Your Leadership Journey

I am always a little surprised when someone refers to me as an “authority” or “expert” on leadership. While I certainly appreciate the respect they are showing me by describing me with those words I know otherwise. 

 

I know some stuff about leadership but I also know that I know a tiny percentage of what it’s possible to know. I know too that neither I nor anyone else can ever come close to knowing more than that small percentage. 

 

Since leadership is about people and only people it’s impossible to truly be an “expert on leadership.” People will always surprise you. You can predict with some accuracy what people will do based on their past performance but never with enough accuracy to be a true expert. 

 

People are unique, they are actually even unique from themselves depending on the circumstances in their life at any given time. 

 

That’s what makes leadership so fascinating. It is what makes leadership so rewarding and it’s what makes leading so challenging. 

 

When someone else tells me that they are a leadership expert I am more than skeptical. I have only heard a couple of people describe themselves as an Authentic Leader. The moment the words came out of their mouth I was pretty certain they were anything but authentic. 

 

It’s kinda like when someone offers a class on humility taught by an “expert” on the subject. As soon as someone accepts the description of themselves as an expert on humility they are no longer humble enough to speak about it. So it is with leadership!

 

Authentic Leaders know that their journey to leadership excellence will never end. Authentic Servant Leaders know that helping the people they lead must always be the purpose of that journey. 

 

If you’re not constantly working on your knowledge of leadership then you run the risk of falling behind other leaders. If you’re not always developing your leadership skills then you run the risk of losing the people you would lead. 


Leaning about all things leadership never stops for the best leaders. If you didn’t learn something new about leading others yesterday then you had best double your efforts today because if you’re not learning then you’re not leading.

Do This….When You Don’t Know What to Do

Most people, maybe all people, certainly me, experience times in their life where they don’t know what to do. That doesn’t make them weak people. That doesn’t make them dumb people. It also doesn’t make them less likely to succeed…. unless they do nothing because they don’t know what to do. 

 

Hopefully you have someone in your life that you can bounce ideas and problems off of. It could be a coach or a mentor. Possibly a close friend or family member. The importance of having someone in your life that you trust enough to share anything with cannot be overstated. If you don’t have that person or even better, people, then you need to find one. 

 

But sometimes, even with help, your next move can be hard to determine. You’re not sure what to do next. 

 

Because that’s happened to me from time to time I’ve received lots of advice on the subject. One time when I had to choose between two options and deciding seemed hopeless, one of my mentors told me to flip a coin. I said that the decision was too important for something as frivolous as flipping a coin. 

 

He told me that it wasn’t at all frivolous because when that coin was in the air I’d know exactly which way I wanted it to land. I still wanted to dismiss his suggestion but somehow I knew he was right…and he was. So I flipped the coin and said if it was heads I’d do this and if it was tails I’d do that. It came up tails and I didn’t want that so I decided that it was such a big decision I should do two-outta-three. It was then that I knew exactly which way I wanted to go. 

 

As clever as that was I still find it a little ridiculous to make a major life decision on a coin flip. So I sometimes use advice from Benjamin Franklin. 

 

When the very wise Ben Franklin was asked for advice he would tell people he couldn’t decide for them but he did share his own decision making “tool.” He advised people to take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side of the paper he said to list the reasons for doing something and on the other side of the paper list the reasons for not doing it. 

 

Then he said, and this is the key advice, he said to NOT count the things on either side, he said to weigh them instead. Seeing the reasons on paper made them more concrete and real. You could have 12 reasons on the “do not” side verses 2 on the “do” side but if the 2 outweighed, or mattered more, than the 12, you knew your decision was to “do.” 

 

When I share how to use Ben’s tool today I let people know it’s okay to take several days to list your reasons on that paper. As you ruminate over a decision keep that paper nearby and track your reasons for and against, you’ll have your answer in relatively short order.

 

But sometimes even when using that tool the “weight” of the decision is equal and you just won’t know what to do. 

 

So do this.

 

Do the next right thing. You may not know completely what to do or what not to do but somewhere in you the knowledge of the next right thing to do exists. Doing the next right thing may not get you to where you need to be but it will get you closer. 

 

I can tell you from personal experience that doing the next right thing is a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve often convinced myself that I didn’t know the next right thing to do because I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do the easier thing. 

 

Right leads to success. Easy leads to…well it doesn’t lead to success, at least not real, lasting success. 


The knowledge of the next right thing to do lives inside of you. The only question is do you have the courage that is often required to do it. 

The Biggest Mistake in Leadership

When it comes to businesses and the people who keep them running the rules are changing faster than ever before. This hyperactive environment presents unprecedented and unpredictable challenges to leaders everywhere, every day. 

 

Because everything else is changing it must be time to change how we lead. Right?

 

Well, maybe not. Actually not at all.

 

Leaders have behaved very much the same across the centuries. We know they come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and personalities. Yet by and large leaders do things, and get results, in similar ways. They always have and there is not a shred of evidence that’s going to change anytime soon.

 

Leaders don’t lead businesses, they don’t lead organizations and they don’t lead things. Leaders lead people and only people. Because people haven’t changed much since… well since there have been people on the earth, leadership hasn’t changed much either. 

 

Some would say that maybe people didn’t change before but with Millennials taking over the world everything is changing, even people. While there are some differences between the generations there are far more similarities. 

 

Leaders of today need to understand those differences. They also need to understand that despite huge changes in work environments, even bigger changes in the use of technology and the fact that for the first time ever we have 4 generations in the workforce, people have always had the same basic wants and needs.

 

People don’t want to be managed they need to be led.

 

Leadership means creating a vision. Leaders are the first to articulate an organization’s vision, and tell how they expect to make it a reality. The vision includes a benefit to all stakeholders. People will not follow a leader unless they know where the leader is going. They are also much more likely to follow a leader when there is something in it for them personally. As a leader you need to turn around once in a while to see if anyone is following. If no one is behind you then you may have a leadership title but you aren’t truly leading. Authentic Leaders bring their vision to life through inspiring initiatives and contagious commitment.  

 

Leadership means communicating Core Values. Leaders communicate values at the heart of an organization. They share the principles that both hold an organization together and drive it forward. Not only do Authentic Leaders communicate those values, they live them. When a leader’s words do not match their actions they will find their leadership walk to be a lonely one.

 

Leaders engage and encourage people. Authentic Leaders understand that their people are their greatest resource. They know that their success, and the success of their organization, is completely dependent upon the success of those people. Authentic Leaders invest a huge amount of time and energy in their people. Many people think of a CEO as a Chief Executive Officer. If that CEO is also an Authentic Leader then they are also the Chief Encouragement Officer. 

 

The biggest mistake a leader can make today is believing that the requirements for leadership success have changed. Leadership is about people and only people. Don’t jump at leadership “fads” and the people promoting “Millennial Leadership.” If you want to lead someone from any generation you’ll need to understand that no matter their age, they are people too. 


That also is unlikely to change any time soon. 

Are You Committed or Compliant?

The difference between a committed person and a compliant person is like the difference between night and day. It’s huge!

 

A committed person carries an attitude that helps them drive towards their goals. A committed individual acts with purpose for a purpose. Not only do they have goals they also have a plan to achieve them. Their commitment to themselves, the people they care about and to their organization or business shows in everything they do. 

 

Committed people look different. They act different. They speak differently than most people and they tend to brighten every room they enter. 

 

Compliant people are easy to spot too. They are doing what they are supposed to do and not much more. They live in the zone of “same ‘ol, same ‘ol”. They may think they have goals but often those goals only deal with “getting through the day” or “doing what I have to do to keep the boss happy.” 

 

You know how when you’re at the grocery store and there are two check out lines to chose from. You pick one and after a few minutes you realize you picked wrong. The other line is flying and your line is barely moving. The other line likely has a committed cashier and your cashier is the compliant one. They are doing the same job, they are just doing it with very different attitudes. 

 

Think about how unhappy you are when you’re dealing with a compliant person. Then think about which cashier most closely resembles you and your attitude. 

 

Your level of commitment is directly related to your attitude. Your attitude cannot be left to chance, it must be made by choice. Failing to consciously choose a positive attitude results in the unconscious choice of a negative one. 

 

There are no neutral attitudes. If your attitude isn’t positive then it is negative. There is too much negativity around everyone to assume that positivity just happens. It does not, you MUST choose it and then work to keep it. 

 

Being that slow cashier is the likely result of failing to chose. The best news is that no one, no circumstance, no traffic, no weather report, no nothing nothing nothing, can rob you of that choice. 


So… what are you choosing today?

Can I See Your Priorities?

I already don’t like this post and I’m the one writing it. I can only imagine how many of you will feel about it. It’s a tough post to write because a lot of the people reading it will not feel better about themselves, at least not right away.

 

If just one person takes this message to heart then it will be a worthwhile post, no matter how many people might be offended. I know it will offend people because the first time it was shared with me I was offended too. But I have a lot more of everything today because I eventually changed my behavior because of it.

 

Around 25 years ago I was sitting in the audience at a Dale Carnegie Traning national convention. We were listening to a Dale Carnegie sales representative talk about the challenges of succeeding in the training business. As with almost all Dale Carnegie presenters his talk was awesome. What truly made his presentation unique however was the fact that he was playing the harp throughout his entire presentation. 

 

It was like he had two different brains working at once. His message was that achieving success, long-term true success, required that we do more than we thought possible. 

 

It was impressive to say the least. I made a comment to the person sitting next to me that I’d “give anything” to be able to play a musical instrument. 

 

He said that wasn’t true. Here’s the thing about working for a self-improvement organization like Dale Carnegie. The teaching never stops. Everything is a lesson. You are held accountable for everything you say and everything you do. It can be a challenging place to work but it is life changing. For the vast majority of the people lucky enough to experience it the change is very positive.

 

So the person sitting next to me said it wasn’t true and the lesson was on. When I said it absolutely was true he said “well then, what instrument do you play?” I said again that while I didn’t play any instrument I wished I did. 

 

It was then that I was informed I was mistaken. I was mistaken because if I really wanted to play an instrument then I’d be able to play an instrument. He went on to say that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to play an instrument, it was that I wanted to do other things more. He said I didn’t play an instrument because while I might like the thought of it, actually playing an instrument wasn’t a priority for me. 

 

He said lots of people say what they want but when you watch them they show their true priorities. 

 

I felt a little like I had been called a liar but eventually what he said sunk in. I started to measure the things I said I wanted against what actions I took to have them. It turned out I was like most people…. I said a lot and did very little. 

 

I decided that had to change. The change was instigated by the awareness that wanting something and doing what it takes to have it are two very very different things.

 

The odds are pretty high that you have some of that “say a lot do very little” stuff within you too. So here’s a suggestion. 

 

Make a list of your priorities, the “things” you want in every area of your life. Your personal life, your professional life, your financial life, etc. 

 

Then track how you spend your time, every minute of your time, each day for a week. You can Google “Time log” to find a tool that will help you with your tracking. BE HONEST! 

 

You will be somewhere between mad, disappointed, shocked, or horrified at how little of your time is spent in pursuit of your “priorities.” When I realized all those years ago where my time was going I was surprised to say the least. You might be too.

 

But awareness is a wonderful thing. You may decide that what you thought were your priorities really aren’t. You may decide that they are. In that case then you’ll also know that something must change. 


I still think that playing an instrument would be nice. I also know that I won’t give anything to be able to play one. In fact as it turns out, I was unwilling to give anything at all. 

Are You a Pitcher or a Professional?

Okay, so let me begin by acknowledging that I’m likely to offend some long-time salespeople. There will be other people who think that “it’s just a word” so what does it matter. 

 

To the first group I’d say get over it, if you’re that easily offended then your success in sales will always be limited. To the second group I’d say if you think “it’s just a word” then think also of all the times “just a word” changed your attitude, changed your thinking, and maybe changed your level of success. Words matter!

 

The word I’m writing about today is “pitch.” 

 

A pitch might be the legal delivery of a baseball by a pitcher. It could be the slope of a roof. Sometimes it’s the quality of a sound governed by the rate of vibrations producing it. My personal favorite use of the word pitch is a high approach shot onto a golf green. 

 

But a “pitch” is never never never a professional sales presentation. Now, before some salespeople, and even some sales trainers, tell me that pitch is only a word let me stop you before you begin. It’s not just a word, it’s a huge word. 

 

It’s huge because it plays an important role in determining your mindset as a salesperson. Your actions tend to follow your words and your thoughts. When you say you’re giving a pitch, or even think it, then everything you say and do around your prospect or customer will be affected….and not in a good way.

 

Salespeople, at least professional salespeople, need to stay focused on what’s important. The only thing that really matters to professional salespeople is their customer. Professional salespeople don’t make a pitch to a prospect; they craft a presentation based on their customer’s needs. 

 

Professional salespeople make recommendations based on information. The information comes from customers as a result of a thorough discovery process. 

 

Sales isn’t a game where you make a pitch and hope the prospect takes it. It is not a game where you try to pitch something past a customer. You don’t need to “pitch” anything because if you’re a professional salesperson you don’t play games with a customer. You don’t think of a sale as a “win” for yourself. The only win in professional selling is making sure the customer gets what they need.

 

Do not kid yourself. If you’re not thinking in terms of helping a customer or prospect reach a goal or an objective then you’re not thinking like a professional salesperson. 

 

Thinking in terms of “making a pitch” puts a salesperson in the wrong frame of mind. It diminishes the importance of what a professional salesperson does. Peddlers and average salespeople make pitches. Professional salespeople make formal, professional, and meaningful presentations. 


So ditch the pitch and be the professional salesperson your prospects and customers deserve. 

Are You Too?

The excuses I hear most often when someone can’t or won’t do something usually have the word “too” in them somewhere. As in, “I’m too busy.” Or “I’m too old to learn.” Or “I’m too important to do that job.”

 

Here’s what the most successful people would tell you…. no one is “too” for anything. 

 

I understand that sometimes we don’t want to do something. I also understand that sometimes we don’t have a good reason for not wanting to do it. I get that’s why we make excuses. 

 

But geez, if you’re not going to put any effort into doing the thing you don’t want to do at least put some effort into a better excuse. 

 

I remember the story about George Steinbrenner the long-time owner of the New York Yankees who passed away in 2010. A group was visiting Yankee Stadium and for whatever reason no one was available to show them around. Steinbrenner offered to do it himself. 

 

While attempting to lead the group across the field they were stopped by security. Mr Steinbrenner was informed he didn’t have the proper credentials to cross the field. The security guard directed him to take the group back up the long stairs and walk the long way around the stadium. 

 

The guard didn’t recognize the owner of the team. Rather than pull the “don’t you know who I am” card Steinbrenner dutifully lead his group all the way back up and around the stadium. He wasn’t too important to give a tour and he wasn’t so important that he felt the need to embarrass the security guard who was merely doing his job. 

 

George Steinbrenner wasn’t too important to do any job.

 

I recall years ago meeting a man who would become a good friend and mentor. He was already arguably the very best salesperson who ever lived. He had sold billions, yes billions, in life insurance yet I met him in a sales training program. He was well over 60 years of age at the time. I expressed a little surprise that someone of his “experience” would be in a sales course. He said, “well, intelligence begins with the knowledge that you’re never too old to learn.” 

 

He was in a sales training program to learn, one that I was going to help teach, yet that single sentence taught me more than I could ever teach him.

 

As for those who feel they are “too busy” I have very little sympathy for you. No one has more time than you! Everyone has 1440 minutes a day. The people who manage to get everything important done in that amount of time have simply stopped long enough to learn how to prioritize. 

 

They know what’s important and they know that most things aren’t important. They are never “too” to accomplish what they need to do to succeed. 

 

The most successful people don’t make excuses, they make things happen. They are never too busy, too tired, too old, or too important to do the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. 


So…are you too?