The Essential Ingredient for Success in Business

There are many ingredients required to grow a successful business. Many of those ingredients can be, and in fact are, provided by leaders at every level of the organization. 


But there is one ingredient, the one essential ingredient, that can come only from the leader at the very top. That ingredient is organizational culture. 


Leaders at the top must never fool themselves that the culture is developed “near” the top, or that it comes from the majority of the leaders. It does not. It comes from the very top and that’s the only place it comes from. 


If you’re a leader at the top of an organization then it is you who determines the overall health of the culture in that organization. You set the tone, you model what acceptable culture looks like and what it sounds like. 


You can’t do that by telling people what healthy culture looks like, you must show them. If your words don’t match your actions you can be sure that your people will follow your actions and not your words. They will do what you do light years before they will do what you say. 


The culture within any organization is merely a reflection of the top leader. 


Stop for a while today, a long while perhaps, and ask yourself what kind of culture you’re modeling for your people. Are you providing an environment where it’s impossible to maintain a negative attitude? Are you nurturing a culture where caring for others is encouraged and even rewarded? Are you demonstrating a culture where recognition is freely given and feedback is actually sought? 


Do you display a culture where people are free to provide suggestions and point out weaknesses within the organization… without the fear of reprisals? Is your culture one that values loyalty and does that loyalty work both ways? Is your culture one of “spending on people” or “investing in people?” Is yours a culture that supports and promotes the same opportunities for everyone regardless of their appearance or personal preferences? 


If you’re a leader at the top of an organization you must be able to confidently answer those questions. If you can’t then your organization could be lacking the essential ingredient for long-term success. 


That’s on you! You cannot shift responsibility for a healthy organizational culture in your organization. The moment you accept that fact is the moment the culture in your organization has a chance to improve.

Organizational culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that top leaders completely control. If you’re not controlling that then what the heck do you think you are controlling?

The Vortex of Can’t

I had the misfortune recently of sitting in on a meeting that was quickly swallowed up by the Vortex of Can’t. Everyone, not nearly everyone, I mean everyone, was discussing the things that they can’t do. This by the way was with a group of people who are paid to do what they can. 


After 45 minutes of listening to this I announced I was leaving the meeting. I suggested they invite me back to another meeting when they were ready to discuss what they could do. I haven’t heard anything from the group yet. 


I believe that success in any endeavor is about momentum. Momentum is actually pretty easy to build and that’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s also easy to build momentum in the wrong direction. 


Discussing all the things you can’t do in a planning meeting is building momentum in the wrong direction. 


The most successful people think in terms of what they can do while less successful people think in terms of what they can’t do. The difference in that thought process produces very different results. 


We are all faced from time to time with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We must never allow those obstacles to prevent us from overcoming all the obstacles that we CAN. The fact that we may see a challenge somewhere down the road must not stop us from beginning the journey. Many things can happen on the path to success. By the time you reach the roadblock it may be gone or you may have gained some knowledge or skills that make it possible to work your way around it. 


Never let the fact that you’re not yet certain how your success story will end stop you from beginning to write it.


Henry Ford said that “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” 


Success begins with a mindset of CAN, it’s not possible to simply think your way into success but you most certainly can think your way out of it. 

Focus on CAN and it will be far more likely that you actually will! 

Why Leaders Need Vision

Leaders don’t need 20 20 eyesight to have good vision. What they need is an imagination, an idea of what is possible, and a picture of what the future may hold. 


That vision should guide them and motivate them to grow and improve. It should provide hope in the tough times, particularly if their vision includes an understanding of their purpose and the purpose of their organization. 


A good vision can show the leader where they and their organization are headed. It will pull the leader past the inevitable roadblocks that pop up within every plan. A true vision provides focus. The vision helps answer every question that could come up. If something gets you closer to your vision you do it, if it doesn’t get you closer to your vision you don’t. Good vision provides clarity for a leader even during the foggiest of times.


Good vision helps a leader answer the “why” question that can otherwise place doubts in the leader’s mind. A leader with good vision always has an answer to the “why are we doing this?” and “what’s the point?” questions that can haunt leaders with lesser vision. Particularly when those questions come from naysayers. 


Good vision does all that and more for a leader and you know what? It can do all those things for a leader’s people and their organization too. 




If the leader is effective at casting that vision upon those people and the organization. Since a leader can’t really do much alone they must be able to communicate and “sell” that vision to their people. They must reinforce that vision through their words and actions at every opportunity. 


People find it easier to follow a leader when they know where that leader is taking them. They find it much much easier to follow a leader when they know they are included in the vision. 


When a leader shares their vision with their people those people become engaged and they stay engaged. When those people buy into the vision they commit to making it happen. When all, or at least the majority of the people within an organization share the same vision that organization is nearly unstoppable. 


If you’re leading any type of organization today then you must, must, must develop and share your vision for your people and organization. You must share it soon and you must share it often. You truly cannot over share your vision. 

The alternative to not sharing your vision is… well, we don’t want to go there because that my friends would be a very sad story. 

The One True Shortcut to Success

I’ll begin by admitting that the title to this post is clickbait. But lots of people will indeed click on it because lots of people are indeed looking for that shortcut to success.


If you’re one of those you’re going to be disappointed with this post. You’ll be disappointed because the only true shortcut to success is to lower your expectations for yourself. Settle! 


Settle for less than you deserve, settle for less than you could have, settle for less than you know in your heart you are worth. 


Settling is easy, it’s fast, it’s efficient and once you’ve told yourself that you’ve achieved as much as you can, you’re set! When get over that feeling of failure you’ll be able to convince yourself that you’ve achieved an acceptable level of success. Unless you’re like most people and you just can’t get over that feeling. 


If you’re one of those people who just can’t shed that feeling that life has more to offer then I’m sorry to say it but there is no shortcut for you. You’ll have to work for your success.


The good news, great news actually, is that there are no limits for you. You can do it all, you can have it all, and once you believe that, it’s possible that you will have it all. 


Having what you want begins with knowing what you want. Most people have madhouse type hectic schedules these days. So much so that they often don’t stop long enough to ask themselves if what they are doing is actually what they want to be doing. In essence their life is running them instead of the other way around. 


That’s where goals come in. 


The process of setting goals, at least the serious process of setting goals, begins with self-reflection to determine your core values. That allows you to determine exactly what you’re willing to do in order to hold firm to those values. 


For instance, perhaps your core values include raising your kids to value all people and help them understand the importance of giving back to their community and those less fortunate than themselves. That will require a fair amount of influence from you. That influence will most likely come from modeling that behavior while investing loads of time with them.


Where will that time come from? What are you willing to stop doing so you can start sharing time with your kids? You undoubtedly would say nothing is more important than your kids. Do your goals reflect that? Are you actions reflective of your goals. Do those all important kids only get whatever time is leftover at the end of your hectic day? 


I don’t know anyone who wants to lose site of what’s important to them while on their journey to success, it just kinda happens. Unless you make it not happen. Setting goals can be a challenge but the real challenge is developing the habit of reviewing them on a regular basis so you never lose site of them. 

Setting, reviewing, and reaching your goals is not a shortcut to success but it is a proven method of achieving it. Stop wasting time looking for shortcuts and start investing your efforts into something that gets you closer to your goals.

First Person Leadership

If you can’t lead yourself you can’t lead anyone. 


Too many people in leadership positions focus all their leadership energies on leading other people. They forget about leading the person most responsible for their success… themselves. The problem with that is it often causes someone to hold the people they lead to a higher standard than themselves. 


They know exactly the qualities and characteristics they are looking for in their people but they never stop long enough to see if they possess those qualities and characteristics themselves. They forget that they are the model of successful behavior for their people. 


What about you? Are you leading yourself with the same standards that you apply to your people? 


It’s likely you expect your people to have a positive attitude. Have you checked your attitude lately? Attitudes are contagious and a leader’s attitude is more contagious than most. If your people see you struggling with your attitude then they will struggle with theirs as well. Maintaining a positive attitude is a choice and it’s a vital choice if you hope to lead effectively.


Are you an emotional leader? Emotions are a powerful human force but they are also a twin-edged sword. Too little emotion and leadership dies pretty quickly. Too much emotion and it can die even faster. What kind of emotional model are you for your people? If you can’t lead yourself to control your emotions than it’s almost certain you can’t lead anyone else to control theirs. 


Are you modeling enthusiasm? Leaders want their people engaged in and enthusiastic about their work. It’s not often that you find a leader’s people more enthusiastic than the leader. When was the last timed you evaluated your own level of enthusiasm? It’s hard to stay “pumped” everyday but if you act enthusiastic it doesn’t take very long until you’re actually enthusiastic. You can’t fake enthusiasm but you can make it. Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic!


Can you lead yourself all the way to the finish line? Successful people finish what they start and that applies to leaders as well. Strong starts are important but it’s strong finishes that make people successful. You must push yourself to finish what you start. If you can’t get yourself across the finish line then you won’t be able to pull others across who are following you. 


You can’t start projects and leave them unfinished. When you do that you’re modeling unsuccessful behavior for your people. When that’s what you model that’s what you get.


When I want to know how well someone in a leadership position leads themselves I don’t invest too much time evaluating the leader. I evaluate their people, that tells me far more about the qualities and characteristics of the leader. Your people are a reflection of you. When they aren’t performing look first in the mirror for potential causes and solutions.


You can occasionally find that gem of a person who excels past the level of their leader. They find a way to make their own model of success. But generally speaking you as the leader are that model so it’s a good idea to stop occasionally to determine what it is that you’re modeling for your people. 

Always remember, before you can effectively lead others you must lead yourself exceptionally well. So… how you doin’?

Three Minute Leadership

One of the things I enjoy most about what I do for a living is that I get to meet a lot of people. As someone who enjoys studying people, their characteristics, habits, and attitudes, the more people I meet the better. 


It goes without saying that some people are more interesting than others. I recently met one of these “more interesting” people. It was after a leadership presentation that I did and this person came up to me so they could let me know that they agreed with everything I said. They also wanted me to know that I should consider that high praise coming from them. 


I knew better but I took the bait anyway and said in a questioning tone, “coming from you?” They proceeded to tell me that they were actually the best leader they knew. I was confused by this for a moment until I figured out that this person actually considered themselves to be the finest leader on the planet, or at least the finest leader they knew of. (Nope, I wasn’t at a big White House)


I said something about that being very impressive and thanked them for their comment. Then I immediately began looking for an escape. No such luck!


The person began to explain their own “excellent” leadership principles. I could have nodded in assumed agreement until they got to this beauty: if you’re spending more than 3 minutes a day “doing leadership stuff” with any one individual then you’re doing leadership wrong. 


If my wife had been with me she would have given me one of her knowing looks telling me to just walk away….but she wasn’t with me. 


So I started by violating one of Dale Carnegie’s most important Human Relations Principles and told this gentleman he was wrong. Dead wrong in fact, as in your leadership is DOA!


I mentioned that if he considered time with his people as being “spent” then they likely sensed that and were not truly following him. I said that most any Authentic Leader considers time with their people as an “investment.” They also consider that investment to be the most important and profitable investment they can make in their organization. 


Then, in the most non-confrontational tone I could muster I said something about having never met an Authentic Leaders who thought they were the best leader ever. He now seemed to be the one looking for an escape. Then, from almost 4000 miles away I could feel my bride looking at me like I was the poor leader in this conversation. I then decided to thank him for his “insights” and let him be on his way. 


Here’s why I reacted the way I did.


As a leader you have no greater responsibility than your people. Everything else in your organization may be urgent but your people are important, most important in fact. Never allow the merely urgent yet often unimportant tasks to rob you of the time you need to invest in the people who are truly important to your success and the success of your organization.


A very wise man once told me to never underestimate the absolute unimportance of nearly everything I do. It’s a sobering thought but it does keep a person from taking themselves too seriously. 

Your people must never fall into that unimportant category. You MUST view your people, every one of them, as worth more, much much much more, than three minutes day. 

Everyone is Motivated

Do you believe that everyone is motivated? You may have come across someone lately who isn’t. You may even work with someone who seems like they are never motivated. 


They may not be motivated today but they didn’t start out that way. Everyone starts out motivated… and then the world gets ahold of them. They start a new job and then they meet the boss, who it turns out is a champion at demotivating the team. Maybe they had a bit of bad luck and decided that life was against them. 


Then they meet you and you assumed that because they aren’t motivated today they never were. That’s yet another reason it’s never good to assume.


If you’re a leader then one of your main responsibilities is to find ways to motivate your people. It’s easier to keep someone motivated than it is to drag them from the unmotivated depths. That’s why you should make motivating every member of your team a priority everyday.


That starts with providing them an environment where they feel valued. An environment where they can see how they fit in and how they make a difference. Never let your people wonder if they are valued because feeling as if they are not is one of the fastest ways to destroy their motivation. 


Motivating your people is not something you do when you find the time. You must be very intentional and plan time into each day to ensure that you’re keeping your people engaged. If you feel as if you don’t know what motivates your people then here is the best suggestion I can give you: ask them!


Yes, have that conversation with each of your people from time to time. Simply ask them what motivates them and how you can best help them stay motivated. I am frequently asked by people in leadership positions how to best keep their people motivated. I usually give them a generic kind of answer and then admit I have no idea. 


I have no idea because every human being is unique and the only way to know how to motivate someone is to ask them. Ask them and then give them a day or two. They will likely need that time to come up with a meaningful answer because most people don’t sit around thinking about what motivates them. Give them that time to provide you with a thoughtful answer. 


You’ve never met a person who started out as an unmotivated individual. Something or more likely someone demotivated them along the way. A key responsibility of a leader is to lead that person back to a fully motivated life. Once an Authentic Leader gets them there they invest time in that person to keep them there. 


If you don’t have the time to motivate your people then you don’t have time to lead.