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. 

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Management

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Management

By constant self-discipline and self-control, you can develop greatness of character.
-Grenville Kleiser. 

Spotting a person with low self-management skills is easy in the workplace. They typically have outbursts, let their emotions run them down and in short become their own worst enemy. You may see this person (or be this person) and think that there is no hope. The good news is that is quite achievable if we focus on this area along with our self-awareness from last week. 

Understanding Self-Management

 Self-management is all about how you act, react or take no action at all. This piece is heavily dependant on self-awareness because you need to understand yourself and your triggers to be able to manage them well. The first step is the ability to control your reactions to tough, challenging and annoying moments. The challenge is working this into a long-term mindset. It’s easy to see you need to control yourself when someone drops a gallon of milk on the floor. It’s not as easy to understand that blowing up in a meeting may cost you the personal equity you need to push a project through six months from now. 

Example of low Self-Management

“John is quick, harsh and too much to the point. I wish he’d take some time to gather himself when things get stressful. He vents…. a lot. John also has a hard time letting other people win or acknowledging their contributions over this own. It’s not that he doesn’t care about his team. He does. He lets his emotions fully control how he leads.”

Example of high Self-Management

“John is in one word professional. He shows so much patience and empathy with everyone that he deals with. It really shows when I can see how he deals with ones that I know annoy him. He keeps a high standard, but handles his people with care and respect no matter the circumstance.”

Tips to increase your Self-Management

  • Find someone not invested in the problem. Sometimes we can get caught up in a cycle of our own emotions and negativity. It’s helpful to take the scenario or situation to someone you trust that’s not invested in the problem. They aren’t inherently attached to a thought or idea and can help guide you as you make your decision. Just make sure that the person is truly neutral and doesn’t show a biased to your decision just because it’s coming from you. (Those are called enablers.)
  • Find a skilled mentor or advisor. This is a great area where pairing up with someone who is strong in this area can benefit you greatly. They likely have little secrets and tips that they themselves use as they navigate those moments. They didn’t magically become a shining example of self-restraint. They use a toolbox that they created to ensure their success. Take their toolbox. 
  • Add some space. This can be a small space of doing math in your head or counting to 10 when you feel yourself getting angry. You might need a larger space which translates into a better sleep habit or some time off from work. Add the space needed as the situation warrants. 
  • Learn from everyone you meet. This has been a key to my personal growth as I continue to strengthen this area. Observe those you come in contact and notice how they handle themselves in tough and challenging situations.  I learned from both ends of the spectrum. I try to emulate those that show restraint and stay focused in a conversation. I also try to get an understanding of how the person is able to accomplish that piece. On the flip side, I look to learn about the whys when a person can’t control themselves, take a mental picture of the behavior and then look to avoid that same behavior. 

Good self-management allows you the opportunity to be heard, respected and gives you the chance to build trust and relationships.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Emotional Intelligence: Self Awareness

Emotional Intelligence: Self Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachments to it being right or wrong, good or bad.

-Debbie Ford. 

If there is a piece of emotional intelligence that stands out the most, it’s self-awareness. Its also the foundation that relationship management, self-management, and social awareness are built on. It’s hard to have much growth in the other three without this piece.

Understanding Self-Awareness

Before diving too deep into this subject, some mistakenly think that having self-awareness is about this long journey of traveling down the deepest darkest and most suppressed corners of your emotions and trauma. Rest assured that is not the case.  Self-awareness is about understanding what triggers you have that strike an emotional response and why you have those triggers. It’s also about what motivates (and demotivates) you, what you do well, what you need to work on and how a particular person can set you off.

Example of low Self-Awareness

“John’s stress and sense of being overwhelmed are projected on the ones that he is around. He cares for people but seems like he is in his own little world. He doesn’t understand why he doesn’t fit in and things can become awkward for the other person. If things are going well, so is John. John needs to recognize his triggers so he can respond better.”

Example of high Self-Awareness

“John understands his place on the job and his contribution to a meeting and conversations. He is a long-term planner that doesn’t sacrifice the here and now for his desired future. He understands his emotional triggers and has things in place to handle those when they happen. John does a great job of staying calm in those crazy moments we all have.”

Tips to increase your Self-Awareness

  • Quit treating your emotions as good or bad. People with poor self-awareness tend to get hung up here and linger or fret about the emotion being good or bad. An emotion is neither good or bad, how you handle yourself in the situation is what counts. You can be a sore winner and damage relationships, just as you can be kind in your grief.
  • Don’t let your mood fool you. A bad mood can influence your perception around you. Try not to give it more fuel by constantly giving it mental space. Acknowledge that it’s there and let it pass. On the other end, great moods can lower our guards and cause us to make decisions we later regret. This sometimes catches people when they make significant buying decisions during a good mood and then regret it later. There is a reason why there is a saying, “The two best days of a boat owners life are the day that they buy the boat and the day that they sell it.”
  • Know and understand your triggers. Do some self-reflection to understand what annoys you or sets you off. Go slightly deeper and look to the whys. Understanding these two pieces with help give yourself a warning as those moments take shape so you can react better.
  • Watch yourself. Once you know those triggers (Specifically and generally) Watch yourself as those begin to manifest themselves. It will help you mentally and emotionally get out in front of it when it actually happens. I do this as I prepare for challenging meetings and conversations. It has helped me tremendously over the years as I have used this tip to strengthen my self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the most important section of emotional intelligence. Strengthen this area so that you can grow how you manage yourself, your relationships and your social settings.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Emotional Intelligence: What is EQ?

Emotional Intelligence: What is EQ?

It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of head over heart – it is the unique intersection of both.
– Dan Caruso

Have you ever encountered a person that was just too book smart for their own good? How about having an excruciating conversation with someone because they don’t pick up on social cues? Perhaps you’ve interacted with someone who has no idea how they come across to others. Those are all examples of a lack of EQ and you can easily find it on a daily basis. 

What is Emotional Intelligence

As our quote from Dan Caruso says, EQ is not something that competes against IQ. In combination, they make you the person that you are. IQ is set from birth. It’s not your intelligence, but your ability to learn. Barring a medical incident, your IQ doesn’t change from a high school student to a senior executive. Your EQ, however, is very pliable and you have a great influence on being able to grow and strengthen it. 

EQ is also not an aspect that a person can compensate for or outthink with IQ or pure action. Your spinal cord is attached to the back of your brain and sends all information through the limbic (emotional) part of your brain before it arrives at your rational part. Its an unavoidable skill set that you can influence or let it dictate your potential. 

The Impact of EQ

The funny thing about emotional intelligence is that is rarely discussed or taught formally, yet it significantly impacts the work that you do. Studies show that it can account for 58% of your performance no matter your job type. It’s the single biggest predictor for performance, leadership ability, and your personal excellence.  Here are a few of the many areas that grow in correlation to your growth in EQ:

  • Stress tolerance
  • Empathy
  • Presentation skills
  • Social skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Trust
  • Flexibility
  • Customer Service

EQ is so valuable that it is tied directly to your earning potential. The higher the EQ, the higher your potential for salary. People with a high EQ make an average of $29,000 more a year than those with low EQ. It pays to increase your EQ!

There are four main areas in emotional intelligence that help us increase our EQ. We’ll cover these in detail over the next four weeks.

Self-Awareness: This may be the most important piece and is the linchpin to success with the other three sections. In other words, you can’t be strong in the other sections without good self-awareness. 

Self-Management: This will cover how we handle disappointment, frustration, anger, change and problem-solving. 

Social Awareness: This will cover how to properly navigate those critical first moments while meeting someone new, listening, etiquette, and reading a room.

Relationship Management: This will cover how to handle feedback, how to show your emotions to others in the right way and in the right context as well as building trust. 

Increase your EQ to make yourself a stand out leader, a less stressful person and maybe put a little bit of extra money in your pocket as a result. 

Make a better tomorrow. 



The week after Christmas is a very unique week. You hopefully just celebrated the holiday with friends and family and we have the new year just around the corner. You’ve worked hard. Your team has worked hard. It’s time to celebrate!


Don’t let the moment pass you by
This happens so easily to leaders because we are constantly looking forward. You know it’s a missed opportunity when we think about it after the time to celebrate has passed. Build in the celebration time at the end of a project or time when your team really stepped up. Your team probably worked their tails off leading up to Christmas. That needs to be celebrated! If you have to ask the question “Should we celebrate this?” Then you probably should. 


Vary your celebration style
It’s important to vary your celebration style so that your team doesn’t lose their excitement and the event/activity becomes stale. A surprise pizza or donut party? Awesome! If you do that every Friday, by the end of the month the team is either tired of it, or it becomes expected and it’s not as exciting.  Switch it up. Maybe it’s a party and next time it’s a meet up somewhere. It could be restocking the fridge in the break area with drinks and frozen fun items. It could be as simple as a card or taking time to recognize a person in a group meeting. 


It doesn’t have to be expensive. 
Speaking of simple, it also doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor.  In the past, I would give out silly awards. One was called the “All that and a bag of chips award” that went to the person that did a great job for the week or on a project. It was a certificate I made on the computer with a bag of chips stapled to it. My friend, Lee Cockerell used to give out green tabasco awards. Why green and not red? Because green was different and the award went to people who thought differently, tried new things, or innovated a process in some way.  You don’t have to open up your wallet significantly everytime you want to celebrate a team win or recognize someone. 


Grab the moment, change it up and celebrate with your team. You’ll be investing in the team in a very meaningful and personal way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Leading those more tenured

Leading those more tenured

Leading those more tenured than yourself is a fun and challenging topic to master. The good news is that it is only temporary. You are eventually going to be old and someone younger will be your boss!

Here are some ways to win over those that are more tenured that yourself. 

Speak their language by knowing what is important to them. 
Oftentimes when there is a disconnect between a younger leader and older team member it is because the older person does not feel valued. Respect and acknowledgment of tenure and contribution are very important to this group. I’ve seen this first hand with leaders that struggled leading people that have been with a company nearly as long as the leader has been alive. Once the leader focused on bringing the person alongside them as a partner and showed appreciation for their contribution and loyalty, things turned around. 

Be humble, honest and listen. 
This can be tough. You may feel like you need to come across like you know what you are talking about, even if you don’t. Besides, you don’t want to come across as a weak leader to those that have been around a long time. 

Avoid the ego trap that you should know it all. Instead, be humble in your leadership and seek the guidance and expertise of those that have been around. Be honest about not knowing the answer and truly listen and learn from others in the organization. 

Be caring but still be open to debate. 
There is no doubt that the older ones on your team have something to learn from you. You were picked to lead for a reason! Treat your team with care and empathy, and remain brave when it comes to willingness to debate and teach the more tenured person. Just because they are older, doesn’t mean they don’t have things to work on as well. 

Remember to treat those more tenured with respect and value their contribution. 

Make a better tomorrow.

Know your limits

Know your limits

We are officially into the holiday season now! It’s a time of joy, excitement and also the time that we become the most stressed and overloaded. We take on a little too much, just as our work, school, and home life are picking up too because of the timing of the year. The end result is a frazzled and fatigued person by the end of December.  We’ll dive into how your personality plays a role in overreaching your limits and some of the signs that you are currently past your limits.

Your personality can work against you. 
Are you a person who likes to get things done, and be known as the first in, last out type of worker? You likely have a leading factor for pushing yourself past your limits. Pushing yourself to the max may do more harm than good not only to you but to the thing that you are working on.

You may have a retriever personality. It’s the pleaser in you. You hate to say no and really enjoy helping others. It’s great to help people out! The caution here is that the lack of saying no may turn into a case of being overloaded in a hurry if you aren’t careful.

Finally, there is the self-awareness piece. You don’t know your limits because you simply don’t know. You feel like you can take on something and then it ends up being much more than you thought it was. If this is you, do some research before taking on the task or project.

Signs of overload
1. You have become more dismissive and confrontational to coworkers and family members. The overload has worn away your buffer in interpersonal skills and can be seen by others.

2. Your body hurts. It can manifest itself in odd ways. I once had a twitch in my right eye for months because I was overloaded and stressed. For others, it can range from an oddly placed back pain, hip issue or itchy skin.

3. You start blowing appointments.  Perhaps it’s not a full-blown miss. Maybe you are known as the early arrival person and suddenly you are barely making it on time or sometimes late. For some, it is truly missing appointments in your calendar, both personally and professionally.

4. You pull back socially. You find yourself more reclusive and not as outgoing as you were. For the extroverts, your colleagues will see this quickly. For the introverts, this could be a dangerous path that leads to isolationism.
Know the symptoms, when to say no to others and keep a good gauge on yourself to know when you’ve hit your limit.
Make a better tomorrow. 

Intentional in Diversity

Intentional in Diversity

Strength lies in differences, not similarities.
-Stephen Covey


I love my church and how diverse it is. Its got a great mix of races, education, life experience, and various backgrounds. You may have a guy that grew up on the south side of Atlanta who is sitting beside a member of our church motorcycle club who is sitting beside a retired couple.

Diversity is a key piece to keeping your business and life perspective relevant. This became very evident to me as I led a business in Houston, TX  for a time. I couldn’t truly connect with my community if I’m in a heavily Latino area and the vast majority of my team consists of young white girls. Your team should match the demographics of your customers. Have a look at your own team. Do they all look the “same”? Would your guests say that you have a diverse team?

You may have to look for it. 
When I was teaching hiring managers about the expectations of diversity, I would hear questions along the lines of, “I’m not getting any diversity in my applications! How can I do this if they aren’t applying?”

A fisherman wouldn’t expect to catch a trout in the ocean, nor would he expect to catch a tuna in a lake. In the same way, we shouldn’t expect to catch a diverse talent pool by fishing for applicants in the same area all of the time. Identify who you are missing and go and find them. Just because you aren’t getting the applications doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there. If you are still struggling, connect with people that identify with the group that you are missing and ask them for recommendations on how you can get the word out or even a recommendation on a great candidate.

Diversity covers more than color
Many leaders oversimplify diversity to mean strictly race. While race is part of it, it is only part. Also, consider their life stage and personality type. You don’t want just college students or retired people on your team. You want a mix of both so that people can relate and connect with different people groups that come through your doors.

The college student will be able to help the young girl that is dealing with depression and cutting but will find it difficult to connect with a person that is struggling to put their mom in a nursing home. No matter your work situation, having a larger worldview will help you engage with more people on a personal level.

Holding to your standards
My caution to you would be this: Do not lower your standard for the sake of diversity. Studies show that gender makes no significant difference in performance in the workplace. They also show age does not impact the ability to relate to others. Keep your standards high and be on the lookout for that person with a different perspective and life experience. Your team will function with more creativity and innovation and you’ll be able to connect with your guests in a more personal way.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Motivate the Unmotivated

Motivate the Unmotivated

We all run across unmotivated people during our time as leaders. It can be at work, school, or at your home. Let’s look at some ways that we can help those unmotivated to get out of their ruts and become productive.

1. Find the Root Cause
Finding the root cause of the person being motivated is the most important piece of the puzzle. Here are some potential areas to start in.


Help them see the vision of why we do what we do.
It’s understood, but often forgotten, that we don’t communicate the bigger picture to others as much as we think that we do.  They may not be making the connection between what they are doing and how it is impacting the larger goal and picture.  Continue to communicate the vision and how they specifically are a part of making that vision a reality. Helping a person find the meaning in what they do sometimes is enough. We will cover this topic in depth at the turn of the year.


Help them make an emotional connection. 
I may tell you it’s important for us to hit a sales goal so that we can give X amount of money to the local homeless shelter. That may motivate you. What if I took you on a trip to that shelter and you got to meet the moms and children as they got food and water from the center? You’d likely be really invested then. The same idea applies to your leadership. Try to find an emotional connection to link the person to the desired behavior.  I would often take my top and bottom performers on these type of field trips. It rewarded one and pulled at the heartstrings of the other. Don’t worry if you don’t have something as tangible as the example to bring them to. Bring in someone that has been impacted by the work of the group to speak, share success stories, testimonies and other things to show the heart behind the work.


They may not feel valued. 
Another potential cause is that they may not feel valued in their role. Did you get the job instead of them? Do they feel that their work is underappreciated? They may feel that you or the organization cares more about the work they do instead of them as a person. They may feel like they are stuck in their job. The best way to address this one is to be vulnerable and ask the person if they feel valued. You’ll be more likely to get a true answer if you approach with empathy while being humble and curious.


2. Set the Standard and Coach
Once you find the root cause, it’s time to set your standard, coach to it and identify if they are the right fit or not. 


Set clear expectations.
Check in to make sure that they have a clear and proper understanding of what the expectations are. It may be as simple as that they don’t know the expectations or how the expectations apply to their work. Once you communicate the expectation, stick to it. Don’t waiver or compromise. Your standard should be the standard.


Consistent coaching and follow-up.
As you are going through the above steps, it’s important to be consistent in coaching and follow-up. You and your leadership team should be having a continuing conversation until the person consistently exhibits the behaviors you are looking for. I’ve seen some beautiful turnaround stories and all it took was going through the steps and staying consistent on coaching. Lastly, there will be times when that person simply is not in the right place. Don’t settle for subpar performance. Help them find a place that’s a better fit for them.

Help your people find the motivation that they need to be a powerful contributor to the team.


Make a better tomorrow.

The Be Series: Be the squirrel

The Be Series: Be the squirrel

I have lived in the southern half of the U.S. my whole life. Squirrels are everywhere! They are annoying to some, funny others, and cute to even more people. These little rodents can actually teach us a thing or two about our own leadership.

Squirrels are great preppers
If nothing else, a squirrel is a very good planner and prepper. They will often build up multiple stocks of food in different locations in anticipation of raids and other losses. They will also bury nuts in open areas that other animals can see to throw them off from their real cache of food. They have plans and contingency plans just in case. So too, is it good for a leader to be a very good planner and prepper. They don’t let the what ifs fully drive their leadership, but they are aware of potential risks and prepare accordingly for worst-case scenarios and They train their team well to stay nimble so if one plan falls through, then they can still operate and be successful. A great humanly example of this is with financial planners. Any planner that is worth anything will spread out investments so that if something takes a hit, the whole portfolio isn’t destroyed.  Plan and prepare to make it through your personal and professional winters.

Squirrels don’t give up
Type in funny squirrel in a Google video search and you’ll get over 400k hits back of footage from the rodents doing the craziest things to get what they want and need. They simply will not give up! You’ve probably seen in your neighborhood or in videos/pictures the elaborate ways homeowners will go to protect their birdfeeders from squirrels. They see an obstacle and they will just keep going at it no matter what. I think sometimes we give up too early on ideas and endeavors that we have. We don’t see immediate success and we write it off as a failure. Keep at those challenges. The squirrel never fails in its quest to get in the birdfeeder. It continues to learn and gain experience until it finds the right combination. Never look at a miss as a failure; consider it a part of the journey to success.

Squirrels are very adaptive
When we first moved to our current home, we had many squirrels and chipmunks that would cut through our backyard to get from one place to another. We introduced a small dog into their environment. It didn’t take long for them to adapt and turn our fence line into a squirrel superhighway.  They also gain a significant amount of weight in the winter and as we’ve seen above, learn obstacles and how to outsmart them.  In our world, we’ve seen many business and large organizations fail and go out of business because they failed to adapt to a new environment. Don’t fall into that same trap. Remain nimble and continue to push for innovation in yourself and with your team.

Remember the tenacity of the squirrel next time you are future planning or are looking at an obstacle. If the rodent can figure out a way, so can you.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Finding leadership in the body

Finding leadership in the body

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live in.
-Jim Rohn


Our bodies are an interesting thing. You’re given only one without a return policy so how you take care of it, or don’t, has a lasting personal impact.  Here are some things that our bodies can teach us about our leadership.

The body is excellent at communicating.
The body will surely tell you that something is wrong, but it will often not tell you why or what the root cause is. Isn’t that the way it often is in the workplace too? You know something is wrong but you have to dig around to find what the root cause is. Listen to your team and environment for the most subtle of changes. That nuanced change could be the tip of a much larger issue. When you don’t listen to the problem it only festers and the consequences can be irreversible.

The body becomes stronger when it trains.
Training is not easy because it’s something that you have to force your body to do. As you invest more into it, it gives you more performance and works more efficiently. The best athletes win because they put the work in so their bodies are prepared for what they are about to go through. I’ve learned first hand what happens when your training is just one race to another….your body breaks down. Your leadership works exactly the same. In order to grow and become a better leader, you have to train and get stronger. That means not settling or relying on past experience to get you through the next challenge. Your leadership will eventually break down because the changing dynamics of challenges will eventually get the best of you. Keep yourself sharp so that you can remain relevant longer.

The body can become leaner if fed the right things. 
To be healthy, you have to feed your body the right kind of fuel. The Krispy Kreme diet, no matter how sweet and yummy will catch up to you quickly. Think of your personal life and the company you keep as fuel or food. They will either add value to you and make you stronger and leaner or they will weigh you down with their own burdens. The wrong company (fuel) will make you doubt your abilities and capacity to reach your goals. When you find that you are in this situation, do what you would do when you start eating right…..throw out the garbage. You don’t always have a choice in the matter, but you should disassociate yourself with those that do not add value to you. Look for new mentors. Feed your leadership and personal life through reading and learning from ones that want to help. Grow your knowledge by learning from people with a different perspective than yours. You don’t have enough time in your life to waste with those that bring you down.

Make a healthier tomorrow.

Catch one, lose many

Catch one, lose many

We are truly living in a new age of service and expectation. Traffic is generally down at all physical locations and one person has the power to significantly influence your organization while you have no power to stop it from happening. We’ve seen many examples of how one person posts a comment or photo and then it gains traction with over a million likes, comments or shares online. Businesses quickly try to scramble to save face by changing policies or firing the people involved.  At the same time, organizations are spending more and more just to get an opportunity with a new customer. Retail costs for a new customer avg from $10-$40, financial institutes will spend over $175 per person and phone companies will spend over $300 for a new account. With that much investment, it’s more important than ever to keep the ones that you have.

Focus on retention
A recent study showed that 44% of companies put more emphasis on acquisition and only 18% put more on retention. That means 38% aren’t really focused on either! It’s fine to focus on new customers; in fact, you should in order to grow. If you solely focus on acquisition, you may lose 5 for every 1 that you gain. Not only is this a very poor business model, it is also a self-fulfilling prophecy to your own demise. On average it costs 5 times more to get a new person than it is to keep the ones that you have. Don’t focus so much on catching the one fish that you don’t notice all the fish that you caught are leaving through the hole in the boat.  Here are some good ways to focus on retention:

  • Reward them for their loyalty: Everyone does rewards cards these days. Offer them something of value more than just a discount every now and again.
  • Listen to them: Truly take in their feedback and then act on it.
  • Love them like family.
  • Show them you are socially responsible in your community.
  • Show them you stand for something.
  • Educate, don’t sell: People appreciate when you take the time to teach them something or make an educated recommendation than trying to sell them on an item.

Don’t let them leave unhappy
When you see a customer experience start to turn south, do everything that you can do to immediately resolve the situation. Make it a priority to resolve issues that you hear about after the fact. This can be feedback from the team, customer comments you receive internally or messages you get on social media. As we saw at the top of the newsletter, one incident can turn into a crippling event for you.

  • Avoid generic email responses and form letters. Nothing shows them that you don’t truly care more than an unsolicited email or message response that’s not heartfelt.
  • Be empathetic: Most often they just want to be heard and for you to improve. Don’t defend the person or situation.
  • Offer more than an apology: Give me something to either meet their need or to show your good will.
  • Commit to improve based on their feedback.

Do your best to gain new customers while focusing on keeping the ones that you currently have. Remember that when you lose one customer, you’ve actually lost many more because you can guarantee that they will tell their families and friends about their experience.  Keep your boat sealed and cast your nets wide!
Make a better tomorrow.

The Be Series: Be the storyteller

The Be Series: Be the storyteller

One of the most undervalued types of communications is a person’s storytelling skills. I remember one year when I put storytelling skills in the areas for improvement section of my annual review. It was largely brushed off and likely taken in the context that I was not focusing on the right areas. The truth of the matter is that we all need to be better storytellers. When I travel around the country and teach leaders or consult with organizations, I often tell the same stories over and over again if it’s on the same subject matter. If you are in sales you do the same thing daily with potential clients. If you are a parent, you use stories to teach your children. We also use stories to build and grow relationships both personally and professionally.

There are three types of stories that everyone should have in their toolbox.

Underdog story
This is your outsider to insider story and your goal is to connect on an emotional level. Think David and Goliath or Rocky. Both great stories of overcoming the odds to win. For me, it’s starting out at an organization as a seasonal hire, after not even getting an interview the first time, to becoming a leader in that company and being responsible for over of 500 people. It doesn’t have to be extreme. Your story may be getting laid off from a job and how you bounced back, not getting into the school you wanted, not getting the dream job you applied for etc. Basically, what obstacle and personal setback have you overcome to get a win. A few months ago, I told a story of how the GA marathon destroyed me, but I was able to bounce back and do really well at the Boston Marathon weekend a month later. Large or small, have a few of these type of stories in your pocket.

Authority story
This story shows your expertise in your specific field, also known as your street cred story. What gives you your credibility? Again this can be both large and small scale, depending on your experience. I have a few including turning around retention rates, stories of other leaders that have thrived under the right kind of leadership and financial gains by focusing on the right training delivery method. Yours may be your academic success, work success, or success as a parent. Another way to think about it is from the perspective of your friends/family/co-workers. They would say you are awesome at _________ because _________ . There’s one of your stories right there.
Fixer story
This is your story of what you do. What problem solve for other people? “I help people __________”, “I help my organization _________”. Share a problem that you currently working on for a customer, your boss, or your business.  These are typically easier stories to identify and showcase your drive to improve others and work with a team. It helps people see how you can help them with their own problems and situations.  People enjoy hearing how their pain points can be solved and they get that from hearing how you did it with others.

Keep in mind to tailor your stories around what people need to hear. The stories I share when speaking to business students are going to be different from the ones I share with a CEO going through a culture change initiative. In her situation, she doesn’t care that I got passed over for a seasonal job, but a college student will project themselves into the story and see how they can build future career growth.

Tips to start writing your story

  • Free write: Spend time weekly writing out your thoughts or experience that happened to you in the last week. We all forget our interactions and they can often be a great start to an engaging story.
  • Voice to text apps or voice recorders: Hate writing? Use voice recording apps, your phone, or a recorder to record your thoughts.
  • Be authentic: People see through fake stories or ones that are overexaggerated and insincere. People want to hear about the real you.
  • Try it on friends and colleagues: Use those close to you to give you honest feedback on how your story is. They can help you edit and polish your story to make it more impactful.
  • Don’t improv your story: I know that you’ve heard yourself tell the story a hundred times, but it’s likely a first for your audience. There is a reason why people enjoy a greatest hits album and far fewer buy the remix album. People want to hear your best!
  • Have an impact that they remember: If people can’t summarize and tell your story to others then it probably needs to be reworked.
  • Develop a skill people don’t have and then give it to them: Give them something that they can’t readily get elsewhere.  That may be a service, a unique combination in skill set or life experience.
*Ryan Williams is an expert in storytelling and the writer of the Influencer Economy. He is the champion of the three types of stories everyone should have and can be found at The Influencer Economy

Make a better tomorrow.

Love them like family

Love them like family

Family is not an important thing, it is everything. 

Have you ever been somewhere where you didn’t get served well and then you observe someone in the same establishment getting great service? It’s extremely frustrating, to say the least. I’m typically very unlikely to visit the place again when this happens to me or my family. I think that we get so caught up in the daily whirlwind and routine that we forget why we are there in their first place; to serve the guests. It’s important to the success of your team that everyone feels valued and important.

Love the guests like family.
To say to an employee, “I want you to treat everyone like family,” is quite easy. We then are frustrated when we see that experience fail to come into existence.  It’s either that A) They refuse to engage in that way (and they should be removed from the team) or B) They don’t understand the difference in what they are doing and what you are looking for. Storytelling is a great way for a person to remember and understand the point you are trying to make. Here we are going to let them tell their own story to drive the point home. Imagine your best friend or mom walked through the front door. How would you react? Excited, relaxed, happy….definitely more engaging. You’d probably carry on a conversation with them and then help them find what they were looking for. You’d also likely give them that little extra above and beyond service as well.

That’s the difference.

Help your team see that we interact with close friends and family differently from strangers in both obvious and subtle ways. Your ultimate goal is for your employees to treat everyone they encounter with that same joy and excitement. It doesn’t have to be crazy over the top either. It could be opening the door for someone, getting on the level of a child to give them a high-five, carrying stuff out to the car, or any number of other small loving things that you can do. Here’s the great thing for you as a leader; this level of service doesn’t cost you a thing. There is one thing that you’ll need to do as a leader though….

Love the team like family. 
Yes, you can’t tell the employees to love the customers like family, without doing the same for them. I understand that we have policies and personal boundaries when it comes to the people that report to us. I’m not suggesting that you break those.  I am saying show them appreciation as much as possible. Remember that we talked in the fall about how we overestimate our impact? You aren’t giving out as much appreciation as you think you are. The people that report to you will be the reason you will or won’t get a promotion. Show them how much you appreciate their contribution. Remember to respect them for who they are. You may think video games are a waste of time and you don’t understand why the guy on your team spends every other waking hour playing those things, but he’s probably very successful at it and the activity adds value to him.  Don’t discount someone because of their interest or background.  All employees deserve your highest respect. Lastly, be sure to encourage them in their mistakes and when they try new things.

Treat your team like family and set the expectation that they do the same with the guests. Your service level will skyrocket.

Make a better tomorrow. 

Stuck in the waiting room of life

Stuck in the waiting room of life

Waiting is hard. I know that it is for me. We all have times in our life when we are suddenly waiting for direction. I think of this as a waiting room. You are just stuck there and it only becomes more frustrating as you see other people come and go while you just continue to wait for your name to be called. The time doesn’t have to be wasted. In fact, it can be a very productive time for you. Let’s look at a few things you can do while you wait.

Take the time while you wait to explore around you. I don’t mean physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Remove the times and moments where you may fill stressed and replace it with personal deep dives into those three areas. It’s often like an unexplored cave. There is stuff there left waiting to be found if you are willing to go deep enough. These times have been extremely insightful when I’ve taken the time to do this. I’ve discovered that I wasn’t as passionate about an item or subject as I thought that I was, found new passions, discovered that the things that I would get hung up on actually were not that big of a deal to begin with and found new ways that I could love and serve others.

So what if you’ve done that and are still thirsting for direction and the next step? Get back in there and keep searching.  Several years ago, I felt was in the waiting room and spent a large amount of time exploring my own cave. What I found were multiple tunnels that were leading somewhere. One could be labeled poor employee experiences, another a loss of friends that I enjoyed working with, another the joy of seeing someone get a promotion among others. They all lead to a beautiful cavern that was called culture and people development. The piece was in me the whole time, I just had to put all the pieces together. Once I did I left the waiting room and was off on a new mission.

Have no regrets about the time before the wait.
It would have been easy to look back at my time after the self-discovery of culture and people development and think that I had wasted a bunch of time beforehand. I certainly would have chosen a different degree in college and could have saved some people on their career path along the way. Don’t fall into this trap. Everything that you have done before today has lead to this moment. It’s all valuable in some way.  Had I gotten a different degree, I wouldn’t have had the honor to serve all the leaders that I do. Even the hurtful things and regrets in our past have something to teach us. Don’t be ashamed of your story or what you missed. Use it to write that next great chapter in your life.

It could be a hint that something great is coming
Speaking of the next great thing, I have found that the waiting room is often a signal that something great is about to happen. Both of our children came out of times of being in the waiting room. My success as both an obstacle course racer and runner came from times in the waiting room. I would never have thought that would have been me before entering those times. Hold true to these times of waiting. We don’t know the length of the wait but it can be time well spent.

The caterpillar must wait to become the butterfly. So should you use the time in the waiting room to transform to a better, rejuvenated and focused you.

Make a better tomorrow. 

*Listen to an expanded version of this topic including areas not discussed here in this podcast #118: Stuck in the waiting room

This is our community

This is our community

The importance of community, living in peace and helping one another, is a foundation piece of who we are. That can be found more so in Clarkston, GA than anywhere else in the world. Clarkston holds the crown as the most diverse city in the world. At a population of a little over 12,000, it accounts for over 200 people groups in one square mile where they speak over 60 languages.

They know what community is. Do we?
Realize what people look like
We as a collective community have forgotten what other people look like. The filter is through our misconceptions, stereotypes, misplaced fear, judgment, and prejudice. The truth is that the person you are looking at is actually you. They deserve to be treated the same as well. I think it’s important to think through the full scenario that the person or people group are in as well. It’s easy to say the people running into issues at our border have it coming to them. It’s their choice and they pay the consequences for it. I’ve been asking it to myself a different way: How bad would the situation have to be for me to pack up a toddler, leave everything behind and walk and hitchhike with strangers halfway across a continent? Most of us will never experience something that traumatic.  It certainly makes me look at the situation in a new light.

The people in your community look just like you. No matter what’s on the outside, inside they are exactly the same.

Defend and help those who need it
Use your skills and talent to help those who can’t help themselves. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job and become a bodyguard for the elderly or a suppressed people group. There was a great example last week of highschooler girls using their talent in coding to help prevent cyber attacks on others. Be an advocate for those with no voice.

I met a community worker in Clarkston who was doing a great job of identifying the unique needs of the people groups there and worked to fill those needs. For the Somali people group, it was the desire for camel’s milk. It’s a large piece of the social culture back in their homeland and it’s not exactly easy to find in America. It just so happens that the largest camel milk supplier is across town. He made the connection for them and now as part of their custom, is invited in to meet and do life with the people there.

Do you know what the most common need across all the different refugee groups in Clarkston is? It’s simply the desire to have one American citizen as their friend.

Called to community
Man and woman were never meant to live alone. We’ve seen what this does to a person on a mental, spiritual, and emotional level.  Many times when people have made very violent decisions, it is rooted in their isolation from others. The TV show Alone actively explores this struggle by inserting survivors into an environment alone. The last person to quit wins. Its quite telling to see how many tap out not because of the physical struggles, but because of all the mental struggles.

We can’t reach our fullest potential by isolating ourselves. We do this out of fear, misconceptions, and in more serious cases mental disorders. We are so much better when we learn from others and gain from their insight and experience. I wish I had the chance to experience every culture in the world. Unfortunately, time is not on our side, so I find it important to actively engage others whenever I can. I consider myself a better leader and member of society for it.

How to make a difference
One of the biggest struggles I have had in seeing indecency spread to others, is “What can I do about it?” There are several ways we can fight back against uncivil acts and transgressions.

  • Share kindness and love with others. Refer to our newsletter and podcast from last week.
  • Actively educate yourself on a people group or culture that you don’t fully know.
  • Donate to a cause that serves others in need.
  • Find out what the felt need is for others and try to help them make that connection.
  • Here are some sites where you can volunteer in your community and how to help refugees.

Volunteer Match

Create the Good

Help with refugees in America

Be sure to listen to the podcast this week, where we will dive into additional facts and comments on this important topic.
Make a better tomorrow. 
How to ace the interview

How to ace the interview

A job interview is not a test of your knowledge, but your ability to use it at the right time.

I get asked fairly often, from college students to seasoned professionals, on advice for having a good interview. They range from part-time extra work to college entrance interviews to major milestone jumps in a person’s career. I get so encouraged when people are seeking help in meeting their personal and professional goals and luckily, no matter what you are interviewing for there are a few key things that will help you stand out and ace that interview.

Be a storyteller

One of the most important things that you want to get across during the interview is your story. There is only one you after all, and the interviewer wants to get to know that person. Build yourself a mental Rolodex of stories that showcase your success, drive, ambition, and values.  What you’ll look for in the interview are times to insert one of these stories. Having a good library of stories to tell helps you immensely in an interview because you will not find yourself mentally scrambling to answer questions. You’ll hear the question, roll through your examples, and pull out the story that matches most. For the interviewer, it shows your quick response and attentiveness. Rehearse your stories and examples with a friend, family member or colleague then sharpen and polish those stories. One of the quickest ways to kill an interview is to come unprepared and stumble through answering the questions while showing no personality.

If you are looking for ideas to jump-start your story Rolodex, do a search for typical interview questions and begin building your stories around those.

Know your numbers and business trends

Numbers are relative to the job you are applying for. For the college student/new career, it may be your school numbers and accolades.  For the person trying to move up the ladder, it’s all of their current business numbers and how you and the team impacted a positive change. To take this up another level, bake these numbers into your stories from the previous section. You are then showcasing yourself twice at one time.

For business trends, prepare to share your desire to learn and see the larger picture of the changing environment. It’s good to mention books and podcast that you are listening to. Following the news on social media is good. Great is knowing what companies are doing and testing and then being able to discuss those changes with the interviewer.

Know the position and company (But have questions)

You want to know as much as possible about both the position and the company before the interview. If its for a certain department, do research on who works there, what they are known for and what their impact is for that organization.  If it involves a potential move to a new city, know things about the city beforehand. Where do you think you’d live? What would you love about the city? Do you already know someone in that area? These things show the interviewer that you are bought into the company, the job and the area that it’s located in. I will not hire someone for a position if I think that they wouldn’t enjoy it there long term as a family. I would only be setting them up for failure if I did.

You are likely going to be asked at the end if you have any questions. Always ask questions! Make sure that they are informed, educated and curious in nature. Don’t ask the interviewer if you got the job,  instead ask about the culture of the team, what they see as opportunities for the job you are interviewing for, what kind of influence would you like the new person to bring in, etc. All of these show the person interviewing that you have a deeper understanding than most candidates. If you say that you don’t have any questions, you are telling the interviewer that either A) You aren’t as truly interested as the top candidates. or B) You aren’t aren’t seeing the bigger picture of the job.

Do these things and you’ll be ready to shine when the spotlight is on you.

Make a better tomorrow.

Finding leadership in food

Finding leadership in food

No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.
-Julia Child

Finding that great local spot is an adventure that I enjoy during all of my travels. A national chain is good for consistency, but a quality local place really puts its heart into its food and experience to create a memorable time for their guests. I will take a local dive over a national chain any day. It’s not easy for that local chef. They have to create the magic by having the right amount of ingredients, cooking time and preparation. Let’s see what we can learn about leadership from food.

You have to have the right ingredients.
I’m often amazed when I see recipes that call for very small amounts of an ingredient or an off-the-wall ingredient. How many times did the creator tweak the recipe until they found the right balance to make the perfect meal item? Likely dozens to over a hundred times. They didn’t give up until they found exactly what they were looking for.

Think of your team as the ingredients for a perfect meal. (Not that you are going to eat them!) Each of them brings their own flavor or style to the group, but none can complete the recipe on their own. You are likely going to need a techie kind of person, someone with creativity, someone with empathy, someone with strong business knowledge, a future thinker, and a strategist just to name a few. No one could fill all of those roles, and if they could there would still be too much work for the one person to complete.  Think about your team today. Are you missing any ingredients to make that magic happen? Identify what those things are and then make a concentrated effort to add people with those traits to your team. It could be talent based or diversity/perspective based.

You have to prepare the ingredients.
You can’t just throw in a bunch of unprepared food together and expect anything edible to come out as the outcome. An unprepared and untrained team can expect to achieve the same results; a hot mess that will go in the garbage. Ensure that your people are well prepared for what’s ahead of them. They need the right amount of communication, training, and investment in order to be effective. When cooks show up for their shift, the chef will often tell them what the special is for the day, what they are running low on and what other tasks they need to complete during their time in the kitchen. You would hate to receive your meal without a key ingredient because the cook forgot or ran out of an item. Make sure your team has everything that they need to be effective, otherwise expect to get mediocre results.

You have to cook the ingredients.
When I was in college, I cooked everything fast. Why wait when you could crank up the heat and get it done faster? I eventually learned my lesson after eating dry and bland food all of the time. You can’t treat all food the same if you expect an excellent meal. In the same way, you cannot develop your team at the same speed. Some are going to need a low and slow approach. Some will thrive under a little pressure and heat every now and then. Be mindful of your tactics when developing and pushing your team for growth. The same pressure that you apply to one person for growth can very well push someone else out the door. Change and adapt your style and tactics so that each person can be successful.

You are the chef of the kitchen no matter the size of your team. Continue to learn and grow until you perfect the right recipe for that perfect team.