Passing the Baton’s 8th Anniversary Show!

Passing the Baton’s 8th Anniversary Show!

Thank you so much for supporting the show over the years! We love to receive and answer your questions and hear how you are passing the baton to others in your own leadership journey. Whether you are a first-year Baton Carrier or have been listening to us since the beginning, we are honored to be a part of your leadership growth.


High Altitude Leadership with Don Schmincke

High Altitude Leadership with Don Schmincke

It’s a joy to have Don Schimincke join us for today’s show! Don’s book High-Altitude Leadership has sat on my leadership bookshelf for quite a while. During our conversation today, you’ll hear Don share lessons from the book, what’s next for him and his team, and a discussion about one of his latest books that he wrote with AI.

Don can be found:

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Don Schmincke is the author of the Best-Selling book The Code of Executive and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. He is an Award-Winning Speaker, Researcher, Founder of the SAGA Leadership Institute and delivered over 1,700 speeches.

How friendship helps your leadership

How friendship helps your leadership

I can look back on my life and see where there was always a group of friends that were there for me to support me as I grew older and tried to figure out life. No matter your life stage, your circle of friends can impact your leadership skills in a positive way. 

5 ways friendships help your leadership

1. Encouragement

Your friends are the ones that should be believing in you and rooting for your success in the good times as well as the bad. Thanks to the internet and specialized social media accounts, it’s easy to go out and get a little motivation each day. While there is nothing wrong with those outlets; they actually do have some encouraging thoughts from time to time, encouragement from a friend hits differently. Encouragement means more from those that you respect and know on a personal level. Check out 5 ways to encourage friends at work and at home for tips on how you can be an encouragement to others. 

2. Friendships boost our self-confidence

Friends are certainly good for your self-esteem. They help you feel secure and give you a sense of belonging. They are your cheerleaders and inject confidence into the decisions and moves that you make. Think about a good friend that is or was that person for you. How are using that example with those that you lead? Would you consider yourself a great cheerleader and coach or is there a chance to improve?

3. Friendships expand our perspectives

A healthy circle of friends exposes us to different views, opinions, experiences, and cultures. They also stimulate our creativity, curiosity, and innovation. Having that larger worldview and context is essential in order to be the best leader that you can be for your team and in leading yourself well. Be open to listening to others as they share their perspectives and grow keenly aware as your biases put up a defense around what others share and think. 

4. Friendships build trust and loyalty

Sometimes it can be hard to share about your personal life with others that you lead. There are a number of root causes of that hesitation; maybe you’ve been burned in the past, taught early on to keep personal discussions to a minimum or you worked somewhere that did not promote transparency in their organization. A good friend can help you grow through this by giving you opportunities to be vulnerable and transparent with them, sharing things that you may not be comfortable sharing with teammates yet. 

5. Friendships cultivate compassion and empathy

It’s important to know the difference between empathy, sympathy, and pity. While it’s likely that you’ll run through all of those emotional responses during the life of a friendship, friends can teach us a great deal about empathy. In order to have empathy with someone, you’ve got to be able to put yourself in their proverbial shoes. That can be a challenging muscle to strengthen, but it can be trained with your friends. They are the ones that you know the most; you likely have a good amount of relationship equity built up and you have a better understanding of the larger context of what’s going for the other person. Leverage your friendships to grow your empathy with your team and be thankful for the times that your friends show empathy and compassion to you. 

Friendships can help us become better leaders by boosting our self-confidence, expanding our perspectives, fostering trust and loyalty, and cultivating compassion and empathy. By caring for and learning from your friendships, you can become a more inspiring leader for others to follow. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

How check-ins keep your people around longer

How check-ins keep your people around longer

A number of studies show that as an employee feels disconnected and unengaged with their work and their leadership, their likelihood of leaving the organization rises significantly. Check-ins, or formal times to sit down together and look at the larger picture, are key in order to keep people around for longer. Here are some ways check-ins positively impact your team, and the work they do.

Check-ins keep accountability in place

You’ve likely heard the term, “inspect what you expect.” It’s a phrase that’s used as a reminder to leaders that they shouldn’t lay out an objective and expect it magically come to a successful reality on its own. If it’s something that is important to you and the business, you need to check in on occasion to see how the progress is going. 

Check-ins are great for shared accountability, and that’s a good thing. Some people think of the term accountable as only negative, like someone is being reprimanded. That’s not the case at all. The accountability in check-ins is to see that we’ve made our agreed-upon progress in the finalized timeline. It’s a chance to celebrate or course correct as needed as well. 

Associates want that level of accountability and clarity as well. Imagine giving your best effort into a project only to realize that you are off the mark because the requirements changed as you neared the deadline. Check-ins are also a great time to hold their leader accountable for the resources and promises that were made during the last touchpoint. 

Check-ins keep things from hitting critical mass

It’s fairly common to look at big HR cases and draw a line back to a much smaller set of circumstances that snowballed into a massive breakdown for the associate and the business. 

Check-ins are a wonderful opportunity to discover those issues and course-correct them before they turn into monsters that you have to deal with later. During your check-in be sure to ask some things about the larger team and how relationships and dynamics are working (or not working). Understanding these situations early and having the willingness and managerial courage to step up to potentially difficult conversations will help prevent future escalations and flare-ups. You can literally save someone’s career by leveraging your relationship management skills during your check-ins. 

Check-ins are a compass for career growth

One of the most common themes that employees give about their leader and organizations is that no one has a career aspirations conversation with them. No one has asked them what they want to be or do at the company! Now, some of that could be that the leader is afraid to ask because they don’t want to know the answer. It could also be generational. Noone asked ever asked the leader, so the leader doesn’t put much thought into it for their own team. Regardless of the reason for the disconnect, regular check-ins provide an easy avenue to have some career-focused discussions. Discover their aspirations and help them make connections and acquired needed skills between check-ins. 

Check-ins show you care

Above all, check-ins show that you care about the other person. Your team knows that you have a busy schedule, so they appreciate and recognize the time that you take to sit down and have regular check-in conversations with them. It’s another great opportunity to build and strengthen a relational bond with the other person as well. 

If you don’t currently have a regular cadence for check-ins, I’d encourage you to do so with your team. Block the time for the next year on both calendars to prevent the time and tasks from getting the best of your positive intent. Your people deserve a regular time when they can get clarity on the role, share personal and professional progress, and feel like they have a clear line of sight for the next step in their career. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

A reminder of what you can’t control

A reminder of what you can’t control

Have you ever warned yourself out mentally thinking about a person, situation, or change that you ultimately have no control over? Maybe a better way to phrase the question is not how, but how often! Growing through and letting go of those things that you can’t control can be challenging and cause you anxiety, and stress, and can ultimately derail your day, month, year, or life if you let it take too much of a hold on you. 

Today we’ll dive into a few reminders of those things that you can not control in order to let them go and move forward in a healthy way. 

The past

As obvious as it sounds, you can’t control the past. Nevertheless, others and perhaps yourself will shackle the past to a person or relationship that can become an unbearable burden. Sometimes that may be justified; think of abusive relationships or all-around toxic relationships (Show 205). Other times, you need to move past the past so you can have a better future. 

For those that hold the past against you: The other person will always have the choice and power to hold on to your past or let it go. The best that you can do is continue to show how you’ve grown and matured. Be sure to check out our recommended steps for turning around a bad reputation. (Show 174)

If you hold on to the past yourself: Freeing yourself from the past can be extremely challenging depending on the situation. I’ve talked to and coached people who have been recovering addicts, close combat veterans, people who have contemplated and survived suicidal thoughts, and others who have had a really rough path to travel. If you carry a heavy burden, get help through a professional counselor, psychiatrist, or other trusted and certified avenues to help you get back on track. Remember to give yourself some grace and don’t try too hard (Show 136)

Sometimes when we think about the past we focus on what we could have done differently. That’s good to a point. Use that reflection to grow towards the future, but to get stuck at that moment in the past is not beneficial for you or anyone else. 

Other people’s actions and choices

I’ll say that this one got me for a good portion of my early leadership days. I struggled with people who I had invested in and given all the tools to be successful, but only throw those tools away and set themselves back through poor choices in both the leadership and life walk. 

Giving the person the support and tools to be successful is in your control. How a person uses (or doesn’t) use the tools is totally up to them and fully out of your control. Know that you did your best and remind yourself of the work that you put in to reassure yourself when others make poor choices. 

If you still have interaction with a person that falls into this scenario, be respectful and cordial in the conversation. Share your concerns if you have a level of trust with the other person, but don’t carry an expectation on yourself that you have to redeem or restore that person. 

What others think or feel… especially about us. 

We typically put a high value on what others think of us, even those that we have no relationship with at all. We can hyper-focus on what a person thinks of us or how they feel based on our own insecurities and need to be validated. If you find yourself consumed with thoughts about the other person, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How much control do I have over the other person liking me?
  • How helpful is the time spent thinking about this person?
  • Does all this time and mental effort thinking about the other person add any value back to me?

If you answer no, then think about the things that you can control. What can you do to keep refining to make a better version of yourself?


People love their comfort and safety! There are few things guaranteed in life, but change is certainly one of them. Change is easy to see. Think about the you from a year ago and no doubt you can see change both good and bad that has occurred since then. 

You cannot stop change, no matter how much we may want to at times. What we can control, however, is how we deal with change. Check out our tips on navigating change and conflict. (Show 295) steps to futureproof your success (Show 182)

Lean into those areas that you can control as you navigate relationships with others and as you continue to build a better you for the future. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

A reminder of what you can control

A reminder of what you can control

Sometimes it just feels like you are just being tossed about during your day or week. Maybe you feel like you are crawling to the proverbial shore at the end of the day as your ship (plan) was wrecked and sunk again.

It’s not difficult to fall into a cycle of despair and even hopelessness as circumstances around you influence your life and well-being.  To help you re-establish or reinforce your control over the day, here are some reminders of the things that you do have control over both in your personal and professional life. 

What you consume

When people think of the word “consume” they may naturally think of something like eating or food. While it’s true that you have control over what you consume from a nutritional perspective, broaden that thought to other things that you consume on a regular basis. Your regular consumption includes

  • The news you read and where you get it from
  • Social media and self-image outlets
  • Entertainment
  • Knowledge (podcasts, books, videos, courses, classes, etc)
  • Interactions with your friends, family, and co-workers

Reflect on the past week. What has been a negative influence or perhaps overly influential on your thoughts and actions? Perhaps the weight of the news is dragging you down or there has been drama at the workplace that has taken up a lot of your headspace. Here are some tips to take back control of the things that you consume:

  • Find different news outlets to get your information from. Counselors will often suggest outlets outside of your country if you get too worked up by the news. They are more neutral and have no agenda to drive you toward one conclusion or another. 
  • Take social media breaks and see how it impacts your outlook on yourself and your day. 
  • Put limits on the amount of entertainment you consume to allow space for other productive things. 
  • Check your knowledge outlets for alignments with your goals and ambitions. 
  • Evaluate those that you interact with regularly. Are they adding value to you or are they toxic and need to be managed? (Show 205)

Your mental and physical fitness 

Physical and mental fitness is just good for you. There are countless studies and stories online of the benefits of physical activities including ones from the Mayo Clinic and The World Health Organization. We’ve talked at length over the years about the benefits as well including Finding Leadership in Running (PTB 170) Life Lessons from running at DisneyWhat running 37.5 miles taught me (PTB 128). 

Some tips to control your mental and physical fitness:

  • Studies share that you need 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigours exercise a week and strength training for all major muscle groups two times a week. Forget that! Do what you can. You can control going out for a 10-minute stroll. Don’t let studies that highlight how you may be coming up short hold you back. Take control of those small moments to give yourself the break and conditioning you need. 

  • Read a book or engage in some mentally stimulating activity. At my current stage, it’s mostly working on art with a little bit of reading. Neither one, do I spend a large block of time on except perhaps the weekend. Take control of small segments here as well.  What does that look like for you?

  • Find reading or fitness apps to help get you started and stay motivated. You can find an endless amount of fitness apps out there. I use Caliber for strength training; it’s free and includes plans and videos based on what you have available at your house. I use Apple Fitness for my aerobic, core, and additional strength work. 

Find things that you have an interest in and carve out time to take of both your mind and body. 

Your work ethic

No matter what others do, or don’t do, no one has control over your work ethic except for you. For better or worse, the choices you make in how you do your work are yours alone. Need resources to help drive a strong work ethic? Check out: 

Your work ethics are your calling card. More than anything, it’s how people know and think of you. 

How you approach and deal with people

How do you show up for people that you interact with? Even in those tough circumstances that may rock our day, we still ultimately own and have the power over how we interact with others and come across in conversations.  How well do you control your approach with others? Are you a reflection of your day; nice on a good day and distraught during the bad days? 

Be mindful to be consistent in how you interact with others. Most times it should be effortless; it’s your authentic self where you (hopefully) want to add value to others. At other times, you’ll need to make the choice to be super intentional to keep steady in all the negative noise of the day. Don’t let your day influence who you are. Let yourself influence how your day is going to be. 

If you look more online at the types of things that you can control, you’ll find a myriad of opinions out there ranging from a list of 100 down to an article saying that you can only control one thing. Evaluate your day. What do you have influence over that you perhaps don’t give yourself enough credit or power over right now? Get a solid grasp on those things you can control as you get ready to let go of the things that you can’t control. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Time Management: Successful leaders delegate

Time Management: Successful leaders delegate

One of the most common opportunities for newly promoted leaders is the skill of delegation. It comes in part from being the expert in the areas of their previous role and still retaining those responsibilities and partly from passion areas that the person just loves to do. We teach that holding on to both of these types of tasks restrains your effectiveness in a new role and it’s not until you can successfully delegate those tasks away, that you can realize your full potential. 

Whether you are a new leader or not, good delegation skills take your time management skills to the next level. 

Assess your routine and schedule

Think back to our exercise in Prioritizing your time (Show 380), what are those things that you found yourself spending time on that are low or important in priority? Those two categories will likely be full of activities and tasks that can be delegated out in your work life. 

Assess your schedule and do some self-reflection as it compares to your current role. Are you doing things that you did in a previous role? 

In your personal life, think about the things that you routinely spend time on thought out the year.  Corilate that time with a monetary value. What is your time worth during your personal time? It’s ok, and perhaps likely, that the dollar amount changes depending on what it is. Now put a value on the things that you really need or want to do. If the want and need are valued higher, you may benefit from delegating (or paying) someone to do it. 

“Find things for other people to do,” seems easy enough, but we sometimes put blinders on or overestimate our own commitment to items that are taking time better used elsewhere

Compliment delegation to others’ development

By now you should have a list of things in your work routine that you can delegate away. Leverage those items as development opportunities for those on your team. Who could best learn and grow by taking on the task or responsibility?

Delegation is a great way for someone to get a glimpse of what your day-to-day world entails as well as help provide them with a low-risk look into the world that you live in. It’s a great way for the person to get a feel for your role to help them understand if they may aspire to become you one day.

Follow-up on your delegated items

Delegation certainly has its perks for the leader as well. You’ll find yourself having some room in your schedule (and your mind) to do things that are important that you’ve been putting off. Your success in delegation will also help you to be a more future-focused leader instead of being caught up in the swirl of the day. 

The benefits are great, but leaders sometimes put delegated tasks in the “set it and forget it” category. Delegation without a follow-up plan is a recipe for disaster for you and the person taking on the new task. 

  • Before the task is delegated: Ensure that there is alignment on expectations and agreement from both parties around the specific ask of the person you are delegating the item to. They need to have support, empowerment, and any resources necessary to be successful. 

  • Set a check-in cadence to see how things are going and to get feedback on any ways that you can adjust to support the person better. Keep the cadence tight at first and then build in some space as time, trust and results build. 

Delegate it all away?

It’s been said before to delegate it all away. While it’s great to delegate projects, tasks, and responsibilities to others, it’s important to your people for them to see you still a part of the work. Delegation is a powerful tool, but if your people feel like they are simply just doing your job while you collect a paycheck, engagement will surely fall quickly and people will begin to leave. 

As you have your team meetings and huddles, be sure to share the things that you are working on and have accomplished since the meeting. This will help in two ways: It will help them feel more informed of the larger picture and it will show them that you are just as involved in the overall success of the strategy as they are. 

Strike the right balance between delegation and tasks that you need to lead yourself. 

Layer in all the aspects of time management; Prioritize your time, set up your system, eliminate time stealers, and delegate for success to take control of your time management skills. It can truly be a life-changing habit and helps you stay focused, accelerate your performance and enjoy life more along the way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Time Management Series: Eliminate time stealers

Time Management Series: Eliminate time stealers

Positive intent. I love that phrase and use it quite often in communication and coaching. It sums up so many shortfalls in a real way. A person had all the positive intent in the world, but maybe how they went about getting to a solution wasn’t quite right. You’ll often find positive intent in your personal life. Maybe, it’s the positive intent to take better care of yourself or get a better hold of your time. 

Time stealers love to eat with positive intent. They are the little distractions in your day and week that add up to a total derailment of what you intended to do and work on at that time. 

Identify where time stealers come from

Time stealers can from anywhere and can range from those very small distractions that pile up, or something that starts off small but ends up eating up large blocks of time.  Some common areas for time stealers include:

Your mobile device: For all the great things that our mobile devices have introduced into our lives, it is also the most common place to be a time stealer! Notifications, social media apps, texts, games….the list can go on and on. There are many ways to handle your device from muting your device for blocks of time, to physically moving it out of reach. Assess the impact that your device is having on pulling you away from what needs to be done throughout the day and take steps to dampen its influence and temptation. 

Work informal communication channels: Pick your poison: teams, slack, discord, or other similar programs. These can turn into major time stealers, especially in group or team chats.  When one of these gets out of hand in while you’ve got things to do, mute the chat or notification until you can come back to it. 

Open-ended hobbies and projects: I love a good video game, but many are set up in a “one more thing” format to entice you to keep playing longer than you perhaps had intended. It’s easy for 30 min to turn into a couple of hours or more.  Open-ended hobbies are the same way; they offer a healthy escape from the stress of the day, but they can also pull too much time away from things that you need to be doing throughout your day. Put these in your time management system to help you stay accountable here. 

Other time stealers

  • Multi-tasking
  • Perfectionism
  • Doing work outside your role/other people’s jobs
  • Unnecessary meetings
  • Emails; both unnecessary ones and a feeling to immediately reply

Leverage your system to purposely use discretionary time

Your time management system can do a lot here in terms of helping you stay accountable and on track with what needs to be done today and this week. 

My daily view keeps track of my scheduled meetings and activities, but I also write things down that need to get done that day…at some point. When I’m out of a meeting or have a block of time, I start working on that list until it’s complete. In fact, this session is written exactly that way! I need to get it done today, but not at a specific time

The types of items that fall on this section of your to-do list are often important or urgent in nature and are typically maintenance focused. Some examples from this week’s list for me include Call dr office, update travel profile at work, enter in my vacation days, practicing music, calling someone back, etc. None of that is life-changing but all things that need to get done.  

Are you capturing those items in your time management system? What things do you need to write down or capture to make sure that time stealers aren’t taking the opportunity to get these things done?

Other Considerations

Making good choices with discretionary time.

Be intentional in this time as well or it will fill with junk. It’s ok to put fun or “vege out” moments in there. Just protect yourself from distractions where you can lose large amounts of time that can eat into other planned productive times.

Planning time

Make sure to include margin time for planning. It’s typically best at the beginning or end of the week.

Dealing with procrastination

If you deal with procrastination, you will want to be more thorough in calendar planning and the use of the erase board/daily planner. This will help you overcome the habit of waiting until the last moment.

Homework: Goal setting

Choose a long-term goal (6 months to over a year out) Set a date and work backward to build out a plan in the time management system to meet the goal. Focus on daily behaviors and timely checkups to stay on track to meet the goal.

Self-reflection to determine the impact of time management

·       How did you do in implementing the habits of time management?

·       Have you seen a decrease in stress and a better ability to do things (personally and professionally)?

·       Have you improved on meeting deadlines?

·       On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel you are with your time management skills?

·       What do you feel like you need to work on to raise that number?

Keep to the positive habits around time management, and make changes to your time management system if it’s not working for you. As you combine those efforts with eliminating time stealers, you’ll really start making progress toward a very productive and less stress-filled day.  Next time, we’ll talk about leveraging the power of delegation to take your time management skills to the next level. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Time Management Series: Build your time system

Time Management Series: Build your time system

Lee Cockerell retired EVP of Disney World, walks around with a pocket calendar and day planner in his pocket and has been for years. You could find him in corporate meetings jotting down notes and then later in the day out in the parks referencing what was up next and cataloging reminders on items to follow up on. His work ethic has obviously paid off for him and his habit is a shining example of old-school systems continuing to meet the need in a technology-focused world. 

When I took our very own Mike Floyd through our time management class, he was the exact opposite of Lee; fully focused on leveraging the latest apps and technology out there to help him conquer his time. Guess what? He did it too. 

As for me, I use a bit of both, leveraging technology for my calendar and on-the-go notes, while using old-school methods to track my daily to-dos and longer-term goals for the year. 

No matter your preference, one of the most important aspects of time management, is a good system in place that works for you. 

Decide your path: Paper or electronic (or both)

As you think about your system you need to decide what vehicle you are using to help you get into the right habits. 

Paper/physical: Day planners and calendars and calendar books are your resources here. You can find many versions of these online, at office supply stores, and even at your local bookstore and art stores. Some are open-ended, meaning you fill in the months and days, while others have that information already filled in in increments of 6 – 18 months. They also vary on the amount of extra paper and notes sections that are included. 

The good thing about paper & physical products is that they are highly likely to fit your need, no matter how specific it is. 

Electronic: The other route to consider is electronic. This leverages a combination of apps and online calendars. Do a search for online note-taking and calendars and you’ll pull up a number of options on the main platforms that people use. 

The plus side of electronic options is can always be with you and takes up no additional space. They also often transfer your data across devices and can easily set up reminders and alarms that accompany your tasks. 

The calendar

Regardless of your choice of physical or electronic, you’ll want to leverage a calendar to keep track of things.  I keep track of my work, personal, church, and volunteer life on my calendar. Items that have a deadline are listed by time and items that just need to be done that day at some point are at the top of the day.

Tips for a successful calendar:

  • Add dates as soon as you become aware of tasks and events. This helps you not worry about remembering to add it at a later date. 
  • Put everything on the calendar. Family, church, work, and personal. If you are using an electronic calendar and are worried about others seeing your full life, you can manage access.
  • Sync your calendar to your phone and get notifications if going that route. 
  • You can also customize the calendar with colors. Different events can be different colors to make them stand out. Ex. Red for family, blue for work, and green for other activities. (This is an optional piece, but helps quickly see what you’ve got going on)

If you need more help staying accountable, put more detail in there. It’s best to start with more detail and work off of that to a good balance, than starting very generic and vague.

This approach is exactly the same one that is used in the weekly/monthly section of a day planner.

Think of your calendar as your vital (and sometimes urgent) items.

The dry-erase board/notes function

In addition to your calendar system, you’ll also want something to keep your lists and to-dos for the day and even big-picture goals for the year. I use a combination of a dry-erase board and a notepad. My dry-erase board tracks big-ticket items as well as my few goals for the year. It keeps those things front of mind for me on a daily basis so I don’t lose sight of them.

I use a notepad to track my to-dos for the day and week. Think of this as your Urgent and Important list. The day portion of the day planner works in this same concept as the notepad.

If you use the dry-erase board in an office environment, be sure to include your leadership team to actively use the board as well. 

  1. They will learn to pick things off the board to take a load off of you.
  2. They will identify things that need to be added to the board
  3. It will give them a larger sense of ownership in execution.
  4. The board is flexible to add things for specific people as needed.

The dry-erase board/notes function

  • What kind of things would you add to your board?
  • What are some things that you need to put on your calendar that you are not?
  • How can you leverage your calendar to build in new habits that you’ve been meaning to get started?

Homework before the next segment

  • Work on picking out your time management system.
  • Begin adding dates, to-dos, and commitments to your calendar for the next 6-12 months. 
  • Begin using daily to-do lists using the method of your choosing. 

Now that you’ve got a good understanding of what you need to prioritize, and de-prioritize, leverage your new time management system to boost your success and get things done. Next time, we’ll discuss time stealers and other considerations. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Time Management Series: Prioritize your time

Time Management Series: Prioritize your time

One of the challenges of time management is that many people don’t think of time in terms of a commodity that consistently depletes. 

A great illustration that drives this point home, was a conversation between two people around the concept. The interviewer asked a man in his forties if his parents were still alive.

Man: Yes

Interviewer: How often do you see them?

Man: About twice a year, we live far away, but try to see them when we can. 

Interviewer: How old would you say your parents are?

Man: Mid 70’s probably. 

Interviewer: So if you look at the average life span, let’s say they have 5 years left. 5 years may seem like a long time, but if you only see them twice a year, that means you only have 10 more in-person interactions with them before they are gone. How does that impact how you think of that time with them?

The man went on to say how it would make him prioritize his time in order to see them more. 

The point of the story is not to guilt you into changing how often you visit your parents (although you may want to give them a call more often), it’s to help you see that in order to maximize your time and how you spend it, you might need to think of time in different terms than you normally do.

Think of time management as a habit and skill that you develop

What you are about to do is start a habit in your life and it will likely require that you give other habits up. Stick with it and remember that phrase”progress over perfection.”  Think of something at work or in life that was difficult for you to pick up, but now comes easy for you. Time management may be an adjustment, but it will become much easier as you do it.

Prioritizing your time

When you think about the activities and things that you accomplish on a daily, tasks will nearly fall into 3 Types of priorities

  • Urgent
  • Vital
  • Important

Urgent would be an item that is directed as such from corporate, your employees, customers, or yourself as an immediate action or an item that seriously impacts the team or guests and require immediate action.

Vital would be an item that has to be executed for the success of your business.

Important would be items that need to be completed in a timely manner and can often (and should) be delegated to your team. 

There are also low-priority items. All of these items should be delegated out to your team and not done yourself.

It’s very important to plan these times to your calendar and set aside time for planning itself. Some people would see this as losing their freedom to be flexible. They are partially correct. It does take away your freedom…. freedom to waste time. You can schedule time off or free time as well.

Self-Reflection question: What do immediately think of when you think of urgent and vital items? Do those tasks change in priority based on circumstances?

Time Management Activity: Gain control of your email

Your email inbox is a reflection of your time management and your ability to stay organized (which is also tied to time management.) If you have hundreds of emails in your inbox then you likely have an opportunity to better manage your resources here. 

I also consider my inbox as a to-do list. If I have more than 10 emails after a 48 hr period, then my email management is moving up my priority list. That means I have to go through and clean out the clutter (archive or delete) before I read what really needs to be read.

Things to consider:

-Organizing your email if you are concerned you will lose something. Create folders and archive important messaging into there. I have folders for projects/reviews/the show/races etc. 

-Delete or archive any other unneeded emails and begin leveraging the search function to find previous emails as needed. 

-Make sure you respond timely to an email from your leader and clients. It shows that you have control of your resources and are dependable.

-Unsubscribe from lists and promotions that you are no longer interested in to drop the level of noise in your inbox. 

How many emails are in your inboxes right now? How many are unread?  Think of your inbox as your house. Sometimes it gets messy, but it always feels good and is less stressful when it’s clean. We’ve gotten that same kind of feedback consistently over the years that we have taught Time Management to others. They didn’t appreciate how much their email was subtly increasing their stress levels. 

Homework before the next segment

  • Work on getting your personal and professional email inboxes organized, sorted, and filed before our next segment. 
  • Reflect on how you prioritize your time. Take notes of what is urgent, vital, important, and not important. 

Today is the beginning of creating (or reinforcing) great time management behaviors that will impact your life in ways you likely haven’t fully realized yet. Next time, we’ll talk through systems that you can use to get a hold of and ahead on time planning. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Ask great questions

Ask great questions

If you want to know a simple move to come across to others as more likable, engaging, and enjoyable to be around, you need to understand one fact; most people love to talk about themselves. That’s not a negative about the other person, most people find personal value in sharing with others. 

I’ve leveraged this knowledge several times in the past by going all in on asking a lot of great questions during my first few interactions with the person. It helps build rapport, fast-tracks relationships, and helps accelerate your career.  Today we’ll look at how great questions can serve your relationship-building skills and help you discover problems before they escalate to become larger issues. 

Ask great questions by listening

You’ll always want to start off with questions that get the person to open up and begin sharing information with you. Some good starting points include:

  • Open-ended questions around a shared purpose. This could be around the reason for the meeting or gathering. (What has been your favorite session at the conference so far? What are your thoughts on the CEO’s announcement last week? How do you think the recruiting season is going?)

  • Inquisitive in thier personal endevors. Questions that center on a person’s interests, hobbies, or passions are great starts to open a number of doors to further the conversation.  (What gives you energy, What are you working on outside of the job that gets you excited?) 

  • Listen to their reply for opportunities to dig further in or highlight a topic. (You said _______, tell me more about that.) This will continue a line of discussion until you have exhausted your questions or the topic naturally wraps itself up. 

The secret to a great facilitator is their ability to navigate a conversation by listening to what is said and then asking follow-up questions. It may almost seem effortless as they guide the group through self-discovery or the right path forward. That should be your goal as well. Listen for the right points to send the conversation deeper while doing it in a way that seems natural. It shouldn’t feel forced, inauthentic, or clumsy. 

Simplify your questions

There are going to be times when you have all sorts of thought-provoking questions in your head or you may really excited to hear more or receive additional details. As a result, you may bundle your questions without even realizing this. 

I was recently at a conference where a local well-known entrepreneur gave the morning keynote address and had a Q&A at the end. There was no shortage of questions from the audience! One attendee asked something along the lines of, ” What made you want to do this, what continues to inspire you and what are your goals for the future?” Those are all great questions, but the speaker had to pause and took a moment to process the bundled questions, ultimately missing one of the questions altogether. 

When you find your mind trying to bundle a bunch of questions, sort through them and pick up the most important 1 or 2. Ask one, and then the other as a follow-up if it’s still appropriate. You’ll keep your person engaged and get higher-quality answers as a result. 

Shoot for the deep but be satisfied with the surface

Mining the depths of a person’s thoughts, motivations and insights can be invaluable to getting a better understanding of the person and the topic at hand. Remember that not all conversations will go into the inner crevices of your mind and soul. Think of those deep conversations as cave diving. The surface-level conversations that you have are the safety gear and support systems so that you can safely travel down below. 

In conversations with some of my closest friends, we’ve discussed some very deep and personal topics. We’ll also talk about video games or running beforehand or afterward. Don’t be disappointed if a conversation doesn’t go as deep as you had hoped. Surface-level conversations carry value as well and provide a sense of trust and safety to go deeper into another conversation. 

Don’t be afraid to ask a question

Be brave and ask those questions that may make you look naive. It is better to approach it on the front end and learn valuable information as opposed to playing along and being left in the dark in directions or walking away with the wrong information. 

If the idea of putting yourself out there makes you nervous, address that as well to help you get through the conversation. I’ll often say something along the lines of, “Forgive my ignorance here, but can you tell me what _______ means?” or “This may be a naive question, but can you help me understand _____?”

Typically the other party is going to affirm that your question is in fact not dumb, and will be happy to help give more clarity. There is also a chance that someone else has the same question, but is too afraid to ask themselves. 

Keep those questions coming! Great, thought-provoking questions, help you and those around you grow in knowledge and trust. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Tips to strengthen your active listening skills

Tips to strengthen your active listening skills

We all want to be heard, valued, and appreciated.  Part of being heard and valued is actually letting other people fulfill that want and need. In order to effectively work with customers, co-workers, and even friends and family, you’ll need to leverage active listening skills in order to receive the whole message accurately and build trust with others.

Here are some tips to help you grow in your active listening efforts.

Clear the distractions

Think about all the distractions that you have going on around you on a daily basis. Your computer is pinging you with emails and instant messages, your phone is constantly nudging you and smart watches are pulling at you for a quick look. On top of all the technology barriers, are the real-life issues that you go through; maybe it’s a tough conversation that you need to have at work, relationship challenges in your personal life, or health issues that you going through.  Distractions everywhere!

All of those distractions are barriers when it comes to actively listening to clients, co-workers and friends, and family. Here are some tips to eliminate the distractions around you:

  • Lose the electronics: Put away all of your electronics so they won’t be a distraction for you. That means taking the phone off the table, closing the laptop or tablet, or setting your CPU to sleep mode. When I traveled a lot in operations, I would enter my visit on the laptop while having my wrap-up conversations with the leader. I thought it was a great use of my time in being to log the visit while still giving the person the time to share what they wanted to. What I learned is that I wasn’t getting the true vulnerable information that I needed to hear, because they felt like I was distracted. I still entered in my visits before I left, but I made sure I listened to the important stuff before opening up my laptop to do work.

  • Use your eyes to help your ears. If you are easily distracted or prone to be a very detailed focus person, your eyes can work against you while trying to actively listen to someone else and most random things that catch your attention will draw it away from the person sharing information with you. Try to focus your eyes on the person while they share. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier with time. If locking eye contact is far out of your comfort zone, try it in small segments and then focus on something else close by.

Utilize your skills for active listening

Active listening is all about listening with the intent to learn. Here are five areas to consider in order to be a better listener to others.

  1. Be attentive and lose the distractions!
  2. Ask Questions: Ask open-ended questions to show your level of engagement and probing questions to dig further into the topic being discussed.
  3. Reflect back: Paraphrase what you are hearing to confirm your understanding and reflect back on the feeling and tenor of emotion being communicated to you.
  4. Get clarity: Don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification as needed.
  5. Summarize: Summarize the conversation so the person feels good about their message being received and you have confidence in taking away the right message.

The benefits of active listening

Although all of your effort is going towards the other person, there are benefits that you will both receive as you strengthen your active listening skills.  

  • It opens the road to building trust. Actively listening to someone shows that you genuinely care about them, their thoughts, and their opinions.
  • Increases your approachability with others. When people see and know that you are truly listening, it makes you more approachable as a person and as a leader.
  • Saves you time (and money). Having great listening skills helps ensure that you get the information right the first time. It also cuts down on needed follow-up and clarification later.
  • Helps cut off problems early. Taking the time to really listen to someone helps you pick on the small but important aspects of the conversation. You’ll have a better opportunity to dig into what is being said, and what is not being said and pick up on subtle clues from the person’s non-verbal communication.

Active listening doesn’t have to be hard once you’ve rid yourself of the distraction and are making an intent to be involved in the conversation. Show others you care by taking the time to listen.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Make alignment a part of your leadership strategy

Make alignment a part of your leadership strategy

Getting alignment with others can be something that you either look forward to or dread depending our your personality and the personality of the person that you need to interact with. Honestly, depending on the day and tasks ahead you can fall into both categories in a matter of hours. I know that I sometimes feel the same excitement and dread at the same time as well on occasion. 

No matter whether you love to work with a person or a group or you just don’t get along with someone else, it’s essential to arrive at some shared alignment in order to be effective in meeting your goals and the shared goals of the team. 

Understand your audience

One of the first steps to gaining alignment on a project, task, or strategy is to understand your audience. Solidifying your understanding of your audience will smooth out the process if done well and will throw in all kinds of roadblocks and frustration if not accounted for properly. Here are some tips to better connect with them as you gain alignment with others:

  • What is their communication preference? Get a good understanding of how the person performs to receive their communication and how they best process information. In one of my regular team meetings, I have a great associate that needs to see a visual to understand the details of where we are going. Others prefer to talk it out together. 

  • Who really needs to be there? Sometimes a leader will say that they want to be involved only to later learn that someone else on their team is the right person. Other times the opposite is true. They delegate the meeting out, only to ask you for updates and add last-minute additions and preferences. Let the leader know your observations and ask for further clarification if you see a misalignment in this area. It’s not your job to fix the dynamics of another team, but you should work with them to get the right person in the proverbial seat to help get the alignment that you need. 

  • What level of involvement do they want? This is where you may have some tension, especially if you are one to be agile and quick to act while another party wants to have oversight or be heavily involved in the decision-making process. Be willing to compromise here to the best of your ability and ask your leader for guidance if you are struggling in this area. Honor the person’s role and avoid turning the tension into something personal. At the end of the day, you likely want what’s best for the team and organization. 

Be aware of your own work preferences and tendencies

We all have personal twerks about us and many of those will help or hurt you as you try to gain alignment with others. For me, when leading meetings, I have a tendency not to say much. I want to hear from others and I want them to feel like they are heard and have a voice on the item that we are all aligning on. This certainly helps us get to an agreed-upon solution faster. 

I also have a tendency to pour in my focus and effort to knock out a project very quickly by myself. As a result of that speed and efficiency, I will sometimes neglect to include others or just give them a high-level status of what I am working on. Sometimes it’s not a problem, and other times I have to go back and spend time getting a party up to speed or even make changes based on feedback. 

Having a good understanding of your preferences in work style and how you function and communicate to others will help you see how you need to adapt your style or capitalize on your strength. 

Make the success about others and not yourself

It’s a great feeling to know that you accomplished something that will greatly impact others in a good way. Remember that alignment has everything to do with others and nothing to do with yourself. As a young leader, I would see these accomplishments as personal wins, I got what I wanted. As I matured, I saw the joy of shared success and seeing others celebrate the win just as much, if not more than me. 

Take the personal drive for a win out of the equation and be sure to recognize and celebrate the shared success as you gain alignment with others.

The bigger the team and company, the bigger the need

If you are an entrepreneur leading a small team, or maybe you are a team of one…. there’s not much alignment needed, right? Look at yourself in the mirror, make your decision and move towards the goal! As the team grows, and the physical footprint of the company grows, so does the need for alignment. 

For example, the need for alignment is critical to have any kind of success at a $100 Billion company. The complexity to gain that alignment can be very challenging. You may find yourself in an organization so big that you don’t even know who the stakeholders are perhaps until it’s too late. In large organizations, take the time to understand the playing field and who the players and key stakeholders are. The strength of your networking will pay off here as you connect with others to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table. Some tips as you work to gain alignment in large organizations include:

  • Be willing to slow down. Get everyone up to speed and include them on the journey. the larger the organization the more people will likely need to be involved. 

  • Compromise when possible. Your priorities may not be the same as others, and in large organizations, it’s likely someone that you need to align with will not share the same priority or perspective as you. Remember the larger goal and be willing to adapt your plan and strategy for others. 

As you personally gain more authority and influence, your need to gain alignment instead of going at it alone will increase as well. Remember to include others, adapt to others’ needs, and share the success together. You’ll be an effective leader that successfully impacts more people than ever before. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Tips to be a great coach

Tips to be a great coach

If you ask people to describe themselves as leaders, a word that often comes up is coach. 

How you coach can define what the working relationship will look like with your team. Great coaches typically have people that stay longer, find more purpose in their work and produce higher results. Here are some tips to help you become a great coach worth following and landmines to avoid setbacks and traps.

Avoiding landmines in coaching

There are times when either we come at the conversation wrong, or it takes a turn that we weren’t expecting, and we find ourselves making the coaching personal in nature. When you center your coaching on yourself you have lost focus on the reason for being there – to help the other person grow. 

  • Stay away from comparisons to others: It seems simple enough to say, “You aren’t doing as well as Sally,” but you’ve just made the conversation about Sally and the person you are coaching. This line of dialog can quickly derail a conversation and cause more long-term harm than good. Instead, focus on the behavior or problem and coach that accordingly. It doesn’t matter what others are doing or not doing. The conversation should stay on point with the topic at hand. When I am coaching a group of leaders about their team, I typically think of the people we are discussing as books on a shelf. We pull one down, open it up and discuss it, and then put it back on the shelf, this way there is a clean mental break between people. I also avoid visuals that show groups of people together until the very end. 

  • Keep the distractions away: Everyone is busy. For the best coaching to happen, you and the other person need to be as distraction-free as possible. That means silencing phones, stepping away from the CPU, or moving away from a loud area, so you can both be fully focused on the conversation. The one that typically gets me is my smartwatch. It’s meant to help you not reach for your phone as much, but people will pick up when you glance down at your watch and misinterpret that you mean that you are not interested in what they have to say. 

  • Avoid Interrupting: Deceptively simple, but harder to live out, avoid interrupting as the person is sharing information or their thoughts. You may want to jump in with an immediate rebuttal or “fix” to the comment but hold back and let the person finish sharing. This will help keep engagement levels higher during the conversation.

  • Running diagnostics as coaching: You’ve encountered the diagnostic approach often at work. “Have you tired A? What about B? Have you tried C or D?” This is a great approach when it comes to problem-solving but is less effective as coaching. Your goal should be to ask open-ended questions that invite the person to come up with their own ideas.

Tips for great coaching

Here are some tips to keep your coaching conversation on track and impactful with the other person. 

  • Start from their perspective: Before you have the coaching conversation start your line of thought from their perspective. It may seem counterintuitive but listen more than you talk as you coach others. Without listening with the intention to learn and understand, you’re unlikely to understand the full perspective needed in order to help the person reach the best outcome.

  • Be prepared: The slogan of the Boys Scouts is a great one when it comes to coaching. Come prepared to coach conversations with data, information, and feedback from appropriate parties. Without structure and information, the coaching conversation can devolve into just a casual conversation that the person quickly forgets.

  • Be honest and caring with feedback: It’s imperative to give someone honest feedback when you are coaching. They deserve to hear the truth, where they currently stand, and what the next steps are to move forward. Share takeaways and feedback honestly but remember to do so with care. Honesty can sometimes hurt, but the blow can be softened with a caring and empathetic approach.

  • Use questions to your advantage: Lean into open-ended questions to help the person grow in their problem-solving skills and as an outlet to strengthen their own internal motivators.
  • Ask questions from a curious point of view to understand the other person’s standpoint.
  • Ask great questions, but don’t ask endless questions. Once you get into the right area for the next steps, begin to help the conversation to a positive conclusion.
  • Avoid asking questions to an answer that you already have with a little room for variations, (think compliance, safety, etc.) In those circumstances, it’s better to give the person the answer immediately instead of making them jump through a bunch of proverbial hoops to arrive at the same answer you had in the first place.

Be the coach to others that you’ve always wanted for yourself. Be timely, actionable, caring, and specific as you help your people reach their fullest potential.

Make a better tomorrow. 

How to keep your new hires around

How to keep your new hires around

Companies have a turnover problem. We see it everywhere and it’s only compounded along the record number of job openings as well. Signs at local businesses that people don’t want to work anymore (Show 292 4 phrases to remove from your vocabulary), the well-documented crisis in nursing shortages, and other examples tell the story of the importance of keeping your people around for the long term. 

A Harvard Business Review study showed that people are most likely to leave in their first year. Most companies of course don’t need HBR to tell them that; they feel the churn of the rotating door of talent in some of their most critical roles. Today we’ll discuss ways to keep your people engaged so that they stick around to the first year and far beyond. 

Understand why 

The first step in building out a plan is to understand the reasons why the largest groups of people are leaving. I’ve spoken with and advised organizations that will inherently point to compensation as the reason why. While money and benefits may be a factor, it will never be the only factor at play in the reasons behind leaving. Invest the time on the front end to understand what some of the true reasons are.

Where to look

  • Learn from those that wrapped their first year recently. What kept them around? What were their struggles? What do they feel like they missed? This will be one of the most valuable places to gather this important info.
  • Learn from the leaders of the population that you are solving for. What do they see? What are some of the common skill gaps of new people? 
  • Talk to peers, partners, and others to affirm or add context to what you learned from the first two groups. 
  • Poll those that left. This is a great practice to have in place as long as it is in conjunction with some of the other fact-gathering activities. Often times ex-employees won’t give you the full reason or they may over-exaggerate a point based on a bad personal experience. 

Leverage your findings to build out a plan

Regardless of industry, you’ll typically find a combination of compensation, support to be successful in the role, a sense of connectedness to others, and purpose in their work to be some of the major reasons that you may need to care for. 

Now that you have the power of that knowledge to know where to go, you need to consider how to get there. Look at how your vulnerable population works. Are they office based with strict performance and time expectations? Perhaps they are mobile; always on the move. Maybe they are mostly working from home or in a hybrid work environment.  

For your program to be successful it must meet the person where they are and resonate with who they are, what they need, and how and when they need it. Using the three examples above, if you created one program to try to care for them all, you would inevitably fail at all three. Leverage multiple layers into the program to help meet people’s different learning styles and communication preferences. I prefer to include virtual meetings, mentoring, one-on-one coaching, and self-paced learning (using audio, video, and practical exercises) 

Assess data and storytell

Access your program at the 90-day, 6-month, and year mark to see what adjustments need to be made. I don’t think that there is a single program that I have launched over the years that didn’t change in some regard by the end of the first year. Let go of control and ego to listen and learn from your mentors, advisors, and people that are going through the program. Make those needed adjustments to further refine the experience of your people and increase the engagement of those mentors, and advisors that are making it happen. 

The six-month and year marks are great times to pull retention data to see how your efforts are actually impacting the business. Partner with HR to get an understanding of what the full costs are when hiring for an open role (Comp, backfill expenses, recruiting expenses, loss of productivity, etc). Multiply that dollar amount by the number or percentage of people that were saved as a result of your program. This is a great way to show the bottom line impact of the hard work and clears an easier path to gain more resources to expand or enhance your program. 

Your onboarding program doesn’t have to be an overly complicated plan in order to get great results. Focus on understanding the why behind the reasons for leaving, build a solution that meets the person where they are, and follow up on potential changes. Be sure to celebrate those well-deserved wins along the way!

Make a better tomorrow. 

Addressing underperformance the right way

Addressing underperformance the right way

As leaders, or leadership teams, start to think about how to handle performance on their team for the first time, they often focus on who they deem as underperformers first. As a result, you’ll see leaders begin targetting their underperformers openly or subvertly. Mark Zuckerberg warned his employees that they were “turning up the heat” on underperformers and added, “You might decide this place isn’t for you, and that’s OK with me.”

Not exactly inspiring for an employee or for the leader that has to carry out the direction from their CEO.  Great talent wants to be involved with great leadership and if you handle underperforms the wrong way, you may get rid of your least effective people, but your best people may bail on you as well.  It’s important to tackle underperformance professionally and consistently if everyone. 

Be clear on expectations from the beginning and make them realistic

Your expectations and goals for every employee should be crystal clear. Ask yourself:

  • What do they have to do to be considered effective in their role?
  • What are the expectations on their behaviors and how they conduct their work and interact with others? (Look to your values here) 
  • What resources do they need to be successful?
  • Are the goals realistic to meet?

This clarity helps immensely as you lead others. Setting a consistent cadence of conversation also helps. Performance conversations are less likely to bubble up or to be a surprise for anyone, which reduces drama and stress in the workplace. Think about how a conversation would go if there were no ambiguity in what the person needed to do and you were checking in with them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. 

If a person is struggling to meet expectations ask them for their input on the why. The goal may not be realistic to hit under the current situation or there may be outside factors that are influencing the work that you hadn’t considered before. 

Always talk to the person before taking action

I’ve shared over the years about my interaction with leaders who just wanted to let go of people without having a conversation. I get it; they are frustrated with their limits and just want to move on. A mature leader knows that you’ve got to have those crucial conversations with others.  They will actively listen (Show 303), and attempt to understand the root cause of the issue. 

Trust is very important to help this conversation land in a positive place. When the person feels psychologically safe they will be more likely to open up and share why they are struggling. 

Shows to help with trust building

Build a plan with a clear path to rehabilitation

There are a few types of underperformers and the approach to these people changes depending on what their root issue is.

Blockers: These are people that do just enough to get by, but how they do their work is not aligned with expectations. They are also typically resistant to any kind of change that impacts them.  Help these see the impact of their decisions on themselves and others. Frame up the challenges in a way that matters to them. They likely highly value respect and honor towards themselves, helping them understand how their actions are counter to that value as they deal with others. 

Inconsistent Contributor: These are people exactly as the name describes – inconsistent. Perhaps it’s in the work that they do or you are not sure what version you are going to get of that person on a daily basis. Dig in here to understand the root cause, tighten up your cadence of check-ins and get agreement from them that they understand expectations. Call out the inconsistently plainly. It is also helpful to provide extra support and resources to help get them back on track; this could be a mentor, learning opportunities, or additional headcount support. 

Detractors: These people may not be a great fit for the organization or in the extreme case, they are all out sabotaging the team’s success.  Make sure that you have partnered with your upline leaders and HR partners here as you walk this path. Have a solidly written performance improvement plan with dates on expectations. 

Potential Gems: These people may have been great and could be great again, but today they may not be in the right role. In these circumstances, help the person find a role internally that better aligns with their gifts, talents, and aspirations. They want to do their best and likely love the organization, but perhaps they took on a role because someone asked them to, or they didn’t realize the full scope of what the role would entail. 

Overall your underperformer will likely fall into the inconsistent contributor category with detracts and blockers being more rare and potential gems being the rarest. 

Address your underperformers with empathy and care as you help them back on track with expectations. Remember that they are people too and still deserve to be treated with professionalism and respect.  Addressing the underperformance the right way ensures that you and the other person have the best chance to turn things around. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Be a scuba diver

Be a scuba diver

I love scuba diving. Between the calmness of the water, the unique experiences, and how you tune in different parts of your body that you normally don’t pay attention to, it’s a wonderful activity to participate in. 

Last summer, I attended a Scouting leadership conference at the University of Tennessee. During one of the sessions, we taught scuba basics to scouts in the Olympic pool there on campus. It was a great reminder of the leadership principles that we can model after scuba divers. 

Prepare before you jump in

The first thing that you do before exploring underwater is a proper gear check. Does your mask work correctly? Does your tank have air and are the gauges and hoses working properly? Does your vest inflate and deflate as it should? Do your fins feel right? it could be a bad day for you if you just jump in without doing the safety checks first. 

We face the same caution in our professional and personal lives, especially in areas where we are very comfortable. The ability to improvise is a great trait that serves you well in both your work and home life. The issue comes when you overuse that skill. You’re likely to come across as less professional, and your guests aren’t served as well or even consistently. More importantly, in some situations, you can be putting yourself and others in danger. 

Don’t shortcut the prep time and attention to detail that needs to happen to be successful in your role. 

Go slow to enjoy things

Time just seems to move slower underwater. There is so much to see and take in underwater! If you jump and simply swim around as much as possible, then at the end of the day there is really no difference between scuba diving at a coral reef or an Olympic swimming pool.

Life moves fast. In a few short months, we’ll dive into our time management series that gets at a core challenge: How do we manage time for ourselves and others when everyone is so busy? Run! Run! Run! is how many people operate their day (I’m guilty of this at times as well). One of the most important lessons that my mentor taught me early in my career was to slow down and spend time with my people. The work will always be there, if you finish a task another one will be right behind it. Your people however will not always be there. It’s one of the few guarantees of work. Slow down to enjoy and invest in your team. Admire the hard work and progress that the team has made. Taking time to slow down, also gives you a better appreciation of your job and the role that you play. 

Keep close to your team

When diving, you should always have a partner, and your group should always have a team leader that keeps a headcount of where everyone is. Nearly all accidents happen in part because a person was on their own. 

There is certainly a balance that needs to happen between micromanaging (Show 314, 315) and undermanaging (Show 325)
In the middle of that spectrum is a leader that gives their people the space that they need, but also the support that they want in order to be successful. 

  • Have a regular cadence of check-ins that makes sense for you and the other person. 
  • Listen and learn about things going on outside of work. 
  • Observe how they interact and accomplish their work. 
  • Coach in the moment instead of letting things escalate. 

Keeping close to your team is important for the health of the team and the individual. 

Panic = more problems

Sometimes things can get weird while diving. Perhaps the air regulator malfunctions, you get turned around or disoriented, or you have an unexpected encounter with wildlife. The worst thing that you can do as a diver in those moments is to panic because it only agitates the situation further. Divers are trained to remain calm, signal for help, and surface in a timely fashion if it is safe to do so. 

It is guaranteed that things are not going to go your way every day. In those moments of chaos, others will look to you to set the tempo and demeanor. Panic and surely they will as well. Remember to remain calm, and let the initial emotion wash through you as your brain needs a moment to catch up and then react. Your initial reaction is often not the best one. 

Be like the scuba diver. Prepare for your week, take some time to slow down and enjoy the work, spend time with the team, and don’t panic if things go off the rails. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Be a rower

Be a rower

I love the sport of rowing. It’s exciting to watch the boats as groups of 4-8 rowers work in unison to get the small vessel, sometimes only as wide as your waist, to the finish line. It’s not uncommon for these races to come down to the wire with a second or less separating the leader from other contenders. 

From the training to the race, there are quite a few things that you can model in your leadership based on rowers. 

As Mike and I have taken the journey to get stronger and better shape, one activity that we both have picked up is rowing (on machines in our homes). It’s a fantastic full-body exercise that can be as challenging as you want it to be. 

Rowing is also a great sport to watch and participate in, with races usually coming down to a second or less 

Focus on the present when things get real

All the training is well and good until things get real and the situation doesn’t go as planned. When you think of Olympic-level champions, you may not think of Canada, but they won Olympic Gold at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. 

One of the rowers, Adam Kreek, does a great job of telling an engaging story of their win that day. They raced enough to know that it would take the team 220 strokes to get to the finish line. He tells about the millions of strokes that were put in during the training just for it all to be reduced down to 7 strokes. Don’t worry about the other 213 strokes. Their coach had them put in 7 solid strokes, all out, and then refocus for 7 more. 

There are a lot of distractions going on during the short amount of time that the race happens. (the crowd, the other boats, your teammates, your pain, etc) Adam shares how a distraction got the best of him for just a split second causing him to lose control of his oar. Both he and his called out to focus on the present. He was able to recover and the team moved on to victory. 

Adam’s loss of focus could have easily cost his team the gold. In the military, we are taught that a loss of focus at the wrong time can cost you and others their lives. When a situation gets critical in importance and timing, stress consistency in order to be successful, help your teams stay laser-focused on what is directly ahead of them. One of the teams that I work with were struggling with a project that could have long-term implications for thousands of people, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The issue was that the debate about the long-term was costing us work on a short-term solution that needed to be settled that week. My mantra became, “Let’s focus on what we have to fix today so that we can have a chance to influence the future.” Once they changed their focus to the present, we were able to knock out a solution in under 24 hrs. 

Embrace a group ego and shared leadership

I firmly believe in the power of servant leadership and the thought of others over self. At the same time, I also believe that there is power in group ego. One of my proudest accomplishments during the operations-focused part of my career was restoring a region that was previously the most respected and highest-performing area but had lost its way. I leaned hard into shared success and touted the pride and honor of being a part of our team. Leaders bought back in and began owning their part of our success. In just two short years, we did it, restoring sales success and lowering turnover tremendously through the process. 

The best rowers embrace the same mentality. Adam owned his error in the race. He called himself out and kept moving forward. That year at the Olympics, the Canadian team was catching all kinds of attention for what was regarded as unsportsmanlike conduct. The guys weren’t provoking anyone, but they were so sure of what they had built that they simply ignored the competition, because they felt the only true competition was themselves – to either win it or lose it. 

Do your people take authentic pride and joy in being a part of your team? Is it propped up in a superficial way or will it wether any proverbial storm? Here are some tactics to begin to instill that in the teams that you are a part of. 

  • Share the vision of where you want to go. Help them see the Why and the future state that you are trying to move towards. 
  • Brag on each other’s progress. 
  • Share examples of how the team is influencing the larger strategy. 
  • Share feedback that you are getting about the team
  • Share customer stories about the group. 
  • Celebrate and spread the news as others reach their career goals as a result of being on the team. 

Create a team of leaders

The Canadian coach would tell Adam and the team that rowing was 90% athletic skill and 10% leadership. He lived that out as the team collapsed during the Olympics prior to their gold medal run.  

The team had the first half of shared leadership down – a strong vision of the goal and how to get there. They lacked the power of the second half – they heavily relied on their coach for inspiration, direction, and accountability. Once they leaned into the power of leadership in each other, they unlocked a whole new level of potential. They no longer needed the coach to call out opportunities. Each was brave enough to do it themselves. The team’s point person ebbed and flowed depending on the situation and individual strength of the other rowers on the team. 

Serve your team by building a group of leaders that is not dependent on your singular focus and vision. Your team will be better served, more adaptable, and have higher success as a result. 

Sometimes success comes down to the inches and the details of the work that you and others do for your shared success. Adam’s team won the gold medal by a little over one second, which equates to 220 inches. How many strokes did it take the team from beginning to end? 220! They beat the next-best team by one inch per stroke. 

Build pride in your team, help everyone own their responsibility, lower the focus down as things get challenging, and create shared leadership along the way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Be a dolphin

Be a dolphin

Dolphins are loved across the world for their intelligence, playfulness, and curiosity. You’ll likely be hard-pressed to find a person who has a grudge against dolphins unless you are John Oliver.  There are several things that we can learn from dolphins to apply to our own leadership and life walks. 

They put others above themselves

Dolphins are very social in nature. As opposed to sharks, who live a solitary life, dolphins live in and operate in groups, called pods, ranging in size from 5 – 30. They live, eat, and sleep together and will always come to protect others in their pod where there is danger.  They understand the importance of the group and will put themselves in danger in order to help others. 

Do you find yourself living and working a solitary life like the shark, or do you do your best to contribute and raise the value of the whole team? Spend some time today thinking about your contributions to the teams that you are a part of. Celebrate those partnerships and the impact that you are having! We’ve done a number of shows on teamwork including:

They openly share knowledge and information

Another great quality about dolphins is their willingness and ability to teach others in their pod. Older dolphins will focus on hunting skills and other activities and attributes for younger dolphins to thrive as they grow. 

It’s said that knowledge is power and that is certainly true. Some co-workers will leverage knowledge as collateral in their role, hoarding info for a sense of power and safety. The behavior is rooted in a sense of safety; if I am the only one that knows how to do a task, then I should be invaluable. 

Good leaders and partners know the power of letting go of knowledge instead of hoarding it for themselves. You often can make yourself more promotable by showing that you have developed your replacement as you interview for the next role. Openly sharing your skills and knowledge also provides you an opportunity to delegate tasks and responsibilities that free you up to do new and different things yourself. 

They shift leadership responsibilities

Dolphins are very social and even though they live in pods, there is no clear-cut leader based on seniority or dominance. Leadership is fluid and natural. The leader will change depending on the situation around them and the strengths and abilities of the individuals in the group. They are egoless in nature, willing to step up and lead when needed but also just as willing to give up the spotlight and let another member of the pod shine. 

I love this approach to leadership and often try to model it in my own life. Give those around you a chance to shine and lead when the situation is right. I will look for opportunities for the junior members of my teams and those I work with a chance to take on a part of the project or at speaking opportunities in front of a senior leadership group in order for them to get experience and recognition. The other bonus is that they often are the subject matter expert or they bring a whole host of knowledge and experience to the table that I do not have, which only makes the solution to the problem all the more stronger. 

They are playful & curious

You’ve probably seen videos, or even experienced for yourself, the playfulness and curiosity of dolphins. They are known to check out passing ships in the wild, they enjoy playing in waves, and all around enjoy their lives.

Life is full of change and it seems like we are always in multiple serious world events happening at the same time. Add that on top of all the challenges that happen to you as an individual and it can get overwhelming. Remember to enjoy the small moments that happen throughout the day. I’ve been in a season of constant meetings, so for me having a chance to spend a few moments with my sweet little dog between meetings is great. Also, be mindful to set a block of time every day to do something for yourself that you enjoy. That may be some exercise, a hobby, or watching a show among other things. It doesn’t have to be a large amount of time, anything to help break up your day and to give your mind a chance to engage in a different way is helpful. 

Be the dolphin by leaning into the power of teamwork, freely give your knowledge away, let go of ego while leading, and remember to take some time to have some fun along the way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Be the record

Be the record

Vinyl records have certainly made a comeback over the last several years and now account for over a Billion dollars a year in sales. New Vinyl factories are being built to handle the large surge in demand and more are jumping into the vinyl collecting community every day. 

My dad had a massive Vinyl collection, probably over 400 albums at its largest. It was a big part of my music history growing up and if you’ve been following the show for a while, you know that I started my own collection at the end of 2021. There are several things that we can take away from vinyl to apply and model in our own leadership walk. 

Greatness unlocked

The vinyl itself blows my mind when I think about it. Despite all the different widths and thicknesses that you can find them in, records are all the same – a round vinyl disc. The vinyl is carved with grooves and those grooves are read into unique music by the needle and speaker. That means that every song that has ever been made or will ever be made in the future is already on the disc – it’s just a matter of carving it out. 

Much in the same way, there is greatness in you as well just waiting to be carved out as you strive for your fullest potential. There are many ways that you carve out your unique songs and stories along your leadership journey. 

  • Life experiences that refine your character
  • Learning new skills by doing them over time
  • Continuing your personal and professional knowledge through training, classes, and even podcasts like this one
  • Interactions, both good and bad, with co-workers, family members, and others

Run at your own pace

Vinyl usually plays at one of three different speeds (33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, or 78 RPM) The grooves are cut into the record at this speed and typically impact the sound quality depending on the quality of the cut. When you play a record at a speed that it’s not meant to be played at it either sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks if it’s too fast or an octave-lowered slow jam if it’s too slow. It’s certainly not how you want to enjoy your music. 

Be authentic by going at the pace that you were made for and carrying yourself in a that is true to who you are. You’ve seen it before – a person trying so hard to be something different that they are and struggling as a result (See shows: Don’t try too hard #136 & Promote yourself the right way #159) Stay in your proverbial groove so that you are playing your song in a way that attracts others. 

They require care and maintenance

Neha and I have talked before about the process of maintaining our records. Her husband is a little more meticulous than I am, but I am mindful to keep mine in good shape so that will hold its value for a long time to come.  The maintenance can be intimidating at first though. I remember when I got my record player in the mail, it came with white cloth gloves to assemble it. That instantly made me know that I had to be extra careful! There are brushes, sprays, and washes to keep everything nice and clean, you also have to be mindful of how you store them as well. 

Isn’t it the same way as we attempt to take care of ourselves?

It can be quite intimidating and so much easier to put off for tomorrow, but we’ve talked many times about how time is the worst enemy that you will ever face in leadership and in life. Sure putting care off today, may not be bad but a day can easily lead to a week and then a month on to a year.  Here are some shows and resources to help you stay on top of your personal care:

Take care of yourself so that you will play well today and years from now. No one likes a warped or broken record. 

No matter whether you are working on your EP or your double-length LP,  remember to keep refining yourself as you discover those next big hits, find and stay in the groove that’s right for you and take care of yourself. You’ll be setting yourself up for long-term success both at work and at home. 

Make a better tomorrow.