Reputation

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Relationship is key to leadership and reputation. Trust and confidence in a person takes time to build. The more we invest, are present, and are intentional in our interactions with others, the more easily trust is built. However, one wrong act, one lie, one selfish decision will ruin years of building trust and respect. If relationships are vital to the growth and progress of a team, we must constantly be on guard and watch what we say and do.

I live by a code: “Live in a way that morals and ethics are a habit and never a choice.” Morality tells us to live in a way that respects all people. It’s about making decisions and choices that are right and takes care of others around us. Ethics is doing the right thing no matter the cost, which is in direct line with integrity. If we purposefully live in a way that morals and ethics are a habit, relationships will be protected. However, I do not believe ALL relationships are good relationships. By making morals and ethics a staple in our lives, we will assuredly lose relationships, and those are the ones that have no place in our personal and professional life.

Reputation is important, as it is what goes before you. People hear about your reputation before they even meet you. The reputation you choose to have will determine your effectiveness as a leader and team player. Will people always speak positively about you? Probably not; especially when you live with morals and ethics. When you stand for what is right, do what is right, say what is right, I guarantee you will make enemies. But that’s okay. Those are the people that don’t belong on our team, or better, people we shouldn’t be following. 

We must always be on guard and protect our heart and mind. In a world that believes that looking out for number one is more important than service and self-sacrifice, we must always watch our steps as we traverse life’s path. It is easy to get entangled with the ways of the world, but we are called to be more; to be above the ways of the world. This world does not care about morality or ethical living. This world makes excuses for doing wrong in the name of self-righteousness. We must always keep our eyes on things above, and guard our heart and mind from the ways of the world. We must lead, love, and live with integrity.

We are not who we say we are, but rather what we do. We can claim to be men and women of integrity, but if our actions do not match our words, then who we say we are is a lie. People watch what we do. As the adage goes, “Talk is cheap.” Your reputation is a reflection of what we do. If we are constantly bad mouthing others, finding yourself in situations that question our morals and ethics, or if we live in a way that seeks personal gain through any means, our reputation will not promote positive relationships. There is a saying that I have found to be very true, “Whether you think so or not, someone is always watching you.” It’s not meant to sound creepy, but rather to make us aware of our actions and responses.  

Reputation is what goes before you, and it is legacy that follows you. The foundation on which you build your life will determine what kind of reputation will precede you and what legacy you will leave behind. Choose wisely what you do and what you say. After all, it takes years to build a reputation and only minutes to destroy it. 

Takeaways:

  1. You are not defined by who you say you are, but rather by what you do. Your reputation is not built on pretty words, but on actions that are observed and questioned. Actions speak louder than words.
  2. Morality and ethics are the foundation that you should build your reputation. Live a life of integrity, and make it so interwoven in every fiber of your being that morals and ethics are habit and not a choice.
  3. If you live with integrity, expect to make enemies. 
  4. Reputation is what precedes you, and legacy is what follows you. How and what you build your life will determine the value and effectiveness of both.
  5. Be mindful of your actions and words and keep a close eye on your heart and mind. 

Stay humble, serve well.

“No” Is Not Easy

We all dream. We all have goals. We all want something for ourselves. Many start with an attitude to pursue their dreams and work to achieve them, but the day that they fail to obtain their dream, or the day they get tired of hustling and pushing themselves, is the day they quit and figure it’s not for them. Maybe it was a job that they really wanted; a job they have been preparing themselves for; they put all the work into the application, their resume, their cover letter, and submit all the needed documents to HR only to get an email a few weeks later that says, “Sorry, but you were not selected as a potential candidate.” 

“NO” is not easy.

It’s at this point that a decision must be made. We can get frustrated, angry, depressed, and succumb to the darkness of disappointment and lose the passion and dream, or we see it as an opportunity to push forward and look for the next great opportunity. What separates these decisions is a strong, positive mindset and faith. “No” is not easy to hear. 

If we choose the first option, our passion and fire will slowly diminish. The more we sit and wallow in our perceived misery, the farther down the rabbit hole we go. This is where our mindset will either help us succeed or take us to a dark and hopeless place. “No” is not easy, but it doesn’t mean “Never”. We need to keep this in mind. “No” and “Never” are two very different words. A positive mindset will tell you, “This isn’t the end. On to the next possibility.” A positive mindset creates a sense of purpose and meaning. It sees a closed door and looks for the open window. It looks for a way out of the burning building instead of sitting and watching the flames grow larger. 

Faith is extremely important when hearing “No”. I do not believe in fate. Fate is an excuse to quit and give up. Fate is hopeless and meaningless. Fate destroys joy, passion, and anticipation. Fate is for the weak. I believe it is my responsibility to make plans, pursue my dreams and passions, and it is God who guides my steps; only if I let Him. Therein lies the key…willingness and obedience. I believe in a God who wants nothing but the best for me. I believe in a God who will never force himself or his plans on me, but will give me the freedom to trust and believe. Faith takes selfishness and turns it into humility. 

I have been rejected more times than I can count, and as I look back, I thank God that I was, or I wouldn’t have the blessings I do now. If I chose to live in despair due to rejection, I wouldn’t have my amazing wife, my beautiful children, my current job, my house…the list goes on. If I would have allowed my first, second, or hundredth rejection to define my plans, goals, passions, and dreams, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It is through my faith and trusting God that He has something better for me, which He has shown He does every time, and a positive mindset, that I see “No” as an opportunity for something better.

“No” is never easy, but with faith and a positive mindset, “No” is not final. I write all of this from personal experience. I write this having been told “No” just this week. I write this because it is a real struggle, and I want to encourage you to set your mind on things above. If you don’t have faith, I hope you find it. If you believe in fate, I hope you see the destruction that the belief in fate can cause. You are made for more than what you consider to be the top. A “No” is not fatal. Reflect, refocus, and readjust. Trust that “No” is a sign pointing you in a better direction. Keep moving forward in anticipation for the next great opportunity.

Takeaways:

  1. “No” is not fatal. Experiencing rejection is not the end of the world, nor is it the end of your dreams and goals. “No” might mean “Not yet” or “Not this one”. Keep your head up and look for the next opportunity.
  2. You have a choice to make when you hear “No”. You can either fall into the pit of despair, or rise up and keep moving forward with hope that a new opportunity is waiting for you.
  3. Mindset and faith have a lot to do with how you react to “No”. Disciplining your mind to see rejection as opportunity takes time, but it keeps you from falling into the “Woe is me” mindset. Faith is the foundation that keeps you standing. When we place our hopes and dreams in personal gain and selfish ambition, “No” is fatal. When we trust that our lives are in the hands of God who deeply loves and cares for us, a “No” is a sign post.
  4. Anticipate the next great opportunity. Opportunity is everywhere. As the great physicist, Albert Einstein, once said, ““In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” 

May your next “No” be a sign that leads you to your next great adventure.

Character Flaws

Do you know how gold refiners remove the impurities from gold? They start by placing the gold into a crucible and heating a furnace to over 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the optimal temperature is reached, they place the crucible into the furnace and wait for the gold to melt down to liquid. During the melting process, the dross, or impurities, in the gold rise to the surface. The gold refiner takes the crucible out of the furnace and scrapes the impurities from the top of the melted gold. They then stir the liquid gold and place it back into the furnace. They repeat this process until dross no longer comes to the surface of the melted gold.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.” Character is not something that just happens, but rather is built, molded, and shaped over time. There is no such thing as the perfect character. We must constantly be working at building our character and making ourselves better. Flaws are a natural occurrence in our character. However, with the right mindset, discipline, and focus, our character flaws should diminish over time. This doesn’t mean we will eventually have a perfect character, as perfection is not for this world. 

Flaws do not mean failures. Every person has character flaws. The difference between character flaws and character failure lies in whether someone is willing to work to better themselves. Flaws can be restored, removed, reworked, and touched up. We all have flaws, but what we do with our flaws will determine our effectiveness as individuals and leaders. 

Character flaws are the parts of us that need to be worked on. They are the parts of us that need to be scraped off the top after the heat has been added. Just like dross coming to the surface, our character flaws are shown when things in our lives heat up. These times could be considered the refining process. It is up to us to determine how long we choose to be in the refining process. 

However, there are times when our character flaws are shown without any heat added at all; when we respond aggressively, act selfishly, become arrogant and prideful, the list goes on. There are many times we choose the character we have; heat and pressure is not needed. These are the times we must pay attention the most. These are the times where our character is more about who we are, or who we are becoming, and less about what we do. These flaws are the silent killer to our character. We must be careful to never make excuses for character flaws. These excuses usually sound something like, “This is just who I am.”

Our character is defined by our choices. We become what we repeatedly do. It isn’t until we take ownership of our actions that we will become better. Stephen Covey said it well when he said, “Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” It is critical that we find ourselves in a continuous state of reflection if we are ever to better ourselves. Those small actions, attitudes, and reactions we show are a direct reflection of our character, and many times there are flaws that need to be addressed.

Takeaways:

  1. Our character flaws need to be addressed. Don’t ignore the parts of you that need to change. Those parts are holding you back from becoming better and more effective in everything you do.
  2. Reflection is key when dealing with character flaws. Purpose within yourself to reflect daily on your actions, choices, and reactions. Discover the parts of you that need to change and put all your effort into buffing out your flaws.
  3. Character is tested during the pressures and heat within our lives, but we don’t always need heat and pressure to see our character flaws. When choosing aggression over understanding, selfishness over service, or being right over being humble, our character is showing, and heat wasn’t needed to show these flaws.
  4. Nobody is perfect, and there is no such thing as a perfect character. We all have flaws and will continually battle buffing the flaws from our character. It’s when we stop trying, stop improving, and stop doing what is right that our character flaws become cracks and chasms that can do extreme damage.

Keep pushing yourself to be better. Unless we pay attention to our character and changing the flaws that are hindering us, we might always struggle to become a positive influence on the people in our life.

Why I Started A Blog About Leadership

There are multiple reasons why I chose to start a leadership blog. One reason was that I wanted to put my doctorate degree to use, rather than just looking at an expensive piece of paper (my diploma). I have a passion for leadership and  believe that effective and purposeful leadership happens through service and selflessness. My blog helps me reflect on my own life, and the mistakes and victories I make as a leader. But the main reason I started a blog on leadership was because of the lack of leadership I was seeing from other people in leadership.

I wanted to write a blog about the value and importance of effective, purposeful leadership. There were so many “leaders” that were failing, and some are still failing, at being real leaders. I wanted to speak out about proper leadership skills, attributes, and characteristics that I believe lead to strong, effective teams. I was seeing characteristics in different leaders that did not condone strong, effective leadership. There was very little ownership and a lot of blaming. There was a lot of excuse making and dismissal of issues that needed to be dealt with. The leadership I was watching had a lack of any leadership qualities, and it was hurting the team. 

Leadership is such an important role on multiple levels. I believe people think leadership is only for people who have “leadership” titles. The truth, however, is that everyone is a leader, and we all need to take ownership of our choices and pay attention to how we are leading. This is why the quote from John C. Maxwell, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. Leadership is about one life influencing another” is front and center on my homepage. We have forgotten the importance of humility, service, and selflessness.

Earlier I mentioned that I started the blog as a reflection for my own leadership, and that reflection has turned into a personal challenge. I have learned the value of reflection through my blog, and it has been clear in showing me the areas for which I still need to work. I do not believe I have it all together, and I don’t believe I live out effective leadership everyday. In fact, I don’t believe anyone does, and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. Perfect leadership doesn’t exist. This is why reflection has been key in the molding and shaping of the areas for which I still need to grow. 

My blog has also increased my reading. I have read more books in one year than I have in my whole life, and every book I have read, I have found wonderful truths that help shape my thoughts and beliefs about leadership. I have grown to admire certain leaders such as Brad Lomenick who wrote H3 Leadership; Jocko Willink and Leif Babin who wrote Extreme Ownership; Pat Lencioni who wrote The Four Obsessions of An Extraordinary Executive and The Five Dysfunctions of A Team (this is a near future read). I have also read Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw and American Sniper the autobiography of Chris Kyle. I have learned the value and importance of reading. There is truth in the quote by Harry S. Truman, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

I have also found a love for writing. I enjoy sitting down and spilling my thoughts into a document (or on paper, depending on how old you are). I have an increased appreciation for writing and have plans to write a few books in my lifetime. I enjoy taking what I am thinking about and sharing it in word form. There is something new and special about writing about your thinking. It becomes a medium to review your own thoughts. For those of you who think I write a blog post and never revisit it, I hate to disappoint you, but that’s not accurate. I actually revisit my past posts often. I have found areas in previous posts that I have grown, some I have changed my mind about, and others that remind me of what I need to be doing as a leader. Writing is a way to see how you change as a person.

Ultimately, my blog started as a way to speak out against the types of leadership I have been witness to. I wanted to share what I have learned effective leadership to be. Throughout the process, my blog has changed to be more of a reflection, reminder, and support for myself and you, the reader. I want to be an influencer for service leadership. I want to challenge myself and others to lead everyday, and to remember that leadership is not a title, but how one life influences another. We are all leaders, and our leadership should be something that leaves a positive, selfless legacy. Will we always get it right? No. But the beauty of life is that we are given opportunities to learn from our mistakes and become better. We just need to be disciplined and take ownership of everything. As Jocko says, “Discipline equals freedom.”

No More Excuses

“I just don’t have the time.”

“I’m too tired.”

“I don’t feel like it.”

“I have other things I need to be doing (inevitably not getting done).”

“Not my job.”

“It’s not my responsibility.”

Do any of these sound familiar? Are there other statements you could add to the list? Have you ever said something like these before? I have found that the more we should do something, the better we are at making excuses for why we don’t do it. I have also found that people would rather make excuses for something rather than take ownership of it. If you have read any of my previous posts, you will notice there is a theme: 1) Leadership is service; 2) Take ownership of everything.

The other night I had a major epiphany. (Now, I am going to get really vulnerable on this one, and you can go ahead and laugh at me or tell me how ridiculous I was, because I already know and I would laugh too.) I was sitting on the couch reading a book when my wife poked her head around the corner and said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were out of your coffee creamer?” This was my response…”How is it my responsibility to tell you when my coffee creamer is out when you are the one that does the shopping list? Why don’t you look in the fridge and see if I need more?” My response was defensive, finger pointing, and down right idiotic, but I wouldn’t come to figure this out until later. 

This response led to my wife stating, rather aggressively, that she doesn’t use my coffee creamer, and that she wouldn’t know that it was low because of that. I continued with my “solid” position that it was her responsibility to check cause she did the grocery list (I know, this sounds ridiculous, right?). It was at this point that I became even more obstinate and told her that I wasn’t going to have this stupid conversation because she wasn’t taking ownership of the problem………………………you got that right? I was quitting a conversation because SHE wasn’t taking responsibility……Anyone else see the issue here? I didn’t until MUCH later that evening. 

We spent the remainder of late afternoon and evening not talking. It wasn’t until after the kids went to bed, and my wife tried to have a different conversation, that it all came back full circle. Let me pause here and explain what was going on in my head the entire time my wife and I were not talking….When I “ended” the conversation, I was frustrated and irritated that my wife wouldn’t take responsibility for this situation. However, I am the kind of person that is always reflecting and thinking about conversations and situations after they happen. There was a much deeper issue here, and I didn’t want to admit it. It was so much easier to blame my wife and tell her to take ownership. But right there lies the issue. I was refusing to take ownership. I was refusing to do the one thing I was telling her to do (and this is where all of you go, “well, duh!”). 

My reaction for being an idiot was to be rude and uncaring toward my wife. She was 100% in the right, and I was ALL kinds of wrong. During our later conversation, I admitted to her that I was absolutely wrong in everything I said, and that I was sorry for not taking ownership of the situation. I told her what I was thinking about, what I was struggling with, and I told her I reacted the way I did because I knew I was wrong. I knew it was me who needed to take ownership, and I failed miserably. In the end, I took ownership and said, “You got it, Love. I will tell you when I need coffee creamer.”

It’s here that I get to dote on my wife a little. She is absolutely my better half. I learn so much from her, and she has so much patience with me. She is forgiving, caring, and compassionate. In other words, she puts me to shame really well. I absolutely love my wife, and thank God everyday for blessing me with a woman that I absolutely don’t deserve. She helps me be a better man, husband, and leader. I hope you have someone in your life just as awesome as my wife.

Okay, back to the point of this post. It is easy to make excuses and blame things on anything or anyone else. However, it shows a lack of ownership, and, most of all, a lack of character. I was angry with myself on how I treated my wife, my lack of character, and my own hypocrisy. And I have to tell you, if you don’t get angry and frustrated with yourself when you do stupid things like I did, you need a character check. As leaders, we need to be constantly reflecting and taking ownership of everything. 

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin do a phenomenal job explaining the power, purpose, and reason to take ownership in their book Extreme Ownership (If you haven’t read this, you need to!). Excuses are for those with a weak character and a lack of discipline. Ownership is for those of us who want to be better and lead with purpose and passion. Excuses make for a poor leader. Ownership makes for a humble leader. My stupidity was hard to swallow, but it was the best learning opportunity. It showed my weakness and the cracks in my character that need mending. So stop making excuses or blaming everything and everyone for your lack of ownership. Trust me, it’s so much more liberating when you finally decide to take ownership and stop making excuses. 

Takeaways:

  1. Just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean you are. I thought I was justified and right. I thought I was the one being disrespected. But the truth was that I was failing. I was making the choice to not take ownership. I still have work to do, and it is only through reflection and purposeful change that I will become better,
  2. Excuses come from those who are weak in character. People make excuses all of the time instead of owning their actions and choices. This is a direct reflection of their character. If you struggle with this, I want to encourage you to do everything in your power to overcome your excuses and take ownership of your life.
  3. Humility is what makes a good leader. Please don’t think I am trying to toot my own horn here, because that is the last thing I want to do. I failed, and I failed miserably. However, I had two options, live with the lie inside, or own my failure. It is always better to own it, admit it, and learn from it.
  4. You have a choice to either lead with passion and purpose or to lead with excuses. Everything is a choice. How we act, react, respond, what we say…everything is a choice. As leaders, we can choose to act in a way that serves others by taking ownership as a leader, or we can choose to blame and make excuses creating rifts and damaging relationships. Choose wisely what road you walk.  

Stop making excuses, own your faults, failures, and mistakes, reflect and learn from them, and, ultimately, choose to become better.

The Worst Reason

There is one statement, or reason, that completely stifles progress, growth, and success. It is a statement that is said often without regard to what it encourages. This statement is mentioned often in leadership meetings, group meetings, individual meetings, etc. There is one question that usually leads to this statement or reason: “Why?”; “Why are we doing this?” or “Why do we do things this way?” The statement, or reason, that usually accompanies this question: “Because it’s the way we’ve always done things.”

People look for meaning and purpose to why they are doing something. The last thing that provides these two characteristics is the statement, “Because it’s the way we’ve always done it.” This provides absolutely no context, meaning, or purpose for why something is done. I am sure you can think of many examples in our society where this is the answer to, “Why are we doing this?” There are multiple repercussions when answering, “Because it’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Firstly, this reason stifles progress. Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn’t make it the right way of doing it. I believe it is our job as leaders and learners to reflect and make changes to processes or policies to encourage growth and effectiveness. If a policy or procedure is in place because it has always been there, we need to question the reason for that policy or procedure. We may find that our progress is being stifled because of something that has never been questioned. 

Secondly, this reason destroys purpose and meaning. If you want someone to do something, they will need a reason to buy into it. Telling them that, “It has always been done this way,” will not establish meaning and purpose. In fact, it will show weakness in the company or organization. Again, it goes back to, just because it has always been done that way doesn’t make it the right or most effective way of doing things. If you want a well oiled machine, every policy and procedure needs to have context and meaning. If you find yourself answering  “Why are we doing things this way?”, or “Why do we have this procedure or policy?” with, “That’s how it has always been”, then that policy or procedure should be carefully examined for its purpose, meaning, and use. 

Thirdly, this reason shows a lack of growth. Growth comes from reflection and applying what is learned through reflection. To say, “It’s always been done this way,” shows a lack of a willingness to learn and grow. Thus, the company or organization is stagnant, stale, and not moving forward. How many policies and procedures are being followed that stifles growth all because “It’s always been done this way”? Every company, organization, leader, and individual should always look for ways to grow, to get better, to show positive change. Don’t fall for the destructive reason of, “This is what we do, because it’s always been done this way.”

Takeaways:

  1. Question everything. Not in a divisive or destructive way, but rather to gain understanding, meaning, and purpose. If you are left with, “It’s always been done this way,” ask yourself if it’s helping or hindering progress. Is it encouraging an environment of growth? If not, scrap it or revise it.
  2. Give meaning and purpose for everything you do. As a father, I find myself telling my children, “Because I said so.” This is just as bad as, “Because we’ve always done it this way.” We look for easy ways to answer difficult questions. “Why?” is not any easy question to answer, unless we have a specific and meaningful answer already created. Think carefully about the reason for why things are done a certain way. If they have no meaning or purpose for why they are done that way, either determine its purpose or meaning, change it to have purpose and meaning, or get rid of it.
  3.  Laziness hinders productivity. As I mentioned earlier, people want meaning and purpose behind why they are doing what they are told to do. If your answer to your team involves, “It’s always been done this way,” then don’t expect your team to buy-in to what you are wanting them to do and produce high levels of productivity.. 
  4. Make sure your team understands the “Why”. The “Why” is the most important aspect in what you do. The “Why” gives purpose, meaning, guidance, and structure for your team. It also gives purpose, meaning, guidance, and structure for you. Why are you doing what you do? If you answer, “Because it’s what I have always done,” then you are hindering yourself from being better than you are.

In all things, keep open communication and perspective when reviewing policies and procedures. If something doesn’t belong, don’t keep it just because. Change it or get rid of it. Remember, as leaders, it is our job to provide meaning and purpose to the “Why”. Do not get stuck in the rut of, “That’s always how it’s been done.” Break out of that cycle and make your company, your organization, your marriage, your work, your life, your etc. GREAT!

Experienced vs Passionate

When hiring for your company or organization, what do you look for? Do you look for the person that looks great on paper, has all the qualifications you’re looking for, and has years of experience in the area for which you are hiring? Or, do you look for the passionate individual who’s “Why” is more important than the “What”? Do you seek to find the experienced individual with time under their belt, or the up and comer that has passion, desire, and fervor? What’s a better hire for the company, experience or passion?

It’s a sick cycle in the world of employment. Companies want people to apply, but they are looking for experience. There are plenty of passionate people wanting to gain experience, but companies won’t hire them because experience trumps passion, and ultimately, the individual is back where they started; willing to apply, but not chosen due to lack of experience. How is someone to get experience for a position if companies never provide the opportunity for people to gain experience? Here’s what I have found, the more experience a person has, the less passionate they are about their “Why”. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t refer to everyone, but I feel the majority fall into this category. Time seems to drown out meaning, purpose, and reason.

Leaderships’ role is to mentor their team. If you hire only those who have “experience”, who is there to mentor? Is an experienced person willing to be mentored more than the new, passionate individual. Passionate people find meaning and relevance in their work. They don’t see their job as something they need to do, but rather something they want to do. Passionate people put everything they are into becoming better and strive for success. Experienced people used to have the same drive, and some still do, but over time, passion fades unless the person continues to challenge themselves. 

Here’s an example. Let’s say your company or organization is hiring for a new head of marketing. You have hundreds of applicants apply. Some have over 20 years experience, others 10, and some have one or two. Then you have applicants who apply, knowing they may not have the experience, but they sure do have the passion and the drive to succeed. Who do you cut and who do you interview? Are you looking for the same old same old in your company, or are you looking to improve and change with the market? Who would know more about new trends in the market, the experienced applicant or the passionate applicant?

Barbra Corcoran, an American business woman and founder of The Corcoran Group, said it best when she said, “You can’t fake passion.” Passion comes from within. It is something that drives an individual and moves them from “have to” to “get to”. Passion is the force that pushes through barriers. It is the perspective that makes a job never feel like a job. 

When you are looking for people to hire, are you looking to just fill an empty position, or find the right person who will make your company even better? Are you wanting to take your department, organization, company, what have you to new heights, or looking to stay mediocre? There is a significant difference between hiring someone with experience and hiring someone with passion. And if you find a person who has both, you have hit the jackpot. However, if you are stuck choosing between a person with one or the other,  I would strongly encourage you to take the individual with passion. That person will pour everything they are into helping their team succeed. And more than likely, their passion will start to rub off on other members of the team.

As a leader, however, you are not off the hook after you hire the passionate team member. It is your duty to come alongside them, mentor them, support them, and encourage them. Listen to them and provide positive, constructive feedback that will help them gain experience. It is the aim of the leader to train, equip, and mentor their team. It doesn’t matter if you are a low level manager or the owner, the aim doesn’t change, only the team members do. 

Takeaways:

  1. Passion can be worth more to a company than experience. Even if a person lacks experience, the right leadership will hire the passionate individual and guide, support, and mentor their new recruit. Gaining experience while being passionate about what one is doing, not only helps the individual, but brings positivity to the company or organization.
  2. Experience is only good if it is followed by passion. When people get into a career, they are usually passionate about what they are doing. However, over time, that passion seems to fade and the job becomes a job and nothing more. It is only when a person keeps pushing themselves and striving to be better that passion stays alive, and a job is something one gets to do.
  3. Passion is contagious. When someone is passionate about what they do, there is a tendency for their passion to rub off onto others. In turn, the shared passion revives the dull-hearted and brings about positive changes to the team. 
  4. The aim of leadership is to train, equip, and mentor their team. Do not lead from the side, from the front, or from behind a desk. Lead alongside your team. Be amongst them and listen to them. Provide constructive, positive feedback that will help your team become great. The job of a leader is to mentor their replacement; let that sink in. 

Passion outperforms experience any day. The next time you are looking to hire, choose the passionate applicant.

Check Your Ego At The Door

I read a quote this morning from Elon Musk. It said, “I hate when people confuse education for intelligence. You can have a bachelor’s degree and still be an idiot.” There is so much truth in this statement, and when it comes to leadership, this statement rings even louder. Leadership is not about your degree or title, it’s about constantly making yourself and others around you better. Your ego has no place in leadership. It doesn’t matter if you have every degree that can be obtained, or you come from a prestigious college, if those still exist these days, or you hold the highest rank in the company or organization. All that matters is how you treat those you lead, and how you are helping them become more successful.

When leadership leads with ego, leadership becomes ineffective. Ego creates problems that are near impossible to solve. Ego divides teams and causes friction within relationships. Ego places the people that really matter in last place. Ego focuses less on building a positive, team centered environment and more on a unyielding, self-centered environment. Ego claims to know everything with little actually being known. Ego refuses to admit mistakes, nor does it take ownership of failure. Ego blames the team rather than works harder to help the team. Ego is the demise and downfall of any company, organization, and leader.

As leaders, it is imperative that we check our ego at the door. Ego should have no place in our personal or professional life. We should constantly be focused on learning, growing, assessing, reflecting, changing, and adapting. We should be less concerned about ourselves and our status and more concerned with the people around us. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak, and if there is something that is said or done that is not right, we should correct with humility and compassion. 

You might think I am making leadership out to be soft and tolerant; on the contrary, leadership must hold the line and ensure the team is moving in the right direction. However, leadership is responsible for making sure this happens in an effective and focused way. The best way to get a team to outperform the competition is to establish an environment where the focus is on the team, not the product. The product is only as good as the team that produced it. If there is no team, the product will suffer. If the focus is only on the end game, every defeat that is suffered will continually hinder the company from growing and ultimately winning. Leadership isn’t about barking orders and demands for the team to perform, but rather working alongside each team member and helping them achieve greatness; even if that means they outperform leadership.

If leadership thinks they have all the right answers, and never listen to the people they are leading, they might miss the one piece of information that will take their company from good to great. Ego says, “Shut up and work. Your ideas don’t matter.” This is a major problem if you want to see your team and company become successful. Leadership should welcome thoughts and ideas, as well as feedback from the team. The only way we can improve is if we have an open mind and a reflective mindset. This doesn’t mean you have to accept everything that is said or suggested by team members, rather, you give your team the opportunity to share their ideas, reflect on what is said, and bring them into the process of making a decision for or against the idea. Leadership does have a different perspective than others on the team, but that doesn’t mean leadership knows everything or has all the right answers.

Takeaways:

  1. Ego causes detrimental problems to teams, business, and relationships. To continue to grow and succeed in business, or whatever you do, you must check your ego at the door. Otherwise, you might never reach your full potential.
  2. Leadership is not soft and tolerant. Leadership is the driving force to get things done. However, to ensure this is done effectively, it is critical to build relationships with your team, encourage collaboration, and have an open mind. It doesn’t mean leadership does everything the team says, but rather leadership listens to the team, invites the team into the decision making process, and then guides and directs the team to the best decision.
  3. Leadership is not always right, and to think that they are is detrimental to the success of the overall team. Leadership is fallible, and it is important that those in leadership understand and recognize this. It is just as important for leadership to own failures and take responsibility when the team struggles.
  4. Humility and compassion are good qualities to have in leadership. These qualities build trust and positive relationships within the team. If you want to see your team rise above the rest, be humble and compassionate toward each team member.

Leadership is a way of life. Don’t allow your ego to destroy your potential.

We Become What We…

Earl Nightingale once said, “We become what we think about.” I have long considered these words, and I have found truth in what he said. Thought has a lot of power over our actions. The more we find ourselves thinking negatively, our actions become negative, and vise versa, the more we think positively, the more positive our actions. 

Thought has a way of binding us, and keeping us from becoming more. Many people struggle with self esteem, some may struggle with self-image, and others might struggle with self-confidence all because of their thoughts. On the other hand, people have overcome some of the harshest circumstances and environments just because of their thinking. Ask any Navy Seal, and they will tell you that “Hell Week” can only be conquered through positive thinking, determination, and a proper mindset.  

Consider this, winners don’t think about losing. They think about winning. They are constantly replaying in their mind being the first to cross the finish line, being the team with the most points, being the person to lift the most weight. Their thought process creates a winning mindset. They become winners in their mind, which translates into reality. It doesn’t mean they always win, but it means they won’t quit until they do. Les Brown gave a speech about playing Connect Four with John Leslie , his nine year old son. Les stated that he had beat John Leslie10 straight games in a row. He looked at his son and said, “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” John Leslie responded with, “No! It’s not over until I win.” After quite a few more games, John Wesley finally won. He then got up from the table and said, “I’m ready to go to sleep now.” You see, John Leslie had a winner’s mindset. Even though he lost multiple games, he wasn’t satisfied until he won.

What we choose to think about will determine the life we live. We can choose to be winners or whiners, encouragers or complainers, determined or entitled, strong or weak, the list could keep going. The point I am making is that who we want to be starts with what we think about. But thinking is only part of the solution. It isn’t until we act that thinking becomes more. John Leslie thought about being a winner. He wouldn’t stop until he won. But if he would have quit when his father said he was going to bed, he wouldn’t have become a winner. It isn’t until we purpose within ourselves that our thinking must be accompanied by action, that our thoughts are nothing more than thoughts. 

I believe Nightingale was right. We become what we think about, but we will never live as who we want to be, or who we were meant to be, until we act on the thoughts of becoming better. I don’t believe people wake up and want to be depressed, negative, passive people. I believe we all have a desire to be more than who we are. We want to be better than who we are. I don’t believe we lack the thought, I believe we lack the discipline to put the right thoughts into practice. 

If we have lived for so long with a negative outlook on life, or if we have struggled with anger, hate, and malice toward others, we must battle out of the depths of despair to become better. We must push ourselves into the realm of uncomfortable to change who we are. Life is a battle field. We must discipline ourselves to be who we want to be. There is no easy route. And if you are looking for one, you will be sorely disappointed. This is why our thoughts have so much power over who we become. Don’t think of winning, think of being a winner. You will lose many times before you win, but with a mindset of a winner, you will never quit until you win.    

Takeaways:

  1. Your thoughts have power. Keep your thoughts in check. Discipline your mind to think of only who you want to be. Take every thought captive and push yourself to be better.
  2. It is only when we act on what we think, that we become more or less than we are. Negative thoughts produce negative action. Positive thoughts produce positive action. Discipline your mind and act wisely. Don’t just think of winning, focus on being a winner. 
  3. You will fail more times than you succeed. Don’t allow failure to change the way you think. Rather, rethink the purpose of failure and discipline yourself to use failure as a way to reach success.
  4. Don’t just think about doing something, put your thoughts into action. It is true, we become what we think about, and what we think about will determine what actions we take. Don’t allow yourself to give excuses for not being better. Otherwise, you become an excuse maker. 

We become what we think about, and our actions are a direct reflection of our thoughts. Choose wisely what thoughts you entertain. Become more than who you are. Take every thought captive and live a life you are proud to live.

Ownership

Who’s to blame when things go wrong in your company, organization, relationship, marriage, life? Whose fault is it that your team failed? Who will you blame when profits decline, your team doesn’t meet expectations, your children resent you, your marriage fails? These are tough questions, but the answer is pretty simple. There is only one person to blame…YOU. Yup, those are the true, hard hitting facts. The only person to blame when things go wrong is yourself. If what I have said has ruffled you up a bit, good. Then you need to hear this.

The easiest way to lose, is to blame. That means when things go wrong in your company, and your profits fall, and you give your team a tongue lashing, the chance of you growing your profits, or even keeping your team, is slim to none. Jocko Willink said it best when he wrote, “Leaders must take ownership of everything. There is no one else to blame.” When you point fingers, you create more problems. When you take ownership, you create solutions. Ownership is realizing that you’re to blame for the faults of your team. You’re to blame for the lack of communication, the lack of support, the lack of direction, the lack of understanding. Ownership means you humble yourself and look in the mirror first.

“Yeah, that sounds good and all, but when things go wrong in a specific department, it’s their fault, right?” No. As leaders, we own everything. As a company owner, you own everything. Your people are only as good as the time, effort, and energy you invest into them. Their failure is your failure to provide support, training, help, communication, etc. A team’s failure can always be traced back to the lack of leadership from leadership. “But I’m not responsible for the work ethic of the team.” Really? Where does the expectation for work ethic start? Leadership. When the team sees you make excuses, show lack of discipline, or choose not to show up, what does that communicate to the team? A leader’s life is a sign post for others to follow. It will either lead to success or utter failure. 

“Okay, you make some good points, but the problems in my marriage can easily be traced back to my partners lack of…” I wonder if your partner does the things they do because you lack doing the things that your partner needs from you. Relationships are a two way street. It takes two to keep a relationship alive. “Yeah, I get that, and I have worked and tried and suffered many days only to be treated like s#!t. How can I be responsible for how someone else treats me?” Great question. You are not responsible for how someone treats you, you are responsible for how you treat others. My guess is that the relationship started to deteriorate a long time ago, and there are some deep seeded issues that need to be worked out. I would also guess that you have created a pattern with your partner that has led to rifts in your relationship, and it is now having an impact. The only way out of this, without walking away, is to have a serious heart to heart with your partner and decide, together, to take ownership of your faults and restore the relationship you once had. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. 

“You said that my children resenting me is my fault, and I should own it.” Yes I did. How is it your fault? Because resentment stems from not having needs met. These needs are not things like food, shelter, and clothing. I mean these are important, but resentment isn’t usually built from the lack of these needs. I am talking about unspoken needs. Needs like time, investment, being present, showing love through word AND action. These are unspoken needs from children, and children only hint when they are not getting these needs met. If we, as parents and leaders in our home, are not attuned to our children, then they will build walls of resentment, and unless we make corrections sooner than later, the wall will keep us out of their lives. Being a parent means owning everything. There is no instructional manual or playbook for parenting, but this, I guarantee, is a must for parenting: choose time with your children over time with friends and your job; choose to be present as often as possible; speak words of love and affirmation to your children, especially after they have seen how angry you may have become with them. Own your mistakes and your choices, and make corrections before it’s too late.

Takeaways:

  1. Leadership is about owning everything. When things go wrong, no matter the situation, leadership must take ownership. This means you reflect, understand, and take steps to correct the mistakes you made as a leader. 
  2. Leadership is to blame when things go wrong. Everything can be traced back to a failure in leadership if things go wrong. Whether it’s a lack of communication, support, training, time, whatever it is, leadership must take time to reflect on the “Why?”, and make steps to correcting their failures. 
  3. Pointing fingers creates problems, not solutions. Leadership is about creating solutions to problems and not creating problems through dismissal of responsibility. Leadership and ownership go hand in hand. When we take ownership, we begin to create and establish solutions without destroying the team.
  4. Relationships are two way streets. It is imperative that we own our mistakes and do what is needed to correct the errors we have made. We need to invest, be present, and seek restoration through sincerity and ownership. Ask questions, take ownership, and move toward restoration. 

Leadership is a way of life, which means we must take ownership of our life.