Great Leaders Sense The Moment

Magic and Riley

Great leaders sense the moment. Most people want to realize opportunity and “seize the moment,” and I think the key to seizing the moment begins with “sensing the moment.” What does it mean to sense the moment? I think there are at least three things that great leaders do to illustrate what it means to sense the moment:

  • Comprehend the Context – Great leaders truly comprehend the context of any situation. They are able to gather the facts and what has happened leading up to this moment in order to make sense of the current reality. Context is a valuable tool and often provides clarity about perspective and the path forward. You must understand the context of any situation to determine what you need to do next.
  • Discern the Role You Need to Play – Magic Johnson, the Hall of Fame point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and one of the best to ever play the game, was a master at discerning the role he needed to play in order for his team to win the game. He learned this trait from his high school coach who told him that he needed to score less and lead more. Up until that point, Magic was scoring most of the team’s points, but they were not winning. His coach knew how much Magic cared about team wins, and his coach challenged Magic to trust his teammates. He did, and it resulted in a high school state championship in addition to a college championship and 5 NBA championships. Magic learned that he needed to lead on the court and discern the role he needed to play depending on the situation. This insight and skill was further refined by working with his NBA Coach Pat Riley. There were some nights where he needed to score more. Other nights, he got his teammates involved early in the game to build their confidence. Great leaders know when to be active and when to facilitate action and impact through others. It is a sense that is developed through practice and experience.
  • Care about the Consequences – Great leaders care about the consequences. In other words, they are very aware of both the impact of their actions and the consequences of their inaction. They take ownership of the situation, which creates a purpose for the next steps. People who don’t care about the outcome through ambivalence or apathy never really sense the moment and, therefore, miss an incredible opportunity to make a positive difference.

Choose today to be aware of the moments in your life, and use these tactics to make a positive difference in your home, at work, in the community, and on your team.

We offer leadership training that further defines the 7 essential roles of a transformational leader including the role of being an “Activator.” Our “Invisible Hand of Leadership” training program can be customized to fit the needs of your company or organization, and we provide coaching programs to further develop you as a leader beyond a 2 day training class. Email me to discover more about taking your leadership growth to the next level!


Our Moments Shape Us

“I wouldn’t trade my experiences or change my journey at all. It’s what has gotten me to where I am and helped shape me into the person I am today.”

As I ended the call with a friend and coaching client, I thought about the wisdom of his words. My mind also went back in time to consider the many moments that he had been through, many of which we had navigated together. Moments of trial, triumph, and trust. Many times, we cannot see what is on the other side of a difficult moment. We only see what we are experiencing and want it to end or transition soon to a brighter day.

No Ordinary Moments

No one dreams of going through a trial in their life; yet, we know that hard times and occasionally, nightmares, are a part of a person’s journey. Whether you are an athlete who gets behind in a game or match or a person who is currently facing more severe challenges, here are 3 things that can help you with persevering through your challenge:

  • Your Journey Shapes You – Every moment shapes you into the person you are and the person you are becoming. If we had our choice, we would cherish the good and chunk the bad. Yet, we must learn to embrace and engage in all of our moments if we want to learn from our past and become a complete person.
  • Embracing The Moment Is Key – It is easy to embrace and enjoy incredible moments in our life, but who wants to walk up to a disastrous moment and give it a great big hug? We kick, we scream, and we throw a fist in the air at these types of moments. While I am not asking you to put your arms around a horrible moment and invite it into the living room of your life, I am challenging you to meet it head on. Most elite performers that I interview and coach embrace challenges as a part of life and competition. They gather context, maintain perspective, and then act accordingly to conquer the challenge.
  • Character Is Often Developed In Times of Heartache – Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” While I believe that we can grow through times of triumph, many character-building moments can also be experienced through times of trial and suffering. The point is that we have to be active and engaged. We can’t just sit back in a recliner expecting things to happen in our lives. And it is through this activity that moments will occur – both good and bad – that helps us grow in character.

Perspective is gained on the other side of the pothole. Looking back often allows us to look forward with renewed confidence and resolve. Embrace the moments in your life knowing that they will shape you into becoming a better person.

Question: What about you? Would you trade your experiences or change your journey? How have your experiences shaped you into the person you are today? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Quote Card-Purpose and Passion

Purpose and passion fuel your journey and facilitate your impact. Be purposeful in how you invest your time, and be passionate about making a positive impact in the people that you lead and influence.


Limits are self-imposed boundaries that we place on ourselves to hedge our potential and performance. Before Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier in the mile race, people boldly proclaimed that this limit would never be reached. Bannister broke through the mental barrier of a limit, and others quickly followed in his footsteps achieving this same goal. People who allow limits to rule their lives never venture out to discover what’s possible. They live their lives in the superlatives of “never” and “always” instead of the shades of curiosity and opportunity, and they allow the past to haunt their future.

We can’t allow limits to lower our standards and reduce our goals to nothing more than everyday tasks. Peak performers in sports, business, and life explore possibilities and push through the self-imposed barriers that can hold them back. It is in those breakthrough moments that they allow their true potential to come out. We have an axiom in sports performance that says:

…which begs the question: “What thoughts are you thinking?” Are they negative thoughts of doubt and fear? Is there an overwhelming lack of confidence in your life? Are you planting a hedge around what your true potential is?

Having a positive mindset and thinking thoughts of belief and trust don’t absolutely guarantee success, but we do know that bringing negative thoughts into your activity, whatever it may be, ensures a higher probability that you will fail. The great thing is that we have a choice in the moment about what we think about. We must replace the thoughts of fear, doubt, pressure, and lack of confidence with thoughts of belief and trust. With our athletes, we use trigger phrases that help them replace these negative thoughts and activate some physical action for them to succeed.

Limits try to predict outcomes that may never happen. A team that admits, “We can’t win this game!” is sunk before they start. There is a reason you play the game. Anything is possible, and you must compete to discover what you are capable of. This concept transcends sports and applies to life as well. There is a reason you live your life. If you are still breathing, there is a reason for that, and you can’t allow limits to determine an outcome that may never happen. I love what Nido Qubein says: “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”

Don’t allow limits to define you. Strive for breakthrough moments in everything you do! Discover what’s possible today!

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The Voice of Leadership

Communication is a fundamental problem in many organzations that I visit, consult with, and help coach. Or, better said, the lack of effective communication is the real barrier between leaders and followers and amongst team members. I know people understand the technique of talking, but they don’t always master the art of communicating effectively.

A Leader meeting with an employee

Here are 5 things that a leader can do to connect and inspire his or her team:

  • “Seek to Understand, Then Be Understood” – This is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. A leader must strive to understand where a person is coming from – the context for this person’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas – in order to communicate his or her own opinions. In so doing, the leader will be able to communicate a message that is heard, received, understood, and incorporated into the other person’s life. A true connection must be made. If I feel heard and understood, I am more likely to receive your feedback.
  • Communicate the Right Ratio of Positive to Constructive Feedback – The more research we do across the domains of sports, business, and life, the more convinced we are that a ratio of at least 3:1 in terms of positive to constructive feedback is critical to the success of people. It has been my experience in working with everyone from high performing students to senior executives that people don’t always need your help in just spotting the specks in their eyes. They also need someone who can highlight their strengths and talents and help them maximixe their potential.
  • Communicate Feedback in Terms of the Other Person’s “Potential to Be” – I first heard this term from leadership guru Warren Bennis. As a leader, you must frame your feedback in terms of what they can become vs. what they are not. This doesn’t rule out giving constructive feedback; it just means tailoring it toward a mutually shared vision. Again, if I feel like you are trying to help me and are “on my side” in terms of my personal growth and development, I will receive any kind of feedback from you, even if it is hard to digest in the moment.
  • Be Vulnerable and Open – Ask questions and create a culture of being able to share without judgment and pride of ownership. Leaders can learn a lot through the power of questions. Also, innovation happens when people suspend their assumptions about what was done in the past – especially if they were the ones to create it initially – and open their minds to what could be.
  • Encourage Others and Connect to Core Values – Always take time to encourage and connect what the other person does to the company’s core values. The more a person connects their daily tasks to the mission and vision of the company, the more they will truly live out the core values of the organization. Also, when a leader tells success stories, it reminds people about what is important and what you are about as a team, organization, and company.

Effective communication is essential for any leader, and it usually involves simple things that can make a tremendous difference in the performance of others. Make it a habit to communicate well with others, and you will be a leader of positive influence and impact to those you lead at work, at home, in sports, and in your community.

Question: What have you found to be effective in connecting with the people you lead? What is your leadership voice? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Structuring Your Day Paves The Way

One Life Quote

Structuring your day helps pave the way. In order to achieve your goals, you have to develop an action plan with steps to accomplish them. And an action plan is more easily executed when you have structure to your days and weeks. You can’t just haphazardly approach the time that you have and then hope things will get done. Knowing yourself and knowing how to make the most of your time and your moments are the keys to goal achievement.

But, what is the best structure for you? Is there one plan or schedule that is right for everyone? Or is it more of a process that can be tailored towards your needs? Through experimentation, research, and coaching high performers in sports, business, and life, we have found the following to be effective in facilitating a flow to your life:

  • Create An Ideal Week – An ideal week consists of a template for how you want to approach your week.  It is a picture of what your best days look like. Some people like to create a template that highlights blocks of time for things such as phone calls, client meetings, strategy and planning, and office tasks. They then insert specific items into the daily template blocks each week. Other people I have coached use a strategy of “Plan Weekly, Execute Daily” where they invest time on Sunday night mapping out a game plan for the calls they need to make, the highest priority things they need to do, the workouts they must make time for, and the people they must see based on the week. Regardless of your style and preference, the point is to get in the habit of scheduling your priorities (proactive), not just prioritizing your schedule (reactive) as Stephen Covey so wisely noted in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s your week. Make it count!
  • Attack To Do’s Before Ten (A.M.) – There are several books that have highlighted the concept of getting your most important things done in the morning. Most people don’t do this and instead place a priority on doing urgent/non-urgent and sometimes non-important things like checking email and Facebook and other social media. I have found that I am most productive and feel best about the days when I knock the most important things out in the morning. I feel highly creative – especially after a great cup of coffee and a morning quiet time – and seem to find a flow that energizes me. When I get things done early – especially the right things – the rest of the day seems to sail along, and I find meaning, purpose, and impact in my moments. It also allows me to strategically consider and plan for what I want to accomplish in the days that follow.
  • Assign Tasks That Are Appropriate For The Time Of Day – This point is a corollary to some of the other techniques. You need to understand yourself in terms of when you are most creative, when you need to do routine tasks, when you are most energetic, etc. You don’t want to be meeting with clients when you are lethargic. Plan time for tasks that are appropriate to your personality and style. For example, planning for creative and strategic things for many people is most appropriately scheduled during a mid-morning block, because many people feel more enlightened during those times. Responding to email and returning phone calls can be blocked for 30-minute windows before you are leaving for lunch or at the end of the day in what sales expert Todd Duncan in his excellent book Time Traps calls an “efficiency zone.”
  • Protect Time For Planning And Strategy – Many people set a goal that requires planning and developing a strategy, yet they never make time for strategic thinking and planning in their schedule. The most common reason for this is that it seems esoteric and non-productive to set a block of time in your schedule from 9-11 AM labeled “Planning.” You also fear how your colleagues and leaders might react if they saw something like that on your schedule thinking you were goofing off. Yet, this may be one of the most important time blocks that you keep with yourself if used in the right way. How do you expect to accomplish your goals if you never make time for developing a plan to achieve them? Breaking your goals down into actionable steps demands time in your schedule for planning.
  • Make Time To “Sharpen The Saw” – The key to developing, growing, and living a healthy and fulfilling life must include developing yourself in all four quadrants of your life – mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Stephen Covey called this “sharpening the saw.” You would never cut something with a dull blade, and you never want to approach your life with a deflated, worn-out, and half-hearted effort. The myth and trap that many people fall into is to wear themselves out in order to accomplish their goals. While high achievers will go through periods of intense time, we have found that they always make time for recovery in terms of rest, contemplation and reflection, and recharging.
  • Be Present – Finally, in order to achieve anything in life, you must be present. This involves not just showing up physically, but being there in the moment mentally and emotionally as well. Whether you are business leader, a sales executive, a parent, or a competitor in sports, your teammates, clients, prospective clients, and family want more than your physical presence. They want to know that you have thought about and prepared for this moment. They want to make sure that they have your attention – your head and your heart – and that you are fully engaged in this moment. If you are not present, you are going to miss so many moments this year and wonder where the days went and why you missed the opportunity to accomplish your goals, maximize your potential, and make a positive impact in the lives of others.

Make it a point of emphasis this year to go further than just announcing resolutions and writing down goals. Develop an action plan for your goals and execute this plan with discipline, consistency, and passion structured by a daily flow that works for you. You and the people you lead and influence will be so glad you did!

Question: What techniques do you use to be productive and proactive in planning your life and achieving your goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Recently, I learned how to swim.  It’s not that I didn’t know how to swim.  I have been getting in the pool since I was a child and faintly remember taking lessons, treading water by playing Marco Polo, and occasionally racing others to the other end of the pool.  It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I realized I did not know how to swim laps in a pool.

For years, my triathlon friends have been encouraging and challenging me to do a race.  They knew I could run and cycle and told me that I had already mastered the hardest part; but, for me, the swimming was my Achilles heel.  When I first attempted to swim a lap in the pool, my head did not want to go under the water.  After I bought some goggles and was able to at least rinse my face in the water, I realized that it felt like I was “sprinting” in the pool.  I am not saying that I was breaking Olympic world records with my speed.  It was the sensation that I was going to drown and could not wait to get to the other side.  I would reach the other side, catch my breath, and then attempt another 25-meter lap in the pool.

As I watched other people swim lap after continuous lap in the pool, they looked so smooth, calm, and relaxed.  Their strokes seemed effortless, and they were able to swim for longer and farther than I could.  Being a distance runner and in great shape, it frustrated me that I could not do what they were able to do!


I eventually found this blog entry from Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, which helped me to make a breakthrough in my swimming.  He went from being  frustrated to fearless in the pool.  The combination of his tips and this great article on breathing helped me to finally discover what I was doing wrong.  The breathing article mentioned that most beginning swimmers fail to breathe when their face is under the water, and they struggle to breathe out and breathe in when their head comes out of the water on their strokes.  In other words, they never get enough time to fully exhale and fully inhale.  They are essentially holding their breath until the moment (the looming lap in the pool) passes.

This scenario was exactly what I was doing.  But how do you exhale in the water?  I found that experienced swimmers exhale in the water by blowing out bubbles, and I began to practice this technique.  It made all the difference in the world once I learned that you could exhale (blow out bubbles) without opening your mouth and taking in a gallon of water.  While I am still working on my swim endurance and strength, breathing efficiently in the pool has made all the difference in the world!  I am able to swim better, more efficiently, and for a longer distance.

This experience made me think about life.  We all have moments of stress, crisis, and defeat, and it feels as if we cannot catch our breath.  We don’t properly breathe and foolishly attempt to hold our breath, close our eyes, and hope that it was all just a bad nightmare.  We have to get back to the basics of breathing: exhaling the stress and feelings of despair and inhaling the “oxygen” of today.  What is that “oxygen?”  It’s our friends, family, and faith that are there for us when we need them most.  It’s your purpose – the reason you were put on this earth and why you are you still alive.

Challenges can distract us from continuously facing each day with purpose, passion, and action.  The first step begins with breathing the right way.

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Great Leaders Pass The Torch

Great leaders pass the torch.  In other words, they hand off the role of leadership to future generations.  What separates great leaders from ordinary leaders is the timing of when this process begins.  It is not at the end of their career or when the board votes them out.  The passing of the torch is an ongoing process as they identify and develop the talent around them.

Olympic Torch

They identify leaders early in their career and begin to cultivate them for the right roles based on the individual’s strengths and passions.  The secret of an excellent organization is found in their leadership culture and their ability to develop others.

Whether you are a leader at work, at home, on your sports team, or in your community, you must engage in the process of passing the torch.  Here are a few things that you can learn from how great leaders pass the torch:

  • Lead the Way – Great leaders set the example for others to follow.  They live out the core values of the organization, and they are authentic in their pursuit of growth.  They view learning as a lifelong process, and they invite others to grow and learn along the way by sharing and investing in the growth of others.  Their leadership model does not exist in a vacuum or at the expense of others; it is because of others that they lead in the right way.
  • Become a Connoisseur of Talent – In their book Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman profoundly say, “The leaders of great groups love talent and know where to find it.  They revel in the talent of others.”  As a leader, do you “revel” in the talent of others?  Do you take great pleasure in helping the people you lead succeed?  Some leaders view their people as a threat or always focus on reinforcing what they cannot do versus developing what they can do and placing them in positions to succeed.  A connoisseur of talent is a leadership creator.
  • Hold on to Power Loosely – You have been given a position of power for a reason.  Some leaders want to “carry the torch,” but they don’t want to “pass the torch.”  In his book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, Andy Crouch does a masterful job of explaining why leaders and power exist – to help others flourish and society succeed.  Your “power”  – and the total power of the organization – does not diminish as you pass it on to future generations.  It increases and multiplies thereby creating opportunities and positive impact to the society – e.g. employees, clients, teammates, children – you have been called to cultivate.
  • Understand and Nurture Generational Leadership – Great leaders understand their place in the line of generational leadership.  They are grateful for the incredible leaders that have come before them and invested in their lives, and they demonstrate their appreciation by investing in future generations of leaders.  The biggest “thank you” they can give to past mentors is to pass these lessons on to future mentees.  Organizations thrive when they are not dependent on one great leader but are interdependent on a network of leaders that sustain the leadership culture.

Smiling Group of Professionals

As you think about your roles at home, at work, on your team, and in your community, make it a point to focus on developing the next generation of leaders.  Light the way and pass the torch!

Question: What are you doing to pass the torch to future generation of leaders within your company, your team, and your home? You can leave a comment by clicking here.