Finding leadership in running

Finding leadership in running

Being an athlete is a state of mind which is not bound by age, performance or place in the running pack. 
-Jeff Galloway

Jeff Galloway is a world-famous runner and coach who popularized interval training, or the Run, Walk, Run method as he calls it. We have become great friends over the years and I’ve had the honor to run several races with him and his wife Barbara. No matter if we are at mile one, or mile 12 he leads himself well and encourages everyone that he comes in contact with. 

I love Jeff’s quote because it captures the right thought process and mindset for runners and athletes. You could also easily replace a few words and see how it applies to our leadership walk. 

 Being a leader is a state of mind which is not bound by age, what others do or your place in the organization. 

There are several leadership lessons that we can learn from running. 

Patience leads to strength

It seems like all things worth doing are at least a little bit challenging to start, otherwise, everyone would do it.  It might feel discouraging after your first couple of runs. Keep at it and your strength will increase. It may also feel discouraging when you are in a new role and things aren’t happening as fast as you wanted them to. Keep at it and remain confident that your work is going to pay off.  

Consistency is key

I ran over 100 races between 2016-2018. It got to the point where I was running so many races that I didn’t need to run very often between events and I still could perform well. It culminated with my second ultra marathon. (Passing the Baton podcast #128: What 37.5 miles taught me) I did two things after that race.  #1 I stopped running. #2 I ate everything in sight. That pattern went on for five months. I gained about 20lbs and needed to get back in the swing of things to get my health back where I wanted it. 

My first run was a beautiful 56 degrees in Atlanta.  I should have had a great run but instead, I got ripped to pieces. My legs were killing me, my foot injury flared up and I clocked my slowest time in over 4 years. I knew I was going to be off my A game, but I didn’t realize it would be that much. 

Your leadership is the same way. You are going to pay some type of consequence if you let off of your standard, stop pushing yourself for growth, or fail to hold your team accountable. The consequence could be as small as some missed sales with customers or as large as being passed over for the promotion that you always wanted. Stay consistent to avoid the pains of ramping back up to your standard. It’s definitely easier to keep it going that it is to start all over. 

It is what you make it

Your enjoyment of running is exactly what you make of it. If you find some running friends or make it about the journey, you get a much more fulfilling experience. If you only focus on the negatives, (pain, tiredness, time investment, etc) then you’ll never like it and you won’t perform well. Likewise in your leadership and life walk, if you only focus on the excuses and circumstances that hold you back, you will never have fun or reach your greatest potential. 

Know who you are

Too many people think that because they aren’t “fast” that it means that they are not runners. If you are getting out there and hitting the road, trail or treadmill, you are a runner. It’s a state of mind, just as Jeff said.  You don’t have to lead 100 people to be called a leader. Do you lead yourself well? Do you try to help by being a great example for others? Then you are a leader. You don’t need a title before you can become a leader any more than a runner needs a medal before they call themselves a runner.

Running can teach us patience, the ability to find joy in the journey and how we can build strength through our consistency. Enjoy your run and your role as a leader. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

*You can catch some of the race recaps of my runs with Jeff and Barbara over at

Finding leadership in video games

Finding leadership in video games

We don’t get to choose how we start in this life. Real greatness is what you do with the hand that you’ve been dealt. 
-Victor Sullivan

(Character from Uncharted video game series)

It’s safe to say that video games have firmly established themselves in most people’s lives in some form. The latest PlayStation console has sold nearly 100 million units. Games dominate the sales in Apple’s app store and people make a living by recording themselves playing games. Gaming has become a serious business.

Leadership and gaming don’t naturally go hand in hand. In fact, while doing research on the topic, I found many open debates among the gaming community about the value that a game has on your leadership abilities. While there is not currently a “leadership game” there are several benefits that gaming can give us as we grow our leadership. 

It pays to be organized and notice the small things. 

Games have become so much more complex than the Donkey Kong days. Red Dead Redemption 2 has been one of the most popular games of the last year. In the game, you play as a cowboy as you struggle with life living in a posse.  That’s a deceptively simple concept. To get everything, you have to keep up an extensive list of animals that you kill, parts that you collect and then you have to find items and other secrets. I had to write out a list while playing it just to keep track of it all.

Games can teach us the value of organization and to look and enjoy the small things in life. My favorite moments in Red Dead Redemption 2 are the small details that you only see if you slow down long enough and look. It’s a great lesson for us as we all try to hurry through the day and week. 

Solid teamwork saves the day.

By far the most popular online team battle game out there is Fortnite. With over 200 million downloads, you can play with three other people in a team to defeat the other players and win the game. You have to have great teamwork and coordination in order to have any chance at a win. It’s easy to spot the teams that work together in the game. They stick together and support each other. Most teams split up, do their own individual thing and get picked off.

Just as in real life, playing on a great team is fun and rewarding. It takes work, effort, sacrifice, and communication. You learn those lessons as you get better in team-based games. 

Other benefits

  • Decision-making skills. Many games change as you make decisions along the way. Your game could end dramatically different than mine because of the choices that we made as we played. Many games will show you the benefits and consequences of the choices that you make. 
  • Being a great winner/loser. A gamer needs the self-awareness here to grow, but games can help us be better winners and losers in life. No one likes a sore winner or loser. Don’t gloat in the win and don’t throw a fit if you lose. 

The longer you play, the higher the difficulty. 

Every game out there increases in difficulty the longer that you play it. It’s the continuing challenge and the story that makes a game great. What you do early on prepares you for the next chapter or level. Isn’t life the same way?  You start off carefree, with little responsibility and you become stronger and wiser as life goes on. Your circumstances certainly become more complicated, and you use the lessons and relationship that you built earlier to help you make it through your current challenge.  

You may not walk away from a game and become an instant high performing leader. You can, however, learn little life lessons along the way that you can transfer to how you lead yourself and your team. Just be sure to avoid putting “I won Victory Royale 5 times in Fortnite” on your resume or college application. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Finding leadership in puzzles

Finding leadership in puzzles

My family really enjoys doing puzzles. It gives us an activity that we can all work on together and separately that doesn’t involve technology. Sometimes it’s a very passive activity. We’ll work on it for a few minutes and walk away. Other times it’s the three of us going at it for a 30-minute session.  I realized that puzzles can teach us a bit about leadership during my most recent puzzle session with my wife. 

Sometimes in leadership, you walk into a mess

When you first open the box to a new puzzle, it’s a chaotic mess.  The fun of puzzles is putting it all back together and establishing order where there was chaos. Life in your leadership walk will be exactly the same. Sometimes you’ll walk into a 250 piece puzzle size mess that you can easily put back together and other times it will be a 3,000 piece monster that takes a team effort to accomplish. 

Knowing that problems are going to happen and embracing them instead of focusing on how they impact you, will help you get the puzzle together quicker. 

Be clear on your starting points

You’ve got all the pieces spilled out on to the table. Now what? You’ve got to pick a clear starting point and go from there. My wife loves to knock out the edge first and doesn’t like to even look at anything else until that is done. Only after the edge is put together does she then plan what her next focus point will be. 

It can be overwhelming when you walk into a very complex challenge or problem. Assess the situation, and chose what you feel is the most logical and impactful starting point. Communicate the plan to the team so that they can be effective in their work towards the common goal. 

As much as you may want to, you can’t do everything at once. Sharon often reminds me of this point as we work on our puzzles together. (And that’s how this topic came to be!)

Embrace other people’s styles

We all have our own unique styles and ways that we go about accomplishing a goal. Make sure to embrace other people’s styles as you work toward the goal. Sharon and I are very different in our approach to how we work on our puzzle. She pulls out the pieces, organizes and works on sections. I have the odd ability to look at the pile and pull out individual pieces and know where they fit.  Together we make a pretty good combination in reaching our goal. 

If we bickered about our different approaches, we would become very ineffective to the point that it could impact our relationship. Instead of fighting someone’s unique style, look for ways that the person can contribute in a positive way to your team’s effort. 

There are no easy walks for a good leader. Be prepared for those times when you walk into a mess. Formulate your plan, embrace your team’s unique makeup and have fun along the way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Finding leadership in Legos

Finding leadership in Legos

You probably have, had or know someone who has Legos. They are the little building blocks that have inspired generations and grown from small playthings to multimedia pop culture icons. These little playthings can teach us a few things about leadership and life. 

The function is far more important than the color.

At the end of the day, the color of a lego really doesn’t make any difference. The function of the piece is far more important. You’ll likely see more multicolored custom builds than the pristine sets that you paid good money for.  Below you’ll find a 7500 piece Millennium Falcon that you can buy for a mere $800. To the right is the same ship that a guy built using pieces that he had at home. It may look crazy, but they both function exactly the same. 

In the same way, the value you bring to those around you matters so much more than what you look like on the outside. You, the scuffed up bright neon 2×3 brick, works exactly the same and has the same value as the new gold brick of the same size in the build. Remember that as you invest in others. Someone’s outward appearance isn’t always the best indicator of the value that they can bring you. 

The more there are, the more valuable they become.

A lego by itself is not inherently useful, but combine it with others and its value begins to shine. That Millenium Falcon is an amazing piece because 7500 pieces came together in a unique way. 

You are a talented individual that has a very special and unique skill set. You can do so much more when you combine those skills with others. Sometimes you may be the shiny cockpit piece that everyone sees, and sometimes you may have to be the very small piece in the middle that no one will notice but holds the foundation. Embrace the part you play, be willing to let others shine and come together for the common good. 

Life can imitate Legos.

Your day, week, month and year can look like a scoop out of a child’s Lego bin. It’s chaotic, looks random, and doesn’t appear to really be anything. You have the choice and the power to create something great with what you are given. Some let their pieces sit, others put them back. You, on the other hand, can use your imagination to create something truly fantastic out of “nothing.” 

Just like the flying ice cream truck with laser cannons, no build lasts forever. The same goes for what we hold on to in life. Every material thing eventually breaks or goes away. Legos teach us a good lesson to enjoy the things we have when we have them, without holding too close to them. This has been a lesson I’ve learned over the years and it has made me appreciate the moments as they happen and not get too tied up in material possessions. Love it when it’s there and move on when it’s gone. 

Be the Lego. Spark creativity, imagination and create things never thought of before. 

Build a better tomorrow. 

Are your morals for sale?

Are your morals for sale?

The choices you made in the past do not define you. What you choose to do today and going forward does.

What value do you put on your morals, values, and ethics? Are your morals something that you highly value and would never give away, or something that perhaps you’d trade for? Would a new car do it? A new house? Everyone has a point where an ethical choice will cause them to pause. 

Your morals will require courage

Regardless of if you are on the playground or the boardroom, you are going to face choices where you’ll have to decide on compromising your morals or not. Sometimes there is little consequence and sometimes you’ll risk everything in order to stand for what is right. It’s important to have the courage to take a stand in those moments.  Build a good sense of what your values are and then have the managerial courage to step up and stand for what you believe in. Who is more at fault, the leader who makes poor decisions or the follower who knows better but stands aside and lets it happen?

Check in with yourself from time to time

I doubt that many people out in the world wake up one day and just decide to throw away their moral and ethical compass. It usually happens in baby steps and you find yourself in a situation that you never imagined yourself in. 

I learned this lesson in a leadership course in the military. We were dropped off in the swamp with nothing but a compass and a heading. The course was so long and winding that even walking off by one degree would mean that you had a good chance of missing your final destination. Three degrees? Guaranteed that you weren’t going to end up where you wanted to be. To stay on course, you needed to stop, check your surroundings and verify that you were still on the right course.  The same applies in life with your moral compass. You need to check in with yourself from time to time to make sure that you are on the correct heading. Failing to do those self-assessments may lead you to drift off of your desired path. 

It’s rarely too late to turn the ship around

It’s rarely too late to walk back from compromising, unethical and immoral decisions. You may be called accountable for the decisions that you make, but you have the power to choose to step back on the correct path. The choices you made in the past do not define you. What you choose to do today and going forward does.  Accept responsibility, ask for forgiveness and reset yourself and your decision-making process. 

No one’s perfect and it’s unreasonable to expect yourself and others to lead themselves flawlessly every day. As a strong leader in your home, school or business you are called to lead yourself and your team in an honorable way. Hold onto your values and moral compass like a prized possession. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

How to own your own personal development

How to own your own personal development

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your job had a personal, unique development plan that gave you a step by step guide on how to grow and develop yourself and your career? I’m sure that it’s out there, but it extremely rare to find this in the workplace. Kornferry recently conducted a survey with managers that ranked over 60 leadership skills. Development came dead last. 

Hope is not lost though. You can greatly influence your own personal and professional development. 


A great mentor can be a game changer in your personal development. They can give you a neutral view of the personal and professional challenges that you face and can provide you with a perspective that you haven’t thought of yet. A good mentor will also have your best interest in heart, so they will likely challenge your thought process, encourage you to try new things and help you grow in areas that you didn’t realize needed growth.

Advocate for your development

It can benefit you to ask your boss, HR or senior leader about personal development opportunities. While they may not have a personalized development program, they may have funds available so that individuals can attend a conference, go to school or purchase books. Conferences and certification organizations will often have a section on their website where you can print off material to show your leader the value that the company would receive from the conference/certification.  

I would suggest starting small and advocating for any larger items as you begin to budget for the next year. If you are in the interviewing phase, you can ask about this option, just wait until you get deeper into the process first. 

Become an expert in an area of increasing importance in the company. 

As you see your department or organization shift in priority, get ahead of the change and learn what you can about the initiative. Do research on what others are doing in the same space and learn from them. Educate yourself so that you can begin to speak with authority as the changes are discussed. This will help your professional worth grow as your leaders seek your input. 

Following this strategy helped me immensely in my career growth. becoming the expert in the new area caused me to have new business relationships, more influence and I grew my own knowledge along the way.  Enjoy the attention that you will get in this process and be willing to let it go and grow in a new area when the time comes. 

Get feedback

Another free way to start your own development is to ask for feedback from your peers, mentor and upline leadership. You will need to prove to the other person that you can freely take the feedback without defensiveness so that you can get an honest answer. Use other’s assessments to improve in your own knowledge and skill set. 

You own your development.  Take control of your growth and grow your career and personal relationships. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Having the persistence to excel

Having the persistence to excel

Persistence: The fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
-Oxford Dictionary

The act of continuing on in spite of difficulty or opposition. Some people would call that foolishness. Why keep at something that is not working out? Others see it not as a reason to stop, but as a reason to keep at it. Many of our most cherished accomplishments come from our persistence to keep going. Here are a few keys things to remember as you look to increase or strengthen your own persistence.

Find your fire (motivation)

What is your motivation? What is the why behind your goals or what you want to accomplish? You may have to ask yourself that question a couple of times to get to the true root of your motivation. An example would be that I want to get a new job. Why? Because I don’t have an opportunity to grow my career. Why do I want to grow my career? Because I don’t like to simply maintain the status quo. Why? Because I find value in the challenge and love building new things. 

We had to go three deep to determine the motivation, but we found that it wasn’t as simple as a motivation to get a new job. That person is driven by the need to build and be challenged. Knowing your true motivator will help you on your journey to reach their goal. Make sure your fire is hot, bright and you are highly motivated and focused to meet the goal. 

Stay in a positive mindset

It’s important to keep a positive mindset in the face of adversity and setbacks. It’s a guarantee that it is going to rain on your fire. Someone will try to snuff out your fire either inadvertently or on purpose. l.  We’ve talked before about overcoming your mental obstacles. (Passing the Baton Episode 109) Those tips will help you during this time. 

Find ways to keep yourself motivated and in a positive frame of mind. Some people write themselves encouraging notes and leave them up around the house and car. Others journal about the positive things that happened to them that day. My family is doing a project where we write out something that we enjoyed about the week and we put it in a large jar. At the end of the year, we plan to take everything out and reflect on the great things that happened this year. 

Set up your accountability

Set your goals and share them others. It’s a way that I have found to hold myself accountable to reaching my own goals. I was on the fence about pursuing a certification in talent development. It was expensive, nearly all self-guided at that point, and a majority of people don’t pass it the first round. I was in a leadership meeting where we were asked to share a goal for ourselves for the year. I stood up claimed the certification as my goal and then that was it. I was fully in then! Letting my peers know kept me accountable to reach my goal. After many hours of studying and practice, I received my certification on the first pass 6 months later. 

Accept the criticism and failures along the way

Take criticism and learn from it instead of dismissing it or letting it drag you down. I try to look at everything that doesn’t go like I had planned for or hope and try to find the lesson to be learned. Sometimes it was a lesson on how I could improve myself and other times it was a lesson to not repeat the mistakes of others. You are going to have haters and naysayers and that’s actually an ok thing. When you are surrounded only by those that agree with you and love you, you won’t be challenged to keep improving. 

Find your motivation. Stay positive in the face of adversity and learn along the way. Your persistence can help you achieve goals that you thought weren’t possible. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

How do you change someone’s behavior?

How do you change someone’s behavior?

We usually have the best intentions with people. We want them to change their behavior for the betterment of themselves and others.  We give advice, offer solutions and blatantly point out shortcomings in our effort to get people to change. We then get frustrated when the change doesn’t occur! In our quest to help someone, we actually damage the relationship. 

What not to do.

Here are some tactics that people typically utilize when they try to change behavior that just don’t work. 

1. Shaming. You drag someone over to the problem/issue and let them have it. It’s similar to what many people do when their dog goes to the bathroom in their house. It certainly makes the person feel bad about themselves but does nothing to inspire them to permanently change. 

2. Pleading. A common tactic in parenting. “Will you please just do your homework? I would be so happy if you would clean up your mess in the living room.”

3. Threatening. Used at home and at work by poor leaders. “If you don’t get your project in on time I’m going to fire you. Keep showing up late and watch what happens.”

4. Incentivizing. Used in both home and work environments. “If you do that, I will give you this.” The problem is that the behavior change is temporary and will likely slip back into old habits once the thing you give them goes away. 

5. Helpful. This one will actually work from time to time but is not a guaranteed solution. This most often comes across as our advice to a person. “When I struggled to make it to school on time, I started setting an alarm and setting my clothes out the night before. I started getting my projects in on time when I started to use a calendar system to help me stay on track of my tasks.”

Sometimes the person makes the connection and will change, but don’t be frustrated when they continue in their old habits. 

Do these things instead. 

Changing behavior is possible and not as hard as people imagine as long as they keep on the proper framework. 

1. Build their confidence. Start off acknowledging and praising their behavior and contributions. 

  • Home: “Thank you for cleaning up your toys in the living room. You did a great job and your mom is going to be so happy when she comes home. I’m going to brag about you to her!”
  • Work: “I can tell you really put some thought and time into this project. It’s obvious that you care about it and your team.”

2. Make it a team effort. Present the change in a way that you will partner together to accomplish and not one that you are handing out for them to tackle alone. 

  • Home: “Did you see how much your mom loved that you cleaned the living room? We are going clean up so that she comes home to a clean room every day. We’ll do it together.”
  • Work: “We’ll work together on the next project to make sure that it is really polished and ready to present in the meeting. Janet is great at editing and can help us as well.”

3. Track the progress. Give the person something tangible to work on so that they know if they are making progress or not. 

  • Home: “Our goal is going to be to clean up every weekday before mom comes home.”
  • Work: “Our goal is to have no errors slip through to the final presentation and that you feel confident on the day of the presentation.”

4. Give them the tools needed to be successful. They will be successful when you give them the tools and the process to reach the change. 

  • Home: “I’m going to get us a bigger toy box so that we can get everything off the floor nice and neat.  Do you want to go with me to the store to help pick one out?”
  • Work: “Send your project over to Janet to proofread for you. She will help smooth out grammatical and layout items, and then you and I can run the presentation together to help build your confidence before the meeting.”

Evaluate how you are doing in your communication. No one’s perfect. How often are you trying to change behavior in a way that is not impactful? Follow the right path to see people grow out of their bad habits. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Holding to Humility

Holding to Humility

You never know if you’re really humble, but you can know if you do humble things.
-Erwin McManus

Leaders are great at making plans. Think about yourself and the leaders you know. They usually are working off some kind of goal, plan or vision. You likely have a plan on what you want to do after you graduate, what your dream job is or where you want to be where you retire. Buying a house, starting a family, preparing those children for a good future….lots of plans. What about our character?

We have a tendency to let our little Jiminy Cricket guide us as we make decisions. Our character is something that we use daily in decision making, but also something that we rarely take time to actually develop. 

Humility in a practical sense

Humility can be tough to pinpoint, that is one reason why you don’t hear about many humility training courses out in the world. Who wants to take a class on humility anyway? Probably not many. There are some practical pieces to work on and consider with humility.

  • A willingness to let go of power.
  • An admiration of humble people. 
  • A desire to learn and be taught by others. 
  • Truly accepting and celebrating other people’s victories.
  • The ability to give up the personal spotlight in order for the team to meet a goal. 

Spend time preparing

Set some time aside periodically to invest in your heart and the whys that drive you as both a person and a leader. This doesn’t mean you have to go off in solitude every month. (But maybe a trip every now and then would help.) It could be that you volunteer for those less fortunate, you may go to a class to learn a hard or soft skill that you haven’t mastered. Do something that’s 100% about others and not yourself. It’s a very rewarding experience. 

Spotting narcissism and the key traits

The opposite of humility is narcissism. This is a person that is very self-focused as they navigate life.  

  • They have a high need for praise because their world needs to be about them. 
  • They often have an opinion that there is no one in the world that can do something better then they can. 

A narcissist also typically avoids these behaviors:

  • They fail to ask for help because they believe that a problem can’t be solved if they aren’t the ones to answer the problem. 
  • They shy away from risks because it violates their sense of self. 
  • They struggle to accept failure because the failure was someone else’s fault in their mind. 

Fight the narcissistic behaviors that can grow in yourself over time. Humility is not a sense that you are nothing. Humility is the sense that the world is not about you, but what you can offer to the world. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Are you following your Calling?

Are you following your Calling?

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well”
-Martin Luther King

I love that quote from Martin Luther King.  Often leadership profiles define calling as “Seeing the significance of the work.  Has a burning desire for the leadership position.”  I remember feeling that calling in my 2nd year as a part-time team member. It was a very specific call to work to become a manager and then fix and turnaround stores. The funny part was that the first store I was asked to lead was a brand new store. It wouldn’t be until later on where I got to fully live out that calling. Today my calling is to invest in and develop others. Here are a couple of self-check questions about your calling.

Are you doing what you are called to do? 

It’s a simple question, but it really is a gut check if you take it to heart. If this is not your calling, then I would suggest moving as quickly as possible to the area that is. When you aren’t where you are called to be, you hurt the organization you work for. They don’t get the most effective person for their needs. The person suffers because they will never fully enjoy their job. When someone communicates to me that where they are is not their calling, I do everything I can to get them there. I’ve written recommendation letters, helped people find a job in a different field and been references for interviews. If you have someone on your team that is not where they need to be; do what you can to help get them there.

A lack of calling costs the employee and the company.

A lack of calling to your profession can lead to disengagement in your job. Studies say that disengagement costs a company 30% of a person’s salary due to the loss of efficiency. You can easily do the math and see how much you are costing your organization to sit in a seat that you probably don’t want to be in. On the other hand, people who feel that they are called to be in the job that they hold have a much higher efficiency rate, job satisfaction score and a larger sense of worth.

Are you leading like it’s your calling?

So you say that what you do is your calling.  Do you lead that way? Do you lead in such a passionate and inspiring way that it’s obvious that this is what you’ve been called to do? If you answer yes, then you are in a good place and you should work on expanding your knowledge so that you can lead even better where you are. If you answered no, then you need to make some changes to get yourself motivated again. Seek councilors or mentors outside the workplace. Study what others are doing. Read a good leadership book. Take some time off. Do what you need to do to reconnect. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself unmotivated and your calling will slip right through your fingers.

Sometimes you aren’t in the specific place you are called to be, but you are working on it. That’s ok, just be the best where you are and keep working towards that goal. Being where you are called to be makes all the difference in your life and the people’s lives that you serve.

Make a better tomorrow.

How to conquer the habits that hold you back

How to conquer the habits that hold you back

We all would love to lose some weight, be more fit, have some extra financial security and have some time to enjoy life more, but our habits often get in our way to meeting our goals. Freeing yourself from your habits can be tough. I know that several of mine have held me back at times. They can be conquered and there is victory to be had when you know how to tackle it. Our goal is going to be identifying them and replacing them with a more productive habit. 

Where to start?

The first thing that you need to do is to get your eyes on the habits. It’s one thing to think of them, it’s a different thing to see them visually laid out in front of you. Write down every bad habit you have and how long you have been doing it. Take your time and be honest with yourself. For example:

  • Procrastinating – 8 years
  • Not contributing to 401K – 3 years
  • Eating too much junk food – 15 years
  • Smoking/drinking – 2 years
  • No physical activity/outlet – 10 years. 

Now that you have these written down, list the impact that these things have had on your life. How much money did you lose, time with loved ones, opportunities missed or held yourself back? For example:

  • Eating too much junk food – 15 years.
  1. Gained 28 pounds during that time.
  2. Used over 20 sick days the last 4 years.

Seeing the habit as well as the cost can be a great motivator for true change. 

Identify the triggers and replace them.

Now that you know the things that are holding you back, you need to take it a step further and find the triggers. One of my personal habits is snacking on a bunch of junk food after 4pm. The trigger was that I was bored and used to the food to fill that space. Once you find the trigger, replace it with a positive activity. In my example, I gave myself a cutoff time to eat food and I allowed myself only one snack instead of grazing. 

Take the journey to success. 

Remember that your change is truly a journey and not a switch that you flip. Here are some things to remember along the way. 

  • Focus on small, incremental changes.
  • Set times and smaller goals to hit on the way to your ultimate goal. 
  • Track your progress and celebrate the journey.
  • Hang in there and don’t get discouraged with slow growth. 

Remember a couple of things. First, that no one is perfect. Don’t beat yourself up if you stumble some on the way. Pick yourself back up and keep moving forward. Second, remember that true behavior change takes 66 repetitions to change the pathways in our brain. Don’t give up if you are only 12 reps in!

Find those habits that hold you back, replace them with a positive and begin to see your success and happiness increase. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Promote yourself the right way

Promote yourself the right way

It can be difficult to promote yourself and there is surely a little bit of an art to it. Try too hard and you show yourself as self-centered. Fail to try at all and you’ll be in the same spot you are 10 years from now. It’s possible to promote yourself and your leadership style if you take the right approach. 

Be authentic

Someone that is inauthentic is either easy to spot, or their true behavior eventually comes to light. The ability to show that you care and that you actually mean it is a great way to promote yourself and your leadership style. Be genuine in your interactions with others. Be authentic in your communication. Show real interest in other people’s conversations. 

Be prepared when being authentic. The people that are not true to themselves may try to call you out to others and accuse you of being fake. Know that this is either their own insecurity, an attempt to leverage a relationship based on poor emotional intelligence, or they are downright unethical in their personal leadership. Hold true to the fact that authenticity will win the day. 

Put others needs above your own

It may seem a little backwards to give up a sense of self in order to promote yourself, but it works. Put people’s wants and needs above your own to be successful. Instead of hoarding your talent and requiring credit for the what you do, give it away freely to those that need help; especially those that can’t offer you large career gains in return. 

This strategy adds credibility to others that you are authentic and gives you a chance for some good knowledge exchange with the other person. This has been a valuable resource for my personal leadership. A person I help may not be the exact one to help me take another step in my career, but they may teach me something that they do that helps me become a better leader. 

Promote yourself through replication

It’s one thing to say that you added $1 million in revenue from your clients. It’s quite another to say that you developed 5 other people to do the same. Invest and develop others and then they will become part of your body of work. These people will also become great advocates for you in your career journey. This approach is another differentiator because less mature leaders are trying to build their own personal profile and don’t understand the payoff of investing the time in others. 

When you replicate your success and standards, make sure that you are investing in the right way, and don’t have blinders on to the person’s ability and capacity. They are a reflection of you after all, and you want them to represent you well. 

Promote yourself the right way by building a network of people behind and beside you that are your advocates. Show your leaders you are authentic and that you add more value than the salary that you are currently earning.  Your co-workers, organization, and bank account will be thankful that you did. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Encouragement for the hurting leader

Encouragement for the hurting leader

How you define yourself determines your personal value. 
-Brian Bloye

Leadership and life are not all sunshine and roses. There are going to be times when you question your leadership, the direction of your life and the decision that you made. Some of your suffering will come from dumb decisions that you make. Others will come from things totally out of your control. 

You either just walked out of a season of hurt, or you are on the way to a time of hurt. Be encouraged that you are not alone in this journey and that you have a great deal of influence of how long that journey is. 

You are not defined by your suffering or challenges.

We all make mistakes in our leadership and in life in general. Those mistakes only define you if you allow them to. How you define yourself determines your personal value. Don’t sell yourself short by living with the failures and suffering of your life. If a lion believed that they were a house cat, do you think that they would live to their fullest potential? Would they live out their purpose? Not likely.  

Are you a lion living like a house cat because of your hurt? Do you believe that you are the lion? I do. I believe that you have so much potential to impact and inspire others. 

Don’t try to be noble and suffer alone.

Leaders who are suffering and hurting have a tendency to isolate themselves. This is inherently a male quality to begin with, so the situation only compounds the problem for you if you are a guy. Don’t try to be noble or the tough guy by trying to suffer alone. Weakness is not asking for help. Seek guidance in a counselor, minister or trusted advisor. Share your struggles with your significant other. Join an accountability group and let them help you walk out of this time. 

Isolation does little to help you climb out of your struggles. At best, it prolongs the journey to healing and recovery and but it can also lead to some serious mental and relationship setbacks. You are not meant to do life alone. You are not meant to lead alone. You are not meant to suffer alone.

Lean into your purpose in life.

Don’t give up on your yourself or your leadership. You may be the only positive influence in someone else’s life. Just as no one else knows what you truly go through on a daily basis, the same applies to those around you. There is one thing that I can almost guarantee and that is that you influence more people than you think. 

When you feel broken and hurt by people and situations in life remember your purpose here on earth. Seek help from others if you need assistance in finding that purpose. I tell the people that I coach that you should have three points to your purpose as a leader. You should be replicating more leaders like yourself. You should be impacting your organization and community for the better good. Finally, no matter what you work on, leave it better than you found it. 

Experiencing hurt in leadership is not fun. I believe that you can make it through this challenging time. Get help, know your true value and hold true to your purpose. People are counting on you. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

The Be Series: Be Mickey Mouse

The Be Series: Be Mickey Mouse

Don’t stress over anything that you can’t change. 
-Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse is an icon known around the world. You can meet him at 6 different parks around the world, watch him on his own TV channel or go to your local store and find clothing and accessories to show your love for the mouse. Sure we love him, but can we improve our leadership and life by being more like him.

Mickey’s origin was rooted when Walt needed him most. 

Mickey wasn’t the first Disney creation. Walt first created Oswald the Rabbit to much success. When going back to renegotiate his contract, Universal took ownership and hired Walt’s team out from underneath him. Walt returned home with basically nothing. It was during this time that Mickey Mouse was created. 

Mickey Mouse became the catalyst that jump-started the Walt Disney organization into the worldwide powerhouse that it is today. 

You can be that same catalyst for someone else. Who around you needs some encouragement?  Who has a ton of potential that just needs a little investment to get going? You have an opportunity to be a part of someone’s success story. Be attentive to those moments along your journey. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

At 90-years-old Mickey sure looks good and not too much has changed. His facial profile has changed a little and he’s had an outfit change or two, but for the most part, he’s the exact Mickey he was in 1928. No doubt, there has been temptation over the years to modernize him, alter his style, and change his tone to match the times. Disney has thankfully avoided those temptations and kept Mickey true to his first creation. 

Mickey is a great reminder for us to stay true to ourselves as well. Your values and moral compass are not fashion pieces that should swap out with the latest fad. Build your character on timeless principles so that you won’t be forgotten. Does anyone remember Bucky O’Hare, Mr. Bogus or Street Sharks? The reason why you (likely) don’t is that they were built around a fad instead of around character. When people’s taste moved on, those characters ceased to be relevant.  Hold true to yourself and stand up against peer and social pressure to be something that you are not. 

Mickey puts others above himself

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mickey act in a selfish way. He looks out for his friends and puts others ahead of himself. He loves on kids and parents in the parks, helps his friends in all of their crazy animated adventures and is an inclusive ambassador at special events. 

How do you make people love a mouse? You put in all the qualities that we desire to be and then you make him relatable. Suddenly Mickey is someone we can all connect with. 

Be that connection for others. Put others above yourself. That doesn’t mean that you have to let people take advantage of you, or that you never get what you want. Use the unique skills and talents that you have to help your friends, family, and coworkers. Shield pride away and stay relatable to others no matter how successful you become. Help others without an agenda of your own, have fun and catalog the memories. 

Be Mickey Mouse. Love others above yourself, stay true to your yourself and be the catalyst for change in your workplace, family and friends’ lives. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

The Be Series: Be the Rabbit

The Be Series: Be the Rabbit

Rabbits are everywhere! No matter where you live, you likely have them in or near your geographical area. They live on every continent except Antartica and there are over 305 different breeds found in over 70 countries. These cute little animals can actually teach us a good bit about our own leadership. 

Rabbits are situational awareness experts

Rabbits can turn their ears 180 degrees to pinpoint the exact location of a sound and have nearly a 360-degree field of view. These two traits keep them safe from predators. They are very aware of their surroundings and react incredibly fast when things change around them. 

A lack of situational awareness has cost employees promotions, leaders their careers, and organizations their existence.  Normally the downfall is because they have developed blind spots that lead them straight to a predator. Some areas where people/companies grow blind spots include:

  • Favoritism that causes bad hires and promotions.  
  • Ethical compromises. 
  • Failing to adapt to the changing needs and desires of the customer. 
  • Learning new skills to stay relevant in your field of study/work.

Keep aware of your surroundings and be ready and willing to move and adjust as necessary. 

The reproducing thing is true. 

The phrase reproducing like rabbits is quite a true statement.  Rabbits can begin reproducing as young as 4-6 months old and it only takes a little over a month for a new litter to be born. Poland recently used the phrase as a marketing campaign towards its own citizens in an effort to grow their population numbers. Time has a funny way of catching up to us and rabbits certainly don’t waste a moment. 

We should be the same in our efforts to reproduce great leaders. We sometimes think we aren’t worthy enough or we need to hold a certain level position before we are afforded the right and authority to influence and grow new leaders.  You can build and influence new leaders no matter where you are in your career stage in an organization. Don’t waste time. Grow and build stronger leaders around you daily. 

Each rabbit has a unique personality.

Rabbits have a unique personality and can be excited and happy that they binky. (Look it up on YouTube to waste a few minutes for cuteness) They can also become very bored, especially if they are an indoor pet and can’t get environmental stimulation. 

No matter where you go as a person or leader in your life, never lose what makes you unique. Don’t sacrifice who you are to become what you believe someone else wants you to be. I love growing and replicating leaders, but I will never ask you to become and act just like me. It’s ok to have people you look up and want to emulate but do it in a way that lets you be you. 

Be the rabbit. You are a unique individual on this planet that should stay aware of your surroundings and grow, build and strengthen other leaders for the betterment of others. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

The Be Series: Be the Turtle

The Be Series: Be the Turtle

Turtles are among the most diverse creatures on the planet. How many species of animals can you name that live in the ocean, land, lakes, and swamps? Not very many for sure. They are associated with being wise, committed, although a bit introverted. Here are some leadership lessons we can learn from these creatures. 

They are determined. 

Growing up in Louisiana, I lived in the country where we had box turtles that came through every year to lay eggs. You could pick them up and turn them around in the opposite direction and they would pull themselves in their shell, wait it out, turn back around and head in the original direction they were going. Sea turtles make the trek every few years to lay eggs at the same beaches, no doubt navigating a determined journey to get there in the process. 

When life picks you up and turns you around, how do you react? Do you pick yourself up and keep moving or let the person/circumstance keep you down? The tortoise famously beat the hare in the children’s story because of its slow and steady commitment to moving forward while avoiding distraction.  Stay determined to hit your goal or reach your journey. Don’t let discouragement set in when you don’t see immediate results or something doesn’t go as planned. 

They need to struggle to survive. 

Many turtles must struggle, some as soon as they are born, in order to survive. You’ve likely seen videos or pictures of volunteers helping on the shore as sea turtles hatch and make their crawling journey to the ocean. Why don’t the volunteers pick them up and place them in the ocean to help them out? The turtles are too weak to survive the ocean current when they are born. They gain their strength to swim during the struggle to make it down the beach. 

It’s a lesson that I believe we need to be reminded of as we go through our own personal and professional struggles. Those struggles make you a stronger, wiser and more resilient individual for the future.  Remember that as a coach, teacher, parent, and/or leader that your job isn’t to make the struggle or pain go away, you are there to help equip the person to rise up from the struggle. Otherwise, the person never gets strong enough to truly move forward. 

They look forward because they have no choice. 

Because of the turtle’s unique body structure, they have a fairly limited range of view and little to no hearing.  They have to look forward because they really don’t have any other choice. 

Wouldn’t that be nice at times? When we struggle, face defeat, and when things don’t go our way, we have a tendency to look back and focus on all the things that went wrong. “If only I had done ______ differently.”  Follow the turtle’s lead and keep yourself forward-focused. Learn from your past to change your future, instead of letting it distract you from making progress towards your goals. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

The Be Series: Be the Risk Taker

The Be Series: Be the Risk Taker

If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will gain.
-Neil Gaiman

We love our set routines and the relative safety that our jobs provide. I know I do. The best leaders don’t settle for status quo and are great risk takers for their organizations. It’s not done haphazardly without intent. It’s planned, weighed and executed. Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Here are some areas to consider when taking risks.

Be strategic.

It’s important to be well informed before you make a decision. Think through all the avenues possible on what the outcome would be. You don’t have to be totally sure about an outcome. Do you know how much certainty we needed to know about something in the military before making a decision? 60%. You would think it would be a lot higher but sometimes you just can’t get 100% confidence that what you want to do will work. (And that would likely make it not a risk) Realistically evaluate how much risk is involved and what the potential consequences could be. 

It’s also important to partner with others during the process. If it’s a big choice, involve your upline leader and include experts inside and outside your business or industry. If it’s a smaller choice, involve your leadership team and perhaps an outside perspective. 

Don’t be afraid to fail.

Starting out, I had a love/hate relationship with taking risks. I loved the idea of thinking up new ideas and strategies, but I absolutely hated failure. Hated it! The result was that I would come up with a lot of new ideas and then not really do anything about them. Don’t make my mistake: Accept failure as a part of the process of taking a risk. Once you do, you are truly freed to try new things. I eventually got over failing and then became a pro at it! 

Here are some things I tried and failed at translating to widespread success:

  • Replicating a New Years at noon event in retail stores for kids.
  • Recycling gift cards and reselling them as guitar picks.
  • The first iteration of my time management course. 
  • Multiple bands after my first successful one. 
  • Utilizing social groups as a marketing avenue beyond the local level. 

I’m sure if I really thought about it I could easily list 15-20 more. I heard a great statement from a Disney Imagineer once on ideas and failures. “A good idea never dies.” He gave examples of how some ideas took 30 years to come to life. Could some of those failed ideas above come back at some point? Maybe so (and some already have). The great thing is the knowledge of how many great things have come out of taking some risks. 

Sometimes the “failure” is just a stepping stone. 

Look no further than the Passing the Baton podcast and this newsletter as your example. Listen to the first PTB episode and listen to the newest. Although the content is relevant, there is a significant difference between then and now. The same goes for the newsletter. If you’ve been with me for the nearly 4 years that these have been going, you’ll find the first year unrecognizable from today. Don’t let perfection keep you from starting a new thing or trying something different. 

There are some risks that are out there that could harm your company and/or personal progress. If you take the right partner, follow your integrity, your policies, and your mission, then there should be very little that you would do that could not be fixed later. 

So go ahead and step out there. Your risk may be the next big world-changing idea. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Success vs. Excellence

Success vs. Excellence

Success always follows excellence. 

Chick-fil-a is quite a different fast food establishment. They are incredibly profitable, they have ridiculously long, but fast, lines at lunch and the company can’t open them fast enough. They are also closed on Sunday forgoing even more profits in order for their people to rest and go to church. 

What makes CFA so successful is that they chase excellence in everything that they do. They are more concerned about delivering a high quality, consistent experience than partnering up with the latest movie or kids show out there. CFA’s changes to their menu are very intentional and they do little limited-time fad items that so many other chains rely on for traffic. 

Chick-fil-a is so successful because they ignore the competition and focus on their own level of excellence. 

Success is measured against others. 

Success is very often tied to a measurement against something or someone else. You can see it in all stages of your life. 

  • What was your academic rank in high school?
  • How did you or your team place in a sporting event or tournament?
  • How many other candidates did you beat to get the job?
  • How did you do compared to last year’s numbers?
  • Where are you on the average salary scale?
  • How much is your house compared to the average listing in the city?

These are just a few of the ways that we measure success in our lives and in our leadership. The items listed above aren’t bad things. The problem with aiming for success is two-fold. First, while success can create more success it also creates a cycle where you are never truly satisfied. Secondly, success might not be your best. 

Excellence is measured against yourself. 

Shooting for excellence requires a bit more discipline. You can’t become distracted by what others are doing or what success they are having. You and your team have to focus on being the best that you can be. Excellence is about bringing out maximum potential and consistency in what you do. If a runner eats well, trains hard and represents him or herself well before and after the race are they a failure if they come in fourth? That person will walk away with a sense of accomplishment because they gave it their all. A person just looking for success walks away with disappointment. 

What you and your team do should be measured up against your potential, not what others have done or even what you’ve done in the past. Once you shoot for excellence, your goals begin to fall in to place and you have a greater level of satisfaction. 

Success is not bad. I want you to be successful in life. Chose the right mindset as you work towards your goals. Excellence will always set you apart in how you represent yourself, your company and your customers will notice. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

**Today we celebrate our 150th episode of Passing the Baton Leadership Podcast. Thank you all who have supported us for over three years. If you don’t get the podcast, you can download it for free at all major podcast outlets or listen to it on your CPU by clicking one of the links below. In a way, it feels like we are just getting started and have several new things in the works for the future.

Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management

Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management

The level and depth of your relationships with others is a guiding factor for your success. 

As we’ve moved through each of the three previous sections of EI, you likely noticed that each built on the one before it. That is certainly the case with relationship management. Social awareness, self-management, and self-awareness feed into success here. You may see a conflict explode at work, school or home and it roots in the person’s lack of skill to navigate the relationship successfully. It’s like a computer that gets an error and locks up. Unfortunately, you can’t control, alt, delete your way out of these scenarios. 

Understanding Relationship Management

Relationship management is the ability to build value-adding relationships with others. Notice that I didn’t say friendship.  A person strong in this area understands and realizes the value of building relationships even with people that they don’t get along with. Unless you work in a very small people environment, you’ll likely have someone that you interact with that you don’t totally get along with. 

Example of low Relationship Management

“John makes a decision about a person and that’s it. There is no changing his mind. He sees you as an ally or enemy. If he sees you as an enemy, he will let others know and will not put the effort to establish any kind of relationship. He reacts to people instead of responding to them. “

Example of high Relationship Management

“John is an artist when it comes to people. Everyone he interacts with feels valued and know that they matter. Even when John is not happy with an outcome, he communicates it in a way where you know how you missed the mark, but he’s not angry. I think I feel worse about it because I let my leader down, and I hate letting John down. He owns mistakes and is complementary to me.”

Tips to increase your Relationship Management

  • Back your decision up. When you make a decision, especially if you know it may not be a popular one, explain the whys behind it so that others understand where you are coming from. Also be open to listen to their concerns and be prepared to change if needed. 
  • Be proactive with the inevitable. When you see a conversation that needs to happen inevitably, the time to connect on it is now. Time has a way to fuel the problem and it ends with you and/or the other party boiling over.  I would rather take on a small problem than a work-stoppingly large problem that it morphs into later. When you have these conversations, be direct without emotional attachment and be sure to include your strengthened empathy and listening skills that you’ve picked up.
  • Build trust.  A couple of ways to build trust in a relationship is to first be willing to accept feedback in a constructive way. When you show that you can’t take feedback well, you lose the trust of the other person and they no longer want to help you get better. The second is to own your mistakes and failures. If you are a leader you may have to own a mistake that you didn’t even make the decision on. Being willing to do the small things like apologize, say thank you and appreciation go a long way. 
  • Acknowledge where the person is. This was an area I was really bad at before. Someone comes to you and tells you what they are going through and you do your best to quickly move on from the conversation. It may be because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t know what to say. Simply acknowledging the emotion or struggle is a great starting point.

Combine your relationship management skills along with social awareness, self-management, and self-awareness to bring your career (and personal life) to new satisfying heights.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Emotional Intelligence: Social Awareness

Emotional Intelligence: Social Awareness

The ability to read a room is just as important as the ability to read a book. 

Social awareness is all about that guy.  You know the one. He is the person that just misses everything that’s going on around them in a conversation. It’s as if they are in a totally different meeting yet they are sitting right beside you. They are usually to themselves too much or linger around too long. Luckily this is a skill that we can impact and influence. 

Understanding Social Awareness

Social awareness is the ability to see someone’s emotions and understand what is really going on in the conversation. Have you ever walked away from a meeting or conversation to later find out that the true meaning of what was communicated was not at all what you took away from it? Social awareness is the skill to see all those things while you are in it at the moment. You are contributing and correctly accessing as things unfold. It’s one thing to analyze a conversation from afar than it is being right in the middle of the conversation. Social awareness helps you to stay sharp in your surroundings. 

Example of low Social Awareness

“Well, a big thing is that John needs to listen to what’s going on in meetings instead of thinking about what he is going to say. He’s dismissive of others if it’s a different perspective or idea from his own. He gets so caught up in his own thoughts that he doesn’t notice the nonverbals going on around him. Sometimes he’s not very social and other times he lingers too long.”

Example of high Social Awareness

“John is a great active listener. You can just tell that his mind is not somewhere else when he is with you. He can pick up on the emotional undercurrent in meetings and conversations and addresses those in a way that is both respectful and load lifting. He’s very good at understanding what’s going on around him.”

Tips to increase your Social Awareness

  • Watch for the non-verbals. A person needing stronger social awareness may come across as awkward or out of touch. This is because they often miss the non-verbal social cues. Watch for body language cues that the person is ready to move on from the topic or conversation. Continuing to make your point no longer adds any value and hurts relationships with enough repetition.
  • Work on your listening skills. Another key area to a victory in social awareness is great active listening skills. Remove all the distractions in your mind and focus strictly on just listening to the other person. Don’t worry about formulating your response here. Show the person that you are listening through your non-verbals and confirmation or clarification on key points that they make.  (More help on listening can be found in Passing the Baton Leadership Podcast #60 Listening.)
  • Feel the mood. To navigate a social setting well, you need to understand the feel of the room well. If its high energy, you don’t need to come in like an Eeyore. If it’s a serious business meeting or personal matter, you may want to leave the jokes at the door. Your demeanor and communication should match up to the feel.  
  • Be fully in the moment. Make sure that you are fully there physically, mentally and emotionally in the conversation. That may mean to pack up the laptop and put away the phone so that it’s not a distraction. It may mean not taking extensive notes in a meeting. Do what needs to be done to ensure that you are fully in the moment with the person. Many people miss things because they have their head in a computer or their face glued to a screen.   

Great social awareness makes your meetings more enjoyable, your conversations more valuable and your reputation stronger.

Make a better tomorrow.