Are Your Goals Making You Sore or Helping You Soar?

Remember back in January when you had that new year motivation and fresh start attitude? You had all of this pent up passion for making something change this year. You had the idea that something was going to be different this year from your previous rut.

Once you identified the “what” you wanted to change, your next step was to set some goals for yourself. For most of us, we set goals for working in the office, traveling, or maybe even working out at the gym.

Do you remember your goals from the beginning of the year? Do you remember where you posted them? Are they still posted in legible form or has the Post-It Note you wrote them on started to curl around the edges with its spotlight position on the refrigerator now covered by last month's grocery list?

Have you made any progress on the goals you set?

You might even have named your goal: BHOG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), Key Results Area, Performance Management Objective, Personal Development Plan, or some other colloquial term that you or your organization or discipline uses.

It is now July, and it is time to go back and check in on what was important to you at the beginning of the year. Ask yourself, "Have I accomplished my goals or did I get off track?”

It can be quite common for people to not to want to review the goals the set earlier in the year, especially if they know they have not made the progress they hoped. The feeling of discouragement can become overwhelming when we see a lack of progress and know we aren't where we had hoped to be by now when the goal was originally set.

Stay In the Game

Discouragement can be devastating when it comes to goals. In my experience, it can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.

The goal had meaning and significance to you 6 months ago, so it's time to start asking yourself some questions as to why you are not making progress. You HAVE NOT failed! You have likely learned a lot in 6 months about the goal and your progress if you just stop and think about it.

An analogy came to me the other day that may have some application.

In January, you set your goal. Let's say you wanted to exercise three days a week for an hour. Think of this goal as getting on an airplane. You are all buckled in your seat and ready for take-off. You know the goal. It is written down and it actually feels comfortable.

The plane starts down the runway, shakes, and surges as it gains speed. All of a sudden, it is February. You likely have taken a couple of steps toward goal attainment. You are gaining speed and you can feel the inertia of the plane starting to lift off. In regard to your goal, maybe you called around to see what gym would best fit your needs. You went out and bought new exercise clothes and maybe some shoes. The feeling and speed of the change feels good.

Then comes March. The plane reaches 30,000 feet, the seat belt sign comes off, the plane levels out. And the exercise doldrums set in. You no longer feel the rush of take-off. You no longer can sense the speed of the plane. This is when goal attainment becomes difficult. When it feels like you are not making any progress at all.

The Feeling Is Not Real

The interesting thing to me is the lie our emotions give us in this context. While the positive “dopamine” feeling of starting may be gone, the important thing to realize is that the plane is still going 450 miles an hour even when you can’t feel it. You are still moving. You are still experiencing progress. Even though Q2 is gone and we have said goodbye to April, May, and June, YOU are still flying. Realize your plane is in the air. You have not crashed. YOU HAVE NOT FAILED!

Instead of assuming that you are way off track and that you've already failed, step back and look at your goal objectively. Think about when you set your goals — were they SMART goals?

Most likely you've heard this acronym, and even used them when setting goals, but it is helpful to use to check up on your goals or even get back on track.

  • Was it Specific? When getting specific with your goal, don't just consider what your goal is, but why and how you want to achieve it. Perhaps you want to work on developing young leaders. Your why might be because your want to prepare them for more responsibility in the future and your how will be through professional development workshops or one-on-one mentoring sessions.

  • Was it Measurable? Are you able to see where you are right now and where you'll end up? If you are not able to track the progress of obtaining the goal along the way, you'll have a hard time seeing if you succeeded in the end or stay motivated along the way.

  • Was it Achievable and Realistic? I feel the A and R in our acronym go hand in hand in some ways. When you figure out your goal, how to do it, and when to accomplish it by, you have to think about the parameters and circumstances that you are working in that will make it possible. This isn't to discourage you from setting the goal, but rather encourage you to think about how you will make sure you complete the goal, and ensure that it's not completely out of reach or asking too much from your team. At this point, something may have come up in the last 6 months that have changed your circumstance and deterred your goal. That's okay. Life happens. Instead of seeing it as a failure or no longer attainable, just think about what changes need to be made to your goal, the plan, or the timeline. Don't be tempted to start from scratch, instead, make less work for yourself by simply re-evaluating and tweaking what's already in progress and steer it back on track.

  • Was it Time-bound? Some of you may have set goals that you've already completed, others might feel the pressure of the time ticking away. Use the time as positive pressure to get the work done, not to stress you out. If you feel constrained, give yourself a break and allow yourself more time. If it's a project with a deadline, reach out to your team or manager and see how you can work together to get it completed. Also, consider how you are using your time and what could be distracting you from focusing on your goal. What limits do you need to implement personally to give yourself time and focus to achieve this goal?

Most importantly, remember the why behind your goal and the reasons that motivated you to set the goal in the first place. Visualize what it will look like for you and your team when that goal is accomplished. Write this down and keep it somewhere you'll see it and can read it often. (Perhaps avoid the refrigerator this time!)

Keep yourself in the air and land that goal safely on the ground.


Take a look at the goal you set at the beginning of the year. Grab a coach, mentor, or trusted advisor and share with them your SMART goal. Listen to any advice they have for you. Be encouraged by the progress you have made (even if it feels like you are flying in circles). Decide with your support system what steps you need to take to land your plane safely. Set up another meeting with them in September for a progress check and December for a celebration of your achievement.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Henry Kissinger is famous for saying that one of the most difficult things for a young leader to do is to “speak truth to power;' to go up the power gradient with information that is contrary to what the hierarchical, authoritative, and referent position believes to be true.

There is inherent organizational danger when communicating things to a leader that they may not be seeing:

  • You could be rejected, which leads to embarrassment.

  • You could be dismissed, which leads to self-doubt.

  • You could be humiliated, which leads to isolation.

  • You could be discounted, which leads to demoralization.

Alternately, there is huge upside in communicating to a leader what they are not seeing in the moment:

  • You could be celebrated for the input.

  • You could be included in the decision-making process.

  • You could be honored for your courage.

  • You could be valued for your contribution.

Whether a reality or a figment of our imagination as a young leader, “speaking truth to power” can be overwhelming. This is the risk tension that the young leader must face.

Receptivity of the Leader

No matter the current stage of our leadership journey, we have all been there at some point and can relate to emotion of the young leader when faced with the risky decision to “speak truth to power.”

However, it could be argued that the senior leader has even more at stake.

Unless they create a safe environment in which others feel the freedom to share, the senior leader runs the risk of missing key information that may never find its way to them. With that in mind, much of the burden falls on the senior leader to create an atmosphere that mitigates the risk for the young leader.

How are you doing in this area?


Here are my top 5 tips for leaders who want to improve their chances of hearing the information they need in order to make informed decisions and lead well:

  • Slow down your cadence.

    Most of the leadership mistakes I have made were because my world was moving too fast and I did not slow down in order to see more possibilities. The faster I went the more convinced I became that I was right, and the further away I got from the truth. Take a deep breath, count to 10, sip a warm beverage, pray, do whatever you need to do in order to slow your pace.

  • Become curious.

    Suspend your need to be right and work really hard to understand an alternate position. Before you jump to a conclusion or shoot down an opposing opinion, spend some time to discern the message they are bringing to you.

  • Always say thank you.

    You would be surprised how often I observe leaders who turn and walk away from an interaction without expressing gratitude. Very rarely, if ever, is their intent to be unkind or degrading, however, the pressure of the moment takes the brain to the next thing rather than allowing them to focus on being fully present in their current interaction, with awareness and sensitivity to the needs of the relationship. Researchers at USC found that simple acts of gratitude provide benefits ranging from feelings of reward and satisfaction to simply helping people to hold on to their humanity. Try the simple act of saying “thank you” more often and see how it might contribute to more open communication.

  • Spend time reflecting.

    At the end of your day, take the time to review. Play back the interactions you had with others, resisting the temptation to become defensive. Ask yourself questions such as, I wonder what they were really trying to ask me? Why did I feel such a strong need to defend myself? Why did I feel such a strong need to exert power in the moment? What unintended consequences could my actions have? Be honest with yourself as you learn and grow from the challenges and successes.

  • Do the inner work of developing your soul.

    Psychology data says you are as intelligent right now as you will ever be. Your personality is fully formed, so you know if you are extroverted or introverted. You have most of the skill you will ever need. With that in mind, what is your next step in development? Could it be that you need to work on developing the soul of your leadership?


Pick one of the 5 tips above and work on it every day for a week. For example, in every personal interaction and every email you send, say “thank you." Work on making your attitude heartfelt, and let me know what outcomes you see. I’d love to know how these tips contribute to more open communication within your team or organization.

What Do Followers Want From Their Leaders?

I have been thinking a lot recently about the dynamic relationship between leaders and followers. Primarily, my thoughts have centered around the fundamental concept of what it means for someone to lead me and what words best describe me as a follower, what I want a leader to contribute to my life. I don’t expect that what I am about to share will rock your world in any way. In fact, prior to reading on. why don’t you answer these questions for yourself, and then compare your thoughts to mine?

  • What does it mean for someone to lead me?
  • What word or words best describe what I want a leader to contribute to my life?

Let me tackle the second question first:


As I spent some time contemplating what I want a leader to contribute to my life, these four things came to mind:

  • Trust in the vision they are creating. I think there is an inherent assumption that if I am going to allow someone to lead me in some way, then I am going to invest my time, talent, and/or my resources working toward whatever picture of the future they have. For me, if I am allowing someone to have influence over my life in any substantial way, I have to have some assurance that they are credible and have access to the knowledge and skill to get us moving toward our desired future state.
  • Hope that the future is safe and abundant. While risk is inherent in any leader-follower relationship, I do think the Hippocratic Oath has merit not only in medicine but in leadership: First, do no harm. Resilience and optimism are both integral parts of the faith that we all put in leaders that have influence over us. We do not expect them to be perfect. It is reassuring that as we journey we will do it together and watch out for each other.
  • Love me for who I am and how I was created. I am not talking about romantic love, but a brotherly love. A kind of love that recognizes the influence a leader has over me and yet respects my value and recognizes how I fit into the organization. No matter what happens this leader will have my back and I have theirs. This love values my strengths and accepts my weaknesses, a love that shows compassion.

How about you? What words did you come up with that you want a leader to contribute to your life?

As I reflected and examined the question above I noticed that in each of the descriptions I wrote another word kept surfacing that is a perfect one-word description of what it means for someone to lead me:


Influence is the sum of positive (I choose to focus on positive rather than coercive) behaviors that you as a leader exhibit that have an impact on the choices I have as a follower.

As a leader, you have a vision you are trying to implement, and an idea for how to get there. As a follower of yours, I recognize that you have some kind of authority over me. You don’t need to flaunt it. You have some idea about the direction you want all of us to go. You recognize that we have choices and hence you must be adept at getting your vision clearly articulated. You must be skilled at getting your thoughts and ideas integrated and communicated into the social structure of the organization. Influence is the idea that I “buy in” to your thoughts and ideas and am choosing to come along with you. As time moves on you continue to have some degree of power over my choices in the form of increasing my faith, knowledge, experience, and my integration into the community you are leading. As leaders, we must never forget that while it may seem desperate at times for some followers, they do have a choice whether to remain under your leadership or not.

Influence is the idea that I “buy in” to your thoughts and ideas and am choosing to come along with you. As time moves on you continue to have some degree of power over my choices in the form of increasing my faith, knowledge, experience, and my integration into the community you are leading. As leaders, we must never forget that while it may seem desperate at times for some followers, they do have a choice whether to remain under your leadership or not. As a follower of yours, I really desire to align myself with the social norms you create. You don’t need to degrade me in public. As your follower, I know you are going to do things for me and expect things in return. Share what you expect and then work with me to see if I can hit your expectation.

What Is Your Influencing Style?

As you might have guessed, psychologists have been studying this idea of influence for almost 100 years. While some of the terms have evolved, the ideas supporting the original make-up of what it means to influence have remained fairly constant.

Using an Influencing Styles Inventory Assessment leaders can discover the style they prefer to use most often, the benefits of that style, and some of the traps that overuse or misuse can cause.

Click here to download a free example of an Influencing Style Assessment

This Influencing Style Assessment gives leaders the opportunity to obtain a certification to use with followers in their organization. This certification gives leaders and coaches a tool to find ideas and strategies for those in those in their sphere of influence to make them more effective.

Using The Influence Style Indicator

Angela is a new member of my team who is responsible for our marketing and social media efforts (you are reading this article, thanks to the hard work of Angela to get it out over many different media platforms.)  I asked Angela to take the assessment and answer some questions about the Influence Style Indicator so you could learn more about it

Angela, How easy was this assessment to take and how long did it take you to complete it?

It was very easy, I received an email with a link directly to the assessment, and I completed it in about 15 minutes.

What is one thing that you learned about yourself from the assessment that you didn’t already know?

I learned that it does not come naturally to inspire others when I am trying to influence, and I actually learned that I was wrong about what I thought it meant to inspire others with my influence.

How do you see using this assessment as you influence others on our team?

I want to be more inspiring when influencing our team. The assessment showed me what it means to inspire with influence, which brings unity to a team. I was given many practical examples for how to inspire in a constructive way that moves things forward. I learned that even though the style of influence I most often tend to use is in making rational appeals for why my leadership should be followed, I really feel that inspiration is something I'd like to work into my influence style. I would love to be someone who leads others in ways that make them feel hopeful about not only my leadership but also their personal well-being.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be more influential as a leader in their organization?

After taking this assessment, I would tell someone who wants to be more influential that they should really listen to themselves more closely when they are presenting their opinion on anything, not just in the workplace. Good influence is not just self-aware but requires a thoughtful care that often comes out through our words. There are many ways to influence, negative and positive, and when we are trying to influence others to go along with our plans, we can get so caught up in wanting to get our way that we do not stop to think about the best way to go about making that happen, and how to behave if that does not happen.

If you are interested in learning more about this assessment and how it can be valuable to your organization or your practice as a coach we would love to connect with you. 

Using Leadership Assessments with a Virtual Team

This article is the first in a four-part series for those who develop leaders to have more confidence and credibility.

Over the past 9 months at Livingston Consulting Group, we have been working on something pretty cool that I think many of you might find interesting, and possibly applicable to the leadership work that you do.

Here is Our Story

It all started with some conversations I was having with both my coaching clients and a few of the university students I teach in leadership development and executive coaching. At the end of my classes, I would get at least 3 emails from students saying something like, “I am getting a great education and will have a firm foundation for the direction I want my life to go. However, I feel like I am lacking the tools and resources to be successful.”

After having many phone conversations with these students about coaching, which often involved questions of process and procedure, coaching skill, sales and marketing, and practical development tools, I quickly saw needs and desires for leaders of all types:

  • those who coach others
  • those who shepherd others
  • those who counsel others
  • those who train others
  • those who consult with others
  • those who facilitate groups of others

The main message I heard as I talked with students and clients alike is that they desire to increase their credibility with those they serve. However, budgets are tightening, travel is becoming more restricted, virtual meetings are becoming a reality, and yet the leaders I talk with still lack quality tools to develop their followers.

Fast-forward to October of 2016: I am meeting with my virtual team (Brandi lives in Tampa, Angela lives in NYC, Michelle lives in Grand Rapids, Gretchen lives in Madrid, and Madison lives in Indianapolis,) and we are discussing Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. In the book, Christensen outlines his "theory of jobs" that details how organizations should decipher what job it is that they actually do for their customers.

As we are discussing this book, someone on the team asked, "So, what job are our customers really asking us to do?"

This was an easier question to answer in regards to the training and executive coaching that I do. But when it came to providing tools and resources to those who develop others we felt like…we were missing the boat.

So we worked on it.

And we decided that our mission and the job we perform is: to provide confidence and credibility to those who develop others.

The Next Step

I will not bore you will the details of launching this new endeavor, but the real highlight is that we will be offering certification in 4 new leadership assessments starting in April of 2017! Over the next few weeks, I will be giving you a peak into what these tools can do for you as a leader, as someone who develops leaders, or someone who is interested in becoming a leader.

Emerging Leader Profile 360

This week I will be highlighting an assessment called Emerging Leader Profile 360 Feedback (ELP 360.)

This assessment is an electronic 360-degree assessment for those in an organization who are showing leadership promise and want a development plan that takes them toward this vision. This tool allows their superiors, peers, and subordinates to give the emerging leader competency-based quantitative and qualitative feedback.

Click here to download a free sample of the Emerging Leader 360 Report!


Brandi’s Experience

Brandi has been on my team for about 18 months now. She is responsible for all of our internal operations. While she has been in leadership roles in the past, the experience she had was not as positive as one would hope. So we decided to provide her with the ELP 360 as she is quickly emerging as a real leader on our team.

I asked Brandi a few questions that I thought you might enjoy her response to:

What was your overall impression of the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

I was pleasantly surprised by the comprehensive evaluation of my leadership that the Emerging Leader Profile 360 provided. Not only was the feedback I received from my manager, peers, and direct reports insightful and helpful, but I also found the self-evaluation to be incredibly valuable as it forced me to slow down and really think about how I interact with my work responsibilities, my colleagues, our clients, etc.

How did you initially feel when I approached you about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

When I was approached about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360 I was both excited and a bit nervous. Self-evaluation of my leadership is one thing, but to open myself up to the evaluation of others on my team was a bit intimidating. Feedback is often the catalyst for growth, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn about my leadership from the perspective of those who work closely with me on a day to day basis.

What is the most significant thing you learned about yourself from this feedback?

The most significant thing I learned about myself from this feedback has to do with my confidence as a leader. Both my self-evaluation and the feedback I received showed that I tend to “panic” when confronted or challenged by others. In the workplace, there will inevitably be times of unavoidable confrontation. As a leader, it is important that I develop the confidence necessary to express my thoughts in a healthy way, even in challenging times, rather than shutting down or avoiding the conflict entirely.

How do you see this feedback accelerating your leadership abilities?

The insight from the 360 feedback has given me clarity around a few key areas where I can focus on maximizing my strengths as well as developing areas where improvement is needed. The feedback I received has given me a fresh and energized perspective and I look forward to the ways I will grow and develop my leadership as a result of this experience.

Brandi, thank you for your transparency in sharing what you learned about yourself and this process.

How about you, leader?

Do you need to have confidence and credibility with those you develop? If so stay tuned, we have more stories coming over the next few weeks, and in April you will be able to register to get certified in these exciting leader development tools!

Are You Listening to This Voice In Your Leadership?

Every leader needs a voice who will speak truth to and help them see things that are not obvious. Henry Kissinger is famous for saying that one of the most difficult things for a young leader to do is to “speak truth to power;' to go up the power gradient with information that is contrary to what the hierarchical, authoritative, and referent, position believes to be true. We have all been there at points and felt the emotion of that moment. There is inherent organizational danger in communicating things to a leader that they are not seeing in the moment:

  •  You could be rejected which leads to embarrassment
  •  You could be dismissed which leads to self-doubt
  •  You could be humiliated which leads to isolation
  •  You could be discounted which leads to demoralization

The young leader has information that someone in a decision-making position needs to hear, and is frozen in the moment by these potentially negative outcomes.

The other side of the proposition is, all things being equal, there is huge upside in communicating to a leader what they are not seeing in the moment:

  • You could be celebrated for the input
  • You could be included in the decision-making process
  • You could be honored for your courage
  • You could be valued for your contribution

Whether a part of reality or a figment of our imagination as a young leader “speaking truth to power” can seem overwhelming. This is the risk tension that the young leader faces. Some of the mediators that go into the “speak truth to power" equation are:

  • Culture of the organization-What is the level of freedom that truly exists for information sharing?
  • Young leaders' personal-risk tolerance-Where do they fall on a spectrum between “wary” and “adventurous”?
  • Receptivity of the leader to feedback-What is the historical behavior elicited when contrary opinions have been shared?

Receptivity of the Leader

I think we can all pretty easily agree that the young leader when faced with a decision to speak truth to power, has a burden that can feel like wearing a shirt made of lead.

However, as more senior leaders in organizations, how much of the burden falls on us to create an atmosphere where much of the risk is mediated for a young leader? How much of the responsibility is ours to create the environment in which others feel a freedom to be able to share?

I argue that much of the speaking-truth-to-power-dichotomy rests not in the hands of the deliverer but the receiver. And yet the senior leader is the one who often times has the most to lose by missing key information that was never brought to them. In the fast-paced, get it done now, microwave culture that organizations exist in today many of us cave into our survival reptilian brain that tells us to do whatever we can to survive.

Many times these environmental and personal factors are not acting in our favor. As leaders, we have to put effort into creating a persona and a culture so that the voice we need to be able to hear in our organization comes through.

5 Actions you can work on today

Here are my top 5 tips for leaders who want to improve their chances of hearing all the information they need to hear to be able to make an informed decision:

  • Slow down your cadence-Most of the leadership mistakes I have made were because my world was moving fast and I did not slow down to see more possibilities. The faster I went, the more convinced I became that I was right, and the further away I got from the truth. Take a deep breath, count to 10, silently sing a familiar tune very slowly (I like; “Row, row, row, your boat), pray, do whatever you need to do to slow your reality down.
  • Become curious-The practice is to suspend your need to be right or heard and to work really hard to understand the other person's position. Before you jump to conclusion or shoot them down because of what you know that they don’t, spend some time to really discern the message they are bringing to you.
  • Always say thank you-So before it feels like I am your mom or kindergarten teacher, just hear me out. You would be surprised at how often I observe leaders in interactions where they turn and walk away without expressing gratitude. I don’t think it is an intent to be mean or degrading, the pressure of the moment takes the brain to the next thing rather than finishing the relationship with the current interaction. Researchers at USC found that simple acts of gratitude provide benefits ranging from feelings of reward and satisfaction to just helping people to hold on to their humanity.
  • Spend time reflecting- At the end of your day take the time to review the day. Play back the interactions you had with others. Resist the temptation to become defensive and ask yourself questions like:  I wonder what they were really trying to ask me?  Why did I feel such a strong need to defend myself?  Why did I feel such a strong need to exert power in the moment?  What unintended consequences could the action I took cause?
  • Do the inner work of developing your soul- The psychology data says you are as intelligent right now as you will ever be. Your personality is fully formed, so you know if you are extroverted or introverted. You have most of the skill you will ever need. So what is your next step in development? Do you need to work on developing the soul of your leadership?

If any of you would be interested in joining a group on what it means to develop the soul of the leader send an email to My assistant will coordinate a time for us to talk about your interest and what a group like this will look like.


Pick one of the 5 Actions above and work on it every day for a week. For example, in every personal interaction and every email you send, say “thank you." Work on making your attitude heartfelt and not rote. If you try any of these let me know how they go for you, I would love to hear.

Is This Leadership Question on Your Mind?

It happens every year. Around the second week in January, just when I am recovering from my holiday vacation, my lovely wife of 32 years will ask me a very pointed question. It is a question that comes from her desire to know me and connect more deeply with me. Her question is:

“Scott, what is your word for the year?”

The answer gives her peace about where I am in life. I do not see it as a nagging question. Her intention is not meanness, nor is it meant to put me on the spot, although, it is direct. Her intention is to to get me to focus. To be honest, I like the question, it is deeply reflective of where I am at the moment, and what I am thinking about our future.

If you read this column with any regularity, you know I like to talk and write on a number of leadership-oriented topics. I am interested in many things. I love sports, reading,  running and walking, and sitting around. I like sushi and steak (hamburgers are my favorite!) I listen to smooth jazz and “that Old Time Rock and Roll.” I love God, and people who screw up all the time. I guess you could say I am a classic Jack of all Trades, Master of None. I tend to bounce around a lot.

That said, it is totally fair that my wife wants to focus my attention. She deserves to know a single avenue I am going to go down in any given year. What am I going to concentrate on? What can she ask me about from time to time to see how I am doing?

In years past I have had words like:

Family Vacation Perform Read Persevere Wisdom

Last year my word was commit. I had a lot of business opportunities, and I really needed to focus on the next step to take in growing my business. The biggest need I had to meet as a leader was to commit to something and stick with the plan. I am the kind of guy who has an idea for a new book about twice a day, but who gets bored easily so that the book I thought about writing in the morning doesn’t seem nearly as interesting as the book I thought about writing in the afternoon.

2016 was a year I needed to commit to something and see it through to the end.

Powerful Leadership Question:

Why is having a Word For The Year such a powerful concept?

Perhaps the idea is best summed up by something I read recently about presidential inauguration speeches. After analyzing all the inauguration speeches given by the 44 U.S. presidents, researchers found an inverse correlation between the length of the speech given and the historical success of the president. In simple terms, the shorter the inaugural speech, the better the president. For example, Washington’s second speech came in at just 135 words. Jefferson, Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson all are credited with short speeches. After a quick Google search, I found that the longest speech belongs to William Henry Harrison who spoke for 1 hour and 45 minutes using over 9,000 words. He also delivered the address in a snowstorm, came down with pneumonia, and died a week later.

Brevity Has its Benefits

A Word of the Year can be a pin-pointed theme for your year. These attributes are what I look for when I am choosing my Word of the Year.

  • Focused. This word keeps me grounded and centered. Since I have such an ability to stray off topic and chase rabbits down trails, The Word For the Year gives me a central point to return to often.
  • Measurable. I can easily set goals around my word of the year. This allows me to be intentional and look for examples of how I am displaying my commitment in my life.
  • Simple. Since it is only one word, I do not get distracted by complicated plot twists. It is easy for me to remember what I am trying to focus on in that given year.
  • Memorable. While I am not completely losing my mind (some on my staff might disagree with this,) I find that it is easier and more efficient to search my mind for one word I want to remember than for some phrase or quip.
  • Communicable. My word of the year is easy for me to communicate to others. The message is much less likely to get lost in translation if I keep my thoughts to one word.

My Word for 2017

This year the focus of my leadership life is contentment.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this word? Lazy? Complacent? Comfortable? Peaceful?

For some, this word probably sends shivers up your spine. You may be saying something like, “interesting word for a guy who runs his own business!”

However, when I was researching this word I started with its definition. Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. This does not mean that I stop trying, it does not mean I won't try my very best. In our company, we have adopted a verse from the Bible that says, “Whatever you do, work at it as for the Lord and not for men.” It reminds us that we need to have an attitude that reflects the work we do, which has an element of spirituality to it.

So, in no way does the word contentment mean complacent, or indifferent, or even comfortable!

What it does mean to me is that at the end of the day, when I finish the work I set out to do, or even if I don't get everything done that I hope to….I will be content. When I really want to meet with someone for an hour, but who only has 15 minutes instead, I will be content with the time I get. If I put a bid in on a project I really want to do and I don’t get the work, I will be content.

My real goal here is to put my very best effort in, knowing that I can be happy knowing I did my best. I don’t think contentment excludes self-examining where I could do better, nor does it mean accepting mediocrity. That is not my best. I will NOT be content if I do something without giving it my all.

The reason I chose contentment as my word of the year is to remind me that if I have done a good job, finished the race, and done the best I could with the talent and effort I have, then I should be content.


What is your word of the year? Have you ever thought through something like this? What kind of focus would this bring to your leadership life if you committed yourself to defining your year by one thing? Comment with your word and definition below so that we can connect throughout the year about how our words of the year are shaping us in 2017!

Do You Make These Mistakes in Leadership?

I was having a conversation with a really close friend the other day. This person is a high-level leader who has a lot of autonomy in his role. He can make many decisions that can affect many lives. His board of directors gives him a lot of latitude to direct the vision and mission of his organization. His team loves working with him.

He knows leadership. He not only articulates this in the way he speaks, but I can see the actions of his life. He is:

  • Self-aware and others-aware.He knows his strengths and weaknesses, and is not afraid to admit when he doesn't know something. He is keenly aware of how others are presenting themselves.
  • Communicates vision. He repeats the vision for his organization over and over and over. I mean, if you are part of his group and cannot articulate what the organization is about, then you must be trying not to understand. You might not like it, You might not agree with it, But there is one thing for sure…You HAVE HEARD IT!
  • Displays cognitive and emotional intelligence. He is smart enough to be in his role and knows when his emotions are in play and how to manage them.
  • Balances task and relationship. He realizes that leadership is about both Leaders have followers and they need to work together to create the organization's vision.
  • Understands positives and negatives of culture. He knows that culture has both cool stuff about it and warts, and that is all just part of the cultural paradox.
  • Change Matters. He moves his team forward because he knows if he stands still, they become irrelevant. He is keenly aware of dynamics of change like conflict, stress, and speed.
  • Strategic and systematic thinker. He has a strong ability to know what the root issue is that needs to be addressed. He listens compassionately to all concerns and can keep his team focused on what the whole organization needs.
  • Spiritually connected. He interacts with people showing both grace and mercy at appropriate times and has a strong moral compass.

He both knows leadership and acts as a leader. As you can tell, I am a fan. I am not in any way saying he is perfect, just that when it comes to leadership he really gets the core essence.

The Conversation

Our dialogue was actually quite short. Neither of us had much time that day, but the conversation was about something very important to both of us. We both are members of an organization that is struggling. Its current leadership has been in place for a few years.

Leading this organization is in no way easy. What is easy is to sit back (like I am doing) and be critical.

My intention is not to be negative or critical but to turn some of our observations of this organization into a learning moment for all of us.

Here are 5 leadership mistakes we quickly identified. Perhaps you could use this list as a reflection of where you are in your own leadership.

The Mistakes

  • Personal Agenda. The leader has become emotionally attached to his initial vision and doesn’t seem to be allowing himself the capacity to learn.
  • Incremental Change. The leadership team has gotten into the weeds of the change that is needed. They are too focused on the tactics of making the change happen rather than staying strategic and delegating. This is causing the change to be micromanaged and blame is starting to occur.
  • Spirit of Defensiveness. When strategy gets questions and an answer is given confidently. When people want more depth, the same answers are given only louder and with more extraversion. This behavior is turf-protection rather than a spirit of openness and curiosity.
  • Vision possibility. While the vision for the organization is inspirational, it is one that is hard to relate to the practical. While inspiration carries with it emotion and cultural comfort, a vision has to do more than give a feeling of eating “Momma’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes." George Bernard Shaw gets attributed with one of my favorite vision quotes that makes the distinction between inspiration and possibility: “you see things; and you say, ‘why'. But I dream things that never were; and say 'why not!’.”
  • Lack of personal awareness. Perhaps the biggest issue is that many people tell this leader he is great all the time. I think he has started to believe it. While I am sure he feels some pressure in the role, my concern for him is that he is falling prey to the invulnerability fallacy.
  • The invulnerability fallacy. Because he has risen to the top, and many in the organization were excited he took the role, nothing can go wrong for him.


It is good for all of us to get really honest with ourselves from time to time. If you are sitting there telling yourself, “Well none of this happens to me so I am doing well," then perhaps you are suffering from the fallacy of thinking that you are all-knowing. I think as leaders we need to constantly be challenging ourselves across a number of leadership domains.

I think as leaders we need to constantly be challenging ourselves across a number of leadership domains. This is one of the reasons that coaching is so important. Every leader needs to have a voice who will speak truth to them. Who can help them see things that are not obvious. It is very difficult for someone who is internal to the organization and wants to stay, to deliver meaningful, long-term feedback. Once in awhile, someone will speak one word of truth, but very few will have the intestinal fortitude to continue on. This is one of the real values that coaching can bring. Hopefully, you are working with a coach, and this coach is providing you the challenge you need in your leadership life.

Every leader needs someone in their life who will keep them honest and humble, who doesn’t have much to lose in delivering bad news, a trusted voice who can lead the leader out of the wilderness, someone you can put your faith in because you know they have your best interest in mind.


I have given you 8 positive leadership dimensions and 5 things that can go wrong in leadership. Do a reflective assessment of your own leadership. Not that these two lists are in any way definitive, but use them to think, reflect, and assess what your leadership looks like. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. 

The 5 Books I Plan to Re-read in 2017

Happy New Year!  I hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season. In last week's blog post I shared some of my top reads for 2016.

Every year I re-read a few of my favorite books that have really engaged me over the years. I hope you discover something you might find interesting and/or useful in developing yourself as a leader this year.

  1. Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein Schein’s motivation for writing this short (123 pages) yet powerful book is both personal and professional. The first paragraph of the book sets the entire tone. The bottom line is that those who possess a “telling” and “aggressive” tone destroy relationships. We all know the value of positive relationships in organizations and in this little gem Schein gives some very practical tips on how to be both humble and a leader. I think it was my most recommended book of 2016 to my clients.
  2. Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell This is an account of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Saint Luke. The vivid imagery and the subtle, yet powerful situations really give testimony that what is in the Bible could indeed be true. The writing gives a perspective that is original and creative. One of my all time favorites.
  3. Running By The Book by Corinne Bauer These pages contain the training plan that I used to run my first half-marathon. I followed the plan very closely and was able to exceed the goal I set for myself. In races that I ran subsequently, I was not as diligent in following the plan and my performance has born this out. I have a goal in 2017 to run a Personal Best for 13.1 miles, and I am going to dust off these pages to make it happen.
  4. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Thompson   This is a classic that every coach needs to read both for themselves and for the clients they interact with. Cloud and Thompson come at the topic of boundaries from a distinct and overtly Christian worldview, which lends a very interesting perspective on “when to say yes and how to say no" so that you as a leader can take control of your life. Professionally, my business is growing and I am going to have to start saying NO to some things I have enjoyed in the past. Personally, I have made a lot of sacrifices so the business can grow and I am going to start saying YES to more things in life.
  5. Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett While Hewlett wrote this book primarily with females in mind, there are great lessons in it for all of us. I have a real interest in this topic for both males and females and would love to write on this subject as it pertains to those in leadership and young people who desire leadership responsibilities. I am hoping a re-read of this important work gets me thinking and writing in this area.

Well, that is it for me. How about you? Any of these titles grab you as a re-read or even a first time through? Hey, if you are re-reading something I would love to hear it and why you are choosing to spend your time with the work again.

Here is to a successful 2017!

Try Giving Less of This to Improve Team Performance

Maybe it is the Christmas season? Maybe it is the end of the year? Maybe folks I communicate with are just feeling burned out? Whatever the reason, I sure have noticed a lot of people this year saying things like:

“Let's take that up next year, I just don’t have any more capacity this year.”

“Our people are really feeling stressed with everything going on right now.”

“There are just a lot of priorities on people's plates at this point in time.”

“I am feeling a little under-valued with everything going on right now, there just is not a lot of recognition for the simple things, like no one says thank you anymore.”

I am not sure how the people under your leadership are feeling right now as you read this, but are you? Are they feeling:

  • Overwhelmed?
  • Under-appreciated?
  • Stressed (for whatever reason)?

New Term/Old Concept

A relatively new area to hit the leadership literature is the concept of job crafting. In addition to top-down, hierarchical job expectations, many organizations are leaning more on the individual worker to “craft” their job by changing everything from the tasks they accomplish to mapping the important relationships they need to accomplish the goals they need to meet to be successful. This idea of “job crafting” actually has been cited in leadership studies as being aspirational, motivational, and allowing the individual to self-actualize and find meaning and purpose in work.

Job crafting has been cited as increasing work productivity, employee engagement, effective problem solving, and overall employee performance.

Before I even knew it was called “job crafting” I always thought of it as “just do what you need to do to get the job done." Be responsible. Be accountable. The folks at Nike would say, “just do it.”

The Research

An article in the most recent publication of The Leadership Quarterly (the Bible of Leadership Studies) by Elizabeth Solberg and Sut Wong took on the question of what employees perceived as their ability to craft their job in the context of work overload.

In English: If I have work overload, do I feel I can do what I need to do to get my job done?

Turns out, job crafting is often classified as a proactive behavior and reflects traits such as self-initiation to bring about any needed change. However, it also turns out that job crafting is not necessarily anticipative. Most scholars view job crafting as a behavioral response to one's current work situation. Rather than being future oriented and strategic about what work we have, most of us will just react to the load we currently face. It really is the “tyranny of the moment” that is a key factor in our ability to be able to craft the job into what we need it to be.

The Findings

There are two really important points that come out of this study as it relates to job demand and role crafting. When employees are feeling the overload of work, their perception of the chances for a positive resolution and their leader’s need for structure are two very important factors.

As always in leadership studies, there is more than one variable that must be considered. When studying the leader it usually goes without saying that studying the follower is critical. When thinking about employee performance and work overload, the literature will support this idea.

The Employee

If your organization is going to face work overload from time to time it is a good idea to ensure you have people on your team who can both adapt to and initiate change. It turns out that proactivity in times of work overload requires both adapting to and initiating change that is needed to relieve the work overload.

The follower does have to have some skill or trait in their overall ability to be able to manage change. There is an accountability and expectation that rests on the shoulder of the follower that when work overload is occurring they can cope with it, manage it, and change what needs to be changed.

Point taken. Followers need to be accountable.

The Leader

Turns out that follower accountability is only half of the story. The other half of the story is how much control the leader exudes.

According to Dragoni and Kuenzi (2012), leaders engage in leadership behavior consistent with their own goal orientations, producing a work climate that influences their employees to adopt aligned goal perceptions. The research by Solberg and Wong shows that the more controlling the leader is, the less willing the follower will be to exhibit autonomy and make changes that are needed to alleviate work overload.

The Lesson

If folks in your organization are overworked and feeling stressed, maybe it isn’t the holidays to blame. Maybe it isn’t all of the end of the year tasks. Perhaps it is your need to control as a leader. If our need for structure across all time and circumstance is consistent, then in times of heavy workload, your workload is going to increase even more. Why? Because in order to get things right, the followers are going to need you to think for them. If as leaders we want to feel less stress or have more time to think and create, then perhaps letting go of control might be just the gift to give yourself and those on your team this holiday season.


What can you as a leader do to loosen your control reigns? What value would giving your team more autonomy have on the overall effectiveness of your team?

How to Energize Your Leadership Life

The coolest thing happened to me last night! My wife had a meeting and rather than sit at home in my office, she dropped me off at the local Starbucks. So I am sitting outside (a benefit of living in Florida) having a hot chai tea latte (my personal favorite), grading some papers for an Executive Coaching class I am teaching. I had graded about 12 papers and my eyes were starting to cross when an older gentleman sat down at the table next to mine.

I know better than to make eye contact. When you make eye contact, that is when they start talking. Even thought I had completed what I needed to get done, I had a chance to get ahead in the class. I had work to do. Just stay focused, Scott, you can do it. Just don’t look up.

But the words of my pastor’s sermon jumped into my mind at that very moment “the gift of Christmas is found in the margins." The point of his sermon last Sunday morning was that even when it looks like all is lost and you have no power of your own to provide, God is in the margins. Christmas is a time for hope because 2000 years ago the Romans had such powerful rule over all the people they had lost hope.  Then, in the middle of the night, in a Bethlehem stable, HOPE showed up in the margins. God acted because he cared. I was thinking to myself, “Scott, how much do you care?"

…And as I was having this thought, you guessed it...

I looked up!

“You live around here?" the old-timer asked.

That was it. I was done for the night. Turns out he was a real talker. We spent the next 45 minutes together of which I asked 3 questions and he talked the entire time. And what a glorious night it turned out to be! Turns out he was a football coach from central Ohio down in Florida for Christmas with his daughter. He started in the high school ranks and worked his way up the coaching ladder. He has spent time with and coached for some of the all-time greats: Bo Schembechler, Tommy Tuberville, and even spent some time in the Canadian professional league.

I honestly could have listened to him all night. He had such a neat perspective on both football, coaching, and life.

Leadership Lessons

Here are my three big take-a-ways from my conversation with the old coach.

  1. There is only one letter difference between "hire" and "fire." No matter which you are experiencing, there is probably some “ire” in each. Do the very best job you can with the job you have today. Hold everything loosely, because you never know when you could lose your job, even when you have a winning record. If you get a new job, there are others who wanted it and some of them might still be on the team.
  2. Professionals don’t need your advice. At the end of the day, the professional (football player or insert whatever noun you wish) gets paid for how they perform. Period. They are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make that affect their overall performance. There is too much victim mentality today. Too many people think they are entitled to something they haven’t put an ounce of effort into. Professionals might want you to help them think through something, or get some perspective, but don’t ever be fooled into thinking they want your advice.
  3. The end will come. One of my questions for him was, “In hindsight, would you do it again?” Without flinching or even much thinking, he said, “Without question!" He said, “I have this tablet thing at home (and I am dying laughing on the inside), and I get messages from other coaches, from past players, even from kids in my English class. They say, "Hey coach, good to see you are still alive. Did you see that game last night between Clemson and Virginia Tech?”

Then came one of the only pauses in roughly 45 minutes of conversation …

“Do it again…I would not have done anything else.”

In rather dramatic fashion, my wife pulls up in the old Kia Sorento to pick me up.

As I thanked him for the lively conversation and started to walk back to the car it hit me right between the eyes: God had shown up in the margin, but not as I had originally intended it.

My original idea was to show up and be some margin in this guys life. After all, he was older and all alone.

Turns out, I could not have been more wrong. Turns out I was the one who needed the blessing of someone else's company.

I don’t even know the old coach's name. For all I know maybe he wasn’t even a football coach. But I am really thankful he took the time to show up and provide some light into the margins of my life.


Maybe you know someone in your organization who is feeling marginalized. Maybe there is someone who needs a 45 minute Starbucks conversation. Even though you don’t have time, maybe what you need to do is stop and recognize that they are human too. Who knows, maybe you will be the one who ends up with the blessing. Merry Christmas!

What Advice Would You Give to This First-Time Leader?

As a part of my personal morning routine, I try really hard to spend at least 30 minutes in reflection, meditation, and prayer. I have been using a book recently to assist me in this quiet time called “40-Day Journey with Parker Palmer." The thing I like most about Palmer’s writing is the powerful way he provides insight into paradox. For example:

  • The inner life and the outer life
  • The darkness in the world and the light in the world
  • Action and reflection
  • Strength and weakness
  • Living while dying and dying while living

My mind has been in a couple of places this past week and my morning quiet time has proven quite valuable for me. My quandary has been a paradox of sorts between leadership and management. Reflection, meditation, and prayer, if done in the early morning, can have a profound impact on how you see your day, your week, and your world. If you do not currently use this leadership tool, I really recommend giving it a go and see how it might change your world.

The Story

My youngest son Greg and his beautiful wife, Sylvia, spent the week after Thanksgiving with my wife and me at our home in Florida. Their trip to the sunshine state had several purposes:

  • Vacation - Greg has been working for Enterprise Car Rental for a year and had earned some much needed “PTO" (paid time off).
  • Thanksgiving - As much as possible, we wanted our immediate family to celebrate the holiday together (we were missing our daughter and her husband this year who are spending a year in Madrid, Spain teaching and traveling).
  • Promotion - Greg recently accomplished a major feat! After only a year at Enterprise he passed their rigorous management training program and will go back to central Ohio as an assistant branch manager. He has really worked hard for this promotion and, at age 23, Kim and I could not be more proud of Greg’s effort and accomplishment.

One of the things that Sylvia and Greg wanted to do on vacation was to spend a day at the beach. One afternoon we all got in the old Kia Sorento and headed over to Melbourne Beach. While we were sitting and enjoying the sun, sand, and ocean, Greg made the statement, “It is interesting, up until now at Enterprise it has been all about me and what I do to perform. When I go back to work next Tuesday I will have 3 other people who will have a say in my performance.”

The Paradox

Many of you who have been in leadership for a while may remember that moment when you had this same realization. Some of you are new to leadership and may be experiencing this same thought and feeling. Some of you have been in leadership for a while and may just be waking up to this seemingly unsolvable puzzle.

How can something be totally about me and not about me at the same time?

This is one of the intriguing things about leadership. Perhaps it is the tension that exists between management and leadership. Perhaps it is the tension that exists between task and relationship. Perhaps it is the tension that exists inside of both task and relationship, for each of them have a “what about me?” and “what about my followers?” component.

The Advice

As we sat on the beach, Greg turned and said, “You know, Dad, you should blog about that. I think a lot of people new to leadership would like to know what to be thinking about as they get started in a transition like this.”

So, never being one to hold back when asked to give an opinion, here are the questions that were on Greg’s mind that day and what I came up with as a response:

  • How do I motivate the people on my team when I am not around? Some of my team is remote so I don’t see them every day. 

    So I think this answer is two-fold. First is to find highly motivated people like yourself. There is only so much external motivation a leader can provide. If they don’t have a high internal motivation, then something is wrong and they need to find some other method of self-actualization. No amount of external motivation, even big bonuses, will give them the satisfaction in work they desire. Having said that, if you have someone who is self-motivated, the best thing I know to do to motivate someone is to care for them. Show compassion. Really listen and give them ways they can solve problems. The ultimate goal you are striving for is that when you are not around, they would say “I wonder what Greg would do in this situation?” That is leadership!

  • How do I know when to manage and when to lead? 

    Leadership is about the team! Find out who they are. Find out what they like. Really work to get to know them. Let them know you will have high expectations for performance, but ultimately caring for the customer and the employee is what you are there for. They will do amazing things for you if they know you care about them and that you have their back as best you can as a first line leader.Management is about the process. It is organizing and planning. Be as transparent as you possibly can about “why” things are the way they are. Most managers focus on the “how." Really dig in and explain the "why" so there is understanding about the processes. Don’t just tell them what to do, show them how and then explain why. 

  • How Do I Organize the Work? 

    Work with your supervisor (leader) on this one. Get advice on best practices they have seen. Seek out a mentor who has been really successful in your role. Each organization will have its own secrets to success. There is nothing like a good mentor when trying to figure out organization. When they share advice, implement it! Give it a fair try! It is frustrating as a mentor to give advice then have someone not take it and show up for the next meeting with the same question, or worse, having failed because they thought they knew better than to take the advice of wisdom.

  • What is the best way to give feedback & build trust? 

    The best way to build trust is to keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you declare you are going to “win” and have really high standards then you need to hold everyone on the team accountable for performance. You cannot have different standards for performance. You may have to make individual decisions based on circumstances but never have different standards. As far as feedback goes, my experience is people want it straight. They don’t want it sugar-coated. They don’t want 3 positives and then the “negative bomb." There are three steps I follow for feedback: 1. Give the situation the event occurred in. 2. Give the observed behavior they exhibited. 3. Give the result you observed. This is feedback. If you want them to change, coach them on what they could to in that situation, what the desired behavior looks like, and what result you expect. Ask them how they could do it differently next time to obtain a better result.

  • How do I achieve balance in my life?

    One of the conversations I have with many of my clients is, “all work and no play makes Jack/Jill very dull."  I don’t really ascribe to the "how to balance life" equation. I see life much more as flow and energy. What gives you energy and what sucks the life out of you. For all of us what we really control is our time, and to a lesser but equally important domain, our health (both physical and spiritual). Ensure as a leader that you find ways to revitalize yourself before, during, and after your work time. Make sure you have good positive thoughts going into your brain first thing in the morning and eat something for breakfast. Stay active during the day. Pay attention to the relationships you care most about. Never, ever, ever take them for granted. You will be tired and tempted to be isolated when you get home at the end of a long day. If so, how can you reenergize yourself so that those relationships you care most about at home feel as valued as your customers and your employees? Find your energy flow. No segment of your life gets all your focus.

Some of these answers could have been much bigger and broader and probably deserve some context. If you have thoughts on how you would answer these I would love to hear them. Why not leave a thought as a comment on my site?  If you send me an email that is cool, too, and with your permission I will post your comment on the site for you. I really do think a lot of young leaders have questions like this. Let's create a “Leadership Wisdom” forum that can serve as a repository for their leadership questions.


You have two assignments this week. The first is to provide your comment and leadership advice to the above questions. There is nothing like experience weighing in on questions like this. The second is some intentional personal reflection.  If you are not spending time in personal reflection in the morning, I highly encourage this discipline. Take 30 minutes with a spiritual book (I like using the Psalms or Proverbs from the Bible) or a book by a spiritual leader (I love using work by Parker Palmer and Ken Boa), and find a short passage that takes less than 5 minutes to read. Then spend the rest of your time reflecting on what the reading means to you. If you decide to implement a practice like this, I would love to hear how it is going for you.

My Public Declaration

Earlier this week I was feeling a bit stuck. I felt like there was something I wanted to articulate this week, but I was having a really hard time pulling it together. It felt like I was procrastinating. I had something that I needed to get done and I knew I needed to work on it, but it just wasn’t coming to me.

As I described the situation to my friend Joanne she said, “Are you sure you are procrastinating? Could it be that you are incubating?”

Now there was an interesting idea and perspective!

Joanne’s thought was that I had an idea that was just stewing around in my head but it wasn’t quite ready to come out yet. She suggested that I try a gratitude journal to see if that would help me break through.

Old typewriter with text gratitude

So I did, and here is what I wrote:

Top Ten Things I Am Thankful For In this Season of Life

  • I had an amazing week this week!
    • On Saturday I spent the day facilitating a training with 50 leaders who examined their own emotional intelligence.
    • Monday I spent time with some amazing coaching clients.
    • Tuesday I facilitated a new workshop we are doing called “What You Know About Stress Is Killing You.”
    • Wednesday and Thursday I worked with some amazing young leaders, helping them process an emotional intelligence 360.
    • Friday I spent the day with my wife, Kim.
    • Saturday Kim and I ran in the Everglades Half Marathon.
    • Sunday we had an amazing day of worship at Grace River Church.
  • A body that allows me to still run and exercise.
  • Spending time in the morning with God.
  • Writing this blog.
  • A home without discord.
  • Kids who call me during the week to check in.
  • The picture I got from my Granddaughter this week that was drawn just for me.
  • Airplanes so I can work with cool people and see my boys & their families in Columbus and my daughter and her husband in Madrid.
  • My Team: Brandi, Gretchen, Amy, Rick, Tom, Joanne, & Tim.
  • My beautiful wife who is the most amazing, faithful woman I know.

What Gratitude Did for Me

After I finished my list, which took me less than 5 minutes to do and just flowed off the end of my pen, I had an amazing insight.

What had been incubating in my head were the great relationships I have! My family, my clients, my team, and all of you who take the time to read these words.

I am so thankful for all of you. It is you who make my life joyous and complete.

My thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support in 2016. May God richly bless you and your family this holiday season.


Since this is Thanksgiving week, you don’t have any homework from me. Enjoy your week with your family and friends.  If you're feeling ambitious this week, try creating your own Top 10 list of what you are thankful for. If you do this I encourage you to capture the emotion at the end of creating your list. How did expressing thanks make you feel? Now share this emotion with others. You will be glad you did!

When Professionals Write Development Plans What Do They Do

Might as well get used to it, we are very much a “what have you done for me lately” society. The folks I work with say things like, “Scott, I just had the best year ever and my boss wants more," or “My team just voted me most valuable and want to know what is next for us.” As a society, why do we have such a hard time celebrating success and achievement for more than a day? Why can we not bathe in the success and enjoy the moment for more than a moment? Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point already...


By the time this article gets to you the Chicago Cubs will have celebrated winning the 2016 World Series. If you are reading this article, that means the rumor of the end of the world coming when the North Siders win it all has been grossly exaggerated. The accolades for the team keep pouring in, both in the major media and on my own personal text messaging. My good friend Ken Bish even wants Billionaire Joe Ricketts to give President of baseball operations for the Cubs, Theo Epstein, an ownership stake in the team. My answer was, Ricketts is a billionaire, they don’t give anything, that is why they are billionaires. Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point again.

I woke up this morning, the day after the thrilling game 7, which kept me up until 1:30am. Come on MLB, really, you couldn’t have started the game at 7pmEST? Why not take a lesson from Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump? The people who care are going to vote for you no matter what, so why not make it most convenient and give the best product possible option for those who care and want to consume it? I mean really, this is a Thursday and some of us have to work so we can pay you $50 for a T-shirt that costs $1.25 to manufacture! Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point again.

So, when I got up this morning, I put the coffee pot on and turned on the TV - something I never do. I practically ran into the living room to turn on ESPN’s Mike & Mike because I wanted to hear the celebration and insight from this historic event. One of the most interesting interviews was with Aaron Boone, who hit a home run in extra innings in game 7 of a League Championship series. He talked about how hard it is starting at 8pm the day leading up to the first pitch. Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point again.

The Point

I just finished reading what I hope becomes a classic in the leader development space. The book is "GRIT" by Angela Duckworth and my main learning from her research is that those who succeed stick with it. They don’t let themselves digress from the main point.

Duckworth calls this perseverance. The most impactful research for me comes from a Stanford Psychologist, Catherine Cox, who studied 301 exceptional historical figures. According to the research, there were only two things that made the exceptional truly exceptional in their field: passion & perseverance.

“Quiet determination to stick to a Goal.” “Tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles." 


When professionals write development plans they practice Theoverance.

This term has its genesis for me as I have watched Theo Epstein craft this 2016 World Champion baseball team. There are three steps to this process, and the first and third one are often the ones that are ignored.

  • Have a vision for what leadership success looks like. Before you plan, you must dream and your dream has to be in sync with your definition for success. This is Stephen Covey’s famous “begin with the end in mind” principle. Many leaders have a vision for their organization based upon what is in front of them rather than what is possible.
  • Have a plan that is aligned with your vision. Is your plan filled with actions or is it really taking you toward your vision? This is where a lot of stress comes in for leaders. Is your plan taking you toward your vision or are you just putting in time? Are you choosing safety over satisfaction? No judgment here on my part. I understand safety and if this aligns with your vision then this is the plan that is right for you. You just need to manage the expectation that come along with a safety plan.
  • Persevere with the plan. If you have a vision and a plan, stick with it. Too many leaders I work with get bored, or when the going gets tough in the middle of the plan, they give up. When the going gets tough this is when you are learning what you need to do and not do for your vision to become a reality. If you like your vision and your plan, stick with it.

Baseball, and more specifically Theo Epstein, have taught me something about developing into a winner. I am now going to call it "Theoverance." Some call it perseverance, some call it grit. Some may even call it resilience. I am calling it Theoverance.

Theo had a five-year plan. Here are the results of that plan:

  • 2011 lost 91 games (56% of games)
  • 2012 lost 101 games (63% of games)
  • 2013 lost 96 games (60% of games)
  • 2014 lost 89 games (54% of games)

By now you have to be saying, yes, Scott, we know.. It is the Cubs. But wait! Remember, there was a plan… The vision took time to bring to reality.

  • 2015 won 97 games (60% of games)
  • 2016 won 103 games (64% of games)

You see, Theo and the Cubs management could have easily quit, given up, chalked it up to the Goat, or whatever mystical Bartman type curse could be dreamed up. But they did not! They stayed with the plan.

The Learning

Three points from our time together today:

  • Honestly assess your vision.
  • Have a leadership development plan. If you don’t have a plan, you will for sure stay where you are.
  • Stick with your plan. Believe in yourself. If you have a dream, you can achieve it.

It is vital for leaders to have a personal vision for where they want to head.

A significant part of managing stress is managing expectations. When reality does not equal expectations stress can sneak in and cripple your plans.

This article is dedicated to the memory to the three reasons I am an elated Cub fan today:

Harold “Poggy” Livingston  1899-1985
Ruth Ann Baker 1931-1990
Harold Robert Livingston 1936-2003
"Wait until next year" takes on a whole new meaning for me. Vegas has the odds of the Cubs winning in 2017 @ 3:1. Stay focused boys, stay focused and stick with the plan.

How to Eliminate the “F” Word From Your Leadership

I don’t often find myself with a lot of time to watch television, but when I do here is the ritual I go through:

  1. Sit in my comfortable easy chair.
  2. Turn television on.
  3. Press “Guide” button on my Direct TV remote.
  4. Punch in the numbers 247, which is TBS.

All of this to see if my favorite show of all time is playing, The Big Bang Theory!

I have fallen in love with The Big Bang Theory. If you don’t know the story line, the characters are all really smart Ph.D types (except Howard, his educational pedigree is that of a lowly astronaut engineer type), whose relationships are all tested primarily by Sheldon Cooper’s regimented and deeply eccentric personality. Sheldon, along with his best friend and roommate, Leonard Hofstadter (for whom there is a written roommate agreement), may be able to easily explain complex issues in physics like quantum string theory, however, basic social situations (especially when it comes to women) confound and elude them.

Man with a cloud instead of his head

Smart Vs. Wise

The Big Bang Theory constantly reminds me that an individual may be smart, but that doesn't always mean they are wise.

I don’t often foray into the political arena in this blog. However, as I watch the political scene unfold in the US, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that the candidates keep trying to portray their level of intelligence. What we need in this country is wisdom along with intellect.

Donald Trump, who claims to have huge intellect (which should be questioned, because wealth is not an indicator of how intelligent someone is), cannot seem to get out of his own way in the legal case involving Trump University.

As a graduate of Yale Law School, I have a hard time questioning Hilary Clinton’s intellect. Although, similar criticism can be given to Clinton in the handling of her private email server. I am sorry, Mrs. Clinton, but the “not knowing” defense as Secretary of State of the United States of America is unfathomable.

When smart people make such huge public blunders, what is actually happening?

Dr. Richard Sternberg draws the conclusion his book A Handbook of Wisdom, that the opposite of smart is stupid, and the opposite of wisdom is foolishness.

The question we often ask of leaders who knew better than to act the way they did is, “How could such a smart person be so stupid?” This question really doesn’t capture the essence of the action.

Donald, how could you be so stupid to ignite racial tension to protect your personal brand?

Hilary, how could you be so stupid to blatantly ignore rules and laws you had working knowledge of?

But according to Dr. Sternberg’s assessment, the candidates are not stupid, they've acted foolishly.

Foolish acts by smart people are not because they lack intellect. The problem with the foolishness has little to do with their cerebral processing, but more to do with deeper issues of character.

While it is easy to get lost in the fictional story of television or the laissez-faire attitude of the American politician, the fact is, we observe really smart people doing really foolish things all the time.

Defining Foolishness

If as a leader you are going to remove the “F” word, then knowing what foolishness looks like might be of value. The leadership literature (thanks to Dr. Sternberg) has identified five different dimensions of foolishness:

  • What-me-worry? (unrealistic optimism) - I am so smart and/or powerful it is pointless to worry about outcomes.
  • Egocentrism - The interests of the leader are the only ones that are relevant.
  • Omniscience - Thinking the leader knows or has access to perfect knowledge.
  • Omnipotence - Over-extension of granted power by followers.
  • Invulnerability - Complete protection from error or mistake.

If we go back to our candidates for President and examine their actions in light of a foolishness metric, what do you think? Perhaps Mr. Trump suffers from Unrealistic Optimism and Egocentrism, while Mrs. Clinton from Omnipotence and Invulnerability. It would be a totally different campaign if these two candidates recognized these behaviors in themselves and focused on changing them.

Taking the “F” Word Out of Your Leadership

Foolishness is something to be guarded against by all leaders. It has been suggested that the reason leaders commit foolish acts is rooted in how humans see reality. For this, we must examine a couple of different models for how we, as humans, process reality.

True is True and False is False: Some leaders have an ability when they hear true information, the information is accepted as such, and when false information is heard, it is rejected. In this model, the mind of the leader acts in a linear fashion to establish true from false or rational from irrational.

An Extra Step: Another view is that our minds are actually in a state to automatically accept what we hear as true. Yet there is an extra step involved to reject something as not true.

This process of rejection literally takes more energy from us than automatic rejection. It is argued by Dan Gilbert that people may indeed hear something that is untrue or irrational and have the capacity to reject it, but fail to take the actual step of rejecting the untruth.

We have all experienced this, especially when we are emotionally vulnerable, or even physically or mentally exhausted. We know something isn’t true, but we just don’t have the energy to debate it (anyone ever raised a teenager?).

Taking the "F" Word Out of Your Followership

What about the American public? Why do we constantly let our politicians get away with such behaviors? How about we stop blaming the “liberal press” or “Fox News” and put the foolishness meter on ourselves!? Perhaps it is time to stop aligning with individual parties and to start examining the character of the leaders we are electing. Perhaps we need to remove the “F”word from our followership as well. Perhaps we need to put a little more energy into the process, rather than shake our heads and tell ourselves we don’t have enough energy to even think about it.


Which of the five foolishness dimensions are you at risk for succumbing to as a leader? Why not ask those on your team to give you an evaluation to see if they have ever observed any of these in your leadership.

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Cari Nicholson! Cari won a copy of Jan Tilley’s new book, “Eat Well to Be Well,” from last week's blog contest.

Hey, Cari, check out the Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken on p. 103! I made it last night on my smoker. Only 170 calories; 7 gms of fat, and 24 gms of protein. It was KILLER good!

If you want to order a copy of Jan’s book you can find it by clicking here.

If you are saying, “Hey, I didn’t know there was a contest last week!”...

First, here is the link to last week's guest blog from Jan Tilley herself! It's a really good one you don’t want to miss it.

Second, don’t fret. We are going to give away another copy of Jan’s book this week! Just leave us your favorite healthy eating tip, either when you travel or when you are home, and we will draw another winner next week!

The Leadership Paradox

Speaking of the winner.

Do you remember the famous paradox story from Greek mythology of Achilles and the tortoise?

Achilles was a warrior character of great strength and speed. If you want a modern day equivalent, think of Usain Bolt who currently holds the title as the fastest man in the world. The tortoise is, well, you know what a tortoise is: slow, steady, and sure.

Imagine a race between Achilles (or Usain) and the tortoise, a sprint like the 100-yard dash. And to make it interesting, we are going to give the tortoise a 50-yard head start.

Who do you think would cross the 100-yard finish line first? Most of you would say that Achilles would easily catch the tortoise and beat him soundly.

Not so fast, says Parmenides, a pre-Socratic scholar, who philosophized that one's senses can lead to results which are false and deceitful.

Parmenides (and his student Zeno) make the claim that for Achilles to beat the tortoise, he first has to catch up to the animal. These ancient philosophers say this can never happen, and here is why:

Suppose when Achilles starts running, the tortoise is at spot X. When Achilles gets to spot X, then the tortoise is at X2. When Achilles gets to X2 then the tortoise is at X3….hence the ancients say that Achilles will never catch the tortoise and the tortoise wins the race.

The Leadership Lesson

What is wrong with the above paradox? Well, there might be several things wrong (there are some quantum physicists who say there might be more truth to the paradox than we give credit, but their thinking goes beyond my feeble brain).

If we only think about one dimension such as distance, then the logic used by Parmenides and Zeno might be true. But we know that a race is more than distance. We have to consider things like strength, speed, motivation, and mental preparation just to name a few. You can not just use one dimension to determine who is going to win a race.

As we think about what goes into leadership, too many of us pick one dimension and focus only on that one item. But just like the race between Achilles and the tortoise, we have to consider more than distance in order to determine a winner.

For example, many folks I work with equate certain leadership styles to leader effectiveness. Leadership is much more than personality; being an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs or a high “D” on the DiSK. Leadership is so much more than being able to articulate a vision, or being influential, or even having a servants heart.

Maybe it is time for us to get a much broader view of what it takes to be a leader!

Connection to Wellness

Over the past few weeks, we have dedicated these electrons (we used to call them pages, but that just doesn’t feel right anymore) to the idea of wellness.

How might wellness inform our ideas on leadership? This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately:

  • Perhaps spurred on by what is going on in the US political arena.
  • Perhaps aroused by some experiences in my past.
  • Instigated potentially by some reading I have been doing.
  • Propelled by some enlightened conversations I have been having.

Likely a combination of these.

WELLNESS the process you go through as a leader to live a meaningful, purposeful, and intentional existence.

WELLNESS as a metric for leadership in addition to personality, vision, integrity, performance.

The next time you have to select a leader in your organization, why not frame your interview around a wellness framework? Stop asking them about past achievements, or at least expand the horizon of your discussion to topics of:

  • How positive and affirming the person is.
  • How they view their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  • How does achieving their potential help others achieve what they want out of life?

One of the problems we have in our society is that we think only on one dimension. We use the winning and losing arguments of performance to gauge success. This is not a metric that is going to serve us well in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-competitive, far from it. But focusing only on performance for performances sake can leave us longing as humans.

We still have as a classic example of this phenomena, “The Stock Market Crash of 1929."  In a nut shell, people thought the performance of the market would always go up. To the average investor, stocks were a sure thing. Performance was all that mattered. As we all know, fraudulent companies were formed and money poured into them. Then on October 24, 1929, panic selling ensued as the realization came that the market was nothing more than an overly speculative and inflated bubble.

Performance is only one metric to be studied.

Even if you do not want to change your paradigm, perhaps we might at least consider things in addition to performance. Perhaps we should look beyond results and start looking at what goes into those results. Focus on quality inputs instead of solely looking at outcomes.

Leadership is a holistic discipline. Don’t get caught living in just one dimension where a tortoise could beat Usain Bolt in a 100-yard dash. This logic is doomed to leave you wanting and spending too much time diagnosing what went wrong in your leadership.

Homework: Reflect for yourself on how you are doing on your wellness journey. Use the questions above to ask yourself what you are doing to live a more successful existence. Grade yourself on your emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. How are you doing?

7 Strategies for Eating Healthy on the Road

[guestpost]Today I would like to welcome my friend, Jan Tilley, to the blog. Jan is a gifted author and dietician, and her new book 'Eat Well to Be Well' is available now. I'm excited to be giving away a few copies of her book on today's blog, so enjoy the post and be sure to comment below for your chance to win![/guestpost] As a dietitian and professional speaker who is very accustomed to traveling for business, I can tell you that eating healthy while traveling may not be easy, but it is not impossible!

Page1Many of my clients struggle with making healthy choices on the road.  I have a client who entertains customers at dinner several nights a week.  As a part of our counseling, he asked me to go with him to dinner to teach him to make healthy choices at a steakhouse.  What I discovered was that he was making fairly healthy choices but his portions were way out of line.  He started the meal with a large shrimp cocktail, followed by a Caprese salad, a 12-ounce rib eye steak with a loaded baked potato, red wine, and dessert.   None of these were horrible choices, but the overall combined meal exceeded 3000 calories – way more than he needed for the entire day!  For our meal together, I made the following suggestions:  small shrimp cocktail, house salad with dressing on the side, 6 oz. petite filet, steamed vegetables, one glass of red wine, a decaf cappuccino for dessert.  With just a few small changes, he was enjoying a delicious, well-balanced dinner at the same restaurant for less than 700 calories!  To remind him to order wisely, I asked him to repeat to himself as he made his selection from the menu, “the only meal I need to get right is this one, I am only one meal away from success!”

Here are 7 tried and true strategies to help you maneuver the challenges of making healthy food choices on the road:

  1. Drink water. The goal is ½ your body weight in ounces.  If you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim for about 75 ounces of water a day.  This will serve two purposes – it will keep you feeling fuller and it will prevent you from thinking you are hungry when really you are just thirsty!
  2. Stick to your normal eating schedule. If you eat breakfast at 7:00 every day at home, then try to stick with that time on the road.  Traveling is not an excuse to miss meals and snacks.  The goal is to eat about every 3 hours to stay energized for your day.  Be sure to pack or purchase healthy foods (think apples, carrots, nuts, jerky) to prevent hunger and maximize productivity.
  3. Keep it real! Avoid processed and fast foods that are laden with fat, sugar, salt and a list of chemicals your body doesn’t need and doesn’t know how to process!  When faced with making difficult choices on the road, look at the menu to determine which choices are made up of primarily vegetables and lean protein without a lot of high-fat sauces and toppings.
  4. Limit or Avoid Alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can be a huge calorie trap!  A couple of tips to remember; make lower calorie choices such as a low-calorie mixer, beer, or wine and when consuming alcohol, have one drink followed by one very big glass of water before deciding to have another.
  5. Protein is Your Friend! Eating protein stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you feeling satisfied.  Carbohydrates are digested quickly and leave you feeling hungry again very quickly.  If you will make it a habit to eat lean protein every 3 hours throughout your day, you will be much less likely to overindulge in the evening.
  6. Eat Breakfast. Start your day right with a healthy, protein-rich breakfast.  This will prevent making bad choices midmorning when you are starving!
  7. Free isn’t FREE! Conventions and events are notorious for providing piles of decadent foods for meals and snacks.  It is tempting to load up to keep yourself entertained and awake during meetings, then have some extra to take back to your room for an evening snack.  This spells trouble for your waistline!

For more tools on building a healthy you, check out Jan’s new book, Eat Well to Be Well.  Jan is a powerful thought leader in all things health and wellness.  In the book, she translates the most current science-based information into easy to read tips and tools for making healthy choices in how we eat, sleep, exercise, and manage stress.  Eat Well to Be Well is available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and on Jan’s website at  In addition to her knowledge as a medical professional, Jan is quite the foodie.  On her website, you will find thousands of tried and true healthy recipes along with past blogs and health resources.  While visiting the site, be sure to sign up for Jan’s weekly newsletter!


Get a copy of Jan's book and equip yourself with tools for making healthy choices! I am giving away three copies here on today's blog. If you would like a chance to win one of those copies, leave a comment below sharing your favorite tip for eating healthy while traveling.

Winners will be announced in the comment section, as well as by email, on Friday.

What I am Learning About Choice

Who needs another diet book, right? There are so many on the market, what could possibly be said that hasn’t already been said? That is what I said to myself when my good friend, Jan Tilley, told me she had just written her third book on making good choices with what we eat. Jan’s new book on what it takes for people to “be well” is called “Eat Well to Be Well."

You really want to buy a copy of this book! And I don’t get any royalties for this statement, so I hope you will be curious enough to go out and get a copy. It is $20 that very well could change your life…for good! My thoughts this week come from reading Jan’s book, and I hope you have the same experience when you read it.


My Revelation

When Jan was telling me she was taking on this project I thought to myself, “I wonder how many diet books have been written?”So I went out on Amazon and found out! There are 171,292 entries for “diet books” and 7,009 that were newly released in the last 90 days!

Talk about a competitive market!

I took Jan's book with me on a trip a few weeks ago and started reading. It really is a great read!

Jan writes not about diets, but about healthy choices. Choices that will sustain you so that “…you have a fighting chance to live a healthy, strong, vibrant life well into old age."

Choice.  An interesting word.

A word that says the decision and the repercussions are mine. I am the one accountable. I am the one responsible. The choice is mine to be healthy.

So that

  • If I am working like a dog, and don’t exercise - I chose that!
  • If I get angry at someone at work over something that doesn’t matter - I chose that!
  • If I skip breakfast and don’t do my best in the morning meeting -  I chose that!
  • If I had a bad day and take it out on people who matter most to me when I get home - I chose that!

I think it is so easy to believe the lies like:

  • My boss is putting so much pressure on me I don’t have time to exercise.
  • I deserve to be angry, my rights were violated.
  • Breakfast, who has time for that…I am not hungry anyway.
  • If you had a day like I had, you would take it home with you too.

Yet we recall... choice.

It is so easy to blame others for my situation:

  • The boss
  • McDonalds
  • Drug Companies
  • My spouse
  • My kids
  • My mother

But really, how long are we in western society going to continue our blame mentality? When will we take ownership for our own choices? Maybe it is time to admit that we are not healthy because we do not want to be.

A Quick Story

A few weeks ago I had a trip that took me to the West Coast, the Mid-West, the deep South, and back to the East Coast. I had several interactions with friends and clients on the journey where the conversation turned to health. Here are bullet summaries of what was said:

  • Friend One: “I am 90 days from my doctor putting me on insulin."
  • Friend Two: “My doctor needs to up my dose of Lipitor.”
  • Friend Three: "I am tired all the time, I just don’t have any energy.“
  • Friend Four: “I just don’t feel good about how I look.”
  • Friend Five: “My knees hurt so badly I can’t exercise anymore."
  • Friend Six: “ I lost 15 pounds on XX diet, but I have put on 25 since I stopped.”

As I was reflecting on those conversations, I had a couple revelations:

  • The reason that so many people write diet books is that the market is really big! A lot of people buy them, a lot of people are trying to figure out this health thing, so authors keep writing them!
  • I really care about all these people. Why can’t they make the changes they need to make to be healthy?

Change Is An Emotional Choice

In his book “The Heart of Change,” John Kotter says that the core matter of change is about speaking to people's feelings. That any successful change is brought about by helping each other see the problem or solution that influences the emotion and not just the thought. Kotter goes on to say that the single most important notion for change is quite simple, “People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.“

Something not going your way? Are you not getting the outcome you desire? Have you not exercised in weeks? Are you working your entire vacation?

What needs to change?

According to Koetter, you do not need any more information or data. What you need is for the feeling you are experiencing to be turned from negative to positive. To see the possibility rather than to succumb to the inevitable.

Call To Action

Many of you who read this blog I have met at some point over the course of my life personally. I know some of you personally and many of you by acquaintance. I want you to know that I care about you. I care about your health and I care about your well-being. If you have a change that you need to make, I hope you will consider the emotional aspect of what you need to do. You will never make the change if you are focused on blaming your circumstance or gathering more data.

5 Steps to making Your Incremental Change

  • Write it down
  • Start today
  • Start small
  • Get an accountability partner
  • Focus on the positive feelings of making the change
  • Keep Going. Don’t stop until your change becomes your lifestyle

Many, many thanks to my friend Jan, who’s book really stimulated these thoughts. I hope you found them to be of value in your leadership life.

I really do think you should own a copy of Jan's book. If you haven’t purchased it yet, I am going to ask Jan to guest blog next week so that you can meet her and really think about interacting with what she has to say about healthy choices.

3 Things I Learned About Leadership from My Mom

Last week we committed to dedicating this blog in the month of May to “The Wellness of the Leader." If you are not considering wellness in your development, then you are leaving a big component of your leadership unexamined that is having an impact on your effectiveness. This week's blog really had a profound impact on me personally. Funny how sometimes when I write, I am actually the target audience.

As a staff, we try and plan these blogs out several months in advance. My daughter Gretchen and assistant Brandi have convinced me to be more culturally aware in my writing. Since Mothers Day just passed, I thought I would reflect on the impact my mom had on me as a leader.

Family happiness! Happy mother tenderly embracing his two sons in spring day, warm feelings of the mother, moment of life, happy family on nature

Hence, here are three things I learned about leadership from my mom:

Culture Matters

My mom was all about family. We were together all the time. Not just my parents and siblings, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I mean all the time. My mom was a “stay at home mom," and I was with my grandparents every day. The culture of the family mattered. My mom created a family culture that oozed safety and security for us as kids.

My good friends and experts on organization culture Dr. Boyd Johnson and Dr. Mike Linville will undoubtedly support this notion of the importance of culture in organizations. As will my old boss and good friend Tom Considine, who famously agrees with Peter Drucker that "culture eats strategy for lunch."

Culture, Culture, Culture rings through my mind this morning with the same tone that Jan Brady had in the old Brady Bunch episode, complaining that her sister Marsha got all the attention…Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!!! Culture needs to get much more attention in organizations than it currently does.

Edgar Schein, the great organizational culture theorist says that in our Western traditions of human nature, humans are social animals with primary social needs(1). When these humans come together, if they are to survive, a set of rules and regulations will need to be established to make the environment safe for everyone.

I hope you caught the nuance. The rules and regulations are about making the environment safe. This set of rules and regulations is not about making people feel valued or understood, but safe. Why? Because when people feel safe, they are able to perform at maximum capacity. When they feel threatened, then survival mode kicks in, thinking decreases, and the ability for them to hear what the leader has to say goes down.

This is why we say when leaders are trying to make a point or provide feedback, it is important to focus less on what you have to say and more on how the person is receiving it. If the person receiving the feedback feels safe, then there is a greater likelihood that your message will be heard.

My mom created an environment of safety and security (with discipline) that allowed for growth and wellbeing to be nurtured.

Question for Reflection: Are you being intentional, like my mom, about the culture you are creating as a leader?

Leaders Show Up

You can’t delegate presence.  As a leader, you can delegate a lot of things to other people. You can not delegate your physical presence when it is needed by your followers.

In my family, it didn’t matter what you had going on, you showed up for weddings and funerals.  You showed up for birthday parties and baptisms. You went to church every Sunday morning. My parents never missed a sporting event, a theatrical performance, a band concert,  or a Christmas Pageant.

If you want followers to follow you, then you have to show up to what is important to them. Are they making a big presentation, and you are triple booked on your calendar? Show up! Do they have a meeting scheduled with you where they need a decision? Show up! Is there a crisis in their life and they need you to listen? Show up!

What can I say? My mom showed up. This created a feeling of caring and support that allowed for risk taking and freedom.

Question for Reflection: Are you showing up, like my mom, for your followers when they need you most?

Leaders Sacrifice

I grew up in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois. My parents came from working class parents who worked on assembly lines at Caterpillar and Corn Products. We did not grow up with privilege, status, or great means.  Yet I always had new shoes for basketball tryouts, killer birthday parties (the envy of the neighborhood), and an extra $20 bill in my pocket for gas driving back to college. Mom never seemed to have the newest or best, but I always did.

Followers notice the sacrifices of the leader. They notice when you stay late and help them with a project when you could be off to a social event. They notice when you answer the phone or a text. They notice when you give of yourself to them when you had other options.

What do you think you might get in return for your sacrifice? I would propose commitment, loyalty, and extra effort.

Interestingly, do you know what is missing in a lot of organizations today? I would suggest commitment, loyalty, and extra effort.

I wonder if there is a reason?

The one thing I would add is that mom never expected anything in return. If you expect loyalty, then to me that is a bit coercive. But if you willingly sacrifice as a leader, expecting nothing in return, like my mom, then you may just get the loyalty and commitment you are looking for.

Question for Reflection: Are you sacrificing, like my mom, for your followers and expecting nothing in return?

Thanks Mom for all you taught be about being a leader!

I told you at the beginning that this weeks writing had a profound impact on me. So much so, I just booked a flight to be with my mom on Mother's Day! Can’t wait to be with you mom on this special day.  Happy Mother's Day!

Homework: Consider the reflection questions posed in the article. After you spend some time thinking about them, see if you notice any changes that you need to make in how you are approaching your leadership.

Happy Mother's Day to all you Moms out there!

  1. Schein, E. (2010). Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (p. 144).

4 Factors to a Longer and More Successful Leadership Life

"One of my clients had a profound impact on my life this week. What I heard him say is:

"Scott I realized that I have to take care of me. I am at my best when I am taking care of myself. I decided that I am going to do yoga when I get up in the morning, and I am going to exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued,

"There has been a lot of negativity in my life recently, and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am going to choose the leader I want to be and not be some weak victim of circumstance."

Absolutely Profound.

Choosing positive self-care over a negative circumstantial life perspective. Thanks to the courage of this story, this month I am dedicating the blog to the idea of wellness. We will discuss ways that you as a leader can take a positive self-care position, rather than be a victim of any negative circumstance.

Businessman holding two papers with happy and angry face each on them

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.
  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?
  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment, or say screw it and become a victim of your circumstance.
  • There is an end game. A successful existence. This is your life. You only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

The National Wellness Institute describes six different dimensions for us to consider as we examine our own wellbeing:

  • Emotional
  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

This week I want to focus on your Emotional Wellbeing as a leader.

The Story

One of my favorite authors is Martin Seligman. As a past president of the American Psychological Association, he has the credibility from a research standpoint that is really meaningful for me. In addition, Martin is a gifted storyteller who can weave a story together and then bring home a point that has real impact and causes me to pause and examine my own life.

One of my favorite stories that Martin tells is in his book Authentic Happiness. He details the stories of two of 180 nuns who are the subjects of an impactful and noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book, it is a great read. Here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns was alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.
  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are admittedly dicey and very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case for. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar life. They eat similar food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, they have similar routines. Sure there are some other differences that could account for the results:

  • Different levels of intellect
  • Different depths of spirituality
  • Different outlooks on the future

However, none of these in the research made any difference. The thing that Seligman points out that made a difference in the longevity of the nuns was the amount of positive feelings expressed.

If longevity is at least one measure of a successful existence, then the positive outlook you have on life matters!

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

In the Emotional Intelligence training that I do as a part of my consulting, one of the attributes we measure is that of Happiness or Wellbeing. In the model we use there are four factors that comprise Wellbeing:

  • Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.
  • Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your values.
  • Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.
  • Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

There are two important considerations as you evaluate your own level of well-being.

The first is that you display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends and ensure that there is reciprocity. Realize that things are not always going to go your way. It isn’t if you are going to have a setback in life it is when. What counts is how you respond.

The second is that you have balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful and in it for yourself. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health?


Rate yourself on a scale from one (low) to 10 (high) on each of the 4 attributes of well-being. Are you maximizing each attribute? Are all four of the attributes in balance with each other? As you reflect on these, what changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

What Leaders Can Learn from a $20 Bill

It is interesting to me to observe the lens in which various people look at decisions.

  • Teachers look at how decisions can impact learning
  • Speakers look at how decisions can become inspirational
  • Historians look at how past decisions affect the future
  • Nurses look at how decisions advance human health
  • Managers look at how decisions affect the bottom line

As you know, I am a leadership junky and I am constantly observing things with a leadership perspective. I found the following story fascinating to examine using a leadership optic.


The Story

I was reading about a recent decision made at the US Treasury Department. Secretary Jack Lew has announced that in 2020 Andrew Jackson will be sent to the back of the $20 bill while Harriet Tubman will replace him on the front of the note.

Tubman is best known for transporting slaves via the Underground Railroad after escaping from slavery herself, then becoming a pioneer in the women’s suffrage movement. Born into slavery, she not only raised herself out of bondage, she ran 13 missions to free some 70 friends and family from slavery. She is, without question, one of the most famous civilians in all of American history.

Jackson was the seventh president of the United States. His legacy is both one of the most studied and most controversial. Examples include his own ownership and outright support of slavery, signing into law the “Indian Removal Policy," and becoming the first president to implement the “spoils system,” whereby the person who wins the election puts their friends and family on the government payroll. He is also the first president upon whom both a physical attack was directed and an assassination attempt was made.

The Perspective

  • A teacher might share with students what it meant to be a conductor on the underground railroad
  • A speaker could use Tubman to inspire an audience to examine how their actions line up with their beliefs
  • Georgetown historian Michael Kazin took this perspective on Lew’s decision: “Our money is catching up with our history."
  • A nurse may want to examine the headaches and seizures Tubman suffered at the end of her life.
  • A manager might want to examine the financial impact of Tubman’s actions for slave owners or freed slaves

However, putting on our leadership glasses, let's look at Tubman’s actions in light of her emotional intelligence.

Linking Leadership to Action

When studying and applying emotional intelligence to our leadership lives, we are often caught up in the impact that OUR emotions have on OUR ability to lead. While this is an important aspect of any leadership model, it is woefully inadequate to focus solely on ourselves.

As leaders, we can not ignore our social responsibility to others. Social responsibility comprises both the desire and the ability to willingly and without restraint contribute to the benefit and well-being of others.

The idea is much deeper than whether you volunteer at your local food bank once a month. Socially responsible leaders have a conscious, deep, and abiding concern for others. Leaders who excel in this ability can resist the temptation to put themselves first, and instead, care and act compassionately toward others.

From the assessment work I do with emotional intelligence, leaders who lack enough social responsibility often have imbalances with their own self-actualization. Leaders who score high on self-actualization without balancing social responsibility will tend to put their own meaning and purpose ahead of others. They have their goals and objectives firmly established, then after all of their safety and security needs are met they will turn to considering the affliction of others. Most often what I hear is, “I work long hours, I have a family, I don’t have time to get involved."

I often wonder if this is what Martin Neimoller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, meant in his famous quote,

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Social Responsibility, a very valuable emotional intelligence trait for leaders to cultivate.

Thank you, Harriet Tubman, for providing such leadership and caring about others, even when it meant risking your own life.

Thank you, Secretary Lew, you got this one right!


As leaders, we are surrounded by good causes these days where we can express our social responsibility. Your assignment is to examine your own leadership and see if this is an area you need to improve. Examine deeply what may be holding you back. If you see a need, resist your knee jerk reaction to assume someone else will take care of it and instead take action yourself.