismiss your next critic – and then create more stress by rehearsing their “offense” again and again – look for that one biting bit of truth that will help you become a better leader, then make the necessary adjustment. This will also help you accomplish what was shared in point five.

7. Stop procrastinating.

Procrastination immobilizes you and stresses you out repeatedly…over the same issue. Developing the discipline to make yourself do what you don’t want to do, but know you should do, is a key to growing as a leader and eliminating huge amounts of stress. To pull this off you’ll need to develop the self-accountability to do what must be done even when you don’t feel like doing it; even when it’s not easy, cheap, popular, or convenient.

As you can see, pretty much everything listed here that may be ailing you and causing you undue stress is self-induced. In other words, it’s your fault. And that is really good news because when it’s your fault you can fix it.

Drive Drama-Babies from Your Dealership

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

There is little that is less productive for a team member to engage in than drama, and to subsequently become a “drama-baby” in the process. In fact, there is little that equals drama’s ability to distract from priorities, waste time, drain energy, and make Alps out of anthills.
“Drama” is the result of immature acts, committed by small-minded and selfish people who are either indifferent or oblivious to the negative value they inflict on both culture and teammates. While any of us may be prone to fall into the drama trap occasionally by overreacting to a simple event or conjuring up exaggerated and gloomy scenarios unlikely to ever occur–and normally doing so based on limited information—the drama-babies I’m addressing in this piece are those who are known for it. When you see him or her walking down the hall you can almost smell drama and a headache. Some drama-babies have perpetrated drama for so long they don’t even realize they’ve become a cultural contagion of toxic behavior.
The following points are designed to create self-awareness and strategies to help stop drama in your workplace, and to curtail the development of drama-babies. While you won’t ever eliminate drama completely from entities populated by human beings, you can do more to model productive behaviors personally, and to leverage peer awareness and peer pressure to demonize and minimize drama throughout your dealership.

Three Quick Thoughts on Drama and Drama-babies

1.    To create context for this piece, consider that Urban Dictionary defines drama as: “A way of relating to the world in which a person consistently reacts to or greatly exaggerates the importance of benign events.” Drama-babies have a predictable knack for overreacting to everyday events, for choosing to be offended, and for making everything possible be all about them.

2.    Typically, drama-babies are those who are chronically bored, or who have an inordinate craving for attention. They covet sympathy and continually bait others into “rescuing” them in some manner: normally through inordinate attention, sympathy, counseling, or helping. The bottom line: drama-babies don’t really have much of a life, so they endeavor to create a false reality that feeds their fancies and dramatic appetites.

3.    Drama-babies enjoy manipulating others, oftentimes dragging them into their hyperbolic fantasyland to gain attention, or make their own dullard existence more interesting.

Five Evidences of Drama

Following are five evidences of drama in general, and of drama-babies specifically, followed by five suggested remedies. Be aware of these symptoms; watch for them; address them when they manifest; and encourage peer accountability to discourage dramatic behavior from top to bottom in your dealership.

1.    Having one supposedly serious crisis after another.

Example: Over time, drama-babies communicate an unlikely and immense trail of crises in their lives that may include exaggerated family, health, or relationship issues.

2.    Constantly telling other people about one’s personal or career problems.

Example: You normally know far too much information about drama-babies; every headache, heartache, and hemorrhoid is described in agonizing detail.

3.    Claiming to have experienced negative experiences that are highly implausible.

Example: They’ve been personally affronted, offended, insulted, dismissed, disrespected, or slandered by an array of haters and bullies they encounter in their everyday lives: in traffic; at the Wendy’s drive-thru; from law enforcement and flight attendants; in attacks by social media trolls or Russian hackers; and even the occasional stalking or kidnapping by little green men in UFOs.

4.    Making claims without sufficient facts, or lack of detail about supposedly serious events.

Example: Starting or hearing rumors and blowing them out of proportion; or, presenting with authority what they have minimal—if any—facts to base their claims on.

5.    A pattern of irrational behavior and reactions to everyday events.

Example: Someone took Sue’s Diet Dr. Pepper from the break room fridge and she’s convinced a teammate is set on destroying her. Or, John didn’t get the credit he thought he deserved for the project’s success so now he’s updating his resume because he “knows” he’s about to be fired.

Five Remedies for Drama
1.    Start with your own example.
Go to work to work smart, and focus on the aspects of your job you can control. Speak more in terms of what is positive, possible, and productive. Stop being consumed with what someone else is doing or getting and mind your own business. Don’t gossip and reject gossipers. Look for ways to add value, bring solutions to the table and positively impact team members and customers alike.

2.    Get your mindset right and keep it healthy during the day.

My book, Unstoppable, goes into extensive detail for how to develop this essential discipline. In a nutshell: limit your intake of garbage media, websites, and conversations, and replace it with a structured routine that inspires, motivates, and educates. And start it before you get to work in the morning. Get in the zone before you leave your house for the dealership.

3.    Keep yourself and others so busy with high expectations and the productive activities necessary to achieve them that there is no time for drama.
Remember that human beings, including yourself, develop to their potential within the confines of a structured and effective daily routine—one that leaves no time to initiate or listen to drama-baby nonsense.

4.    Conversationally, firmly, and respectfully address drama and refocus the perpetrator on something more productive, and encourage team members to do likewise. This type of peer accountability is essential to driving out drama. Set the example with words like:

“This is starting to sound like drama,
I’m getting back to something more productive.”

“This is starting to sound like drama,
let’s both get back to something more productive.”

“You can’t control it or affect it, so get back to something you can control and affect.”
“Let’s get back in the zone.”

“Let’s leave the drama zone and do something productive.”

“Let’s make today about performance, not excuses.”

5.    Stop pandering to dramatic people with constant hugging, coddling, pep talks and rescuing.

You teach people how to treat you, so if you respond to drama unproductively, you’ll encourage more of it. What you reinforce with positive attention, including drama, you can expect to see more of. And if YOU are a leader who engages in drama personally, you are giving those in your charge license to do likewise. Inevitably, if it hasn’t happened already, you will become the unofficial momma or papa of a whiney and miserable family of drama-babies in your department.

As a leader you’ve got to do better, and you’ve got to start now.

How to Lead from the Middle

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

The challenges posed by leading from the middle were framed well by John Maxwell who wrote, “One of the toughest things about being a leader in the middle of an organization is that you can’t be sure of where you stand. As a leader, you have some power and authority. You can make some decisions. You have access to some resources. At the same time, you lack power in other areas and if you overstep your authority, you can get yourself into real trouble. Unless you are the owner or CEO, your power is on loan from someone with higher authority. And that person has the power to take that authority away from you by firing you, demoting you or moving you into another area of the business. If that doesn’t create tension, nothing will.”

When you learn to lead well from the middle you’re not as likely to stay in the middle; whereas leading poorly from a middle management position makes promotion less likely, and eventual obscurity more certain. Following are nine sample ways to lead from the middle of the pack in your organization: the sales manager serving his or her GSM well, and the GSM doing likewise to the GM, the GM to the dealer, and the like.
1.    If they have not already been established, ask your boss to clearly define performance expectations and parameters for making decisions. You’ve got to be on the same page as your boss concerning what’s most important, by when, and your permissible boundaries to make it happen. Don’t guess or wrongly assume. Without clarity you can’t aggressively execute what you’re responsible for getting done.

2.    Take initiative.  A key characteristic of effective leadership is a bias for action that translates to an ability to make things happen. Bring ideas to your boss, as well as solutions rather than just problems. If you see what needs to be done do it! It is better to be told to wait than to wait to be told. Once you understand what’s expected as outlined in the first point, take the initiative to figure out how it can be done; then execute.

3.    Execute your work with impeachable integrity. Don’t be another has-been in the business lore of high achievers who self-destructed because they got results the wrong way. The end doesn’t justify the means if you cut corners, violate values, or abuse others to get the job done. Effective leadership isn’t just about getting results but getting them the right way.

4.    Stop trying to fix your boss.  You can’t fix your boss any more than you can fix your spouse or any other human being. Besides, your job isn’t to fix your leader; it’s to add value to that leader. Supplement their weaknesses and adjust your attitude towards the leader in areas that cause friction for you.

5.    Develop a solid relationship with your leader.  You don’t have to be good friends, or even hang out, but there had better be some common ground of trust, respect, and mutual understanding within a relationship or you’ll be miserable most of the time— and eventually starting over again elsewhere.  The first reaction to working for an ineffective leader, or one with whom you don’t get along is often to withdraw from him or her and build relational barriers. You’ve got to work to counterintuitively fight that urge. If you make your leader your adversary, you will create a no-win situation. Instead, find common ground and do your part to go the second mile to build a solid professional relationship.

6.    Publicly support your boss.  Some managers foolishly do just the opposite: they publicly gossip and complain about, disrespect, or seek ways to undermine their boss. Discuss disagreements privately with your boss, and don’t talk to other people about your boss. He or she will find out, and you’ll also reveal character flaws to all listening to your rants that diminish you in their eyes. Others will also realize you may be doing the same to them or would someday if the opportunity arose. Andy Stanley said it well, “Loyalty publicly results in leverage privately.”

7.    Manage yourself.  You will not impress your leader for long with your ability to manage others if you cannot first manage yourself. This includes managing your attitude, emotions, time, daily routine, discipline, character choices and self-accountability.

8.    Accept responsibility for your results when they fall short.  Just own it—your results, attitude, decisions, all of it. In fact, if you want to earn even more respect and influence, take responsibility for more than your share. That sort of confidence and humility will draw others to you. When things go wrong, put away your black belt in blame and search for solutions not scapegoats. Be coachable, make adjustments, learn from shortfalls and mistakes, and grow both personally and professionally.

9.    Lighten your leader’s load.  Perhaps the best way to accomplish this is by doing your own work with such excellence and integrity that you’re the one your boss never has to worry about getting it done, or holding accountable, or micromanaging. Then go further by looking for tasks you can take off your leader; especially those areas where you’re strong but he or she isn’t. Be the “go-to” person every leader craves, values, and takes a special interest in.

Following these steps for leading from the middle creates a triple-win: you win because you’re more effective, fulfilled, and successful; your boss wins because with people like you around, he or she can grow to entirely new levels; and the organization wins as well, as both teammates and customers reap the rewards of effective leadership at the helm of any department. While no one in business should ever truly be considered as “indispensable,” you can come pretty darned close in your own boss’ eyes by living these nine mandates every single day.

Spotting the “Right” Leaders in Your Organization

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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”

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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.