Leadership Takes Courage

“She’s done a great job on all of her performance reviews, but there’s one issue that I still have a problem with. I don’t think she’s ready to be promoted.”

I still remember sitting through another annual promotion meeting where a manager stumbled through this declaration about a person that was working for him. There would be no promotion for someone who clearly had risen above the expectations of all that she had been asked and coached to do. In a group of about 50 people, I spoke up and asked, “And, did you confront her about the issue and coach her throughout the last year to improve on this “issue?” His answer: a sheepish, solemn, “No.”

In this situation, a high potential person was being penalized for the lack of leadership of her manager, who did not have the courage to deliver constructive feedback and coach her to become better in a certain area. How can you improve in an area when you don’t even know it’s a problem? Moreover, how do you trust that the positive feedback you are receiving is real and authentic when the leader you are working for does not have the courage to give you the whole picture about your performance and help you become better?

As a leader, you must communicate and connect with the people that have been entrusted to you. This point is true in business as well as in sports and life. A great coach must deliver both positive and constructive feedback to his or her team. An effective parent uses coaching and teaching techniques to help his or her children mature and develop into productive members of society who fulfill their purpose. Yelling all the time or giving a flippant response of “You’re doing fine” to the question of “How am I doing?” just won’t cut it. We all want and deserve feedback.

A Leader meeting with an employee

For some, giving feedback comes natural to them. For others, it is difficult. As Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and senior lecturer at MIT, says, “This is new work for most experienced managers, many of whom rose to the top because of their decision-making and problem-solving skills, not their skills in mentoring, coaching, and helping others learn.”

Regardless where you fall within this spectrum, it is your responsibility as a leader to communicate with your team and connect in an effective way to help them maximize their potential. As I recently said to a group of athletes who were leaders on their respective teams, “C is for Captain; L is for Leader. Don’t sign up for the position if you can’t handle the pressure!” Be courageous as a leader and utilize the following tips when it comes to giving someone feedback:

  • Be Timely – Some people delay speaking to another person about an issue, because they don’t have the courage to talk to them about it. If you really care about the people you lead, you will deliver constructive feedback as well as positive feedback in a timely manner so that they will always know how they are doing and can work to improve on the areas that need attention.
  • Be Specific – People don’t want vague praise like “You are doing great!” or general performance advice like “Do better!” They want to know details. This is especially true of the millennials who are entering the workplace. As a leader, you cannot assume that people know how they are doing. Catch people doing things right and reaffirm it. For example, giving feedback such as “You did a great job of asking critical follow-up questions in our client meeting” is better than “That was a great meeting.”
  • Be Engaged in the Process – Great leaders are fully engaged and committed to helping the people they lead become the best version of themselves. In order to do this, you must observe their work and communicate with the people you lead. They also must know that you care about them in order to fully receive the feedback that you communicate to them.

Whether it’s your son or daughter, your teammate, or a member of the team you lead, don’t let words go unspoken that would help them become all that they can be. You don’t want to be in a position where they come back to you somewhere down the road and ask: “Why didn’t you tell me about this and help me try to become my best?”


Question: Do you find it easy to give both positive and constructive feedback to others? What is the best advice you have ever received from a mentor? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

A Relentless Architect of Possibilities

Great leaders look for opportunities to invest in others. Whether you are a parent, athlete, business leader, or student, you have an opportunity every day to influence and impact others. Yet, I often wonder if we seize those moments to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Are we truly “relentless” in the process of helping another person pursue their potential even in the face of adversity and setbacks?

Riding a bike

As I look at my own life and into the lives of people that I coach and converse with, I think people can become frozen by fear with thoughts and questions such as:

  • “What if my kids don’t turn out to be perfect?”
  • “I don’t have time to lead other people.”
  • “I don’t have the skills to be the parent they need.”
  • “They won’t listen to me. I know how to motivate my sales team, but I can’t motivate my own children.”
  • “I don’t know if I’m getting through to them. Am I making any kind of difference at all?”

When we are distraught because of distractions, we fail to capitalize on the opportunity to impact and lead others. Distractions take us off course and lead us on a detour to a destination we did not intend to visit. If we truly want to lead our families, businesses, and communities, we must become relentless in our pursuit of mentoring others.

I have always loved Benjamin Zander’s quote about leadership and the possibilities that exist for leaders. As a conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Zander understood his role as a leader and facilitator of remarkable performances. His role was to bring out the best in others, which began with a belief that each person had talent to be discovered and something of value to be offered. He made himself a “relentless architect of the possibilities” of that person’s potential.

Picture of a Great Leader

As you consider your roles in life, think about the opportunities that you have every day to positively impact and influence people. Don’t become distracted and discouraged, aimlessly wondering whether you are making a difference. Make it a goal every day to be a relentless architect in your pursuit of the possibilities of human beings by:

  • Identifying and recognizing the strengths of others
  • Looking for ways to cultivate and nurture their potential
  • Focusing on the possibilities of what they could become (versus solely dwelling on the problems that will prevent them from never reaching their potential)
  • Coaching and giving constructive feedback in areas where they need to improve and keeping them accountable in their growth journey
  • Recognizing the difference between “your dreams” versus their dreams and working with them to create a shared vision of the future
  • Initiating conversation and listening to both verbal and non-verbal cues on what is important to them

Be relentless, holding on to the hope of your role in helping someone develop his or her full potential. They will be so glad you did!

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Break Out Of The Box

I sat patiently as the student athlete in front on me desperately tried to figure out the solution to this puzzle. Using his competitive spirit, he worked through every scenario in his mind striving to accomplish the goal. Yet, with each possible course of action, he reached a dead end. He could connect most of the dots but not all. It was almost like an imaginary wall was keeping him from reaching an answer.

Dots Puzzle

Do you ever feel like this in your own life? Desperate to break through, but dogged by doubts and self-imposed limitations that keep you from reaching your potential and accomplishing your goals. In my work with high potential and high performing entrepreneurs, business leaders, and amateur and professional athletes, I find that they sometimes get locked into a certain way of thinking that restricts them from reaching the next level of performance. Many times, the walls that contain them are self-imposed and self-constructed in the form of limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is anything that limits you from reaching your potential or accomplishing your goal. Many times it comes in the form of negative thoughts, fear, and doubt such as:

  • “I’m can’t hit my 5 iron.”
  • “I’m not a good parent.”
  • “I always play bad in April.”
  • “January is always a slow sales month for me.”
  • “My best days are behind me.”
  • “I can do it in practice but not in the games.”

Limiting beliefs can also be a strength that becomes a liability. We think it is a positive thing, but it becomes negative when it limits our capacity to develop in our leadership and self-growth. These limiting beliefs take the form of statements such as:

  • “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!”
  • “If we are going to beat this team, I am going to have score almost all of the points tonight!”
  • “I’m the only one who can do this task.”
  • “I never trust anyone.”

Limiting beliefs act as “definitive” statements that lock us into a certain way of thinking, which then translate into a pre-determined pattern of acting. The thoughts take root in our lives and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is like a cage that keeps us contained from ever breaking out to unleash our potential. The key question to ask yourself is this:

Once you have pondered this question and identified the “iron bar” limiting beliefs, work on changing the thoughts that led to these beliefs. Many times, we base our thoughts, and, ultimately, our beliefs and actions on the wrong things including false assumptions, one-time events, people’s perceptions of us, and performances that are not our best. You cannot let circumstances construct barriers that leave you powerless to discover the path forward. You must take time to consider the truths about your life including your strengths as well as past performances that reinforce your abilities and talent.

Dots Puzzle Solution

If you begin to see the problem from a different way of thinking, you can soon discover possibilities that lead to peak performance. Choose today to break out of the box of fear and doubt that is limiting you from unleashing trust, belief, and breakthrough performances in all aspects of your life!

We provide coaching, consulting, and leadership development programs focused on helping you, your team, and your organization or business create breakthrough performances and develop a culture of leadership. Browse our web site for more information.

Question: What are some beliefs that limit you from maximizing your potential and accomplishing your goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Your Influence Affects The Outcome

The influence of one can impact the outcome of many. I was very aware of this as a point guard in basketball. It was up to me to bring the ball up the court and make the right decisions about what play to run, when to shoot, and when to pass. There were times when I needed to be more of an offensive force to help our team win. At other times, I needed to pass the ball and get my teammates involved in the flow of the game. The outcome was often determined by the choices I made – for better and sometimes, for worse.

Ben Driving to the hoop

In life, we make choices all the time that affect the lives of other people. Some people have an isolated viewpoint and think that their individual choices leave no residual effect on the people in their sphere of influence. For example, a leader may believe that his choice not to speak to people as he walks into the office has no effect on the perceptions of his employees; yet, by not speaking, he speaks volumes about his view of them and their importance. In an instance like this, the leader misses an opportunity to engage with and encourage the people he leads every day. The reality is that we were created to live in community with others, and our words and actions have impact not only on the generation represented in front of us but for generations to come.

While our influence is important to focus on, the outcome can be a choice as well. My father made a choice to leave our family when I was 3, and it made an impact on my mom and myself and affected our immediate outcome but not our eventual destination. I could have used that as an excuse – never to trust others, never to marry, never to have kids. I realized along the way that I had a choice to reverse the effect of this influence for good – to trust others, to marry, to be blessed with five boys who will hopefully carry on the mantle of positive influence in the lives of others.

Dictionary definition of the word influence.

Be careful how you choose to live your life. Each moment is critical to not only your own success and significance but also to the success and significance of others. You have been given a sphere of influence for a reason. Choose today to positively impact the people within your sphere of influence and leave a lasting legacy of true leadership and impact.

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Champions Sweat The Details

Champions sweat the details. They don’t just sit back and rely on their potential. They nurture and develop their talent. They work hard at being greater each day. Not all talented people take this approach. In fact, I have seen some very talented people sit back and let others – people who were not as naturally talented and gifted as them – outwork them and, therefore, surpass them in terms of accomplishments and impact. Kobe Bryant always relentlessly pursued being better than he was yesterday in a quest to be the best.

Kobe Doing Work

Steph Curry is another example in basketball becoming a back-to-back MVP and arguably the most improved player as well in the 2015-2016 NBA season, which included making 402 3-pointers shattering his own record of 286 made 3-pointers the previous season. Steph also goes through a rigorous off-season program and a very disciplined pre-game routine to keep taking his skills to the next level!

Steph Curry Dribbling

If you want to succeed in any area of life and become a true “champion,” here are at least 3 things you can learn from the mindset of a champion:

  • Champions expect and deliver great outcomes – Champions don’t settle for just “good enough” results. For a champion, “good enough” is not good enough. They go above and beyond to do things with excellence. The idea and concept of “good enough” to a champion is settling for a lesser result. Champions focus on doing things to the best of their ability and challenging themselves to be the best. You must be content but never satisfied and develop goals that take you beyond what you think is possible.
  • Champions are driven by the outcome and focused on the process – A champion knows that the journey is the key to a great outcome. They are driven by a big goal, and they rely on the process to get them there. Champions know that constantly thinking and stressing about the “success metric” they are trying so hard to accomplish is not the way to make it happen. They focus on doing things with excellence and trust the process to achieve the outcome they desire. You must consistently execute a plan for personal growth and stay focused on the process in order to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Champions sweat the details – Champions take nothing for granted. They develop the right action plan to achieve their goals and then execute it in a determined and diligent manner. They do the big things as well as the small things that lead to success. They perform in the spotlight and produce in the background. They realize that the hard work they do in the gym when no one is looking allows them to reap the rewards when everyone is watching.

Greatness doesn’t just happen. It’s a process that requires hard work and perseverance. It demands focusing on the little things that will yield tremendous results. Whether you want to become a “champion” at work, at home, or in your community, the key question is:

Question: As it relates to your roles in life, what details do you need to ‘sweat,’ or focus on, to become better than you were yesterday and make the greatest impact? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


The Importance of a Pre-Shot Routine

Three dribbles. Stop. One more dribble. Stop. Bend the knees and become one with the shot as I follow through the ball figuratively extending my elbow and wrist like Stretch Armstrong all the way through the center of the goal swishing the ball through the net. It’s the same routine for me every time I shoot a free throw. It’s been that way since Jr. High, although I shoot a lot less meaningful free throws these days.

Drew Shooting Free Throw

In the arena of peak sports performance, we call it a pre-shot routine, and it is the key to making a great shot. In sports, every successful athlete develops a routine before they perform. The idea of a pre-shot routine applies to all sports even though the specific sport may not involve an actual “shot.” Each athlete develops a systematic routine that involves both physical and mental activity that helps them prepare to perform at their best. While every athlete may have nuances within their specific approach, a pre-shot routine typically involves the following components:

  • Mental focus – Preparing your mind to focus on a positive outcome and simplifying your thoughts to replace extraneous thoughts and distractions
  • Physical Preparation – Preparing your body to perform the task at hand

Athletes realize they can’t just summon focus magically in the moment. Preparation is the key.

The concept a pre-shot routine applies not only to sports but also to other areas of our lives like our vocation, our community, and our relationships. In my book Moments: Making Your Life Count For What Matters Most, I call this principle “Focus on the Moment” and explain that in order to have focus IN the moment, you have to focus ON the moment which involves considering the following questions:

  • What’s at stake?
  • Who else is involved?
  • How can I make a difference?

A successful presenter doesn’t just step up to the microphone and magically demonstrate focus. He or she prepares in advance carefully considering the moment, the audience, and the message. An incredible client meeting doesn’t just happen. You have to consider the needs, challenges, and questions of the other person and be prepared to provide answers and solutions that will make a positive impact. Great families don’t just happen. You have to focus on the outcomes you want to see and the opportunities you have to impact the people in your family. Effective weeks don’t just appear out of thin air. You have to be proactive and develop a “pre-shot routine” for your weeks and days that will put you into a position to “score” (i.e. be effective).

Question: What is your pre-shot routine for your life? How do you prepare for your days and weeks? Do you think your days could be more productive and effective if you spent time preparing and focusing ON the moment? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

You Are Writing Your Story

Whether you realize it or not, every day you are writing the script to your story. With every choice and decision about your time, talent, and resources you are putting a stamp on your legacy. With every great story, there are central characters, role players, antagonists, successes, setbacks, a key challenge, and a pursuit of persevering through the key challenge.

Man Writing in a Journal

Does life seem to be passing you by? Are you writing the story that you want to create? If the answer is a resounding “No!” or you are unsure and you feel like you are going through the motions, here are 3 steps that may help you in this process:

  • Reflect – Take time to reflect by scheduling a personal retreat. You may not have time or the resources to schedule a 6-month sabbatical, but you can make a choice to take a day or a weekend retreat to assess where you are, where you have been, and where you are going. One thing that has helped me in times of reflection in my journey is the power or prayer and listening to God for direction, wisdom, and clarity. Another thing has been asking myself the question that Ralph Waldo Emerson used to ask Henry David Thoreau and his other friends, “What has become clear since we last met?”
  • Redirect – This may involve redirecting your energy, your priorities, and your pursuits. Based on an honest assessment of your strengths, passions, and purpose in life, you have an opportunity to redirect your efforts toward the right road in life. While we do not have ultimate control of the events in our lives and the world around us, we must be active and engaged if we want to affect the outcome of our story. Life was never intended to be a spectator sport no matter how good the seats or how tasty the halftime snacks are.
  • Run – As an endurance runner, I love to run! I even like to walk fast when I am going somewhere. Running allows me to be active in a journey and committed to a goal. In life, we must be active in our journey and committed to purposeful decisions that will achieve our goal. While you may only gain clarity about the next step, trust and faith allow you to take that step with a determination that you are on the right path. We were created to embrace our calling and run with a purpose toward the right pursuits.

The path is often determined by asking the right questions to gain clarity through the right answers. You get one shot at life – one story to craft and create something beautiful, memorable, significant, and impactful! Decide today to be actively engaged in creating the story you were intended to live!

Question: What do you think your purpose or calling in life is? How are you impacting the people in your story? You can leave a comment by clicking here.