Why Costumes Work at Work

As luck would have it, this Halloween finds me in my home office. It hits on a Friday which typically means writing and development… no keynotes, no consulting gigs, no teaching the MBAs… sadly no reason to wear a costume.  In fact the next few Halloweens are on weekends– great for kids, terrible for dressing up as your favorite leadership message (yes, that’s me on the left).

Your next weekday (Halloween) chance is Monday, October 31st 2016, although I’ve found excuses to dress up at all times of the year. But for the traditionalists in our tribe, you have plenty of time to prepare. Go for it. I’d love to see your plans. Of course, if you dressed up today, send me a pic.  I’ll add it to the post.

Why Costumes Work at Work

  • Costumes are a great way to reinforce key messages. Try dressing up as your favorite objective, priority or customer complaint.
  • Costumes are silly, and silly is fun. We all need that.
  • Fun makes us real. Real creates connections. Connections inspire awesome customer experiences.
  • Teams long for a leader to show they are vulnerable. Nothing says “exposed” like a silly hair do.
  • Risk taking is an important leadership competency. It’s a bit gutsy to ask your team to follow you into a costume. Maybe it will make the next risk easier to take.
  • When done as a team… silly creates lasting team experiences which draw the team together. “Remember the time she had us all…?”(They may complain, but I guarantee the guy who resisted the most has a picture of that day in his office.)
  • It says fun is good. Let’s make more.

Whenever you have a chance to lighten the mood, create connection, and reinforce the message, go for it. If you missed it this year, make a plan (don’t wait for Halloween)…and please share your story.

6 Ways to Create More Joy at Work

Great leaders are joy inducers. Not the giddy kind of joy, but deep-seeded joy that comes from inspired and meaningful contribution. Inspiring joy is a pragmatic pursuit. I’ve yet to encounter a truly joyful poor performer.

Last week, I asked all my social media circles to identify three things they liked most about their job. There was a deep feeling of passion and joy throughout the comments. It’s not to late to contribute. The themes were remarkably consistent and a useful guide for leaders looking to inspire greater joy and higher performance on their teams.

6 Ways to Create More Joy at Work

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Rabindranath Tagore

For a more joyous, engaged and high-performing team look for ways to maximize these six aspects of the job design and interaction.

1.Meaningful Work

People long to contribute to an important cause that’s aligned with their values. Help your team understand the bigger impact they are making on the world. They’re not selling smartphones–they’re enabling connection, providing safety in emergencies, and simplifying people’s lives. They’re not just cleaning bathrooms–they’re creating a clean environment that reduces the spread of disease. Helping employees find the right job that fits with who they are and what they value matters, even if that means leaving your organization. A vital aspect of leadership is aligning people where they can make the biggest contribution.

2. Good People

People want to work with good human beings. Take the time to hire class acts who will treat others with dignity and respect. Provide opportunities for your team to truly get to know, and enjoy one another, as people.

3. Helping Others

People want to feel useful. Almost any job can be designed so that helping others is part of the role.

4. Learning

People want to learn new things. Learning is energizing and provides a sense of forward momentum. Be sure you’re adding enough stretch to the mix to challenge your team to grow.

5. Freedom

People want to be treated like grown-ups and given the freedom to bring their own ideas and creativity to the scene. Look for opportunities to step back and let them decide how to best approach the goal.

6. Mastering a Craft

People want to feel confident and competent in their work. Find opportunities to support mastery and enhance professional standing.

Well-designed work creates joyful teams. Joyful teams spread optimism. Optimism changes the game.

How to Encourage the Lazy and Disengaged

How can you encourage the lazy and disengaged? The short answer… roller skates, or their metaphorical equivalent. Stay with me as we flashback in time.

I was arguably the most disengaged and “lazy” sorority pledge at Wake Forest University. I had rushed because I was warned that nearly all social life on campus centered around the Greek system. I had never viewed myself as a “sorority girl.” I was more of the studious, madrigal-singing type. But there I was skipping “mandatory” events that felt to me like a colossal waste of time and blowing off the requirement to interview every “sister” about her favorite foods and secret fantasies. When my advanced biology class started to crush my brain, I was on the verge of quitting.

Brig, the President. pulled me aside. I felt instant relief.  Ahh, I wasn’t going to have to quit. I was going to get kicked out, even better.

“Karin, you seem athletic. Do you know how to roller skate?”  I laughed. My friend Sabine would visit from Germany every summer and we strapped on roller skates most days until dusk swirling, racing and making up shows.

“Actually, I do,” I confessed.

“Great, we need someone to do the roller skate leg of the relay around the quad for the Greek games (think high energy, silly, yet serious olympics).”

“Oh, I’d love to, but I didn’t bring my skates to school.” Off the hook again.

“Oh, I’ll find you some skates.”

“Well, I’d have to try them out and I’m so busy studying for this biology exam,” even I knew how ridiculous that sounded as the words spewed out. Clearly I was still trying to get voted off the island.

Brig persisted, “What time are you done studying tonight?”

“Midnight.” (Yeah, I really was being that jerky.)

“Great, meet me on the quad at midnight. I’ll bring the skates. The race is at 3pm tomorrow.”

As I laced up the skates, she asked me how I was liking the sorority. I began to confess. As I skated and she ran beside me around the moonlit quad, I shared my fears of losing my academic scholarship if I didn’t pass biology, my resistance of the silly interviews, and my feelings that this just wasn’t for me.

Brig listened intently and asked questions. “Why did you join the sorority?  What requirements are making this seem impossible? Do you know why we require you to talk to each sister?”

She explained the “why” behind every ritual. And then we worked together to create a reduced schedule of obligations that I could commit to and keep my academic standing.

When she returned for homecoming a few years later I asked her if she remembered that night. “Of course I do,” she smiled. “Good leadership is never accidental.”

“How crazy is it that I ended up being President?”  I smiled.

Brig looked at me full of confidence and pride. “Karin, I knew one of two things was going to happen with you. You were going to quit, or you were going to be President someday. My vote was for President.”

What Do You Like Most About Your Job?

Ray had a long list of things that were wrong with his job. Most of us do. The most important work is never easy and sacrifice can sting.

But as I listened, I was struck by the stark contrast between what was wrong and the deep loyalty to stay that went way past trappings of salary or benefits.  So I shared that observation and asked the obvious question:

What do you like most about your job?

My initial question was met with a nervous laugh, a pause, and then…”lots of things.” Then more silence. We let it steep.

A few hours later I got an unsolicited email from him entitled, “A Random List of Things I Like About My Job.”

Some of the items on his list included:

  • All the good people
  • Meaningful and interesting work
  • A company you feel good about telling others about
  • Good people despite the craziness that can induce belly laughs
  • and concluded… “Did I mention all the good people?”

I couldn’t help but thinking how much happier the world would be if we each sat down to make such a list.

Which got me thinking about our LGL Community.

What Do You Like Most About Your Job?

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” –Willie Nelson

So this Friday, may I suggest an LGL teambuilder?

What if we each picked the top three things we liked about our job and placed them in the comments? In fact, share with your team and your friends, and lets see how many comments we can collect. Then, I’ll create a word cloud and a content analysis of the themes that emerge.

Game on. Even if you’ve never commented before today is your day. Do it!

5 Reasons Teams Lose Confidence

Great leaders help teams visualize a winning future. They arm their team with the courage and audacity to remove roadblocks and galvanize people toward “impossible” feats.

Take John. John had been in tough situations before, but this time the cocktail of challenges was just too much. He needed more time, more resources, better systems, and the uncertainty of the restructure was distracting to everyone, including him. He confided, “I don’t think we can do this.”

I was sure he was right. Not because of the systems or the resources, or even the organizational chaos. But, if the leader lacks confidence, the team knows. It’s nearly impossible for a team to win when their leader loses faith.

5 Reasons Teams Lose Confidence

1.  A Doubting Leader

When the leader loses faith in their teams ability to perform–with these players, in these conditions, on this field–the team will sense it. Even if the words are encouraging, the underlying emotions speak louder. If you’re not sure you can win, find a way to get your own head there, or let someone else call the shots for a while. If you don’t believe it can be done, neither will they.

2. Under-Preparation

The team is tired, so the leader backs off on the training and preparation. They cut the team some slack when it comes to additional research or practice. The team feels initial relief, and thinks the coach is “nice,” but on game-day doubts they’re truly ready.

3. Discounted Wins

The team has wins, but every time the leader discounts it or fails to understand it. Success without understanding is hard to replicate.

4. Over-Direction

The leader is at the center of every move: calling the shots, holding a huddle, directing the moves. Teams feel lucky to have the leader, but question their own contribution to the matter.

5. Reliance on a Star Player

Players get hurt, move on, become hard to deal with. It’s dangerous when a team begins to attribute success to just one guy (or gal). The most confident teams believe in the team and its synergies. If the team starts to bet against themselves when one player is injured (or obnoxious), you’ve begun a downward spiral.
 

Great leaders build confident teams, who believe in the vision, the process and one another.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Team Toward “Yes You Can”

28 eyes looked at me skeptically. They were convinced the task I had outlined for their strategy session was beyond their reach. “Just too hard,” they explained. “I’m not that creative,” said another.

No time for second guessing. Sure this exercise had worked in other contexts, but I had never worked in this industry before. What if they were right? “Shut up,” I told my inner voice, rudely. Sometimes you’ve just got to be direct with that sucker or he’ll get the best of you.

On the outside, I was equally direct, but kinder. “Of course you can do this! I’ve never seen this approach fail (true statement). You’ve totally got this. Now let’s talk about where you’re stuck.”

Still skeptical, a few pairs of eyes softened. I could see the beam of possibility shining through.

I knew I needed to diffuse the scene, 14 doubters against one was too much. “When I get stuck like this, I often find it useful to take a walk,” I offered.  “If anyone wants to take a lap around this beautiful hotel to think, that’s just fine. If you’re ready to bounce your ideas off someone else it may be helpful to talk it through with your colleague. And, I’m going to be over here and would love to talk through this with anyone one-0n-one.”

A few took a walk.  Others paired up. I held a few consultations, where we explored what they were most afraid of.

When we regrouped, they nailed it. Not just in a hammer and nail sort of way. They nailed it with all the impact of an electric nail gun. In fact, that session was one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.

5 Ways To Encourage Your Team Toward “Yes You Can”

1. Be Audaciously Confident

Be confident in the mission. Be confident in the team. Be confident in the power of discomfort. Don’t articulate your own self-doubt– that’s not humble, it’s destructive.

2. Divide and Encourage

It’s easier to stay stuck when you’re surrounded by stuckness. Chances are everyone’s not stuck in the same place or for the same reasons. Find a way to separate the naysayers.

3. Build on Past Success

Ask your team member to recall a time they’ve been successful in a similar situation. Start from a confident place. “I’m sure you’ve done well in similar situations in the past. Can you tell me about a time… what did you do… what made it successful?”

4. Scaffold

Be available. Ask provocative questions that lead them to success.

5. Help Them Identify What Scares Them

“What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” I asked one woman.

“I might get emotional,” she confided.

“Okay that’s understandable,” I said matter-of-factly, and continued. “Emotional in a bit verklempt type of choking up or a full on wailing and gnashing of teeth?”

She laughed, “Nah, it’ won’t be that bad.”

“We can handle that…”

She shared her story with the team. She wasn’t the one who cried. Message received.

Teams need encouragement to take little risks that feel big.

Little risks lead to brave steps which lead to bold work which lead to breakthrough results.

Encourage them. Please.

The world needs more brave doers.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Team Toward "Yes You Can"

28 eyes looked at me skeptically. They were convinced the task I had outlined for their strategy session was beyond their reach. “Just too hard,” they explained. “I’m not that creative,” said another.

No time for second guessing. Sure this exercise had worked in other contexts, but I had never worked in this industry before. What if they were right? “Shut up,” I told my inner voice, rudely. Sometimes you’ve just got to be direct with that sucker or he’ll get the best of you.

On the outside, I was equally direct, but kinder. “Of course you can do this! I’ve never seen this approach fail (true statement). You’ve totally got this. Now let’s talk about where you’re stuck.”

Still skeptical, a few pairs of eyes softened. I could see the beam of possibility shining through.

I knew I needed to diffuse the scene, 14 doubters against one was too much. “When I get stuck like this, I often find it useful to take a walk,” I offered.  “If anyone wants to take a lap around this beautiful hotel to think, that’s just fine. If you’re ready to bounce your ideas off someone else it may be helpful to talk it through with your colleague. And, I’m going to be over here and would love to talk through this with anyone one-0n-one.”

A few took a walk.  Others paired up. I held a few consultations, where we explored what they were most afraid of.

When we regrouped, they nailed it. Not just in a hammer and nail sort of way. They nailed it with all the impact of an electric nail gun. In fact, that session was one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.

5 Ways To Encourage Your Team Toward “Yes You Can”

1. Be Audaciously Confident

Be confident in the mission. Be confident in the team. Be confident in the power of discomfort. Don’t articulate your own self-doubt– that’s not humble, it’s destructive.

2. Divide and Encourage

It’s easier to stay stuck when you’re surrounded by stuckness. Chances are everyone’s not stuck in the same place or for the same reasons. Find a way to separate the naysayers.

3. Build on Past Success

Ask your team member to recall a time they’ve been successful in a similar situation. Start from a confident place. “I’m sure you’ve done well in similar situations in the past. Can you tell me about a time… what did you do… what made it successful?”

4. Scaffold

Be available. Ask provocative questions that lead them to success.

5. Help Them Identify What Scares Them

“What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” I asked one woman.

“I might get emotional,” she confided.

“Okay that’s understandable,” I said matter-of-factly, and continued. “Emotional in a bit verklempt type of choking up or a full on wailing and gnashing of teeth?”

She laughed, “Nah, it’ won’t be that bad.”

“We can handle that…”

She shared her story with the team. She wasn’t the one who cried. Message received.

Teams need encouragement to take little risks that feel big.

Little risks lead to brave steps which lead to bold work which lead to breakthrough results.

Encourage them. Please.

The world needs more brave doers.

Leaders Weigh in on Achieving Breakthrough Results – A Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our October Festival is all about Achieving Breakthrough Results.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Culture and Teamwork

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

Organizations have many walls that hamper culture, development, and operations. Leaders can identify these barriers and work to break them down to create a more open workplace. Paul LaRue of The Upwards Leader shares How Leadership Can Break Down Walls.  Follow Paul.

Jim Bouchard of The Sensei Leader shares that leadership by example should be part of the culture at every rank. This expands the capability and power of every individual. Follow Jim.

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services encourages us to throw out our judgments and assumptions about others. This will help us see their potential.  Follow Mary Jo.

Want to get the most out of your time and your team? Leadership Coach Julie Pierce of Empowered by Pierce shares the most successful approach to take.  Follow Julie.

All of us have a relationship or two that could use some attention. Unless you consciously and deliberately weigh in on the cost of that relationship and make a decision to improve it, nothing will change. Thanks, John Stoker of Dialogue Works.  Follow John.

Want to achieve breakthrough results? The first step is creating a great workplace culture. Abby Perkins of Software Providers discusses how to create a culture that breeds employees who are motivated, driven and dedicated to your company’s goals. Follow Abby.

Strategy

“Sound strategy starts with having the right goal.” – Michael Porter

“You’re Just Not Strategic Enough for Me.” Have you gotten that feedback? Ouch! That’s almost as bad as “let’s just be friends.” But have no fear, you can learn to be more strategic! Dan McCarthy of About.com Management and Leadership shares How to be a More Strategic Manager to find out how.  Follow Dan.

We all need effective strategy to win. But that strategy is dead letter unless you put it into action with projects.  Learn how projects bring strategy ideas to life with this piece from Bruce Harpham of Project Management Hacks.  Follow Bruce.

Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents, “The Magic of Butterscotch Ripple” where she shares that great results often come from tremendous effort, especially when time is taken to remember that more than just effort is required to make things happen. Follow Lisa.

Bob Whipple of the Trust Ambassador suggest that If you are tired of poor performance, you might want to try less control. Sounds backward, but it really works. Read on…  Follow Bob.

Mindset

“Changing the game is a mindset.” – Robert Rodriguez

Contrary to popular wisdom, leaders who focus exclusively on results aren’t likely to achieve them. David Dye of Trailblaze provides advice on how to manage your focus so that you achieve results, get to the top of the mountain…withoutbreaking your ankle. Follow David.

While we love our “bottom line” tangible measures of results, Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited shares that some of our efforts cannot be recorded–and that’s okay. Follow Beth.

Too often, we make life more complex than needed. The simplicity of life embraces making good choices and taking the extra effort,  a simple life formula,says Jon Mertz of Thin Difference. Follow Jon.

Change

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao Tzu

Whether you’re at your wit’s end with your job, your boss, or your business, you can change your results by uncovering, evaluating and breaking the rules that dictate what you, and others, can and can’t do. Alli Polin of Break the Frame gives you five steps.  Follow Alli.

The world is changing rapidly with decisions, challenges and pressure coming at us from many different directions. Leaders are expected to step into the fray and provide the right direction to the organization.   Scott Mabry of Elumn8 presents Six Attributes of Proactive Leadership. Follow Scott.

Do you wish senior leaders would change your organization? Instead of waiting for them, you can create the break-through you desire. Jesse Lynn Stoner of Seapoint Center shares that change can start wherever you are. Follow Jesse.

Jeff Harmon of Brilliance Within shares that what got you here won’t get you there. If you want something to change, something must change and upgrading how you lead provides the largest opportunity to upgrade the results you get. Follow Jeff.

Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership says “Change doesn’t just happen – it is a response to being challenged. So if you want to make a change in yourself, you need to take on a challenge big enough to change you.” Follow Susan.

Personal and Organizational Growth

“We occasionally stumble over the TRUTH but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Winston Churchill

Chery Gegleman  of  Simply Understanding asks, “Are you as a leader stumbling over truths that are limiting your results?”  Follow Chery.

If you want to do something great, be prepared to work really hard. That’s what Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership wants you to know. Follow Wally.

Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context reminds us that we are the beacons of trust in our organizations. If we want to create productive high-trust workplaces, we must start with ourselves, remembering that what we do, others will follow.  Follow Linda.

Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personal-ly suggests going first is summoning up the courage to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.  Follow Chantal.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog believes breakthrough results are rarely due to one great insight or new tactic, but are instead created by organizations that continually improve their organization’s management system. Follow John.

Achieving breakthrough results begins with understanding your personality type. This process will aid you in enhancing your team building, project management, listening, and communication skills. Thanks, Artika Tyner of Planting People, Growing Justice  Follow Artika.

To make the leap from successful to very successful, there are four things you must learn to do. In studying the most successful people in history, I’ve found that each of them clearly learned to do each of these. Thanks Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.com.  Follow Matt.

Bill Benoist of Leadership Heart Coaching reminds us that  when we stay inside our box, we limit our goals to what feels comfortable for us. Even when we raise the bar, we are doing so within the constraints of our box.  When we create big hairy audacious goals, we get rid of the box.  Follow Bill. 

Each person can focus on their own personal growth and help their company achieve breakthrough results at the same time. This article shows why the win-win situation of people choosing joyful work ALSO contributes to the bottom line. Thanks Lisa Hamaker, of How Good Can You Stand It? Follow Lisa.

Call for Submissions. November’s Frontline Festival is about Worklife Balance Integration. Please send your submissions no later than November 14th. New participants welcome.  Click here to join in!

How to Have a Difficult Conversation

When I ask leaders why they’re not telling people what they need to know, the most consistent response I get is “She or he didn’t ask.”

Quite frankly that’s a cop-out.

Yeah sure–ideally everyone would be ASKING for feedback.

If you’re not asking, start asking now. It may be the only thing standing between you and the truth.

But, if you’re the one not giving feedback, think again before holding back.

Your Team Needs You to Tell Them the Truth

You team needs to hear what you don’t want to say. The difficult conversations are almost always often the most important.

“You’re consistently not getting promoted because….”

“When you start an email that way…”

“If you bathed more…”

“Wearing those Google glasses all day long (including at the elegant dinner party) isn’t helping your brand…”

Confident, humble leaders have difficult conversations because…

  • they care so deeply
  • they want people to grow
  • they know it’s not about them
  • they care more about helping than protecting themselves.

Lessons From The Discomfort Zone

I spoke with Marcia Reynold’s about her new book, The Discomfort Zone:  How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs and asked her for her best advice for leaders having difficult conversations with the people they lead. Here are a few of her tips.

  • Step back and consider, “What does this person really need from me?”
  • Know that your job is not to just develop skills, but develop minds. Ask difficult questions that really make them think.
  • Know that this will be uncomfortable and that there may be an initial negative reaction. That doesn’t mean you aren’t helping, or they won’t be grateful later.
  • If they get emotional, be quiet. Let them experience and breathe through that emotion. Know that’s all part of the process.
  • If you’re trying to help someone get unstuck, ask
    • What’s the worse thing that can happen if you do ____?
    • What’ s the likelihood that could happen?
    • How is that worse than what’s happening now?

She adds, “For true shifts in thinking and behavior to occur, you must be willing to challenge a person’s beliefs, interrupt his patterns, and short-circuit the conviction to his logic even when it feels uncomfortable.  This is a Discomfort Zone conversation.”

4 Reasons Underdogs Will Rule the World

The playing field was clearly uneven, but the “visiting team” had chosen to come and play by our rules: An underdog team at its finest. I was teaching executive presence and communication to MBA students, 30% for whom English is their second language. The final assignment was TEDdy talks, 5 minute speeches in the style of TED.

I knew the assignment was stacked in favor of the American students. I was sure I’d have to give them the benefit of the doubt in grading. Not so. After the talks, I asked the students to rate “best in class.”

On both days the international students won by a landslide. My non-English speaking students out-performed the Americans in their own tongue. Why?

A Few Theories

They Didn’t Expect a Handicap:  There were no office appointments asking me to understand their plight. They just got in there and worked it.

They Were Deeply Committed: This course was an elective. They could have easily spared themselves the agony, but they wanted to improve.

They Welcomed Feedback: Throughout the course I had been worried that their accent would make it hard for their English speaking audience to understand. We worked on pacing, pauses and in some cases volume. They nailed it.

They Embraced Vulnerability: Each of these students grounded their speeches in their own vulnerability. They told THEIR stories with a passion that drew us in.

They Worked Hard: They embraced their disadvantage, and incorporated the tools and techniques we discussed in class. They clearly had practiced, again and again. There was no winging it involved.

Sometimes confidence is over-rated. Swimming upstream takes more work. Hard work produces results.

Beware of the side-effects of your own confidence. A humble underdog may be nipping at your heels.

Because You Know Better

I was pretty shocked by the reports of how Laura had acted in that impromptu encounter.  Clearly I had to address the “rude and snarky attitude” but first I had to understand it. “Can you tell me what happened?” I asked, praying for an explanation.

And there it was in all the glory– the rest of the story. Snarky didn’t come out of nowhere. Stupid behavior seldom does. More often one misstep triggers another and the dance begins. Unproductive at best. But even more tricky if when the music stops you’re the one caught singing off-beat.

And so I told her my story straight off the “Karin Hurt’s worst leadership moments” highlights reel (you can stop now, it’s not searchable on YouTube).

It was after a long day, long month, long quarter. We were both were tired. Trust was low between our departments– and competition was high–a terrible cocktail. And then her ugliness hit me right in my weak spot. I was convinced she was discriminating against one of my top guys. Perhaps she was, perhaps she wasn’t (he’s later proved himself as rock star… just saying).

What I do know for sure is that my rage had me operating out of the wrong side of my brain. I listened to the spewing stupidity and responded completely unelegantly and threw in a bad word (okay, maybe two)– right in front of HR. Poor choice. The aftermath was ugly.

When debriefing the situation with a close colleague, he told me a story that has stayed with me for years.

“Karin, when I was little, I was one of the few minorities in a primarily white school. I was picked on (they’d probably call that bullying now). These kids would rile me up to the point that I would feel like I had to defend myself, and I’d end up being the one sitting in the principal’s office. Because– I threw the first punch. You lose all ability to defend your position when you’re the guy with blood on your hands.”

Yup. No matter what was right or what was wrong, I was the screamer with the bad words.

It’s easy to justify our less than elegant leadership behavior (to ourselves) because someone else “started it.”

Always remember their behavior is entirely beside the point.

Lead elegantly, and the turkeys will lose their steam.

5 Ways Success is Holding You Back

So much is written about learning from failure, but much less of failing from success.

This weekend, I had the extraordinary opportunity to speak and attend the National Speakers Association’s Business Accelerator Lab. It was inspiring to get to know Nido Quebein, President of High Point University, along with his concept of Productive Failures and Unproductive Success. Success can slow us down in other areas as well.

5 Ways Success is Holding You Back

“Success doesn’t come to you; you must go to it. The trail is well-traveled and well-marked. If you want to walk it, you can.” -Nido Quebein

1. You Don’t Take the Time to Understand It

It’s easy to celebrate and move on, instead of taking the time to truly dissect the specific elements that led to that success. Nido explains that success is often wasted, when we miss the opportunity to learn from it. When you succeed at something big,  was it due to the market, the price, the positioning, the long hours, the social media campaign, the right leadership, the right employees? If you don’t slow down to truly understand what worked, you’re much less likely to succeed in the next endeavor. Failure is much more likely to give us the pause needed to think, regroup, and improve.

2. You Believe Your Own PR

I see this happen with leaders at all levels. People sing their praises and they start humming along. Of course your leadership bio makes you sound like a rock star. Never forget that it’s only one side of the story.

3. You Stop Asking for Feedback

When the fist bumps are flying it’s easy to get caught up in the glory. Make it easy for people to share their insights. First say “Thank you,” and then ask for specifics. “Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed my presentation. What part of it resonated the most? Which parts do you think I should change?” “I’m glad you like the idea, but all ideas can be improved. What am I not considering here? Where are the holes?”

4. You Over-Emphasize Your Own Contribution

I’m amazed at how many leaders have the audacity to attribute the team’s success to their leadership. Hopefully, you had something to do with it. But you’d better figure out what everyone did behind the scenes to make it happen, including your peers. Overlooking their specific contribution will make them less likely to follow you as enthusiastically the next time. And, if you don’t know just what they did, you won’t know what to do again.

5. You Lose Ambition

Don’t get distracted by your one-hit wonder. It’s easy to think you can never top your last big success. Many don’t. Others do. Remain confident that there’s more success where that came from and go for it. Elizabeth Gilbert wrestles with this challenge in her TED talk:  Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.

Learn to maximize the power of sucessful success and your world will change exponentially.