Justin Maust

Refuse to be Offended (Justin Maust)

Winning Well Connection

Justin and I were introduced to one another through a common connection who just knew we needed to know one another based on our values-based approach to leadership. One thing led to another, and in a few weeks, I’m delighted to be keynoting at his  Lead USA event in South Bend, Indiana and simulcast (learn more about the event here).

I’m impressed by Justin’s confident humility–executing on an impressive vision for a rock-star event that grows each year, along with the humility to find new ways to serve.

One simple tactic to give your team an edge.

Sometimes a leader needs to be the hammer. You strike a nail to put it in its proper place so that it can hold a structure together for decades. Other times you need to be the nail. Allow the hammer to strike you so that you can effectively support the structure. It’s impossible for the hammer to hold the structure together alone…the nail is his only hope. It’s also impossible for the nail to have any real impact or value to the home without being struck. Bad hammers ruin good nails. Bad nails get bent over the smallest swings.

Refuse to be offended today. Great leaders must strike the issues that disrupt progress and great team members need to be mature enough to receive the strike. When nails leave their place, the house falls apart. When hammers refuse to swing, nothing gets built. A bent nail eventually gets thrown away. A hammer that refuses to be swung is simply a paperweight.

The Brutal Truth

Taking offense or not taking offense is a choice. Each time a comment is directed at you or each time someone sends an email…you have a choice. We forget that fact. Offense is a choice. It’s a decision to allow yourself to become angry, bitter, resentful, hateful, etc.

What does it mean to take offense? You allowed another human being to get underneath your skin.

Here are the synonyms of the word “offense”:  annoyance, anger, resentment, indignation, irritation, exasperation, wrath, displeasure, animosity, vexation, ill feelings, disgruntlement, rage.

The problem with taking offense is that we think it will make us feel better about the situation. Or that being offended allows us to get back at that person. But the simple truth is this: We are the ones that are harboring all this negative energy.  It’s bottled inside of you. When you allow yourself to become offended, you begin to let anger, resentment, wrath, animosity, indignation to live inside your body. Carry “OFFENSE” inside you long enough and you are sure to show some physical & emotional symptoms due to the stress and pressure that it brings.

The Antidote to Being Offended

When you are offended, you are thinking and focusing on yourself.  When you are offended, you feel as though someone is attacking you personally and it’s easy to let your emotions take over.  The root of offense is PRIDE.  Offense happens because you are thinking too highly of yourself. The ROOT problem of getting OFFENDED by others or being OFFENSIVE to others is PRIDE.

Humility is the antidote that will cure your disease of pride.  In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the Level 5 Executive.  Extreme Humility is one of the two character traits of leaders that take their companies from Good to GREAT.  Pat Lencioni writes about humility in his book, The Ideal Team Player.  He says there are three virtues that create the best team members:  Humble, Hungry and Smart.  Out of the three, he says that being HUMBLE is the most important virtue of the three.  Proverbial wisdom even tells you that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.

Pride kills team chemistry.  Pride creates silos.  Pride is what causes leaders to think too highly of themselves.  Humility changes your perspective.  Humility causes your focus to go from ME to WE…..from “WHAT DO I THINK IS THE RIGHT STEP?” to “WHAT DO WE THINK IS THE RIGHT STEP?” from “WHAT DECISION WILL MAKE ME LOOK GOOD?” to “WHAT DECISION WILL MAKE US ACHIEVE OUR GOAL?”

A simple “Google” search definition of humility:  A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.  As you practice the virtue of humility, you will become less and less offended by others and more and more concerned about helping others and your team succeed.  While this may not be a quick fix, humility allows you and your team to build a dynamic culture that will improve your team’s level of trust, transparency, and ability to solve complicated problems with others.

TAKE ACTION TODAY:

  • What can you do to live and lead with more humility at work and at home?
  • What relationships are at risk due to bitterness and offense?
  • What specific actions using humility can rebuild these key relationships?

Refuse to be offended by choosing to live with humility each day.

Winning Well Reflection

In Winning Well workshops, as leaders lower their guard and begin to discuss the real issues they face every day, one that inevitably comes up is what to do with people who get angry, upset, or offended when you truly haven’t done anything inappropriate. We appreciate Justin’s answer here:  humility. We frequently invite leaders to remember that you are not the center of anyone else’s universe. People’s behavior is generally about them, not about you. The exception, of course, is when you have treated someone inappropriately, broken your word, or hurt someone. Having the humility to own your behavior and apologize is just as important to build trust and enhance your relationships.

Five Ways to Win Well with Your Assistant

He’s in the background responding to emails, setting appointments, or fixing your website. She’s overseeing projects, and clicking off those daily/weekly/monthly tasks that you may forget about while you focus on what YOU do best. He’s the glue that keeps things together, she’s the one who graciously gatekeeps, protecting your time and workload when she can. That’s why it’s vital for you to develop a Winning Well relationship with your assistant(s.) 

Let’s Grow Leaders/Winning Well has a team of several people who assist in the mission. My particular role is Executive Assistant / Winning Well Ambassador, which means I take care of a myriad of things for Karin (and David) including staying in communication and coordination mode with other team members. Karin invited me to write a blog post and I decided to share five of the Winning Well principles that you can apply as you interact with those “rock stars” on your team.

Blend the bottom line with the human spirit. Your assistant is not only your right hand, but also a vital, interesting person with lots to contribute! Make sure to take time to get to know them as a person and learn what energizes them. In our case, Karin and I enjoy being connected on Facebook, and having a regular Zoom meeting. She’s also willing to listen and give input into my journey as a small business owner.

Leaders don’t motivate, they cultivate. I’ve grown in my professional life since being on the LGL/WW team. We’ve seen the business expand, and the day-to-day needs change. We talk honestly about the best place I can fit and areas in which we both can grow in how we communicate, the roles we play, and more. Have regular conversations with your assistant about how they are growing and what areas of responsibility and workflow may need to be looked at again.

Nothing inspires a team more than being willing to admit a mistake. Some time ago, I made what I considered to be a pretty substantial mistake with Karin’s work. I owned up and made a commitment to making sure it didn’t happen again. Instead of hammering me about it, Karin acknowledged it but helped us quickly move on. She could tell that I already had thought through how to avoid it in the future. She also has taken responsibility when she felt responsible for an oversight.

If you’ve communicated once, you haven’t communicated. We’ve found it valuable to revisit the “why” behind why certain tasks are needed. Even recently, Karin reiterated the rationale behind a particular initiative I run with regularly. As an administrative pro, it’s easy to get caught up in the systems and workflow, and neglect to remember the big picture. A good manager will make sure their “behind-the-scenes” staff are up-to-date and on board with the organization’s mission and values.

Make the MIT (Most Important Thing) clear. Karin doesn’t play the MIT card on everything…but when she tells me that a particular task is an MIT, she explains why, and I know that is something to make sure I focus on consistently and make a priority.  

One of my daily MIT’s is to Help Overwhelmed Professionals Excel. It’s a privilege to have Karin as part of my client family and to help her have a smoother day. In fact, I recently released a free 30 minute course to help professionals Unlock the Doors to a Peaceful Work Day: Five Keys to Putting Together a Smoother Day. With her encouragement, I invite you to check it out for a few tips about how you can experience a little more peace in yours.

3 Character Traits That Make You a Better Leader

A guest post from Greg Marcus.

Being a better person is easy in theory – do less of the negative stuff, and more of the positive stuff. The same holds true for leadership. The problem comes in when we either don’t know what we should do, or we do know but can’t help ourselves and do the negative anyway. When I was in the corporate world, I was very good at my job, and very, very arrogant. It held me back in a very, very, very, big way. I so wish I had practiced Mussar back then.

Mussar is a 1000-year-old Jewish mindfulness practice that teaches us how to find those things inside that cause us to get stuck making the same mistakes again and again. And, Mussar offers a step-by-step way to bring those things towards balance and healing. On a personal level, Mussar is a daily practice that helps one become a Mensch, a person of outstanding character. On a professional level, Mussar can be the key to unlocking your full leadership potential.

Mussar offers a different perspective than many other wisdom practices, in that having too much of the trait is just as bad as having not enough. The way we change is to first identify where we are on the spectrum from too much to too little for a given trait, and then to take action to bring ourselves towards balance.

3 Character Traits That Make You a Better Leader

Here are three character traits that we should balance in order to be a great leader.

Humility  -Mussar humility is not the classic definition of humility that we have grown up with – it is much closer to Karin’s definition of Confident Humility. Humility is the proper balance between being arrogant and a doormat. Or put another way, it is learning to occupy the proper amount of space in the world. Leadership often requires that we occupy a lot of space. We have to make hard decisions and follow through on them. A leader must be willing to put it out there, and make the difficult call. At the same time, many leaders occupy too much space, and micromanage those around them. One simple way to change is to monitor how much you speak in meetings. If you are the type of person who speaks early and often, try remaining quiet and letting someone else ask the first question. If you are the kind of person who stays quiet, try asking a question earlier in the meeting. Or if you are really nervous about speaking out, ask your question 1:1 after the meeting.

Patience – too little patience makes us angry, frustrated, and hard to work for. I once worked for a failing company that had a re-org every six months. The re-orgs started before we were failing. They helped torpedo the ship because just as we were starting to get somewhere, the direction changed. This wasn’t just bad strategy or leadership – it was an outgrowth of a character flaw. The same leaders who could not stick with a strategic plan were impatient in everyday life. They had knee jerk overreactions to small situations.

By working to cultivate patience, they would have been better leaders. I have a student who was a cut-you off, curse at everyone driver. To balance her patience, she started letting every car merge in front of her. She was transformed into the calmest, happiest commuter in California. And that fortitude, the ability to bear the burden of the unpleasant traffic situation, helped her be a better marketing VP at work as well.

We should remember that too much patience can lead us to stay in a bad job, or to allow a failing project to continue for too long.

Order – it may surprise you to see order as a character trait. But if you think about it, there is a spectrum of people who may be totally disorganized on the one hand, with a chaotic desk and inability to complete projects on time, to the obsessively controlling micro-manager on the other. Both extremes are bad for business.

To balance order, pick one small change towards the middle. For example, if you are a procrastinator, try starting your day with just 20 minutes of focused work on an important deliverable due in the future. If you have too much order, you will find yourself excessively planning, trying to account for and control every contingency. You can practice letting go by setting a strict limit on the amount of time you prepare, and then trust yourself to be able to handle things as they come up. Or, you might want to try an unscripted check in with a colleague. Focus on listening, and see what you can learn when you don’t control the agenda.

In a Mussar practice, we focus on one of these traits for two weeks at a time. By repeatedly making small changes in how we show up on the world, we actually rewire our soul/nervous system, and begin to change long-standing habits that we may not have been aware of.

SpirOrder, humility and patience are three of thirteen soul traits covered in my latest book The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions: Finding Balance Through the Soul Traits of Mussar. If you’d like to see where you sit on the spectrum for humility, patience, order and the other ten traits, you are heartily invited to take this quick quiz on AmericanMussar.com.

Three Critical Steps to Developing Your Millennial Leadership Talent

A guest post from Elisha Yeoh, Thriving Talents, Malaysia.

You’ve seen them, you’ve heard of them, and some of you may even be working with them. These them I’m referring to is the Gen-Ys. Regardless of what you may currently think of them, the presence of these young individuals have definitely changed the realities of workplace dynamics, especially now that Gen-Ys are slowly being reviewed to fill in managerial positions.

More and more organizations are beginning to tear down walls (both metaphorically and literally) to keep up to date with the current trends of building up great young leaders who will one day assume more responsibilities. However are these young people in your organization ready to make the hard decisions and lead a team?

Step 1: Understanding The Way They Work

For years experts have been trying to understand millennials, to find out what makes them tick, and what drives them to want to do great work. And after all that research and with all the different clashing views, the general consensus to this finding is that this generation of young people is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Team Dynamics

In the work setting, Gen-Ys are vastly different from the generation before them. Although they seem to be confident and want to stand out from the crowd, they actually value the opinions of their peers especially when it comes to making decisions. They aren’t shy about getting opinions be it about work or other personal related matters from their peers and are more likely to take their peers advice more seriously than those higher up in authority.

Roles in Leadership

The Gen-Ys today do not place a very high importance on leadership as they believe that they do not need to be placed in roles of authority to lead. They prefer to work in a group in a democratic setting where the decisions made are derivative of the values added by each person member of the group.

 Step 2: Providing A Clear Purpose

Unlike the other generations, the Gen-Ys are no longer only motivated by monetary incentives or added perks and benefits that an organization provides them, rather they need to be intrinsically motivated to want to perform at their very best.

Organizations need to give the Millennials a reason to want to be involved, to want to commit their time effort and energy. One of the best ways to sustain their dedication is to provide them a greater purpose to the tasks they are currently doing. Make them part of something so much bigger than themselves and keep them inspired as well as motivated by telling them of the impact that their work creates for the people outside your organization.

Step 3: Provide Them With Avenues To Grow

The Gen-Ys are painfully aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, they may seem like they are unaffected by their shortcomings, but growing up in an environment where they are so used to having their actions and ideas being validated can cause distress whenever they are faced with a problem they aren’t able to get over.

Organizations need to build an environment in which these Gen-Ys are given the chance to work on their strengths and learn to cope with their weaknesses. Provide them with a support structure in which they are allowed to continuously work on themselves as they become more invested in your organization.

Empower them with the necessary skills and training that will lead them to make better decisions. Allow them to test their limits, set them up for defeat in a safe environment through team building exercises and simulations for them to really know themselves and identify their leadership styles.

Join Us: August 19th for a FREE Webinar The Great Millennial Hoax Why Most Millennial Experts are Wrong and What to Do Instead

Malaysia Webinar blackDavid Dye and I are partnering with Michael Teoh, Author of The Potential Matrix and Founder of Thriving Talents on a series of events in Malaysia and the United States, beginning with this FREE webinar– register here. 

Whether you’re a veteran leader or a millennial recently promoted into a leadership role, leading your younger team members can feel like an endless struggle. Why don’t they understand? Why aren’t they motivated? Why won’t they put in the time?

To make it worse, instead of making life easier, much of the advice you get from generational “experts” can actually make the situation worse. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Your younger team members can be an incredible source of talent, energy, and productivity.

Join three internationally recognized leadership experts for a conversation that will answer your questions about getting the most from your millennial team members. You’ll walk away with:

  • What you really need to know to develop your millennial talent
  • How ordinary people have transformed their lives to achieve success
  • Keys to cultivate motivated, energized teams that get more done, solve problems on their own, and make everyone around them better.
  • And specific answers to your questions!

We are so excited about the opportunity to combines experience, wisdom, and perspectives from across generations – and across the world!

Register today and be sure to submit your question and get the answers you need!

Leadership Heresy: A #Winningwell Guest Post by David Dye

I’m in trouble now. I’m about to commit heresy.

I want to address what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of your workplace leadership.

In my work with thousands of business leaders across industries, geography, and over many years, I’ve repeatedly seen people lose their influence because they don’t address this one thing.

In many leadership forums, many leadership books, and not a few social media memes, what I’m about to say would be skewered, and yet… your credibility and influence depend on it.

What is this leadership heresy?

Management.

Why Management Is Vital to Your Leadership

Your leadership depends on your credibility. You can’t influence people if they don’t trust you. Where does that trust come from?

In large part, the foundation of that trust is your basic management competence. That’s why Karin and I wrote Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.

I don’t mean that you have to become a certified professional project manager in order to have influence. What I do mean is that if you don’t have the basics in place, you create chaos and lose credibility with your people.

Now, I understand that many leadership texts will tell you, “If you’re not good at management, hire it.”

Hogwash.

If you run the company, by all means, lead and then hire a good operations person to manage. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you’re like the vast majority of people with business leadership roles, the idea that you can hire someone to do your management for you is pure nonsense (and dangerous as well.)

Even if you should become CEO, you are responsible to make sure these things happen. If they don’t happen, that’s on you.

The good news is that the basics of management aren’t difficult.

Four Steps to Manage Well and Build Credibility

At its most basic, management involves a few practices that are relatively simple. As the old saying goes: it’s not hard, it’s just hard work. When we struggle as managers, it is often because we have failed to do one of the following:

  1. Set clear expectations.

I’ve coached managers and team leaders in more than 2000 sessions and in 90% or more of those conversations, the problems we’re discussing happened because expectations were not clear.

It happened to me again recently. I was frustrated with my colleague’s work, but when I stopped to think about it, I hadn’t shared my expectations. I had my own image of what the project looked like and when it would be completed, but we’d never discussed it.

Expectations can come from many sources: the team itself, the manager, the organization. Regardless, if they are not clear, they will not be met, and I can guarantee you will be frustrated.

  1. Train and equip your team to meet the expectations.

After clear expectations, the next pitfall is in assuming that everyone has the knowledge or skills to meet those expectations. Ensure your team members are set up for success!

  1. Reinforce expectations.

This may sound redundant, but think about this for a moment. Every second, your mind is inundated with eleven million pieces of information[1]. Think about how easily you can get distracted. In fact, I’ll bet that you’ll get distracted at least once while you read this article. Don’t worry, I’m not offended – that’s just the way we’re built.

Effective leaders and managers know that they must continually reinforce expectations and keep clear priorities in front of their team. We all need reminders from time to time about where we’re going and why we’re going there.

If your team were a rock and roll band, reinforcing expectations is like the bass line or drum that anchors the song and keeps everyone on track.

  1. Celebrate and practice accountability.

Accountability doesn’t only mean discipline – real accountability celebrates our accomplishments and gives us course corrections as needed. We can easily demotivate our teams by failing to acknowledge success or by failing to hold everyone accountable.

Your Turn

Remember: Your leadership influence is built on a foundation of trust. As you wrestle with management challenges, I invite you to ask these four questions:

  1. Are expectations clear to both parties?
  2. Does your team have the skills and equipment to succeed?
  3. Have you consistently reinforced the expectations?
  4. Do you consistently practice accountability and celebration?

How do you ensure you take care of your management responsibilities (it’s not hard, but can be hard work!)

Be the leader you want your boss to be,

David Dye

[1] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/287907/information-theory/214958/Physiology

 

 

Leaders Stand in the Gap of Uncertainty to Help Others Across

Far too many of us can also relate to working for managers who wielded their title and position authority as their only levers for leading. These managers caused me to question the likelihood of my contributing anything of value to the corporate mission. To hear their names, even years later, leaves me feeling drained and conjures emotions of lacking. My concerns were reinforced every time they tried to make me do something, because…well…they were in charge and the conversation was supposed to end there.

When it was my turn to lead, I had questions of my own: What type of leader would I be? Would I have the “it that seemed to sift the effective from the not so effective leaders of my past? Could I learn to lead? Or, is it true that leaders are not made but born and shipped in from a distant planet?

Many people aspire to leadership positions because of the big bonuses, nice clothes and public accolades. I was no different. But a lot of work and responsibility precede the shiny watches and flattering headlines. By evaluating my personal journey and working closely with hundreds of executives, I have seen successful leaders embrace three primary responsibilities. Many receive no fanfare; providing confidence often without having full certainty themselves.

  1. Effective leaders paint a clear pictures of success. Every organization regardless of size or mission needs a vision of what winning looks like. Without clarity, followers meander aimlessly executing well-intentioned tasks not knowing whether they are truly helping the organization be successful. Effective leaders create a tangible vision that coveys how everyone contributes to achieving the mission.
  1. Productive leaders remove barriers. Barriers can be physical (a person, situation or thing blocking success), financial (insufficient funding of key projects or a misallocation of scarce resources) or informational (antiquated training, outdated ideas or flawed analysis inhibiting success). Productive leaders spend their time minimizing or totally removing barriers.
  1. True leaders inspire action. Let’s face it, nothing happens until something happens. While there are examples of short-term results coming from dictates and demands, enduring results come from sustained employee or follower engagement. The more effective leaders tap into organizational beliefs and desires for success. True leaders inspire others to want to take action.

I am convinced that every success and failure begins and ends with leadership. Harry Truman was onto something when he proclaimed, The Buck Stops Here! Widespread uncertainty marks a failure of leadership. It is always tempting for leaders to busy themselves with management activities (measure this, track that; evaluate performance versus budgets). Management activities are quite useful, but should never be confused for leadership – and they often are.

Leaders are more effective when they dedicate themselves to the three responsibilities that only they can fulfill. Their organizations will thrive and appreciate their willingness to stand in the gap of uncertainty to help others across.

Galen’s new book Leadership Residue: A Leadership Fable and Leadership Residue: Writings on the Wall focus on creating inspiration that will remain even after the leader is gone is available on Amazon.

How to Get Promoted At Work: The ASK Strategy

A guest post by Bruce Harpham

Getting promoted at works increases your responsibility, power and ability to grow as a leader. When you are seeking your first management role, getting promoted is a mysterious process. If you are seeking an executive role, the process is even more challenging. This three-part strategy is built on timeless principles that will deliver results in all industries. With this foundation in place, you can ASK for a promotion!

Allies: Promotion Requires a Team

Promotion decisions are generally made with the input from many people. That’s why you need to build up a team of allies to help you gain promotion. Here are three specific allies you need to develop:

  • Your Manager. A recommendation from your manager is often the single most important factor in winning a promotion. To get started, first observe your manager so that you can build a better relationship with her.
  • Your Peers. Having a few of your coworkers testify to your trustworthiness and competence goes a long way to strengthening the case for a promotion.
  • Other Departments. As a manager or executive, you will need professional and productive relationships with people in a variety of departments. Look for opportunities to do favors and treat these people well.
  • Friends in High Places. If you follow Karin’s advice to go through an effective mentorship process, you are likely to develop a good relationship with a VIP at your company. Remember – “Mentoring, at it’s best, is a magical elixir which shaves years off your learning curve through mistakes unmade.” A VIP such as an executive or other high-ranking person can recommend you or give you advice to get ready for promotion.

Relationship development is a vital skill, especially as you move up through the management ranks. It is best to start small in developing relationships – sending one thank you card per week is a great way to start.

Skills: The Rule of Three For Promotion

Skills make the difference in delivering results in an efficient manner. In many professions, technical skills and subject matter expertise are the way into the door. At higher levels, leadership and communication skills take center stage. To land a promotion, you need to determine what skills are required. Use these skills to get control over your skills.

  • Review three job descriptions.

Job descriptions are a valuable source of data in your pursuit of promotion. Choose a target job title (e.g. “IT Director” or “VP of Sales”) and then read three job descriptions. The goal is to find common ground of the different descriptions.

  • Complete gap analysis for the three top skills.

Gap analysis is a way to draw a map from where to you are to where you want to be. In this case, where you are is your current job. Where you want to be is your target job title. Look into both hard requirements (e.g. must have a PMP certification) and other requirements for skills and experience.

  • Validate your findings with three people.

Sitting in a room by yourself is necessary but not sufficient for promotion. You have to reach out to your network and ask for input. With the job descriptions and gap analysis in hand, reach out to three people to ask for their advice. Specifically, look for people who already have the job you want (Linkedin Advanced Search comes in handy here). You may receive validation for your idea or a brand new perspective.

Following the rule of three for skills development is an excellent way to focus your efforts. When in doubt, look for your skills you can develop over the next six to twelve months. In many cases, demonstrating a familiarity for the job’s subject matter and a commitment to continue learning makes a big difference.

Kill Your Bad Habits: What Got Here Wouldn’t Get You There

Have you ever noticed that you don’t need to think about your daily commute very much? That’s the power of habits. Habits also make a big difference in your work performance. If you seek promotion, then you need to avoid these mistakes.

  • Lack of Punctuality. Showing up on time – especially at meetings – is a simple way to demonstrate your professionalism. Bonus tip: arrive early.
  • Senior managers and executives have to act and make decisions – they cannot wait for perfect information to arrive.
  • Personal Disorganization. Losing track of appointments and meetings is an amateur mistake. Learn how to lead yourself with Getting Things Done.
  • Hiding Behind Email. As Karin explained, never assume they got the memo. In management roles, you need the judgement to use a variety of communication approaches including meetings, phone calls and conversations.

Take Action To Get Promoted

It is time for you to act to get promoted. Getting promoted at work means new challenges and excitement. Take a moment today to grow your allies – send a thank you note, buy a coffee for someone or simply listen to them. Relationships, skills and habits give you a great foundation for getting promoted.

Bruce Harpham, PMP, is the founder of ProjectManagementHacks.com, a career development resource. To reach your career goals faster, get your complimentary copy of the Career Advancement Toolkit by joining the Project Management Hacks email newsletter.

Pay It Forward Mentoring

This is a guest post from LGL Tribe Member and Winning Well Advocate, David Oddis.

Years ago, on a beautiful summer day in Salt Lake City, Utah, I learned one of the most important things a leader can do: express the importance of “giving back.” As my mentor and I met for a casual lunch, he asked me if I had “ever received a bill” from him. Like a confused puppy dog, my ears perked up and my head tilted left. Perplexed, I asked him what he meant.

He repeated the question, “Have you ever received a bill from me…have I ever charged you for the knowledge I share with you?” “Of course not,” I replied. “That’s right,” he said… “And that’s why you are 100% obligated to pass your wisdom on to someone else.”

“Have You Ever Received a Bill from Me?”

He went on to explain that at some point in my career I was going to have opportunities to give back what was given to me. It was important that I understand this concept as an obligation and not a choice, pointing out that this is how the cycle of mentorship works. It was probably one of the single greatest lessons I learned about mentorship and one of many key elements of what makes a great leader. To this day, I share that story with various colleagues, mentees, and just about anyone with whom I have leadership conversations. It was a powerful lesson learned long ago that still carries true today. And by adopting this advice and accepting this obligation, my life has changed in so many ways and it can also change yours.

The Mentorship Pedigree

“We have to continue mining the discipline to look for those key frameworks, those techniques, those tools, those mindset gems that allow us to learn and grow and create environments where problem-solving and effective execution strategies contain values needed by our customers.”  – David E. Oddis

By adopting this concept and creating the cycle of giving back, investing in others what someone has invested in you, we actually create a mentorship pedigree. You hear this when champions are discussed…from racehorses to the NFL where they often refer to the bloodline or pedigree of NFL coaches.

For example: Mike Tomlin, current head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, worked under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay in the 90s; Tony worked for the Pittsburgh Steelers under Chuck Noll during the 80s; Chuck worked under Don Shula and the Baltimore Colts in the 60s. As you follow their bloodline, they are all ultimately tied to the Sid Gillman coaching pedigree. By the way, all of these coaches were championship level coaches, winning AFL and NFL division titles and Super Bowls. Think there is something to that? It is their pedigree…all sharing what they were taught with the next mentee and inspiring them to do likewise as they become mentors. Thus the cycle of mentorship goes.

This for me is the magic of mentorship and one of the key elements of leadership.

Do you know your mentorship pedigree?

Are you familiar with who your mentor was mentored by and so on? Do you know your mentorship history?  In some cases I have met people that can track their pedigree back multiple decades which is a really awesome story.

What values have been carried forward over the years or decades?

Have you asked your mentor who influenced his or her values? If you haven’t yet, give it a shot.

Do your mentees understand the obligation of giving back?

  • Have you had the pay it forward conversation?

Maybe this practice starts with you. Let the cycle begin!

Leading Sprinkles People

A guest post from Chip Bell, author of Sprinkles.

I must admit it. I’m a sucker for valentines. I smile when I get one from a friend or loved one. But, I swoon when one comes unexpectedly from a total unlikely source. It always reminds me of getting a valentine in the fifth grade from the cute redhead on the back row. I did not know she knew I even existed. When I opened it and turned to look at her, she winked and smiled. I melted on the spot!! But, I am getting way ahead of myself.

Creating a Customer-Focused Culture

I had a mid-afternoon keynote in Alexandria, VA and strolled down the street from my hotel to find lunch at a local restaurant. The place where I settled was quiet, comfortable and with an interesting menu. But, mostly I noticed the upbeat attitude of everyone in the place.

I had finished my lunch and the waitress brought me my check…and, a valentine signed, “Susan.” When I opened it and turned to look at her, she winked and smiled.

The consultant inside me demanded I learn a bit more about the restaurant manager whose leadership no doubt contributed to her ingenuity and warmth. Now, I fully realize folks can be creative and friendly without the permission of some boss. I also know leaders can contribute to the capacity and commitment of frontline employees to deliver innovative service, not just good service. Good service is like a tasty cupcake; innovative service is like a great cupcake with sprinkles! Susan added sprinkles.

I cornered the manager-owner, Jim and asked if I could buy him a cup of coffee for ten minutes of his time. “Sure,” he said, “the place is in good hands with all my people.” I told him about the valentine and smile (the wink I considered just between Susan and me).

“That Susan is always coming up with whimsical ways to surprise our guests,” he told me. I was not chalking it up to just her personality. “What do you do to support your employees in helping them deliver surprising service?”

“First,” he said as he began his leadership lessons, “I don’t think of them as employees but as fellow-owners, partners you might say. That means the respect and consideration you would give a friend, especially a friend you depend on like I depend on them. People come here because we have great food. But, we want them to tell their friends. And, it is things like your Sandy valentine that makes them tell other people. They need the freedom to try silly things. One of our employees brought in leftover gourmet desserts from a family reunion so our guests would have a free dessert for a day.”

“Do you worry about them giving away the shop?” I probed. “For instance, it they got free desserts there would be no need to buy the dessert on your menu.” He smiled. “They make smart decisions when they are intimately familiar with our P&L. Everyone here knows what comes in, what goes out, and what everything costs. Remember, they are like owners. And, if we have a nice profit, they get free ballgame tickets or a case of wine or a night with their family in a nearby hotel. But, mainly, they get a kick out of watching people like you smile when something like a valentine comes with your check. That is the kind of people we try to hire.”

Leadership is about instilling pride, inspiring greatness, and supporting innovation. As I was getting up to leave, he offered one last lesson: “Take great care of your partners, they will take care of your guests, and your guests will take care of your growth and profits! And, the coffee is on me!”

How Good Can You Stand It?

A Guest Post from Lisa Hamaker, Kaliday Consulting, and author of Creating Joyful Work.

The first time I heard this question I had just accepted a new position with a nice bump in salary, and responsibilities. I was expressing to a friend that I was nervous about meeting the expectations of my new manager.

The minute my friend asked, “Lisa, how good can you stand it?” I realized that the expectations I was most worried about were mine. I didn’t relax much at that moment, but knowing that I am the one who has the power to achieve as much as I want has helped me to have a rich and varied life.

Getting Past Zero-Sum

We tend to think that the business world is always a zero-sum environment, “If Steve gets that promotion, and then I will not be able to achieve my goals.” However there is always more—a different department or project, new products, new companies. Good things don’t always look exactly like we want them to, but they still add to our lives.

“Standing it good” is about having the courage to know what we want, and to go after it. Sometimes that means that we have to strive for years, and sometimes it’s as simple as asking for it in the moment; like asking for more responsibility, or declining an assignment that does not resonate with us.

This concept of “standing it good” is not the same as “win at any cost.” It means we stop selling ourselves short and we allow ourselves to strive for more. When we do this, others are inspired as well.

It Serves the Whole Company

When the individual team members believe that “more is always possible”, they have an expansive mindset, and so are inspired to be, and to do, more. This benefits the organization as well. Three of the benefits are:

Team members are more willing to work with others in new and different ways, so they accomplish more, with higher morale

  • Rather than manage, leaders are encouraged to lead because their teams are more proactive and pull them ahead.
  • Knowing that it’s okay, even encouraged, to diverge from the norm means that team members won’t stop before they have done everything they can to solve a problem or accomplish a goal.

Leading Your Team to “Stand it Good

As leaders we can be especially influential in spreading this mindset. First we have to believe it for ourselves. It’s human nature to contract and to see the negative side of situations and events. I learned this concept decades ago and I still have to consciously open my mind at times. Actually doing the new and different is even more challenging!

Here are a few practices that can help you, and your teams, lean toward standing it good:

Make it okay to think, and act, outside the box. Once in awhile, get on top of the box. When brainstorming, encourage the team to get really radical and have fun. Implementation is when the practicalities will need to be considered carefully.

  • Watch out for negative or constricting language. There’s a difference between useful risk management and being a naysayer. Are you or team members says things like, “Yes, but…”, or “That’s interesting, but…”, or just plain, “That will never work…”?
  • Encourage yourself and others to do one thing each day that scares them. It may be as simple as speaking up in a meeting, or as complex as taking on a new role.

Leading the Change

Every teeny, tiny change is a victory upon which future growth is based. Yet even with small changes it can be hard to tell the difference between our discomfort that comes from trying something new and the uneasiness that tells us something is not right. Practice and celebrating the small changes are the best way to get to that state of knowing. A supportive leader and team makes practicing fun and easy, and the whole team benefits in a myriad of ways.

On Confidence, Conviction and Finding Success

A guest post from LGL tribe member, Tom Eakin, about confidence, resilience, and the courage to keep going.

As a U.S. Army Ranger-qualified Combat Engineer Officer, I learned how to find the confidence and conviction to do what it took to accomplish the mission even when it was really hard…especially when it was really hard.

Later, I applied what I’d learned in the corporate environment. I developed a values-based approach that helped my team increase performance by over 300% and was awarded at the highest level by my company.

Two years later, I was fired.

Even though I had proven my values-driven approach increased employee engagement, I was doing something others just weren’t ready to try to understand. Something was missing in the translation.

Why Confidence Can Be Good

Decision-making is the most critical aspect of achieving success: A decision precedes every act. Everything we do leads to what we have, and will, become.

Confidence comes from past successes and learning. Our experience teaches us we can be successful. We need confidence to make decisions in uncertain situations.

The Problem with Confidence

But… we can become lazy in our confidence. Relying more on what experience has taught us and ignoring relevant facts can trick us into thinking that just because something worked in one situation, it will work in another.

My own confidence proved to be deceptive as I tried to expand my values-driven approach beyond my span of authority.

Confidence can leave us without a solid foundation in times of failure.

If I ONLY had confidence to rely on as I introduced my new concept to the world, I would have quit long ago.

Where Conviction Fits In

Conviction comes from what you believe and compels you to inspired action.

While it was difficult for me to reconcile the organizational success I’d created with the personal result I’d reaped by getting fired, I believed in my new approach. I forged ahead. I developed “GPS Theory” and launched BoomLife.

Conviction has driven me past the frustrating failures and entrepreneurial loneliness that come with creating something that is not yet commonly understood.

The Challenge with Conviction

It’s very easy to inappropriately apply conviction to the means instead of the end.

When I launched the “GPS Theory” application on my website, people didn’t interact with it as I had expected. If all of my conviction was focused on this tool I would have given up. Instead, I realized I needed to find different ways to present the concepts behind “GPS Theory” in order for others to recognize its real value.

Find the Perfect Blend

Confidence and conviction are not mutually exclusive. You need confidence in what you’re doing, so you can repeat what works. You need conviction to compel you to keep moving forward even when things don’t go your way so you can find what works. You need to find the perfect blend to find values-driven success.

For more thought-provoking discussion on finding values-driven success, inspiring stories of people who’ve achieved it and strategies you can apply, read my new book, Finding Success: Get what you really want.

P.S. I receive dozens of inquires each day about guest posts. I welcome guest posts from those who have been active members of the LGL community (through comments and interaction with other LGL members) or who I have come to know personally and can ensure their message will resonate. If you have an important message to share, please start by getting engaged and involved.  This is a working community. We would love to hear your story.

Do You Take Your Traditions For Granted?

A guest post by Frank Sonnenberg

When you hear the word holiday, what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, shopping, parties, sales, and catalogs rank near the top of your list. The truth is, many holidays are becoming so commercialized that our proud traditions are in danger of becoming trivialized.

Many of us can’t even remember the true meaning of the holidays. Memorial Day has morphed from remembering our fallen soldiers to the unofficial beginning of summer. Labor Day’s role in recognizing the achievements of organized labor now just marks the end of summer and a return to school. Veterans Day is honored as a day off from work.

Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become. Once we ignore the meaning of our traditions, we’re in danger of damaging the underpinning of our identity.

  •  Tradition contributes a sense of comfort and belonging. It brings families together and enables people to reconnect with friends.
  •  Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and the value of being selfless.
  •  Tradition provides a forum to showcase role models and celebrate the things that really matter in life.
  •  Tradition offers a chance to say “thank you” for the contribution that someone has made.
  •  Tradition enables us to showcase the principles of our Founding Fathers, celebrate diversity, and unite as a country.
  •  Tradition serves as an avenue for creating lasting memories for our families and friends.
  •  Tradition offers an excellent context for meaningful pause and reflection.

As leaders, role models, and parents, we must strive to utilize every opportunity available to us to reinforce the values and beliefs that we hold dear. The alternative to action is taking these values for granted. The result is that our beliefs will get so diluted, over time, that our way of life will become foreign to us. It’s like good health. You may take it for granted until you lose it. If we disregard our values, we’ll open our eyes one day and won’t be able to recognize “our world” anymore. The values that support the backbone of our country, our family, and our faith will have drifted for so long that the fabric of our society will be torn.

This is adapted from Follow Your Conscience: Make a Difference in Your Life & in the Lives of Others By Frank Sonnenberg © 2014 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.