Forgo World Domination

Twitter succeeded (albiet maybe not financially) with the simple concept of public social messaging limited to 144 characters. Google gained dominance on “search” long before adwords, gmail, GoogleDocs and the litany of applications. Amazon revolutionized the online shopping mall but now delivers server farms, phones, video content. Godaddy? Much the same, they made it easy to by a domain, now they up-sell hosting, websites, privacy features and I think they just offered to come clean my house next month. We’ve all seen clearly how Microsoft evolved (or maybe devolved depending on your perspective) from the titans who revolutionized computing with graphical interface into the global titan who does…? Xbox, Office, phones, yada yada yada…

All of these business cases typify “More is Better” and then strive to make the business case that “Much More Must Be Much Better”.

This quest for ‘more’ is the beast inside each leader howling to take charge. ‘More’ wages war against Best, Humanity, and the quality of life. This isn’t a blog rant about working less or killing all of your corporate dreams. This is a blog post about effectiveness, purpose, priorities and the allure of the next shiny thing. Dollars, pride, competition, and even boredom derail leaders and organizations from excellence.

Aren’t we all tempted by this in our personal lives too? We have the jitters to ‘do something’, read something, play something, conquer something. We quickly and easily lose site of more intimate personal goals to deliver high quality, meaningful relationships, experiences and legacies.

Consider what would happen if we were to forgo world domination and concentrate on excellence in our work, in our relationships and in our personal health.

Add Daily Value

Add Daily Value

It’s a simple thought, but let it sit on you for a moment as you reflect on your leadership.

Don’t think of it as a directive given to you by your boss who is looking for higher ROI (return on investment). No one is going to force you to add daily value and happily (for both you and for me) I am not your boss.

Avoid framing it as a question, “Am I adding daily value?” That will only lead you down one of two paths: A confident and indignant, “Of course I add daily value in my leadership or workplace!” Or two, a head clouded, frustrated, spiral of self doubt and loathing, “Gosh, I don’t think I add daily value — shit, they might fire me if they notice!”

But what if we think of Add Daily Value in terms of a personalized mission statement for your leadership. Your leadership day doesn’t have to begin when you wake, but perhaps you slipped this value on with your work clothes every day? How would you lead differently? Can you imagine an environment where you and everyone else around you went beyond the tasks, the goals, the bottom-line and aimed for something greater? Adding daily value to your co-workers lives, your employees, your customers, the other tenants in your building. What kind of leader could you become if this value filtered through your decision making processes.

I must confess, for all of the values that I hold dear, this one, framed this way, is refocusing how I see my leadership world.

Kudos to Josh & Ryan on their book “Everything Remains”. This read along with the thoughts shared through their blog are definitely on my must read list now… go check them out.

More Good Than Bad

Leading never fails to present obstacles and challenges. Every day is packed full with new mountains to scale, goals to achieve, problems to crack and people to inspire or correct. In the midst of the full day and the jammed packed week, it’s very possible to become overtaken by all of the items that are not going well. Even the best leaders and the most optimistic individuals need to self adjust our mindsets to bring our best energy and renew our passion for what is at hand and what lays ahead.

Have you taken a step back? Been too busy? Caught your self more focused on the things that are not going well?

Stop for five to ten minutes…

Yes, just stop.

Grab a real piece of paper (not your phone) and jot a list of 10 things that are actually fantastic about life, work, relationships and the state of your business. We need to see where we’ve been. The good things that are actually really good. You need to notice that some of your goals are being achieved. The whole world is not all against you. There are many simple things to enjoy… write these things down! Tuck them in your front pocket. Pull this list out again tonight and re-read it. Add a thing or two to this list again tomorrow. Focusing on the positives will renew your passion for the challenges at hand.

10 reasons why organizations fail to develop great volunteers

Why organizations fail to develop great volunteers? Here’s the top 10 reasons why organizations fail to develop a great team of volunteer leaders.

1. A lack of vision
If you think volunteers can’t do anything important then you have no vision for the power of internally motivated, passionate people changing the world. Your vision of what the future can look like with a team of “free” leaders must change.

2. No plan
Developing great volunteers requires advanced planning. I will beat this drum until I die, as I will that you need to read the E-myth to help you figure out the bigger picture.

3. No Structure
One man or woman can not effectively lead an army by themselves. Think terms of teams with a ratio of 1 to 6. For every 6 volunteers you have you will need a leader in their midst, guiding the efforts, helping the whole to go in the same direction.

4. They take anyone
Don’t be mistaken. Just because people are volunteering doesn’t mean that you can’t be selective. Joining a team must come with a minimum standard of excellence, skills, character, chemistry and all the other things that you would look for as you build an awesome team.

5. They give out crap jobs
If interns get photocopy jobs, then volunteers are the ones asked to clean the bathrooms. This is such a piss poor approach and you will never attract top talent with this mentality. Do NOT be afraid to create genuine, meaningful leadership posts for volunteers. Your best volunteers will be top flight professionals who will actually be more talented than you so let them lead meaningful endeavors!

6. Eyes shut
Most organizations don’t keep their eyes open for leaders, and instead, they rely on recruiting volunteers with forms, webpages and please for “help”. This will not work. The very best leaders need to be recruited through relationships. You can’t retract into your organizational bubble and expect talent will find you.

7. No investment
People are people and should be valued as such. You are not a leader because of position but because of influence. Volunteers need encouragement, inspiration, and connection. These things come from you when you invest back into them. Don’t get caught up in the work, but rather get caught up in serving your best volunteers.

8. Lack of training
Showing a volunteer what to do on the day they show up doesn’t constitute training. Sure, hands on training is great, but simple questions like “how, why, best practices, and goals” all need to be addressed up front as much as possible. Training alleviates fear and builds confidence.

9. Burnout
Volunteers are a consumable resource. The highest impact volunteers have very busy lives. Most of them will have 40-60 hours of their week already spent before they participate with you… You must keep this in mind. Plan ahead. Be ready. Make each hour that a volunteer is serving with you count.

10. High rates of staff turnover
Every time the key leader in the organization leaves and a new person comes in, you might as well expect that about 50% of your volunteers will leave within the next 12 months. Volunteers are motivated by missional impact and relationship with the leadership of your organization.

Don’t let reasons be why your organizations fail to develop a great team of volunteer leaders.

You Must Learn To Write

I had no idea how when I was 16, 21 or even 26 years old just how much learning to write effectively would alter the course of my leadership world and also my earning potential. I truly believe that you must learn to write. This isn’t a new concept. Leaders throughout history have been avid writers; detailing military strategies, communicating with key people, recording events & significant history, capturing laws, executing vital orders, and even passionately conveying their love to another over long distances. Without writing we have no reliable transference of leadership from one generation to the next. Without the power of words in text (and now video) you are limited to being in only one place at time and also limited to your moment by moment leadership. Without writing you can only lead the people right in front of you.

You must learn to write. Start now. Practice. Perfect. Struggle through it. See Seth Godin’s post today, “The 5000th post*“, each one coming one day right after another. How did he turn his career from a mid-level corporate marketer to developing the most influential leadership resources on the web today? By writing.

Need help being an more effective writer?

Google search “How To Write Effectively” and I am positive that each and every article will be extremely helpful at giving you practical tips with how to improves your writing skills.

Also, not enough words can be devoted to how instrumental a world class editor is. See @ThatAdamPalmer and his tweets to me about some basic writing pointers for a new project I am working on.

basic writing tips

basic writing tips from Adam Palmer



You Are Who You Are

You are who you are.

You are not who you say you are. You are not who you are pretending to be, nor are you yet who you want to be. You are not the sum total of all of all of your worst weaknesses nor are you the best of all of your greatest strengths. You might be a work in progress, growing and heading in a great direction, but please tell us, who are you TODAY?

You are who YOU are.

And, why will you fail in your current role? Because, as hard as it is for me to agree with pop-culture counselors, you must be you. Sure, go ahead and be your best you, but you MUST be you. If you don’t know who you are and if you can’t communicate it effectively to others, then how can you expect the people leading you to do better than what you offer them? A leader, boss or coach can’t be expected to employ someone into their best possible role if they don’t know really who they are dealing with.

Countless partnerships and business relationships have been doomed to failure for this one simple reason, “you aren’t being you”.

“But, they are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook! - Dennis Green, Oct. 16, 2006

So, will you candidly, with a zeal for honest evaluation, tell the people who are counting on you what your best skills and attributes are? Then with the same measure of honesty (not more, not less) be sure to carefully and honestly describe the types of roles you should not lead up and outline areas where you would certainly be least effective. Don’t hide out in fear, hoping to survive. You and the people around you will enjoy life and work more when you are thriving in a leadership role that fits you best. Every job should have some margin for growth and new opportunities, but the entire role shouldn’t be one humongous fantasy bet on “best case” and your dreams at night.

Need some help figuring out who you are?
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The Difficulties of Leadership

I’m a minimalist. I give away almost everything I don’t really need and part ways quickly with things just taking up space or collecting dust. I have very, very few collections or random trinkets I hold dear.

In my office there is a stack of books, each laid on their side, that reaches nearly seven feet tall, written on the singular subject of leadership. All of these books are biographies, spanning nearly all of history. This stack of books represents the collective knowledge and actions of the ‘who’s who’ of the greatest men and women throughout time. I have read them cover to cover, page by page, word by word… some of them more than once or twice. This stack of books is one of my very few collections.

There is another stack of books I own. This stack used to be at least as tall as the other, but I have judiciously whittled it down to only the best of the best, most impactful and practical books on business and modern leadership principals. Honestly, not many books make this cut, because the people who write them often turn out to be thinkers on these subjects, not actually accomplished doers.

Condensed here for your convenience are some truths about the difficulties of leadership that all great leaders understand and share in. The weight and practical application of these statements might hold less meaning if you haven’t studied deeply of these men & women, but it’s my hope that you will consider them carefully all the same.

  • Leaders are inspired and carried forward by visions of alternate realities, futures and possibilities, regardless of the improbabilities that might lie ahead.
  • The hope of a better future carries a leader through all of the hard work, suffering and sacrifices that will come.
  • Tough, heart wrenching decisions are unavoidable. Great leadership will certainly exact a personal toll.
  • You will lose some of your closest friends because you need to do what is best. This reality it will haunt you, as will the fact that you know it was unavoidable.
  • Take heart, you are in great company, because all leaders have (or will) hesitate in the face of profoundly difficult moments of decision.
  • When a leader doesn’t vacillate and rises to make difficult decisions, it’s because they have dug deep into their faith, their religion, their personal conviction or into the vision of what can be.
  • Some of the greatest leaders of all time have faltered in critical moments, and it is the faltering in these moments that nearly all of them look back on with regret.
  • Although most leaders are surrounded by councils, friends and loved ones, each leader inevitably experiences isolation when the hardest work and linchpin decisions need to be made.

These are just some of the undeniable factors separating our ordinary lives from the best life, the best leadership, the best outcomes, and the best tomorrows.

4 things you must do while in college

This isn’t an old man regretting decisions not made, but experience casting a bet on what the next generation will need to excel, regardless of whether you are pursuing leadership in business, the nonprofit sector or the military. Here are 4 things you must do while in college -

1. Learn a foreign language with intensity
A truth that we can’t ignore is the rapid globalization of economies and relationships. Language is more than the words, it’s an immersion into culture, world view and human behavior. Leadership requires a robust understanding of humanity… and my 4th grader is capably of studying both Mandarin and Spanish while still retaining excellent grades in English, so don’t tell me you aren’t smart enough.

Need more motivation?  Mandarin Chinese language stats  |  Spanish language stats

2. Study abroad for at least a year
You live in a bubble and a trip to Disney world will not give you what you need to know about the world at large. Your beliefs, paradigms and personal habits need to be challenged and sharpened. You don’t really own who you are until you are pushed out of the nest and learn to “fly” in the real world. Your twenty’s are a shaping period of life, so GO get shaped by the world ‘out there’, nut nestled down in your apartment or your dorm room in some middle America, small college town that will be exactly the same a year after you leave it.

3. Capture the opportunities of technology
Technology isn’t just a new means of doing “work”, its way more than that. Technology creates a brand new paradigm for how you work and from where you get the opportunity to work.

By the end of 2007, all 4,000 staffers at Best Buy headquarters will be on ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment), which permits them to work whenever and wherever they want. So, what happens when smart companies realize that work isn’t a place where you go, but something that you do? - 4 hour work week, Tim Ferris

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”  — Steve Jobs, the lost interview from

4. Take adventurous forays into the workforce 
Internships, paid summer opportunities and entrepreneurial experiments. The classroom is an isolate, non-real, sequestered learning environment. I can appreciate that you don’t have a 10 year plan or know exactly “what you want to be when you grow up”. Let’s be candid, very few of us are doing today exactly what we went to get a degree for. The surest way to find your strengths and broaden your appreciation for what you ought and ought not be doing with your life is to get more real world experience. Courageous 20-somthings will push their way into new experiences and broader leadership opportunities. Don’t just kill your summers on the beach!

“If you want to master the art of business, you don’t need to go to business school.” - Josh Kaufman, The Personal MBA

Things we should teach our kids (and ourselves)

This is a list of things we should teach our kids (and ourselves) in life, for better citizenship, healthier living and excellent leadership.

Kids, I am convinced are artists by nature, but adults often don’g inspire the process. I am guilty. I love to draw. My boys love to draw. However, we don’t draw together very often, but when we do it is magical and whole heck of a lot of fun. Creativity spawns creativity.

(I am not the first person to say this and I won’t be the last.)
Why in the hell don’t we teach about money in junior high and high school as required course work? Simple and critical financial matters are being grossly overlooked. Dave Ramsey is killing it in the area and you should be too. Start now with your kids.

Adults lack confidence because it wasn’t nurtured in them as kids. Encourage the heck out of you kids and help them to see what they are good at. Teach them to have humble confidence in their strengths and learn to be ok with skills and areas where they have limitations. There is no shame in weakness because we all have stuff that we can do awesome and stuff we can’t.

Failure is not a dirty word. Experimentation follows art and confidence and leads to new achievements. Experimentation enables us to pursue our dreams, create new products, fund new cures and uncover new adventures. Experimentation leads humanity to new heights, deeper love, and greater cooperation. Experimentation requires failure, support, courage and a little moxie.

Computer proficiency
I grew up with an Apple II and then my family was fortunate enough to have one of the very first Mac computers in the Pacific NW. By grace I have been able to provide similar tech opportunities for my kids. WARNING: Giving our kids digital devices for hours and hours of gaming is not the same as guiding them towards computer literacy. I am also not talking about learning to be a social media star on Facebook. Kids needs to lear real programs and acquire real tools. You must watch the video below.  And it is imperative that young people understand these stats.

* There are more and more classic disciplines like such as second language study, science, history and more. The idea is simple, there is so much to learn that will hone who we are as leaders, but far too often we fall short for lack of effort, inspiration, motivation and just pure laziness.

Lightning Action versus Unflappable Patience

The battle of leadership super powers: Lightning Action versus Unflappable Patience.

Does the leadership universe have room for two super powers? If not, which would win in a battle of Lightning Action versus Unflappable Patience.

Lightening Action!
“You are about to lose out on this incredible opportunity nothing short of immediate results will do”!

Unflappable Patience.
“Let’s watch this play out and see what happens because good things will come.”

Two modes of action that can enhance your leadership. At the right moments, each can be a key differentiator in the art of leadership. At the wrong moments, each can be devestating. The hard part? Obviously it’s know which one to employ in each critical moment.

When your child is about to take his first step but he’s standing on a hard surface like tile: Do you rescue him or let him go? (Think “little dude”, Nemo)

When a younger leader under your direction is about to faulter in an important decision: Is learning through failure a viable option and if so at what cost?

A new idea has hatched in a team meeting that could be a deal maker for your organization: Is this the moment for “all hands on deck”, some redbull and a late-into-the-night flurry of creative energies turned loose towards a quick launch?

You need to be both Jeckle & Hyde, patience and action oriented, and wise enough to figure out when to be who. You are capable, but you must be deliberate at deploying each skill into the right moments.