Posts Tagged ‘learntolead blog’

An Rx for the “Ashamed Generation”

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

An entire chapter in my book, Up Your Business, addressed the dangers of entitlement within organizations and offered remedies for weeding it out. In If You Don’t Make Waves You’ll Drown I presented ten strategies to combat the negative impact political correctness has on high performance business cultures. After watching trending cultural currents in recent months I am presenting additional strategies to explain how to survive and prosper despite the encroachment of a force as atrocious as either entitlement or political correctness: a potent mix of bitterness, envy, and resentment projected against financially prosperous entities by a swelling number of malcontents I’ll classify as the “ashamed generation.” Following are background observations that relay the evolution of this unsettling phenomenon. Afterward, I’ll present tactics to prevent its influence and values from infecting your culture.

  1. Finishing college and entering the workplace over the past years have been the first generation of kids brought up under the farcical “don’t keep score and everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. The intent behind “tell them they’re special, give them a participation trophy, and prohibit punishment for poor behavior because it might hurt their feelings” was designed to engender a higher level of self-esteem in young people. This failed approach has backfired by creating a generation largely marked by entitlement, selfishness, disrespect, and a false sense of their worth to the marketplace.
  2. Upon entering the workplace with an “I’ll be rewarded for showing up versus stepping up and life is obligated to make me happy” arrogance these folks are soon deflated by the realization that life isn’t easy, they aren’t special, and making it big will require work. The false self-worth built through two decades of political correctness quickly fades as they earn below-average wages, in ho-hum jobs, suffer for lack of discipline, weak character, and glean the first clues that despite all the smoke they’ve had blown up their collective backsides, they just might be losers.
  3. As they fail to live up to the hyped expectations created for them, they are shamed, demonstrating the principle that those not prepared for life will be shamed by life. Shame provokes one of two emotions in human beings: get your life together or blame others for your state. Many in this generation choose the latter.
  4. Human nature drives people to seek purpose in their lives and to make a difference in the world. When one begins to feel that making a difference by building something up is too difficult or out of reach, the alternative is to seek purpose and attention by tearing something down; in this case, the prosperous people and companies they’ve come to resent and envy. Sadly, the ashamed generation failed to learn in their PC classroom that throwing rocks at another man’s Bentley won’t get them out of their rusted out Yugo. Ironically, this group’s mindset has infected generations beyond their own, attracting adherents from past eras who struggled, gave up, have been going through the motions, and in defeat decide to latch onto the same blame bandwagon embraced by the ashamed generation.
  5. Thankfully, there are many from the ashamed generations’ era who were raised in a manner that made them understand and appreciate the value of earn and deserve, and discount the whole concept of monuments to mediocrity like the participation trophies, and the unearned praise and weekly allowances their counterparts relied on for affirmation. They learned discipline, respect, hard work, and personal responsibility. They are refreshing exceptions to the huddled mass of their counterparts crowing out their chorus of complaints and demands. Many of these fine young men and women make meaningful contributions to businesses, churches, volunteer organizations, and the armed forces.

To those caught up in the entitled, bitter, and envious mindset that pervades the ashamed generation, I suggest the following:

  1. No one is impressed with the spin your parents and teachers fed you about how special you are. Respect is earned through the consistent demonstration of character, competence, and results. All life owes you is what you’ve earned and deserve.
  2. If you are one of the moochers circulating petitions asking the government to eliminate your share of the one trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, forget about it. When you go to the party and leave with the goods, you pay the tab. 
  3. Gather your worthless participation ribbons, trophies, and other testaments to your mediocrity and toss them. Then borrow a dictionary and look up the words earn and deserve; memorize them and begin to live according to their standards. Here’s a head start: earn is defined as having acquired through merit, or in return for labor or service. Deserve is defined as being worthy of or qualified for.
  4. Shut up and pay up. Many of the hardworking people you’re assailing pay six and seven figures in income taxes annually, you pay squat—and you’re ticked off at them? Don’t cry “pay your fair share” when you pay little or no share at all.
  5. If you’re a Warren Buffet-type, ashamed generation sympathizer, and don’t believe you pay enough in taxes, simply write a check to the IRS to relieve your guilt and leave the rest of us alone.

To those endeavoring to thrive in their business despite the assault of the ashamed driven generation’s mindset and its potential to affect morale at all levels within your organization, consider the following.

  1. Make it extremely difficult to get hired. Dig into an applicant’s life and determine what they’ve done, overcome, and flush out their life philosophy on hard work, success, prosperity, earn and deserve. Don’t give questionable candidates the benefit of the doubt during the interview, and if doubts linger, keep looking.
  2. Don’t reduce your vision or standards to accommodate the comfort zones of others. Rather, stretch your people to reach your expectations and if they don’t measure up remove them.
  3. Require team members to qualify based on past performance for the right to participate in spiff programs, contests, and other perks they now take for granted. If they don’t average producing “X” over the past 90 days, they cannot participate in incentive programs whatsoever. This earn and deserve philosophy will help weed out entitlement and make those who do qualify for your generosity more appreciative.
  4. Require the team to qualify for perks they now take for granted, ranging from donuts on Fridays to lunches on Saturdays. In order to get their free lunch on Saturday, they must collectively produce at least “X” during the week. This simple change in your earn and deserve philosophy will begin to change attitudes toward benefits people now take for granted and evoke more humility and gratitude.
  5. Celebrate excellence in your organization by launching a top performers club where people qualify quarterly. Give the winners the best schedule, office, opportunities and more. When the whiners squawk about how unfair life is simply tell them, “When you do what they’ve done, you can get what they’ve got.”
  6. Install minimum performance standards that cause the laggards to fire themselves faster if they cannot attain them. Letting underachievers stay on a great team is the equivalent of giving them an adult participation trophy.
  7. Replace longevity bonuses with performance bonuses. This eliminates entitlement and sets the standard that tenure, experience, and credentials don’t substitute for results—and in your organization people are rewarded for stepping up, not simply for showing up.

The cultural currents and trends in society surrounding your enterprise will adversely influence and infect your culture unless you take deliberate steps to protect it. If you fail to shape your business culture according to personal values and standards, society’s values and trends will shape it for you—to your great disgust and peril.

The Lost Art of Taking Personal Responsibility

Monday, November 28th, 2011

 For decades, I’ve written extensively about discipline, accountability, focusing on what you can control, and taking personal responsibility rather than blaming. These are principles I have personally embraced and applied in my life to prevail through tough times.

 In the early 80’s I worked in my parents’ restaurant business that failed. It was in the midst of 20+% interest rates, 10% inflation, and unemployment as high as today. I held three jobs to make ends meet, selling products door-to-door for two companies, and in the evenings delivering tortillas to restaurants for 50 cents per case. It wasn’t the work that I wanted or was qualified for, but it was the work that was available, and I felt lucky to have it.

 While living with my wife and daughter in the ugliest trailer, in the least desirable part of town, I changed careers and began to sell cars. In seven years I advanced from salesperson at a dealership in Texas, to the number two man in a successful $300,000,000 dealership group in California. When I declined the pay cut offered me by new owners I was forced out. Despite this misfortune, I chose not to whine, sue, or pitch a tent and “occupy” the dealership in protest. Instead I founded LearnToLead which, by God’s grace, prospers to this day.

 As I pursued my aspiration to write, six dozen publishers rejected my ideas for Selling Above the Crowd and No-Nonsense Leadership. Consequently, I exerted the effort to self-publish, distribute, and publicize both books. Their success attracted into my corner Wiley, the world’s largest business publisher with whom I’ve now published ten books. My publishing experience reaffirmed my belief that if something is important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.

 I don’t share this history to impress you, but to impress upon you that I’ve been broke, at the bottom, and the chief architect behind numerous failed ideas and ventures. But upon hitting the wall I chose to bounce, not splatter. Like many of you, when things got tough I didn’t opt to whine my way out, wish my way out, wait my way out, or demand someone bail me out. Rather, I took personal responsibility for my life and worked my way out.

 There exists today a dangerous trend that must be blunted—a burgeoning blame game and pity party spreading across continents that vilifies success, demonizes the financially successful, and endeavors to penalize prosperity. This assault has become a convenient and clever diversion for society’s malcontents to shift anger, frustration, and responsibility away from their personal failings, and thrust it upon those who have made productive life choices, or who have found ways to convert stumbling blocks into stepping stones and succeed. Here’s a glimpse at the forces that are fanning the flame:

 Millions are hurting financially in America. But for many, the pain is prolonged by their refusal to accept personal responsibility for poor decisions that have caused or augmented their struggles. Worse, politicians, unions, and the media encourage and enable their “I am helpless” mindset by assuring them that they are blameless in their mediocrity, and that the country’s most financially successful citizens and companies are the culprits. Protestors are “occupying” cities throughout the world, demanding substantial transfers of wealth to help turn their languid lives around.

The fact that things have reached this state should come as no surprise. Most people forty years and older would agree that the trend towards blaming more, entitlement, and undisciplined lifestyles has accelerated in recent decades. Not coincidentally, so has the national poverty rate. But, as convenient as it is to assail others or outside conditions for one’s lack of economic progress, nothing impacts the quality of one’s life more than his or her inside decisions. Those who don’t take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions, and instead blame others for misfortune, surrender control over their own destiny. This folly perpetuates their misery.

 While you’re not likely to read this in most headlines, many people suffer primarily because they’ve made poor life choices that created or compounded their financial hardship: the decision not to work hard or at all; not to self-educate oneself; not to live within one’s means, not to save money, as well as choosing to engage in habits like smoking, drinking, illegal drugs, gambling and a variety of other vices that deplete their limited resources and impair their soul. In reality, if society’s malcontents and protestors could kick the person most responsible for their woes they’d be unable to sit down for weeks. The sad result of this failure to take responsibility is an inability to progress from their current state, because they refuse to acknowledge their role in creating, or prolonging,  it in the first place.

 Following are five tenets that help you recommit to the lost art of taking personal responsibility. They are truths that place you on a path to rise above the masses that go through life assuming the position, thinking, talking, and walking like victims. Please share with those you know who are suffering from any of todays’ fashionable “it’s not my fault” fantasies. These include entitled family members and mediocre employees who went into retirement years ago but remain on your payroll, expecting to be rewarded for showing up versus stepping up.  

 1. Becoming precedes getting. Until you become more than you are in areas like attitude, discipline, character, work ethic, and knowledge, you are unlikely to get much more than you’ve got. When you do get more (usually because it is given to you) without becoming more, you rarely get to keep it for long and won’t have the skill to replace it once it’s gone.

2. Attitude is a choice. While you cannot usually choose what happens to you, you have the power to choose your response to it. The quality of your response will greatly determine the quality of your life. No one and nothing can assault your attitude without your consent.

 3. Discipline is a choice. No one is born disciplined or not. Discipline is developed when you get clear about what you want, decide to pay the price necessary to get it, and resolve to give up what hinders your quest. If you’re undisciplined it’s not genetic, it’s because you’ve chosen to go through life seeking prizes without paying prices.

 4. Growth is a choice. Personal growth isn’t automatic, and it doesn’t come naturally with age. Personal growth must be intentional. In other words, you must choose to read the books, to attend the seminars, to learn and assimilate success principles, to study the lives of life’s giants and decide how you can apply what made them successful in your own life. If you’re not growing, it’s because you have made the decision to not pursue growth.

 5. Character is a choice. Your character is determined by the moral qualities you’ve decided to embrace and live out in your life. If you lack strong character, you can’t blame mom and dad, the government, economy, or your teachers. Ultimately, you get to choose what’s important to you, and what’s not. Your character will develop—or not—in accordance with those convictions.

 Here’s what economic protestors and their critical kinsmen in life’s various arenas must understand: Needy people can’t expect to advance by demanding more of what someone else has earned. Rather, they must advance through education, perspiration & determination. I don’t know anyone who has risen from rags to riches by complaining,  protesting, or clamoring for the government to pick the pockets of those more successful than they and use the proceeds to subsidize their own inadequacy or complacency. While a humane society must support those who can’t help themselves, it owes absolutely nothing to those who won’t help themselves.

 A recent television program featured a contemporary study in personal absolution: a healthy, articulate, unemployed man who assailed “the system” because it had “failed him” and made it “impossible” to find work. In fact, he has quit looking for a job and now lives his life on the sideline cheer-leading the blame game. It is impossible to know how many of the unemployed persist in their parasitic assault on national resources not because they cannot find work, but because they don’t like the work they find. This particular man remains idle despite the fact that 150 million other Americans have found jobs including the physically and mentally challenged, blind, deaf, and mute. In fact, six million Americans work two jobs or more. It would benefit the temporarily unemployed to understand the difference between the system failing them, and making poor decisions that cause them to fail themselves. This particular gentleman has chosen to regress from loser to quitter: a loser being someone who comes up short and tries again, while a quitter simply gives up.  

President Theodore Roosevelt had encouraging words for those who roll up their sleeves to make things happen, rather than critique, complain, demand, or quit. It’s fitting to conclude this piece on personal responsibility with his famous acclaim for the man in the arena:

 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

 Note: I recently filmed a four minute video on this topic: “Whining is no Substitute for Working!” Click here to view: http://budurl.com/l4tv .

dave@learntolead.com

Until You’re Perfect, It’s Not Redundant!

Monday, June 27th, 2011

While managing salespeople I would occasionally hear a complaint from team members that sounded like this:

We’re going to train on the steps to the sale again? This is getting redundant!

While helping to run a six-dealership automotive group, I would sometimes hear a complaint from members of the management team that expressed the following:

Our training this month is on how to hire and interview…again? This is getting redundant.

As a speaker and trainer who produces monthly training dvds, and gives one thousand training sessions for clients each decade, I have from time to time heard this complaint from a customer:

What have you got that’s new? Topics like holding people accountable, casting vision for your organization, developing your leadership skills, setting the right expectations, learning how to interview and the like is getting a bit redundant.

To fully understand how inane these laments are, try to imagine the following conversations ever taking place: 

Tiger Woods to his coach: I have to hit ten buckets of balls again today? This is getting redundant!

Tom Brady to Coach Bill Belichick: We have to practice the same six pass routes gain today? This is getting redundant!

 Cy Young Award winner, Roy Halladay, whining to his manager, I have to practice the same five pitches again today? This is getting redundant!

Every serious professional in any endeavor knows, embraces, and applies this important performance rule: Until you’re perfect, it’s not redundant!

The reason I continue to speak, write and expand upon leadership themes like character, discipline, hiring, accountability and vision, is because so many of the leaders I know still fail miserably in these endeavors and their organizations suffer substantial consequences. And this is exactly why you must relentlessly hammer certain non-negotiable training topics throughout your organization. After all, it’s not the brilliance of your plan, but the consistency of right actions that creates performance breakthroughs. Here are some thoughts to help you inculcate this mindset into your culture.

1. The “It’s gotten redundant” excuse is normally whined out by lazy, arrogant, overrated employees who overestimate their ability while you underestimate what they’re costing you with their “been there, done that, I have arrived,” mentality. Tell them that once they’re perfect, they can stop practicing, but until that day they’re going to keep working at the essential disciplines you deem as non-negotiable. You’re not offering them “multiple choices,” but a condition of employment.

 2. No one on your team has to do anything extraordinary to reach the next performance level, but they will need to do the ordinary things extraordinarily well, and that comes only through practice and repetition.

 3. Lack of knowledge is not what is holding you or your team members back from better results. For the most part you know full well what to do but you’re still not doing it! Until you discipline yourself to close the gap between knowing and doing you’ll fail to reach your fullest potential.

4. Consistency of execution is what separates the good from the great. Anyone can be brilliant in the basics occasionally. That’s not special or worthy of acclaim. To be the best you must consistently do more of what you know to do and do so even when you don’t feel like it; on the bad days, when it’s not easy, cheap, popular or convenient. 

5. If you are the leader, and you accept the “this is getting redundant” excuses from your sniveling team members, then you are the problem. Sadly, you’ve attracted whiners and wannabes in your own image, and your attempts to correct their errors will be considered as hypocritical and ineffective. You’ll need to step up and pay the price personally before you can raise the bar for your team.

6. The level of your practice determines your level of play. If your performance isn’t what is should be, it indicts and convicts your practice ethic.

7. Stop letting “good enough” get in the way of becoming great. Some of your team members have reached a level that they—and you—consider as “good enough.” This plateau has removed any pressure, urgency or incentive from continuing to stretch, learn, and train in order to become great.

Here are three of my favorite quotes on preparation and paying the price for success. You may find it useful to post them in your conference room and point to them when the perennial pretenders on your team complain about your efforts to improve them:

Successful people have made the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do. Successful people don’t like to do these things either. But they subordinate their dislike to the strength of their purpose.  The strength of their purpose propels the successful to their dreams, forcing them to do the things they don’t really want to do so they can obtain the things they deeply want to achieve. E. M. Gray

You can put together a fight plan or a life plan, but when the action starts, you’re down to your reflexes. That’s when your practice shows. And if you cheated on your practice in the dark of the morning, you’ll be found out under the bright light of the competition. Joe Frazier

A champion doesn’t become a champion in the ring; he is merely recognized in the ring. The “becoming” happens during his daily routine. Joe Louis

Does Your Organization Sell Experiences?

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I recently wrote a magazine article entitled, “You Can’t Build a Great Organization Around Satisfied Customers.” In that piece I explained how, by definition, a satisfied customer has merely had their expectations met. Period. He is not wowed or impressed. Because of this, satisfied customers are not loyal; they are indifferent and apathetic. According to data published by Service Management Group, who surveyed millions of customers across multiple industries, less than 50% of satisfied customers return to do business with you and fewer than 30% recommend your business to others. Thus if your goal is to simply “satisfy the customer,” you may win some battles but will lose the war.

On the other hand, customers who have been wowed or impressed during the purchase experience rose into the ranks classified as highly satisfied. These customers are loyal, they support you and want to see you become more successful. As compared to satisfied customers, twice as many in this group return to do business again, and three times the number refer others to you. This begs the question: how do you move a customer from being satisfied—having their expectation met—to becoming loyal, wowed and impressed? The answer is found largely in the experience you provide for the customer during and following the purchase. As companies like Ritz Carlton can attest, as well as consumers who fly upper class on Virgin Atlantic Airlines, people pay more for great experiences, and are very likely to return for more of the same.

Sadly, most organizations create uninspired, stressful and underwhelming buying experiences. They install processes, people and policies that facilitate transactions, but fail to favorably raise a customer’s eyebrows throughout any aspect of the encounter. In fact, many consumers have given up looking for great car buying experiences and settle instead for those they believe will be less bad.

What’s atrocious is that while 79% of surveyed customers rated their buying experience as average or below, 80% of the companies providing said experiences acclaimed the service they provided as superior! In other words, denial rules!

How about you? Does your business merely facilitate transactions or do you wow and impress customers throughout their relationship with you? Following are questions that will help you determine the real answer:

1. How often does the leadership of your organization speak in terms of creating a great customer experience? If you focus strictly on “getting the deal done,” and moving on to the next one, you are transaction focused. This enslaves you to high ad budgets designed to help you purchase new customers to replace those you are unable to retain. The only time that you’re likely to wow or impress a customer is when they drive past your enterprise and notice that you’re still in business.

2. Do you hire people who genuinely appreciate value and care about other people? These traits are normally rooted in an individual’s character. Disney is famously fussy about whom they allow on their team to care for their customers. Walt Disney was once asked why everyone working at Disneyland was so happy. His reply, “We don’t hire grumpy people.” If your staffing strategy is to hire whoever is cheap, available or easy, don’t be surprised when the experiences they create for customers elicit smirks, yawns or curses.

3. Do you hire people with competence, and train them to become even more so? While having employees with great attitudes is essential, attitude isn’t a substitute for competence. How tragic that so many organizations defend and retain loveable losers; those nice folks who haven’t a clue how to consistently perform their job with excellence, much less the skills or talent to do so. If you hire recklessly and then regard training as an expense versus an investment, it’s safe to say that your team is creating plenty of customer apathy towards your operation, and a steady stream of prospects for your competition.

4. Do you hire people with the character to keep commitments, tell the truth and the humility to joyfully serve both customers and teammates? If not, it’s quite likely that you don’t even have a team per se, but a band of mercenaries proficient at creating mundane and miserable experiences for co-workers and consumers alike.

5. Have you created a sales and service environment worthy of your product’s price tag? If your people dress like That 70’s Show, speak like street thugs, and your offices mimic thrift store horns of plenty? Your underwhelmed customers will buy solely on price since they see no value in paying more for a relationship with a company run more like a circus than a business.

6. Do you have customer-friendly processes that demonstrate a high regard for your customer’s time? It is impossible to create impressive experiences when you waste a customer’s time through process inefficiencies, employee incompetence or the failure to engage and occupy them during prolonged periods of waiting for the next step in your antiquated process.

7. Do you have thorough and personalized sales and service processes that help your business extend an initial sale into a long-term relationship? Is your personnel held accountable for using the CRM assets you provide for them? Have you installed internal flagging protocols to identify your best sales and service customers so that you can relate to them and reward their loyalty in a more meaningful way? Is your employee retention high enough to enable you to retain a substantial percentage of your customers? Frankly, if you’re not creating valuable long-term experiences for the customers you already have, why should your place of business be blessed with additional customers to abuse?

8. Do you consistently execute these points and others like them that contribute to the customer experience? Your goal must be to remove variation from the customer experience. This can only be accomplished when you hire right, and install strong processes and policies that align with your goal of wowing and impressing customers in order to move them from the uninspiring rank of “satisfied” to the loftier objective of highly satisfied.

Incidentally, the underlying key to creating a great customer experience is to first create a great employee experience, because only highly satisfied employees can earn highly satisfied customers.

My books, columns and articles in dozens of publications over the past 12 years have provided ample ammo to help you achieve this end. Thus, the question is not whether you know what to do in this regard, but whether or not you do it. And before you get smug and believe that because you rarely hear a customer complaint that you are God’s gift to your customer you should consider that statistically, only 6% of customers complain. Thus, silence doesn’t imply delight! Nor should you allow the CSI scores that you coach, cajole, or otherwise bribe customers to complete in your favor are a fair reflection of your ability to create great customer experiences.

The truest way to measure the quality of the experiences you create for customers is found in your ability to do three things:

1. Retain significant percentages of your customers and earn their referrals.

2. Have margins that testify to the fact that customers see significant value in the sales and service experience you create, and are willing to pay more to do it.

3. Your ability to consistently spend less on advertising than your competitors, since your wowed customers serve as your unpaid sales force.

Act Like a Challenger, Even when You’re the Champ!

Friday, May 6th, 2011

It’s common for leaders to speak in terms of building a “team of champions.” While I also endeavor to build a team of champions in my own organization, I don’t want people working in my company who think like champions. Rather, I want to fill my business with team members who have a challenger’s mindset. To use a martial arts term, I want the “red belt” mentality rather than the black belt mindset and here’s why: the most dangerous fighters in karate dojos are the red belts. Red is the rank prior to black, and what makes the reds such tenacious fighters is the fact that they haven’t yet reached the top and still train with intensity and urgency. Black belts, on the other hand, often let up and downshift into a maintenance mode after working so long and hard to earn their elite rank. In fact, it is common for black belts to start packing on pounds soon after reaching their goal, because they spend more time giving advice than they do fighting on the mat.

The still-hungry red belts demonstrate a stronger commitment to improve through a solid work ethic, consistent training habits, and by remaining coachable. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see reds knock out blacks during sparring sessions. They’re sharper because their killer instinct hasn’t been dulled by the belief that they’ve “arrived.” In my own experience, I lost 25 pounds in the ten weeks leading up to my red belt test because of the added hours of sparring.

While black belts can still advance with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degrees, etc. a common tendency after reaching their goal is to take a break. One friend of mine passed his black belt test and didn’t return to the mat for six months. Parallel analogies in business abound. When business “black belts” with their “champion’s mindset” get to the top of a mountain and become “number one” or have a record year, their tendency is to build a fence around the ground they’ve gained and hold it, rather than seek out higher ground that offers an even bigger prize. They stop changing, risking, deciding, recruiting, innovating, training, and holding others accountable. Prosperity drains their urgency, and they eventually find themselves in a rut.  

 Following are ten contrasts between a challenger’s and champion’s mindset. While there are always exceptions to the rule, the rule normally rules.

  1. Challenger’s mindset: hungry. Champion’s mindset: satisfied.
  2. Challenger’s mindset: humble. Champion’s mindset: arrogant.
  3. Challenger’s mindset: teachable. Champion’s mindset: know-it-all.
  4. Challenger’s mindset: something to prove. Champion’s mindset: “been there, done that.”
  5. Challenger’s mindset: willing to serve. Champion’s mindset: wants to be served.
  6. Challenger’s mindset: tries something new. Champion’s mindset: stuck in their ways.
  7. Challenger’s mindset: works with a sense of urgency. Champion’s mindset:  paces themselves.
  8. Challenger’s mindset: plays to win. Champion’s mindset: plays not to lose.
  9. Challenger’s mindset: rattles the status quo. Champion’s mindset: defends the status quo.
  10. Challenger’s mindset: lives for the present and future. Champion’s mindset: lives in the past.

 There are other differences, but these paint a clear picture of why a challenger’s mindset is necessary in any endeavor where continuing to grow is important. But, don’t misunderstand my point: I’m not saying that I don’t want champions working with me, because I do. What I don’t want are people who think like champions. My goal is to surround myself with champions who maintain the hunger of challengers. In fact, here’s a lesson I’ve taught to top performers for years:

 Act like a challenger even when you’re the champ. Challengers are hungry, humble, and have something to prove. Champs can become lazy, cocky, and complacent.

Here are four suggestions for developing a challenger’s—a red belt’s—state of mind. Use them to shape your personal success philosophy so that you can positively affect and influence those you work with:  

  1. Accept the fact that you’re never as good as you think you are. When you focus less on how “successful” you are and more on closing the gap between your current status and your fullest potential, you’ll create a positive tension that keeps you both humble and hungry.
  2. When you’re doing well, don’t sit on the ball, run up the score. Never settle for your “fair share” of the market, but strive for an unfair share. Don’t make it a goal to create a “level playing field” in your market area. Instead, work hard to make the playing field so un-level that your organization has an insanely unfair advantage over your competition. If you’re not thinking in these terms you’ve probably already regressed from high gear into neutral. All that’s missing from your office is the hammock, pitcher of margaritas, and Panama hat.
  3. Embrace urgency as a core value. Urgency is one of LearnToLead’s five corporate core values, as well as one of my personal values. You must convince yourself that there is power in now, not later. You may never get later. Act now!
  4. Live your life as an “and then some” person. Do what is expected and then some. Pay the price and then some. Do what others aren’t willing to do; go where they’re unwilling to go; try what they’re afraid to try, and one day you’ll find yourself in a category of one.

 Be an example for your team and work with the hunger, discipline, humility, intensity, and teach-ability of a red belt. Set your goal to reach the top, but even once you become a Grand Master, maintain the mindset of a challenger. This disciplined state of mind separates the martial artist from a partial artist, the legitimate champion from a one-hit wonder.

Seven Truths about Tests!

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Everyone goes through tests in life. In fact, the biographies of famous men and women often highlight tests as catalysts for breakthroughs in the life of a highly accomplished person.

The Bible is also filled with stories of tests God put His people through in an effort to make them more usable for His purposes. This morning’s reading of Wisdom Hunters shed insightful light into life’s tests, and provoked the following seven takeaways I’ll share here:

1. What’s in our heart comes out under duress. If resentment resides in your heart, then anger appears. If forgiveness is found in your heart, then peace exudes when pressured by outside forces. The heart does not show its true colors until it faces a test.

2. It is under the fire of a test that the heart of the matter surfaces to the top. This is why someone is able to mask hurt over a lifetime of disappointment by ignoring its deep-rooted influence. You can hide what’s in your heart, but eventually a test will lure it out. And, its exposure is for your benefit. It makes you aware of the inner work you need to deal with to grow as a person.�
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3. During a period of testing, you may not gain more materially (in fact you may temporarily lose ground in this area), but you will become more personally. This becoming more prepares you for bigger and better opportunities.

4. Your current situation may very well be a test from God. He is squeezing your heart to see what is inside. It is healthy to flush out deceptive feelings that may be leading you to be fearful and to distrust. �
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5. One of the greatest benefits of testing will reveal that you have not developed spiritually, and still depend too much on yourself and worldly resources. The test can drive you closer to God through more intense worship and obedience. 

6. Persisting through a test in your own strength can jolt you into reality. You now have a desperate and fresh dependence on God. He is front and center in your thinking. The carousel of careless living has stopped, and you are dizzy with despair. It is at this point of dependence on God where you need to camp out. God’s test may be designed to separate you from your pride, shake you out of denial, and purge you from your comfort zone.

7. Your test may come through abundance rather than through lack. Perhaps, your wealth has exceeded all limits and expectations. Will you give it away or hoard it; stockpile worldly wealth or pile up heavenly treasures? This is a test of what is truly in your heart. Your prosperity can compete with your obedience to God, or it can accelerate it. Use the heavenly test of abundance for the transformation of your earthly thinking.

8. Your test may be to help you discover what motivates you. One reason that bad things happen to good people is to enable them to uncover their true motives and motivations. Tests are for a season. Tests are for a reason. Tests purify. Tests mature. Tests bless. Tests are for your good.

Day 117-118 How to Lead by THE BOOK: Six Benefits of Right Values!

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I’ve just completed my chapter on core values for How to Lead by THE BOOK. As with all the chapters, I’ll start off by describing “Man’s wisdom and way” and then getting into “The BOOK’s wisdom and way.” In this excerpt I’m including six benefits to affirm the importance of having meaningful, visible, core values as a cornerstone of your culture:

Man’s wisdom & way

Core values are little more than a load of Pollyanna happy hot tub talk. Consultants promote their creation so you hire them to help you with them! In challenging times we need to stay focused, and the last thing we need is another exercise in academic nonsense. Business schools dream up this core value stuff to make our lives more complicated. In the real world, we need to focus on production. We can’t afford to become distracted from our pursuit of hard numbers by a bunch of touchy feely nonsense like core values. Creating core values ranks right up there with trivial pursuits like meaningless mission and vision statements. While we’re at it, how about gathering together every morning in the lobby to join hands, and sing Kumbaya?”

The paragraph you’ve just read is a near-verbatim statement I personally made in my first management job. This was long ago when I was under the illusion that my new title attested that I was a leader, and that my promotion had miraculously made me smarter. I know that I am not yet what I should be, but I thank God that I’m not what I used to be!

The BOOK’s wisdom and way

The Bible abounds with examples of God creating and communicating the non-negotiable behaviors that He expected His people to live by. The Ten Commandments and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount are prime examples. Creating, living, and holding others accountable for core values are essential leadership responsibilities. Core values serve multiple purposes;

1. Core values create the DNA of your organization. They differentiate you from competitors.

2. Core values make it easier for employees to know what to do in situations where they cannot check with authorities or ask for permission.

3. Core values provide a filter to help you hire the right people.

4. Core values provide a filter to help you fire the wrong people.

5. Core values help create a culture that supports your vision.

6. Core values provide a benchmark for behavioral accountability.