What great looks like…

“What’s celebrated is repeated.  The behaviors that are celebrated are repeated.  The decisions that are celebrated are repeated.  The values that are celebrated are repeated.”

Andy Stanley

Very bluntly I am not good at this.  It has always been a challenge for me to pause and slow down long enough to celebrate success.  For anything that is accomplished I am immediately thinking and working on the next thing.  As a person who derives my motivation internally it just doesn’t hit my radar screen.  This is not a good or positive trait and is one that I continually have to work on.  I find that this quote does an excellent job driving the “why” behind the celebration and reinforces what a leader must do to help their team achieve continued success.

To perform at a high level a team must know what great looks like.  When they achieve success celebration is what reinforces the behaviors that it took to get there and instills them into the culture.  In essence, celebration is creating the culture of the team or organization based on success and winning and instilling a desire to do it again.  

Thinking more on this it brings some questions to mind.  Without a celebration will anyone know what great looks like?  How would anyone know to do it again?  If you don’t celebrate, will people know what it is that is valued by, and expected from, you as a leader?

Expectations vs. Recommendations.

“When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable — if there are no consequences — that poor performance becomes the new standard. Therefore, leaders must enforce standards.”

Jocko Willink

I have long held to a simple yet effective three step formula of leadership responsibility and accountability.  

  1. Set clear expectations
  2. Coach, Train, Provide Feedback to those expectations
  3. Hold accountable to the expectations

It is the leaders responsibility to ensure that his or her  team understands what is expected of them, that the proper coaching and training has occurred, and then that absolute accountability to those expectations has been enforced.  

Without enforcement then any expectations are merely recommendations, coaching and training is a waste of time, and accountability doesn’t mean anything…  

Decide!

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”

Amelia Earhart

There is great freedom that comes when you make a tough decision.  It is like the clouds part and you can see the blue sky and the sunshine after weeks of rain and fog.  Just making that decision can feel like a tremendous weight is lifted from your shoulders. 

So make a decision!  If it is the wrong one then you can make another one but don’t wait.  Waiting for perfect information, perfect timing or perfect insight means that nothing ever gets done.  

I am reminded of this verse from James that has been a guide to me in my decision making many times in life.  “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

It’s not personal!

“A great leader doesn’t avoid conflict and a great leader doesn’t doesn’t leave a body of emotionally destroyed people behind. A great leader solves problems.”

Andy Stanley

The great leaders I have worked with always made it about the problem to be solved, not the person.  They are exceptional at addressing both poor results and poor behaviors swiftly and directly.  They didn’t leave a wake of destruction in their path because they didn’t make it personal.  They focused on the desired outcome and addressing whatever is that happens to be taking a person off course.  

Does it take courage to do this?  Yes, of course it does.  Not many people thrive on and enjoy high conflict situations.  It takes an ability to keep the focus on the business at hand and not let the fear of conflict dissuade you from having the direct conversations that are needed.  

I’ve work with leaders who were anything but exceptional at this as well.  They either would ignore the situation entirely, talk about it behind another persons back and undermine their credibility, or they would be like a volcano and erupt.  All of these behaviors (and many more) are the types of things that emotionally destroy people and undermine the influence of leadership.

The key for success here is to ensure that when dealing with situations where conflict is needed be swift, seek to understand, and live by the principle ‘It’s not personal!’

Where do you find the truth?

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.”

Maya Angelou

I’ve long believed in the old saying: “In the mind of the believer a perception is a fact.” The “truth” is created because of the facts we want to believe in, even if they aren’t true.  The facts we choose to believe, or the ones that we seek out, can obscure the real truth from us.  

That is why it is so important to get perspective from others.  We need insight from people that don’t see the world the same way we do.  Only through searching out other ‘facts’ can we ensure that we are seeing the truth.  

Who do you go to to help find clarity and perspective?  Who’s perceptions do you trust?

What are you doing for others?

“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

What are you doing for others today?  In the next hour?  Right now?  

Sometimes in today’s world it can feel like life’s most urgent question is: “what are you doing for yourself?”  It is easy to get caught in a spiral of me me me because that is what society seems to be all about.  Especially with social media, etc.  

I do think it is important to answer this question in the proper tense. ‘What am I doing’ versus ‘what have I done?’  It feels that answering in the past tense is looking for praise or a pat on the back.  Focusing on doing for others keeps it future oriented and not about ourselves.  

Perhaps it is worth creating a mechanism and intentionally reflecting on the answer to this question?  Just once a day or once a week for 10-15 minutes?  

Do you have a bilge pump?

“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

Author Unknown

The bilge is the lowest part of a ship or a boat.  This is where the water that manages to get in collects and builds.   In order for a boat or a ship to operate safely there has to be a bilge pump to remove this water.  Without it the water would continue to gather until the boat, and the people on it, are in jeopardy. 

What is your bilge pump for life?  How do you remove the negative that is going on around you and pump it out so that it can’t build up and weigh you down?  

My bilge pump can be a variety of different things, depending on where I am and what is going on in my life at the time.  Generally speaking though I need a few things. A good long run or workout.  A good book to read.  Separation from those that are negative influences.  Doing these things sounds easy but without intentional focus and commitment they won’t happen and I’l be stuck with rising waters and a sinking boat.

What does P.I.G. mean to you?

“Think P.I.G. – that’s my motto. P stands for Persistence, I stands for Integrity, and G stands for Guts. These are the ingredients for a successful business and a successful life.”

Linda Chandler

What do these things mean to you?  

Persistence – Never giving up.  Overcoming whatever life throws at you.  Whatever it takes to to get the job done.  Over.  Under.  Around or through any obstacles.

Integrity – Never compromising on your values and ensuring that your actions manifest your beliefs at all times.

Guts – Having the courage to do both of the above, no matter what anyone else might think about you.

A+ or bust…

“I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

Steve Jobs

It is amazing how impactful great talent can be on a team.  The right person elevates the performance of everyone around. They are a force multiplier beyond just what they contribute individually.  However, the reverse is also true…  

The wrong person can weigh down the team and limit overall performance.  If an A+ player runs circles around B or C players then B and C players are simply dead weight that slows everything down.

Be the best, don’t ever be comfortable being or hiring a B or C player.  If you are hiring people, hire the best, don’t ever settle.If you are a B or a C player today then call it like it is and figure out what you need to do to grow and become an A.  If you are an A, figure out what you have to do to become and A+.

Never settle with less than the best, from yourself or from those around you…

Good decisions start with good questions…


“Leadership isn’t making all the decisions. It is making sure the right decisions are made.”

Andy Stanley

Sometimes the best decision a leader makes is to ask the right questions.  When this is done effectively it puts the leadership focus on making the right decision, not on the decision maker themself.

I will fully admit that this is much easier said than done.  Knowing when to ask the right questions and when to be the decision maker is a delicate balance that comes through experience and trial and error.  But when it is done correctly it creates leadership growth both in the decision makers and those that they lead.   

Invest your effort into asking the questions that drive towards making the right decisions.  It creates a double win.  The right decisions are made, and so are more leaders…

Make your hours count…

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
 
H. Jackson Brown Jr.
This one hits right between the eyes doesn’t it?  As I read it though it occurred to me that all of these great people accomplished their incredible feats over the course of their lives.  They are measured on the totality of their contributions, not a single event or action.
Sometimes we get so caught up living in the here and now that we forget that our greatest impact might not have happened yet.  It might be a current work in progress or it might be the thing we do tomorrow.  We should work to make all our hours count, but we shouldn’t spend all our time counting the hours and measuring our success based on what we get in return for each of those hours.
As Andy Stanley has said “Your greatest accomplishment may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”  And I believe this applies whether you have children of your own or not. You can replace “raise” with “serve” and the meaning and impact is the same.  Use your hours to impact others and you’ll make a difference.

Happiness as a choice is the vaccine…

“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed, or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.”

Joel Osteen

The little things are the stressors that wear us out.  The ones that make us lose sight of what’s truly important. When we embrace the little things that make us angry and upset we are building a negativity cancer inside ourselves.  

There is no doubt that there are more opportunities to be stressed and offended in life than there are seconds in the day.  Looking for the anger, offense or stress has to be the biggest waste of energy on the planet.  Nothing positive can come out of it.  It reminds me of the old saying, “allowing these types of things to impact you is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” 

Happiness is a choice, and it is a choice that is a vaccine to the cancer of negativity that can build, but only if you allow it to happen.

 

 

Like nails on a chalkboard…

“If you allow the status quo to persist, you can’t expect to improve performance, and you can’t expect to win.”

Jocko Willink

“The way it has always been done…” these words are a death knell for  change.  Hearing that as a reason not to do something is like the proverbial ‘nails on a chalkboard’ (if anyone even know what that means anymore), it just makes my skin crawl. 

The status quo represents the way things have always been. That will never lead to necessary growth and change.   I much prefer an attitude of “relentless discontent with the status quo.”

That is the only way you can create change and win…

 

 

Why do you have limits?

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

Bruce Lee

How do you know if you have gone too far?  For that matter how do you know if you haven’t gone far enough?  I have always believed that limits we have are completely self-imposed, especially the physical ones.  Everything we can, or can’t, do is within our minds control and the ability to overcome and break through starts with the limits we impose on ourselves.

The question that comes to mind for me revolves around the answers to the ‘why’ questions.  Why are we striving? Why are the limits there?  Why are we trying to break through them? I am reminded of this verse from Galatians as I reflect on today’s quote.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭NIV
‬‬

There are no limits other than those we choose to impose upon ourselves. How we set them, or break through them, will depend on our answers to the ‘why’ questions

Wonder or wander?

“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.”

Arapaho

I wonder how much growth and change has been initiated by ideas that occur when people are “in the shower.”  I know that this is a cliche but it certainly appears to be true from folks that I talk with regularly.  Getting outside of a normal thinking environment and allowing your mind to work unburdened by daily stress and routine demands is so important.  

Now though, it makes me think of the quote differently.  What if you changed just one letter in the above?  What if it read, “If we wander often, the gift of knowledge will come.” I think I wonder best when I wander… 

 

How do you find happiness?

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
 
L.M. Montgomery

I just finished reading a fascinating and compelling historical fiction titled “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan.  It is an incredible story about a young Italian patriot in WWII fighting against Nazi tyranny and oppression. When I read stories like this and what others have gone through it really puts everything in life firmly in perspective.  

One of my favorite passages in the entire book reads: “How do you find happiness?” Anna paused, then said, “You start by looking right around you for the blessings you have.  When you find them, be grateful.” “Father Re says the same thing,” Pino said, “He says, to give thanks for every day, no matter how flawed.  And to have faith in God and a better tomorrow.”

Finding happiness and enjoyment is truly a choice and a belief that, no matter what, there will be a better tomorrow.  

Waste of energy…

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
 
Maya Angelou
 

Why exert effort on an immovable object? I think this applies to complaining about things that you can’t change.  In fact, complaining as a rule is a waste of effort and energy.  I can’t think of one time in life where I have felt better for having complained without then taking some action to create change.  Complaints because you just have to be heard don’t result in change.  So why bother?

 

 

Hard work fuels happiness…

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.”

Andy Rooney

I had the opportunity to go hiking today which is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend time outdoors.  It was a tough hike, very wet, slippery, and steep.  The hike to our particular destination was 3.5 miles, which doesn’t sound that far except that it was almost all downhill on very muddy and rocky terrain.  I probably spent 90% of my time looking down at the ground picking out safe places to put my feet so I wouldn’t trip and fall.  At the end of the hike was one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  It was truly worth worth every second of effort and focus.

As I was taking in the incredible vista and marveling at the beauty of God’s kingdom it occurred to me that if I had’t had to work so hard for the view, it might not have been so impressive.  The view was spectacular, but if I had simply gotten out of the car, taken a picture, and gotten right back in, it wouldn’t have meant nearly as much. The joy found in the view came as a result of the work put forth to get there.

Interestingly enough, the 3.5 mile hike back, which was all uphill, passed in a flash and didn’t seem nearly as hard as the hike in.  The happiness from the accomplishment provided all the  fuel that was needed…

Today is YOUR adventure!

“Today is life — the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”

Dale Carnegie

Remember the passion that you used to have to wake up on a Saturday morning as a kid?  Perhaps it was cartoons, unlimited cereal, or playing outside all day long.  There was such excitement for the weekend and the day of adventure that lay ahead.

Why does that feeling have to be relegated to a memory or a rare occurrence?  The day ahead is an adventure, regardless of how old you are, or whether or not it is a day off or a day at work.  The day holds promise and beauty if you simply choose to embrace it.  Embrace today with gusto!

Break free to change…

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Socrates 

Sometimes the clearest way to see what change is needed is to separate oneself from the cacophony of daily life and simply be still.  The hustle and bustle of activity serves to lock oneself into a routine, a relentless hamster wheel effect.  It is hard to see what change is needed when your energy is spent just keeping up.  Sometimes it is not about fighting the old, it is about breaking free from it long enough to know what change is needed.  

Test your limits…

“Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.”
 
Marcus Antonius

Why is it that so much of what bothers us in life isn’t the thing itself but is instead how it makes us feel? We look to be wronged, persecuted or diminished as opposed to seeking understanding and growth. Very few people look for ways to fail simply so they can learn and grow. Choosing to learn from failure is something that comes through wisdom and experience. Seeking opportunities that push you so far outside of your comfort zone that failure is almost guaranteed at some point is the only way you can ever understand your limits.

What on earth does this have to do with today’s quote? Glad you asked. If failure is the thing that creates anger and grief for you, then how will you ever be able to find out how far you can go? It isn’t the failure itself, it is how you respond to it that matters. Failure is a gift when you choose to learn from it. Learn and grow? Or anger and grief?  You choose…

 

Attitude is leadership..

“People with a positive attitude are influenced by what goes on within them. People with a negative attitude are influenced by what goes on around them.” 

Keith Harrell

This quote is truly spot on.  It is the internal vs. external perspective that matters so much in life.  Do you happen to the world or does the world happen to you?  

But what happens to those around you when you exhibit a positive attitude?  If they are externally driven, they will be influenced BY YOU.  Therefore your choice to be positive and embrace an internally driven positive attitude isn’t about YOU.  It is about others who are environmentally driven and will embrace the behavioral characteristics that you display.  

So, when you CHOOSE to be embrace a positive attitude based on what’s motivates you internally don’t do it for yourself.  Do it to serve others and impact their lives.  That is leadership.

 

Do you exist or persist?

“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.”

Roy L. Smith

There is nothing worse than seeing someone with incredible talent choose to let that potential be wasted because they don’t have the discipline or drive to maximize their God given gifts.  It is a human choice when people put forth less effort than they are capable of doing and then achieve less that they were created to become.  Why does this happen?

We, as humans, are inherently lazy.  It isn’t fun to wake up at 4:00 AM and go train your body in order to achieve your goals.  It isn’t exciting to do the same task over and over again as you develop your body or your mind to become sharper and more focused.  It is far easier to sleep in, to make excuses, to settle for less than you are capable because that is the path of least resistance.  It is far easier to simply exist than it is to persist.  

The people who impress me the most are the ones that demonstrate the discipline and relentless will to pound right through their own mental walls and barriers.  These are the people who are forging their future on a daily basis with the decisions they make and the actions they take.  They never allow themselves to sit back and feel sorry for themselves when things don’t go their way.  They adapt, overcome, and set new goals and objectives.  This person knows that with relentless discipline and execution of the small things on a daily basis they can achieve greater results and realize their potential. 

God didn’t create us to have an easy life.  The challenges we face are there to help us grow our talents and maximize our potential to impact the lives of others.  To do this we have to be like the servant in the ‘Parable of the Talents’ and take the gifts  we are given and find a way to grow them into something much more valuable…

 

 

Prepare for the future by focusing on today…

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”
 

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

Tomorrow’s dreams are dependent on today’s hard work.  It is far too easy to get lost in what you want to have happen instead of focusing on what is in the here and now.  I will fully admit that I have been guilty of this far too often.  As a highly goal driven person sometimes it easy to live in the future instead of focusing on what has to be done TODAY.

When training for an Ironman race it is hard to think about the magnitude of the race distance when it was almost a year away.  The key is to focus on the training needed to do for a specific week, and then the even more specific effort that you need to put forth on a given day.  Having a plan, trusting that plan, and doing the work on a daily basis is the reason that you can go into the race without any fear or nervousness about completing the 140.6 miles ahead of you.  If you have done the hard work then you are prepared for the day ahead.

Being prepared for whatever God has planned for us means that we have to put in the hard work each and every day.

Ownership = Action

“The chief condition on which, life, health and vigor depend on, is action. It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny.”

Colin Powell

When do you know it is the right time to take action?  I would argue that if you are thinking about whether it is the right time, that the right time has already passed.  

A bias towards action is a bias towards ownership.  If you have that ownership trait then you will have a bias towards action.  If you don’t, then you can grow one.  Just start taking action on the things that need to be done.

Don’t wait for luck…

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”

Ray Kroc

Hard work is an investment with returns both in the near-term as well as the long-term.  Near-term one can see the fruits of their labors and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.  But over  the long-term hard work is enabling future opportunities.  Are those opportunities or chances guaranteed to come about?  Of course not.  But one thing is certain.  Future dreams and aspirations are guaranteed NOT to happen if you don’t do the hard work today and every day.  Waiting to get lucky is a path paved in disappointment and regret.  Do the hard work, it is an investment in future opportunities.  

Appreciation for the spark…

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lit the flame within us.”

Albert Schweitzer

During this season of Thanksgiving it is easy to remember the THINGS we are grateful for but what about the PEOPLE who have touched our lives?  Sometimes the person we are today is a result of someone sharing a spark with us years ago, sometimes it can be as recent as yesterday.  Regardless, it is the people in our lives that create the energy for each of us to go forward and become better selves and servants of others.

Thinking about the quote from yesterday, I am challenged today because I know that while I am tremendously grateful for people the people who have rekindled my spark when I am run down, that I don’t do nearly a good enough job making that thanksgiving an active reality and expressing my appreciation to them.

Being deeply grateful makes me feel better.  Sharing that gratitude actively makes others feel better.  I like the latter option a lot better.  Something to really think and reflect on during this season of Thanksgiving.

 

Gratitude into action = Thanksgiving…

“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”

Tim Keller

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It is a time where all the demands of the world seem to pause, if just for a moment.  Even though it can be stressful with cooking and cleaning and preparing for guests, it is work that is enjoyable and rewarding because of what it stands for; a celebration of thanks for all the incredible blessings that we have received in life.

Reading and reflecting on the quote above makes me ponder on the power of Thanksgiving, on the actions taken because of our gratitude.   Perhaps that is why this particular holiday is so celebrated.  It is a time when we pause to convert gratitude into action as we gather with friends and family and share our blessings.

Every day is an opportunity for an active Thanksgiving day.  But just once a year we have the Super Bowl, the championship, the over the top day where we actively celebrate thankfulness.  Today I hope that your Thanksgiving day is filled with happiness and gratitude.

 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”  Psalms 9:1 

No do overs…

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
 
John Wooden

I don’t know about you but there just never seem to be enough hours in the day.  The world today is busier than ever and the distractions are relentless.  

I really love this quote because it makes you sit back and thing about the work you are doing.  If you are doing something to check the box, achieve the minimum standard, etc, then why are you doing it all all?  If it is something that needs to be done right, what needs to go in order for you to have the time to accomplish the task at hand?

Part of the challenge in today’s hyper busy world is that it is easier, and more acceptable unfortunately, to do more things, at the bare minimum level.  That doesn’t create long-term sustainable success.  Focusing on the few things that really matter, and then executing them to a degree of completion that ensures they won’t have to be redone is a guaranteed way to stand out from the crowd.  

Besides, if you are so busy, how can taking the time to redo anything be a palatable option!  Get it right, get it done, move on to the next important thing.

It’s a daily fight…

“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.”
 

Napoleon Hill

No person is perfect, we can all get better in a multitude of ways.  To do so though means you have to strive.  You have to lean forward and seek growth.  You have to overcome our inherent human laziness and aversion to extremely hard work.  It is a daily fight to be better and to grow.

I know I struggle with always wanting to do more, to take on more.  To push harder.  I never want to let my natural self be stronger than my desired self.  It is a daily choice.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t.  But one can never ever give up.  There is a better version of yourself on the other side.

 

 

Grind it out…

“Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work. I had to put in the time to get back. And it was a grind. It meant training and sweating every day. But I was completely committed to working out to prove to myself that I still could do it.”

Andre Agassi

There is almost nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment when you complete some momentous, all encompassing objective.  The type of project where it took 100% of your effort and commitment.  These are the ones where during the work it is so hard that you are just gutting it out, getting it done, never willing to compromise and deliver less than what you know you are capable of doing.  

There might be almost no better feeling, but it only works to motivate you in the future if you take the time to reflect, learn, celebrate success, and then reset your head for the next one.  I have to remind myself of this all the time as I am likely to jump from one all-encompassing thing to the next.  Take a few minutes today to pause, reflect, breathe.  

Then go grind it out and get it done…

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