A Leader’s Most Important Discipline

Posted: August 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet and hear Harry Kraemer speak at a leadership conference.  Harry is the former CEO of Baxter Healthcare and currently is a Clinical Professor of Management and Leadership at Kellogg School of Management.

Harry spoke about his new book, From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, April 2010).  Harry believes there are four essential principles of values-based leadership.

  1.  Self-Reflection: The ability to reflect and identify what you stand for, what your values are, and what matters most.
  2.  Balance: The ability to see situations from multiple perspectives, including differing viewpoints, to gain a holistic understanding.
  3.  True Self-Confidence: More than mastery of certain skills, true self-confidence enables you to accept yourself as you are, recognizing your strengths and your weaknesses, and focusing on continuous improvement.
  4.  Genuine Humility: The ability never to forget who you are, to appreciate the value of each person in the organization, and to treat everyone respectfully.

The principle that really stuck with me was the first, self-reflection.  I also believe it is critical to take time to reflect every day.  One of the rituals I have is to take 5 minutes at the end of the day before I read prior to going to sleep to ask myself three important questions.

My reflection questions are:

  •  What’s right in my life?
  • What did I do well today?
  • What do I feel grateful for?

In his presentation, Harry provided five reflection questions that he uses on a daily basis.  Harry’s reflection questions are:

  • What did I plan to do?
  • What did I do?
  • What am I proud of?
  • What am I not proud of?
  • What can I do better tomorrow?

Whatever reflection questions you may ask yourself, the bottom line is that daily self-reflection helps us determine what is important and what is not.  Being thoughtful through self-reflection allow us to get laser focused on our priorities, values and ethical boundaries.  We can develop a reputation as a mindful, “explicit” decision maker, someone who carefully weighs all the considerations and consequences that come with difficult decisions.

Self-reflection helps leaders determine their priorities and answer the question, “What should we be doing?”  Self-reflection requires silence. We should find a quiet place and take time to think. I challenge us all to find some time to be quiet and execute a discipline that will pay itself back tenfold.

Until next time, leaders develop daily not in a day!

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The Secret Sauce to Success

Posted: November 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

“Purpose is what gives life a meaning.” – Charles Perkhurst

What is success to you? I believe the core of success is focusing on your purpose in life.  Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it.  Well it is.  To get to the core of success, you must reflect and determine your values and what you are passionate about.  This will ultimately lead you to your purpose in life

Understanding your purpose in life will change everything.  Turning your purpose into your daily focus will create happiness, financial rewards and fulfillment in your life.

To get to this secret sauce of success, write down answers to the following seven questions:

  1. What are the top 5 things on my “bucket list”?
  2. What is my legacy?
  3. What am I currently doing to live this legacy?
  4. I will consider my life to be successful if…?
  5. What is holding me back from this life?
  6. What are my beliefs that are holding me back from this life?
  7. Where do I need to put more effort and attention in my life?

After reviewing your answers to these seven questions, look for themes in your answers.  There is a very good chance that the themes in your answers are a major part of your purpose.  Take some action with your findings from the seven questions.  Set some immediate goals!

Here are three quick tips for setting goals:

  1. Get specific. When your goals are specific, things happen!
  2. Track it. This is a “secret weapon”. Create a chart with the seven days of the week across the top and the specific actions that you will take on a daily basis along the side.  Focus on reaching the specific actions every day and track your progress every night before bed.
  3. Get a Wingman. Have a partner to hold you accountable on a weekly basis.  Set up a scheduled and re-occurring meeting for 15 minutes a week to talk to your wingman about your progress and challenges.  Having this type of accountability will increase your focus.

Your ability to determine your purpose and achieve goals is the “secret sauce to success.” The development of this ability and making it a lifelong habit will do more to assure high success and achievement in your life than any other skill you can possibly learn.

Until next time, Leaders Develop Daily…Not in a Day!

 

What I Learned From Mister Rogers

Posted: October 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

I recently read an article from Success Magazine about a person of great influence and wisdom. A gentleman that many of us spent hours with each weekday during our childhood.  That person had a cardigan sweater, wore tennis shoes and had a wonderful smile.  That person is Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Fred Rogers lived an incredible life of purpose.  He dedicated his life’s mission to educating children, often times parents as well.  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 to 2000 on PBS with over 900 episodes.  It is public broadcasting’s longest running show.  Fred Rogers received numerous honors including more than 40 honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, induction into the Television Hall of Fame, four Emmy Awards, and the Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award. Fred Rogers is an American icon.

As I thought about Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and the impact it had on my brothers and me as we watched on Channel 23 in Richmond, Virginia, I noted three life lessons that were reinforced for me through the show.

  1. We all have something special.  This was the biggest influence for me from the show.  Fred Rogers was talking to me every day.  He had a way of looking at you through the television to make me feel at home.  His pace was slow and deliberate, not my normal style, but it worked. I felt secure and listened to every word he said.  The statement he would say resonated with me “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”
  2. Striving to be a role model is critically important. As I have learned more about Fred Rogers, I am confident that he lived every bit of his life with the highest integrity.  In 1969, before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications, he fought for a federal grant needed for funding the newly created Corporation of Public Broadcasting.  The grant was in serious jeopardy until Fred Rogers spoke and convinced the chairman, Sen. John Pastore, on the show’s philosophy.  I can’t imagine a childhood without Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
  3. We must be stewards for children. Fred Rogers was a soft spoken man but he fought hard to serve children.  As I watch television with my two kids, I often have them turn it off.  The violence, inappropriate language and disrespectful behavior are not what I was taught by my parents and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  We must not rely on television to teach or reinforce the values that Fred Rogers taught – respect others and ourselves, self-discipline, nurturing friendships and facing our fears in life.

Fred Rogers passed away in 2003 at the age of 74 from stomach cancer.  His legacy for my generation and others will live on for a very long time.  I am very grateful for Fred Rogers and the lessons I learned from him.  It is wonderful to know 35+ years later that I am still special.  Fred Rogers – You were something special!

If you have memories of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, please feel free to comment and share.  What a special time in life that was.

Until next time, Leaders Develop Daily…Not in a Day.

These Seven Words

Posted: October 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

Leaders Develop Daily, Not in a Day.  These seven words have played a critical part of my personal development, as well as my vocation.  The best leaders I have worked with view their growth as a leader as a process, not an event.  This growth process is a daily investment that becomes a lifestyle of constant curiosity, learning and practice. As Jason Jennings said in a recent presentation I attended, “If you aren’t moving forward, then you are falling behind”.

Dr. John Maxwell has taught five principles to encourage all of us to adopt a lifestyle of personal growth as a leader.  I have these written in my journal and review every Sunday night to start my new week off with a focus on getting better as a leader through personal growth.

The five principles are:

  1. Growth separates those that succeed from those that do not.  We all started on the same level but commitment to the process of personal growth can make the difference.  Spend an hour a day on your personal growth by studying, reading, teaching others, filing articles or lessons that impact you, writing or talking with a mentor.  Does this make you smarter? Maybe, maybe not.  The commitment to this process may create a gap between you and others in your potential and value.
  2. Growth takes time, and only time can teach us some things.  There is no substitute for time in personal growth but time alone doesn’t make us wiser.  One of the bet strategies to use to leverage the time of the process and experiences is reflective thinking. Take a few minutes every day and look back on the day. What happened? What lessons did I learn?  What would I do differently?  Document your thoughts in a journal or notebook.  The act of writing these thoughts down will increase your ability to use them in the future.
  3. Growth inside fuels growth outside. The late Jim Rohn said “We don’t get what we deserve, we get who we become.”  Don’t ask the question “What am I getting from spending an hour a day on my personal growth?” rather ask “Who am I becoming?” You and others will notice the new person you are becoming. 
  4. Take 100% responsibility for your own growth.  In my opinion, the #1 sign of maturity is when a person declares that they are 100% responsible for their life. We no longer have schools, teachers, or parents to map out our next steps. If we want to become better leaders, we must take responsibility for this. We must develop a game plan to become students of leadership to learn new things and draw upon our experiences.
  5. Determine the areas of your life which you need to grow. Many of you may be able to relate to my personal development area of patience.  I realize that I will never be a 9 or 10 on a 10 point scale of patience.  I would rather focus on fine-tuning my strengths as a leader.  Think of the 3 or 4 areas that you are 8, 9 or 10 on with regards to your leadership. We typically like to learn more about the areas we are good at.  John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, had his players focus on shooting the ball from the place on the court they had the highest percentage of success. During a game, that is where they shot the ball. Not from places that they had a lower percentage of success.  Enhance your “sweet spot” or strengths and you will have an incredible potential to make a difference as a leader.

This focus on your personal growth may seem overwhelming. Pick a couple of things to start out with. Buy the best $25 empty notebook (a journal) you can and use it daily. I promise it will be worth more than $25 to you once you fill it up with lessons learned, observations, and notes from your daily life. Check out a book or audiobook from the library and listen to it on the way to and from work rather than listening to the radio.  Learn one new thing a day.

Simple positive choices in your personal growth will compound very quickly to produce an amazing attitude and life. Remember you are 100% responsible for you and your development. Go get it!

Until next time – Leaders Develop Daily, Not in a Day.

The Power of Focus at the SAS Championship

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular. – Tony Robbins

This weekend I was fortunate to attend the SAS Championship in Cary, NC. It was an incredible event – well organized and first class all the way. One of the highlights for my father-in-law and me was to speak to and watch Hall of Fame golfers like Nick Price, Freddie Couples, Tom Kite, Hal Sutton, Ben Crenshaw and the legendary Lee Trevino.

Tom Kite

How people become so successful in their lives is a fascination, and often an obsession, for me. Professional golfers have spent years mastering their craft through coaching, observation, imitation, repetition, and feedback. There is no overnight success in professional golf (or anything, for that matter). It take tremendous desire, discipline and focus to be the best of the best and considered highly successful in your area of expertise.

As we watched the golfers perform, the power of their focus became evident. Three things I noticed that contributed to their extreme focus:

1. It starts with their habits. Many professional golfers are very fit. They obviously dedicate time to exercise and eat well so they can perform at the highest level. Also, they engage in very specific routines and rituals in putting and driving practice as well as in the game. They execute these habits everyday.

Ben Crenshaw

2. They have world class confidence. Not every shot is perfect but they focus on the things that they do well and leverage it. My father-in-law and I saw Mark Calcavecchia come off a bogey at the ninth and hit an amazing and powerful drive on the 10th hole. The drive was so powerful that people were saying “Wow”. Mark just picked up his tee and made his walk to the ball. Total confidence that the last hole was over and his focus was on the 10th hole.

3. Consistent persistence has been a large part of their life. In order to be highly successful, they cannot put up with inconsistency. If they do, they will not be doing what they do for very long. A lack of consistent persistence will wreck their performance.

On the bus ride back to the parking lot from the course, I thought about these 3 critical values and how they relate to success in anything. Questions like – How can I become more focused?, Do I have strong daily habits to ensure I reach my goals?, Am I confident enough to leave a failure behind and focus on success in the next thing I do? and Am I allowing inconsistency to be a barrier to my success?

I challenge you to ask yourself similar questions about the goals you have. Are you focused enough to be world class? If no, why not? What can you put in place to be more focused with strong habits, great confidence and consistent persistence? I invite you to respond to this post with your thoughts and reactions.

Until next time, Leaders develop daily, not in a day.


I believe that being productive leads to happiness. The most productive people in the world are also the most happy. Our happiness often manifests when we meet our internal desire to make a difference in someone’s life or the world.

The last few weeks I have been documenting ways that I can make it a highly productive day.

  1. Believe in myself and my abilities
  2. Read inspirational books before I go to bed. Books that guide my dreams, goals, and actions for the next day
  3. Avoid negative people
  4. Never make excuses
  5. Make a decision today to change my life for the better, everyday
  6. Surround myself with motivation through books, mentors, quotes, pictures, audio, positive people, exercise and motivations
  7. Be a role model
  8. Take action
  9. Learn my lessons fast – and move on
  10. Forgive myself
  11. Learn to forgive others
  12. Be grateful for what I have
  13. Read my goals
  14. Get plenty of quality sleep
  15. Give someone a helping hand
  16. Listen to my wife and kids laugh
  17. Make my wife and kids laugh
  18. Eat healthy foods
  19. Smile
  20. Exercise
  21. Breath deep
  22. Drink plenty of fresh, clean LeBleu water
  23. Take time out for my wife, kids and friends
  24. Stretch
  25. Over deliver on my promises – do 10% more than expected
  26. Relax
  27. Don’t take life too seriously
  28. Dance with my kids to the Jonas Brothers
  29. Never give up on my dreams or myself

If you have some ways that make your days highly productive, feel free to comment. I’d love to read them and add them to my Productive Day Library.

Until next time, Leaders develop daily…Not in a day!

Have you ever been to a meeting, presentation or event that you walked away saying to yourself “that was a total disaster”? I’m willing to bet that there was a serious lack of preparation on the part of the leaders involved in the event.

Many people believe that they can “wing it” and creates a success. The best leaders don’t buy into this and spend serious time preparing for meetings, presentations, and events. They subscribe to the philosophy that LEADERS PREPARE.

Preparation is not taught in college, graduate school or on-the-job leadership training. It is a critical dimension that is often overlooked, but never forgotten, once you see it not occur and lead to an unsuccessful event.

What does preparation look like?

Here are some tips to assist you to prepare and increase the odds that you will be viewed as a professional, organized and “buttoned up” leader.

1. When planning for a leadership role in an event, break the event into 15 or 30 minute intervals. For each interval, plan the work/discussion so the entire event planning does not overwhelm you. You eat an elephant one bite at a time and this interval approach can break that huge preparation into much more manageable pieces.
2. Keep in mind the adult attention span. Most research I have seen states that adult attention span is 45 minutes (I know, it feels like 45 seconds sometimes…). Prepare to this attention span. Don’t create 2 hour brainstorming sessions or a 4 hour conference call on one topic. You will lose people, their energy and support.
3. In your preparation, focus on the sections that will lead to success. These include goals and objectives, processes to meet the goals and objectives, tasks, time allotted, budget, resource requirements, change management plans and monitoring/validating techniques,
4. Buy a lunch and listen to a leader that is successful in leading events. Guarantee that leader prepares! Ask for tips and techniques on what they do to prepare for an event. You may learn something new to add to your preparation or validate what you are already doing. I am a huge proponent of setting aside the ego and asking successful people for their advice. No need to re-create the wheel. Just ask open ended questions and listen!!
5. Use a colleague, team member, or mentor to critique your preparation and give you feedback. Again, set your ego aside and let others “poke holes” in your preparation. You will only get better if you listen and take action on the advice. Remember it’s business, not personal.

Use these tips to be seen as a top notch, professional leader not an amateur. We all want to be involved in successful meetings, presentations, training and events. It takes the leader’s preparation to ensure this will happen.

Make it happen – spend the time preparing; consider it part of the role of a great Leader.

Until next time, Leaders develop daily – not in day.