Search Results for: strengths

Traction & Momentum: Pursuing The Things That Work After Killing The Things That Don’t

Do more of what works. Do less of what doesn’t. 

But that sounds easy. Empty even. 

Kind of like urging people who want to be rich with an admonition, “Get a million dollars!” Great advice. But how?

Today’s show is going to be full of vulnerability. Not whining or complaining, but explaining. Experience and insight are valuable. Expertise isn’t always transferrable – from person to person. Each of us is on our own unique journey. But we can all derive some benefit when we lean into understanding somebody else’s journey. It can help us figure things out for ourselves, which is the ideal outcome in all my coaching work. 

Success leaves clues, but so does failure. And modern culture often fools us into thinking the path forward is something different than reality. I recorded an episode over on my “hobby” podcast, Leaning Toward Wisdom that speaks to this.

There is enormous power in a mind made up. But that can work for bad, as well as good. A person bent on destructive behavior has made up their mind. Nobody can convince them that their behavior is harmful to their own life – and others. 

We want to make up our own minds. In spite of the times when we wish somebody would just tell us what to do – mostly, that’s not what we want. I’ve found that people crave somebody with whom they can shell things down. The obstacle is always safety. It’s hard to find people who are safe enough because we desperately want to figure things out, but we want to be responsible for our own lives. We don’t want others imposing on us, even if we do seek their help. Being helpful isn’t as easy as it seems. Mostly because selfishness gets in the way. 

These are important truths because every high-achiever or would-be high-achiever is chasing traction and momentum. We all want to build up speed so we can get some lift and go higher. But there are no principles of aeronautics to help us. This is life stuff. Everybody is unique in their environment, situation, natural tendencies, talents, connections, experience, and most everything else you can think of. 

Last week a client asked me for an answer – something I rarely do because my work isn’t about telling people what to do. Rather, it’s about helping them explore more deeply so they can figure it out for themselves. But once in a while, usually provoked by some specific challenge, a client will blurt out, “Just tell me what you think I should do.” This time I responded with more questions.

“Were you born in Ada, Oklahoma in 1957?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Then it doesn’t much matter what I’d do ’cause I’m not you. So let’s explore your options,” I said. 

We spent the next 45 minutes examining the choices before him. He settled on two and together we wrestled those down until he saw a clear winner. So it goes.

With that context in mind, I want to share with you my professional journey over the past dozen years since leaving the C-suite to set out to serve and help business owners, executives, and leaders. Traction and momentum are critical goals for every person I work with. And likely for everybody who aspires to their own growth and improvement.

One of the biggest questions we ask ourselves is, “When should I quit? When should I give up or pivot?” You don’t have to be an entrepreneur launching a new business to ask yourself those questions. Whether it’s about a relationship, a hobby, a fitness routine, or anything else we pursue – all of us wonder how long should we stick with it without seeing meaningful progress. 

Seth Godin wrote a book in 2007, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). It’s a short, but worthwhile read. I’m not certain it actually teaches you when to quit and when to stick, but I found it helpful even if it didn’t provide absolute answers. Frankly, I was never expecting Godin, who is quite smart, to provide absolutes. He provokes thought and that’s plenty good enough for me. 

We jump into the water and begin to pursue some outcome. After hours of swimming, it may be tough to know if we’re any closer to that far shore we were aiming to reach. At what point do you turn back? How much longer do you keep swimming? 

There are many stories of mythical failures – times when a person made a nominal investment at an early critical time in a company that wound up becoming a global behemoth, but the person accepted a modest return on their investment and walked away. They quit too soon, we think. Well, it’s easy to see that now, but perhaps in real-time that person made a choice that seemed best for them.  

How can we know? 

Sometimes we can’t. Time and chance happen to all of us. Sometimes good fortune falls our way. Sometimes not. 

Failure is our more commonly shared experience than success. We don’t want to admit it. Or talk about it. Ignoring or avoiding conversations about failure is more harmful than not though. We fret about our ego, our appearance, our image. Forget that we likely should fret more about our ignorance and our lost opportunities to learn so we can become better people. And in the process, perhaps find the traction and momentum we seek. 

I get it. We don’t want to be vulnerable to just anybody. Or everybody. I’m not suggesting we should be. It’s a decision best made by each of us for ourselves. 

I am suggesting that more of us step forward to be that somebody though because the world could certainly use fresh honesty. And wisdom. Plus learning. All of which can be had when we talk about, listen, and understand our failures. And the struggles we endure to capture traction and momentum. 

You drive through some muddy ground when suddenly you’re stuck. You give the car more gas. You put it in reverse. You put it back in forward. You’re going nowhere.

Eventually, you get out to take a look. It can’t hurt to examine the situation. The faster you do this, the better. I mean, how about stepping out to look when you’re first stuck? Isn’t that better than gunning the car and digging yourself in deeper?

Well, you’re outside staring at this wheel that’s about 3 inches deep in slimy mud. Nearby you spot some rocks and decent-sized sticks. It may not work, but you’re stuck. Best you can figure, putting a few good-sized rocks and sticks under the tire can’t hurt. So you give it a go. 

Back behind the wheel, you put the car in a forward gear and gun it. You hear the sound of the sticks breaking. But you’re still stuck. No traction. No momentum. 

Back outside you begin to think you made a mistake. Not with the sticks and stones, but in giving the car too much gas. You have an idea. You’ll repeat the process except this time, you’ll gently give the car some gas and attempt to ease out of the mud. 

Here you go. Nice and easy! The car begins to inch forward. You’ve got traction. It’s not racetrack traction, but it’s enough to get you unstuck. And right now, that’s all the traction you want or need. You inch your way out of the hole and within seconds…you’re free. Traction and momentum. And you’ve learned. You won’t make the same mistake of gunning it the next time. 

Our lives are like that. All the time. We’re making adjustments based on what didn’t work. Working to figure out what we don’t yet know. Or understand. 

So what can I share that may help you? Plenty! πŸ˜€ I have failed more than not, but I don’t suspect I’m much different than you. Or anybody else. Here’s the real rub. Some of us have won bigger than others and that can dwarf the failures. Others of us haven’t won so big so our failures can appear larger. It’s just a relative perspective. Mark Cuban’s failures and struggles don’t seem much to us as we admire his wealth ($4.4B net worth). But compared to Jerry Jones ($8.8B net worth), Cuban’s failures look larger. Fact is, we’ve all been fortunate, unfortunate and we’ve all failed and succeeded. Others can quibble over the difference and the magnitude. Who cares?

Professionally I ran companies until about a dozen years ago. It was then that I started doing roll-your-sleeves-up-get-your-hands-dirty consulting work. After a few years, I realized I didn’t enjoy the work. It was too disconnected from the people side of things to suit me. And my natural talents. So I pivoted into coaching entrepreneurs, CEOs, executives, and leaders in city government (that last one was purely serendipitous and I was thankful to one young man who reached out because he knew me…from there, word of mouth took over). Unlike consulting, this coaching stuff fit me like a glove. Deep, private, confidential conversations helping people figure things out – that’s how I’ve always rolled. It played into all the things I naturally do pretty well. Frankly, things that are easy for you. Best of all, it moved the needle in people’s lives and careers. Not me, but having somebody like me who could help THEM do the work of figuring it out – it made all the positive difference in the world. It’s rewarding. 

About 6 years ago I was introduced to the professional peer advisory world. Namely, CEO peer groups. I’d never been in one and I still wasn’t. But I was asked to form one here in DFW. As captivated as I was (and still am) with the notion of CEOs banding together to help one another, the situation just wasn’t an ideal fit for me. Culturally, I wasn’t a good fit. It happens. But I was still completely sold on the power of a group of people with one major commonality joining together in a peer advisory group. 

That’s when I introduced myself to Leo Bottary, co-author of The Power of Peers. Leo and I started a podcast. Today, our podcast is branded PEERNOVATION, after Leo’s company devoted to helping groups, teams and organizations elevate their performance through the incorporation of the five factors of peer advantage, as outlined in this book. 

For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve studied the topic, talked with dozens of people who’ve been able to teach me firsthand the value proposition of people supporting and serving one another. I was a ready convert a long time ago though so it wasn’t much of a challenge for me to increasingly see the high value of peer advantage – people learning together by sharing insights, experiences, and wisdom. 

Almost 2 years ago, just months before the Pandemic kicked our butt, I’m sitting with a client and we’re talking about doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. He asks, “How can you know? Sometimes I feel like things are very subtle.” As we talked through his circumstances, challenges and opportunities we both understood even more deeply than we had before – it’s difficult sometimes to discern. Recognition of traction and momentum – as well as recognition of the lack of those – isn’t always dramatic. His career was proof (so is mine) that sometimes it’s tough to figure out if you’re making progress. 

So I asked, “When you feel like there’s a lack of evidence, what do you do?”

He took a deep breath and mumbled, “That’s a good question. I’m not sure.” I encouraged him to think about it. We sat in silence for a few minutes. Finally, he said, “I suppose I follow my gut.” 

“What does that mean?” I asked. “Tell me what that feels like and what you’re thinking when you’re following your gut.”

He recited instances where he simply didn’t want to quit. He didn’t feel like giving up, even though there were no strong, definitive signals that things were working. As I probed more, he admitted that during these moments of determination, he believed success was possible. Even probable. He concluded that unless he had compelling evidence to show him progress (or failure), he based his actions on his confidence or belief in the thing. “I think I give up when I lose faith in it.” 

So we wrestled down whether he was losing faith in himself or in the activity. Sometimes both, he said. “Sometimes I finally conclude that the idea might be valid, but I’m clearly not able to carry it out. Sometimes I suppose I’m just the wrong man for the job.”

It wasn’t a statement of insecurity. Rather, it was a statement of big-time confidence and self-awareness. I told him about my son who operates a home inspection business. He got a master’s degree enabling him to rise in the land of public education. After a decade in that arena, he was completely bored, burned out, and sick and tired of being sick and tired. He loved the kids, but hated the system. Besides, he had an entrepreneurial bent. And he’s an extrovert. 

I told my client how different I am from my son. Now, you should understand that a big part of my work – especially early on in an engagement – is encouraging clients to become the best version of themselves. “Lean into being exactly who you are. Don’t try to be something or somebody you’re not.” 

Well, my son has skills that come naturally to him. Skills I don’t have. And I have skills that aren’t natural for him. I often envy what he’s able to do with ease…things I could never do, even with intense effort. It’s that old adage about asking a fish to climb a tree. Not going to happen. But squirrels do it with ease. While fish operate in the water with ease. 

Sometimes our failure isn’t really a failure. It’s learning. Sometimes we’re unaware of just how much of a fish we are. No wonder climbing the tree isn’t working out for us. Self-awareness is hard work. Coming face to face with ourselves is THE work I help clients accomplish. All our progress emanates from our ability to face our reality and if we’re displeased with it, to transform. Not by becoming something completely different, but by improving and growing. 

That encounter provoked me to think about my own traction and momentum. Within a few days, I had spent considerable quiet time looking more intently at my own progress – especially in this arena of peer advantage. My interest in it hadn’t waned, but over time I found myself doing exactly what I urged my clients NOT to do. Push water a hill. It’s a metaphor for attempting to do something not likely in our best interest. Or attempting to do something with such inefficiency that it’s basically not worthwhile. It’s a catchall phrase for futility. 

Staring into the mirror, I realized how guilty I had been in trying to push water up a hill. And like my client, I was going on gut – my faith and belief. I had no evidence my attempts were working, or moving me closer toward success. Fact was, I had very little evidence. But I so believed in it, I refused to quit. 

Meanwhile, other endeavors that I wasn’t even that focused on were growing. I was ignoring traction and momentum in these areas because I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. I eventually came to understand – with more clarity than I’d had in a long time – that I was a hypocrite. I was urging clients to do more of what worked and less of what didn’t. Yet I was doing just the opposite. I was paying almost no attention to what was working because I was obsessed with making what wasn’t working work! 

For weeks and weeks, I refused to quit simply I wanted it so badly. This thing I wasn’t succeeding at. Namely, my desire to build a professional peer group. I had long ago dubbed it, The Peer Advantage. So some weeks ago, in the middle of the night (when I do some of my better thinking and pondering), I decided to come to grips with it all. I coached myself through the process with tough questions and challenges. By the time I was done – and growing sleepy – I concluded that the idea is still valid, even terrific. But I’m not the right guy for the task. Like those things my son does so well that are almost impossible for me, I simply was unfit for getting traction and momentum. Rather, I’m ideally suited to facilitate groups when they’re gathered for a specific purpose, to achieve something specific. I’m also ideally suited for ongoing one-on-one deep interactions to help clients figure things out. But I am NOT ideally suited to sell and market and enroll folks into a professional peer advisory group. I love deep conversations, but I’m an introvert who despises selling in spite of the fact that I’ve spent most of my career selling. Influence is easy. Selling is hard. For me. But there’s something more important. A truth I came to better understand.

I love to craft and create content. Content to help my clients better understand. Content to help them figure things out. Content to help them paint themselves into a corner so they can at long last come face-to-face with themselves and move forward. 

I love to write. And to podcast. All that talk of “be a media company” is right up my alley. I’ve been a one-man media company for more than 20 years. I’ve just used it for more auxiliary purposes rather than more overt ones. And it makes sense. 

Couple my introversion with my need (and natural talent) to engage in deep conversations – and my natural curiosity to ask questions (and carefully listen so I can understand) – and it makes sense that the transactional nature of what many endeavors require…is something I simply don’t have. I could lean into trying to do the things I know work, but I’d have to go against my natural wiring to make it happen. And the older I get, the harder that is. And the less inclined I am to do it. 

I’m making notes. Pondering. Doing the mental wrestling we all do when we’re engaged in growth exercises and experiments. 

I come to terms with what I’ve long known about myself. Mostly by looking more closely at the things I do by default. Productive things. Things I love. In no particular order, I make notes. Writing. Podcasting. Videos. They all fall in the category of trying to share insights, experiences, wisdom – not in the spirit of “do this, don’t do that” but in the spirit of “this is what I’ve learned so far and it may help you, but I’m not telling you to do it this way – I’m challenging you to figure out if you can make application to your life.” 

Deep curiosity about others. I want to know as much as others are willing to share. The past dozen years of coaching have taught me that almost 100% (there’s always the very rare outlier) crave somebody with whom they can be completely free and uninhibited to share their fears, concerns, challenges, hurdles, and whatever else stands in the way of their progress. I love being that safe person for others!

So mentally – and emotionally – I made up my mind. I could hear Tom Petty sing, “It’s time to move on…it’s time to get going.” It was weeks ago, but I was afraid to go public. I told nobody. Not even my wife. Shame of failure was hitting me. Until I realized what I constantly preach to others – NOBODY IS PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU. They’re too busy with their own lives. We delude ourselves sometimes thinking that folks notice every time we trip and fall down. And we think if they do see us, they laugh. 

It was almost 4am when I smiled at the thought. And figured, if folks laugh, then it means they ARE paying attention. Good enough. Besides, it’s my life, not theirs. And I know what I’m really good at – and am not ashamed of what I’m not good at. It is what it is. 

Mostly, I was really tired of what I now saw as the reality – the hypocrisy. Soar with your strengths was a concept that the father of Strengthsfinder, Donald O. Clifton had taught me in his 1992 book entitled that exact admonition, Soar With Your Strengths. It resonated with me. And fit everything I’d long urged of my clients. Be more (and better) of who are you…instead of struggling to be something you’re not (and probably never will be). 

I was preaching solid sermons. It was now time to live them more fully. Mostly, to be true to myself in order to provide more value to others. 

So I’m pulling the plug on any attempt to build a professional peer group. I’m still very focused – as I’ve always been – in building and sustaining a high-performance culture (environment). It begins with helping leaders build the highest-performing careers possible so they can be more impactful. From there, it’s about growing people so we can have groups and teams that accomplish great things. It’s about leveraging high-performance right where we live and work so our organizations can benefit. It’s leadership. In a word, influence!

And now, for me, it’s about leveraging all my best skills, insights and experiences so others can derive the most value. Which, for me, means it’s about creating instructional, educational, inspirational and challenging content to help more people figure it out for themselves – faster and better!

What might that look like? I’m not sure, but I have some strong ideas. But I’ve learned this much, in order to grab onto something new and better, we’ve got to turn loose of something old that isn’t working. So happy Friday, June 4, 2021. I’m turning loose and it feels…pretty grand. Relief. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great.

I’m Not The Sharpest Knife In The Drawer, But I Am A Knife (The Power Of Curiosity) – Season 2020, Episode 28

When it comes to understanding people and situations I’ve not found anything more powerful than curiosity.

Curiosity drives understanding.

When our curiosity is low, our quest to understand is low, too.

How do we know?

We stop asking questions. Mostly because we either lack curiosity, we don’t care or we think we know enough already. Or any combination of those things.

I’ve told you before how limited my super-powers are, but I do have a few. The other day I’m having this conversation with a CEO about business. He’s telling me about his background and how he came to be where he is, both in business and life. He asks me about my background and I explain to him how I’m like so many of my generation who stumbled into things, made the most of it and it sorta worked out. I told him I wasn’t like the rare friends I had who grew up always wanting to “be” something specific. Or like those people who have many talents from which to pick. When your talents are somewhat limited life can get easier I suppose. You either soar with your strengths (as Donald O. Clifton evangelized, he of what once was “Clifton’s Strengthfinder” fame), or you don’t. The key is knowing your strength of course. Again, easier to do when there are so few of them. Harder to do when you have to pick among the many you may have.

At which point I made the remark that serves as today’s title. And he laughed. But it’s not merely a funny line. It’s completely true and we went on to discuss how asking questions is the only way to satisfy our curiosity. But also how afraid we often are to ask the questions – especially the ones that are most obvious to us at the moment.

Here’s some context for you, regarding the title.

The subject was the power of questions. And curiosity.

But the real subject was (and is) UNDERSTANDING.

Umpteen years ago I concluded that “the quality of our questions determines the quality of our business.” Whether it was a customer interaction, a vendor decision, a contract negotiation…questions seemed to be a great barometer of whether or not I was on track as a business leader. Any time I took a shortcut thinking I knew enough BEFORE asking more questions, I almost always lost. That’s why I made up my mind that after I had asked the obvious questions (those I felt were obvious), then I’d search for the not-so-obvious ones. I adopted the “Columbo Rule” of asking one more question after I felt I had exhausted all the questions.

Over the years I learned that the thing always getting my way was ME. My arrogance. My ego. My pride. That’s what would prevent me from getting the understanding I most needed to make better decisions and to behave better.

When that epiphany hit me it almost didn’t make sense. Only because of one thing – I had always embraced my naivete. I was the person unafraid of asking the stupid question. I was the person in the conversation circle when somebody would ask if you knew somebody, or if you’d seen some movie — who would say (if it were true), “No, I have no idea.” Rarely would I feign understanding. I’ve always been pretty shameless at avoiding pretense for the sake of understanding. Hence, the statement I made to the CEO which kinda-sorta serves as today’s show title: “I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least I know I’m a knife…and not a fork.”

My being a knife is my strong desire and curiosity to understand.

Coaching executives and leaders involves me asking lots of questions. Not interrogating them, but in seeking to better understand what’s going on with them, and to figure out how they’re operating. Sometimes I’m trying to understand what they’re feeling whenever they’re frustrated. Or excited. Or feeling terrific.

When it comes to understanding people and situations I’ve not found anything more powerful than curiosity. Which is why today I’m encouraging you to embrace it more fully in your life. It can help push your life and career forward faster than anything I know because it’ll accelerate your learning, which in turn will fuel your growth.

Learning can be hard. Or it can easier. We get to decide.

We can go it alone thinking we’ll figure it out eventually. And maybe we will. But maybe we won’t. This is the slowest way to learn something.

Think about learning to play the guitar. You can sit at home with your guitar, unaided by anybody or anything, and maybe you’ll figure it out eventually, but your progress will be glacially slow.

You could sit at home alone with your phone or computer watching YouTube videos. That’ll pick up the pace enormously. Why do you think YouTube is the number one searched platform for “how to?” Because there are millions of videos that show how to do most anything you can dream of. Whenever we leverage YouTube or anything other web platforms to learn something we’re leveraging the power of others.

You could step up your game by taking some instruction – private or in a class. With another experienced guitar player sitting in front of you, giving you some structured approach to learning guitar, you’ll likely accelerate your learning even more. More evidence of the power of others.

If you decide to befriend other guitar players, especially experienced ones, you’ll find yourself being helped by people who can show you many tricks and tips to step up your learning even more.

Go it alone, asking no questions except those you ask of yourself, and it’s the slowest possible route.

Go it together with others, being intentional and purposeful in surrounding yourself with generous guitar players willing to show you the ropes and you’re now flying in a super sonic jet compared to all that alone time.

Like me, the thing that’ll get in your way is pride and ego. Embarrassed to let the experienced guitar player know that you have no clue what you’re doing…you’ll rob yourself of the power of others. Your lack of humility will ruin your curiosity to understand how to play the guitar.

Apply that logic to anything you’d like to learn – or anything you’d like to learn how to do better!

It works with people, too.

My naivete often helped clients see things from a vantage point they hadn’t previously considered. It’s common for me to hear a client say, “I haven’t considered that it might be that way” or words that express how they’ve only been viewing something from a single point of view.

Which way is right? Which way is wrong?

Don’t think of it in such binary terms. Think of it more in shades of gray and not so black and white.

Maybe it’s less about right or wrong and more about which is better. Or maybe it’s about which is more accurate. Which is more clear.

What if I entered your life during your worst, darkest days? What if I observed your life during this time period and concluded that what I’m seeing is the totality of who and what you are? Would I be accurate?

No. Of course not.

Our worst isn’t a fair sample of who or what we are. It’s the far extreme of what likely does NOT represent who and what we truly are.

Just because you’ve read one chapter of my life doesn’t mean you know my whole story. You need more context. In order to figure out the context, you need what?

Curiosity. Enough curiosity that you want to learn more so you can figure out the whole story. Or at least more of the story so you feel you’ve got a more full context.

If it’s unfair for others to judge you based only on your worst, then why do you think it’s fair for you to do that with them?

Because judgment is easy. Just like making assumptions.

The hard, but fun part is learning more. Asking questions so you can make sure you understand is thrilling if you make it the habit of your life.

Have you ever gotten something wrong? Thought you knew what was happening…only to discover that what you thought was happening wasn’t happening at all? Thought you knew somebody only to find out you had them pegged all wrong?

Not a good feeling. It’s an awful feeling.

Contrast that with the feeling you get when you took the time to figure out what we really going on. Feels good, doesn’t it? Of course, it always feels good to get it right.

Commit yourself to being a knife. A sharper knife. Embrace deeper curiosity in your quest to figure it out. Embrace it as you work to figure anything and everything out. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. You just have to make sure you’re a knife.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Create Smart Rooms – Emotional Health: A Leadership Necessity – Season 2020, Episode 18

The trifecta of business building that I consistently talk about culminates in the third leg of “not going crazy in the process.”

  1. Get new customers
  2. Serve existing customers better
  3. Don’t go crazy in the process

I’m not a mental health professional, nor do I claim any expertise in the area. However, I’m very accomplished in building and leading organizations. I’m an expert in human behavior and interaction. And I’m well-acquainted with the impact of stress, anxiety, and fear. I know how universal these are for everybody, especially business owners and leaders.

I also know how bravado works. Especially in the ownership or C-suite. Leaders can falsely believe they’re superhuman, impervious to the dangers of stress on physical and mental health. I’m rolling all that into one phrase, “emotional health.” I’m using the term holistically to include the whole of who we are as human beings. You’re not merely your education, experience or skills. Nor are you just your intellect and logic. Any more than you’re just feelings, thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints. You are ALL of those things. At the same time.

Now may be a great time to look in the proverbial mirror. Intently. Not just a glance. Lean in and look at yourself very hard.

Self-deception is always lurking close by. Ready to pounce on us. Especially when it comes to our strengths and weaknesses. We’re all prone to overestimate our strengths while we under-estimate our weaknesses. Simultaneously, we can do the same when we’re looking at others…except in reverse. We underestimate their value (all everything that makes them who they are) and we overestimate their faults or weaknesses. Funny how that works, huh?

As our country begins the slow process of emerging from this coronavirus pandemic, leaders in every sector need to make sure their own self-awareness has a high degree of accuracy. I can see the skepticism in your face. πŸ˜‰ But deep down you know this is right. And very useful. No, beyond useful. Necessary.

We’ve seen how all kinds of people have reacted to the added stress of something as enormous as this coronavirus. Truth is, most of us aren’t nearly as effective under stress as we are under more calm conditions.

Over the years my church work has involved working with younger men in publicly preaching. Sometimes I’ll encounter a young man determined to work from very limited, card-index type notes. It’s an easy challenge to meet. I simply tell them about how the most effective public speaking world leaders carefully work on what they want to say. Winston Churchill, for example, would carefully craft his words. It’s easy to argue that when we’re preaching the Word of God we’d want to handle it as carefully and in the most prepared way possible. I’ll then ask the question, “Do you suppose that you can craft better wording while you’re home preparing, or can you better think of the best wording on the fly in real-time?”

I’ll make the same point with you regarding your behavior and decision-making as a leader.

This pandemic has certainly shown all of us the power of preparedness. It’s much better to prepare then to react.

So much of our daily lives require us to react, doesn’t it seem smart for us to prepare as much as we can to reduce the things that demand a reaction?

And doesn’t it make sense that we should take care of ourselves so we can better leverage our whole self?

You’re uniquely you. But that doesn’t mean we don’t share some very common challenges. Challenges like fears, worries, and anxiety. Mine may look different from yours, but they still exist in some form or another.

While it’s true that some perform well under pressure and others…not so much — preparation is where the rubber meets the road. Besides, the things that can make or break success in every moment remain the same: talent, opportunity, ability, confidence. Because we’re talking to about leaders, then I’m going to assume a degree of competency. Talent can vary, but you unquestionably have sufficient talent. But you may not always have the confidence you need in your talent. And you may not always see the opportunities to best leverage your talent. See, it still comes back around to your emotional health.

That whole “not going crazy in the process” is very important to your leadership success. And your life. And your organization.

Clutch. We all want to be clutch. We’d like to be able to shine when we most need to shine…during very stressful times. When things really count.

Today I just want to give you a few things that can help. I’m going to cheer you toward taking better care of yourself so you can shine today and in the days to come.

Just yesterday the governor of Texas announced that his “stay at home” order for our state will expire on Thursday, April 30th. Beginning Friday, May 1st many businesses including restaurants and retail can open up with 25% capacity while maintaining social distancing practices. Bars, hair and nail salons are still forbidden from opening, but there’s optimism that they may be able to open by mid-May. So this week leaders are working hard to figure out how to conduct business and meet the government mandate. Still others, who are not yet able to open, to busy trying to figure out how they can hang on.

Preparation isn’t practical or possible. We’re about 6 weeks into this thing so the time to have prepared is long past. But here’s something we can do. Stop lamenting about what we didn’t do. Stop pining about what we wished we’d done.

Let’s think about doing two things at the same time. While we tackle the reality of today let’s grow increasingly more determined to prepare for a better tomorrow!

What’s our reality? Legally. Morally. Ethically. We all want to conduct business safely – for our employees and our customers. How that looks will depend on the business you operate. Overkill is in order so you can display that you’re going to do everything in your power to protect people. It’s also your opportunity to show your staff and the public how dedicated you are to doing the right thing.

Many of you have been smart in assigning these tasks to small teams whose duty is the focus on sanitization and health. These team members are constantly making sure that all workers and customers are properly protected.

Here in Texas, beginning Friday, 25% capacity rules is going to require more thoughtful strategies. If your business has a people capacity of 200 then you now have to limit it to no more than 50 people at one time. So now we have to manage our traffic flow – incoming people and outgoing people. Customer service and happiness need to remain at the forefront trumped only by safety and the current rules in place by the government.

These and many other solutions need to be created by listening. I use these specific business activities to illustrate how much better our solutions can be when we include others…as opposed to us sitting in our space trying to figure it out alone. If you want to be clutch, then decide to be clutch in leading others to help you figure out what to do. Here’s how…

Gather the team members you feel can be most helpful. Make sure you include front line people. Don’t select team members based on title or seniority, but based on their viewpoint and perspective because of what they do. The people who have to perform the tasks are ideally suited to help you form the strategies. Those health and safety teams that many of you have formed are people who are especially detailed oriented with a high degree of sensitivity to client happiness. This is where your leadership may be able to shine most. You can ideally find the people best suited for the tasks that must be done as you begin to open your business.

And there’s a big area where you must shine as a leader. Orchestrating where and what team members can best do to serve.

But you can best do that with the help of others, too.

The Dallas Cowboys are getting rave reviews for this year’s draft class. NFL teams have a large scouting staff. They have analytics people. They have substantial coaching staff. Lots of people who work together to help figure out the best players to draft each year. With a brand new, Super Bowl-winning coach, people inside the Cowboy’s organization have reported how well they worked together this year to have one of their best drafts ever. Somebody, the leaders, has to make the final call, but that call isn’t made in isolation. Don’t make your calls in isolation either. You need intel and input. Don’t be bashful where you get it. Be bold. Be clutch. Open your eyes and ears to whomever you feel can best help you. Cast the net even wider than you might normally because it’ll help you make better decisions AND it will serve to make people more enthusiastic about the solutions you implement.

Stop putting pressure on yourself to have all the answers. This is the time for you to maybe at long last learn a very important lesson in leadership. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You just have to make you lead the parade to create the smartest rooms possible as you navigate this crisis. And you need to create smart rooms so you can prepare for the future.

That’s your best path forward to protect yourself and your own emotional health. To avoid going it alone. To put yourself in the smartest rooms possible so you can improve your vision and thinking.

Be well. Do good. Grow great.


The High Value Of Caring Challenges – Season 2020, Episode 3

Last week I read yet another article about the dangers of executive coaching. One of the dangers listed was the morphing of the relationship into a friendship where the coach is no longer pushing or challenging the client. Over time they’ve become friends and now things are different.

It prompted me to go back and revisit some earlier articles, especially some appearing in the Harvard Business Review where there’s been a considerable disdain for executive coaching prompted largely by charlatans and poor practices. I read articles I’d never seen before. I revisited other articles I’d seen over the years. Perhaps I was looking for a theme, but in none of the pieces did I see myself and how I’ve worked for the past decade in helping leaders move forward.

Page after page of advice-giving, expertise, and imposing beliefs sounded nothing like how I view the process. And missing in almost every article was the first of the things that are foundational for what I’ve learned to be most effective. Compassion.

Five C’s are all part of the biggest C of all – challenge. Not adversity. Not an obstacle. Challenge in the sense of pushing, nudging and helping people see things they may not otherwise see. It’s about improved performance. It’s not about keeping a client for life. For me, it’s always been about moving forward to a place where the work is complete (at least this stage of it).

I admit it’s not an ideal business model – at least not the way I approach it. But it’s also why I’ve been compelled over the last 4 years to learn so much about the power of others. It’s the power of US. When we’re surrounded by others – multiple people – then we can better leverage the individual and collective insights, experiences, wisdom, and counsel from people whose value will grow over time. Now that’s a very different value proposition because time forges the compassion so vital for each of us. Instead of “coaching” that should likely have a necessary ending, these groups increase in value year after year where members can do for each other what nobody else can.

I start with compassion because we find it difficult to find value in the challenges of people who don’t care about us. It’s possible, but we have to work very hard to use it for our benefit.

Somebody challenges your idea or thoughts. You know they don’t care about you, or for you. Fact is, you don’t much like them either. How does that challenge work out for you? Not well. Because you both have a bias that prevents you from seeing value in each other’s opinion or feedback. The challenge may be perfectly valid, but the person isn’t valid. Not to you anyway. Nor you to them. The value proposition is extremely low because the negative emotions are in the way. Where no compassion exists there’s little or no value. So it begins with CARING.

Why should we care about others?

Maybe it’s a philosophical or religious question, but permit me to make a statement that I’d like you to consider. We should care because it’s good for US. Yes, there are plenty of arguments for how it’s the right thing to do and how others are benefited, but I know we’re mostly interested in ourselves. It’s good for us to care about others. It comes back toward us in major waves of good as others reciprocate. It eliminates jealousy and bitterness, which never serve to make us achieve more. Or perform better. It deepens relationships with others who will help us when we need it the most. There are plenty of great reasons why we should express compassion and care for others. And why we should put a premium on it when others give it to us. Somebody has to start this. It may as well be YOU.

I agree with the articles that warn how coaches can grow too friendly where challenges don’t happen. Whether that occurs because the coach is fearful of losing the client or not, I can’t say. I can only speak for myself. I’ve never entered any coaching engagement with the thought that it’d last forever. In fact, I push rather hard to establish an endpoint so clients identify what they most want to achieve. Sometimes after reaching that milestone, new milestones have been established. No problem. Sometimes new clients within an organization emerge. That’s why it’s not uncommon for my engagement to last a few years (or longer). But I’d be hard-pressed to tell you about an engagement with a single client that lasted for years without an adjustment in the goal. It’s just not how I work.

Questions. Helping people figure it out for themselves.Β 

These are the 2 key elements to my view – and my approach – for executive coaching. It’s both practical and effective.

The high value of caring challenges emerges when you don’t climb on the pedestal thinking you’re better than others. Not only do I think I’m not better or smarter, I know so. But I also know I have strengths that I work hard to leverage. One, I listen. I pay close attention. That makes understanding a priority in communication. I seek understanding. I want to see it correctly. Two, I ask good questions. Occasionally, great ones. Mostly, they’re born out of curiosity. And a quest to more deeply understand. Three, the objective isn’t for me to come up with the right answer because honestly I don’t always know what the right answer is. But I trust my clients to put the puzzle pieces together so they can figure it out. Afer all, they’re the ones who have to implement the solution. Not me. What might be ideal for me would be very unideal for them. Maybe they’re extraordinarily extroverted with very different skillsets than me. That would influence the solution that’s most fitting for them. There’s tremendous power in the phrase, “To each his own.”

The burden is on the caring challenge. The proper communication of the caring challenge is incumbent on the challenger. Yes, I understand that people can be overly sensitive and think any challenge is uncaring. I also understand that people can resist and resent the most caring challenges because of their own head trash. But if we assume responsibility for the delivery, then we can likely increase the odds that our well-intended challenge will result in helping the person.

A big part of the problem is challengers often spend more time on the challenge and not enough time on the caring. We get focused on the thing. The solution. Or the problem.

In order to get to the heart of the matter,
you first must get to the heart of the person.Β 

I’ve been surrounded by older, wiser counselors all my life. I’ve sought them out. I’ve fostered deeper relationships with them. Over time I know they care about me. I care about them. It’s the foundation for all the benefits they provide me (and hopefully, my benefits to them). I’ve leaned on them for their wisdom, insights, experiences and willingness to challenge me because they seek my very best. It’s not about them. It’s about me and them helping me figure things out.

Caring challenges aren’t about anybody except YOU, assuming you’re the one being challenged. It’s about helping you become better.

Challenges aren’t always critical. Sometimes they’re just questions. One of the most powerful and caring challengers in my life would ask, “Are you sure you can do that?” That simple question would often stop me in my tracks and make me think – which was precisely the point of it all.

Other times the same challenger might ask, “Are you sure that’d be right?” That was more critical, but not harshly so. Nothing that would make me bristle. Again, it forced me to think.

Before you act, you must think. But not too much.

The high value of a caring challenge is to think through something so you can figure it out. Figuring it out is useless without actions. We all need to figure it out so we can take some meaningful action.

Leadership is about people. Management is about the work.

When you engage in leadership then you’re influencing people by helping them. You’re serving people. Bring higher value by first caring about people more deeply. Deploy compassion so you can build on top of that to establish the culture necessary for high performance – and helping people to become the best versions of themselves.

Do for people what they need. Caringly challenge them to improve, grow and develop. It won’t always be easy or painless, but you can do your part to make it more profitable. It’s about them. Benefit them. Help them. Serve them. Care about them. Enough to challenge them to be better.

Be well. Do good. Grow great.


Happy Friday The 13th: Good-Bye! (352)

Cue Tom Petty’s classic hit song from his fabulous Wildflowers’ album, Time To Move On.

Tom’s singing about divorce, but if I were singing the song it’d be about my long-last professional shift. Today, I hope you get some value as I rehearse with you the general angst and execution (or lack) of the past year. As we near the end of it and stare into the face of 2020 it feels right to craft this final chapter of the Grow Great podcast.

I’m hoping you’ll stay along for the ride because my intent on continuing to provide high value – in fact, I’m making this change because I want to up my game in bringing you HIGHER value.

For over 4 decades I’ve been immersed in business. All my activities have been focused on the business of building and growing business. I’ve spent most of that time leading businesses. And I’ve loved almost every mile along the journey. But it’s time to move on.

No, I’m not leaving business behind, but I am changing direction. More accurately, I’m changing my focus and going singular rather than being as broad as I’ve been over the past decade.

When I entered the professional services arena a decade ago it was real roll-up-your-sleeves-get-your-hands-dirty consulting work. I was intent on helping business owners shore up operationally. Quite often it involved retooling sales processes, too. It was the under-the-hood stuff that every business requires.

Over time it morphed. Quite organically. It ended up becoming coaching, which I found suited me unlike anything else. I’m ideally wired for it, as I had discovered when I was in my early 20’s. I enjoy communication, learning, discovery and my natural curiosity drives me to ask questions seeking understanding. In short, it was right up my ally, suited to my strong suit because it was all about PEOPLE. It was about me doing whatever I could to help people figure it out for themselves. I loved it because everything about it felt right.

There’s a character strength assessment that I’m fond of. A buddy – Joe Bacigalupo of AlliancesHub International put me onto it. I knew something of the folks behind it because I had read (years ago) a book entitled, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. He’s one of the people behind the VIA Survey, the folks leaning hard into character strengths (which differ from talent or skill strengths).

That assessment is meaningful because among my core character strengths are things I’ve long known about myself. Things like forgiveness are big things for me. And easy.

My passion to go deep with people in an effort to serve them has always been strong. It’s been growing stronger and stronger over the past decade. I’m naturally bent toward being a person with whom others can feel safe. Confidentiality isn’t hard for me. Not judging people or telling them what they “should” do it’s either. I’m happy to give people my opinion if they press, but I mostly am geared to asking questions so they can figure out for themselves what is best for them. This is all in the context of business or organizational behavior. So candor is up near the top of things I cherish most.

What I’ve learned the past 4-5 years is that this is woefully lacking in the world. But not really. Let me explain.

Talk with 10 people and I guarantee if you direct the right questions toward them you’ll discover each of the 10 was powerfully impacted by somebody. Likely a number of somebodies. In other words, they leveraged the power of others. We all do it, but most of us don’t do it strategically or even tactically. It just happens organically. Or not.

I began to look more closely at the people at the bottom of the achievement pile. People who suffer all sorts of challenges that I have never faced. Many of them lacked good influence from others. The child who grows up abused and neglected may lean into poor and foolish behavior. Devoid of having the power of others, that child can develop into an adult lacking the necessary wisdom to navigate life successfully. Yes, there are outliers — those who grow up like that and in spite of the horrific odds, they choose to lean hard into wisdom opting to make the best choices possible so they can escape the dungeon of despair.

It’s not so shocking to me because as a man of Faith I’ve long known what the Bible says about such things.

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”

The converse is equally true. Surround yourself with good people and it can foster higher behavior. In our organizations, it produces higher human performance. Just take a close look at any group or team that is high achieving and you’ll see it. The power of others.

Four years or so ago things took a professional turn for me. I was given an opportunity by a very forward-thinking City Manager looking for an executive coach for one of her Directors. Thrust into an organization whose goal was to deliver superior service to a demanding city population, it was quite different than my typical trifecta of business building stuff: a) getting new customers, b) serving existing customers better and c) not going crazy in the process.

I found two of the three were still in place though. Mostly, I found the focus was solely on PEOPLE. It was a complete focus on PEOPLE. People working well with other people. People struggling to work well with others. People unable to accurately read a situation. People struggling to communicate effectively. People finding it hard to lead. People finding it hard to follow. A lot of culture stuff. A lot of team stuff. Chemistry stuff. Emotional intelligence stuff.

My eyes were opened. This was my niche. Not serving city government, but focusing on PEOPLE. It felt right. Everything about it felt right.

While I’d been an “operator” all my life and I still immensely enjoy strategy and operations…nothing trumps PEOPLE. For me, nothing trumps being able to go deeply enough with people where real help, support, and service can happen. It fueled me, unlike any work I’d ever done.

I pushed a bit harder into the PEOPLE side of things. It wasn’t easy. I was too reluctant – now that I look back – to let go of operational stuff. When you’ve so embraced being an operator for so long it’s a tough thing to shed. But slowly I began to intentionally work on it.

Then there’s the reality of client services. You do what you must to get clients, serve clients and keep clients. It wasn’t always the direction I wanted to go, but I did it anyway. Increasingly my heart wasn’t in it. But a clean pivot didn’t seem possible. Besides, now that I’ve got clarity I didn’t have in real-time.

Along the way, I reached out and made a connection with Leo Bottary. Leo had co-authored a book, The Power Of Peers. We started a podcast, which I produced, The Year Of The Peer. From that podcast, Leo wrote a second book, “What Anyone Can Do.” After that, I joined him as a cohost of our current podcast by the same title.

Associating with Leo was very intentional because I knew he was a smart guy about peer groups and peer advantage. I wanted to learn all I could about peer advisory groups. Why do they work? Why don’t more people take advantage of them? What makes a great peer advisory group? Why do people join them? Why do they leave? I had many questions. I knew I wanted to operate in that space. In fact, three years ago I knew I wanted Bula Network to be a peer advisory company operating virtual or online peer advisory groups. I also knew the first group needed to be SMB owners. Entrepreneurs operating companies doing a few million bucks to companies doing in excess of $200M. I’m an operator and I was driven to build this first group of people who make the decisions, and who are close to the customers and the employees.

It takes time to figure it out. It took me too long. Proof that no matter how smart you are, figuring it out is hard work. πŸ˜€

2020 is a fitting year. A fitting number. 2020 provokes most of us to think of VISION.

My vision is clearing. Well, not physically. I need reading glasses, but professionally, even personally, many things are getting clearer. It’s been a long journey, but I rather think things happen in due time. I suppose things happen in a timeline that CAN work to our advantage if we’re wise. I’m trying hard to be wise.

Over the summer I really started trying to build The Peer Advantage by Bula Network. I had figured I could get it up and running by the late fall of this year. It didn’t happen. And it was entirely my fault. I didn’t give it the focused effort it deserved. I had so many irons in the fire because I said YES to too many things and I wasn’t discriminating enough. Learn from my errors.

“If everything is important, then nothing is important.”

That’s my quote. I first said it when I was a teenager as I observed the insanely erratic behavior of a business owner I was working for. He taught me a lot because he was a jerk and not very smart. I learned early on what NOT to do to succeed at business. He was second generation and dad had built a good business. So good that even a moron son couldn’t quite ruin it at the time. πŸ˜‰

Here I was being my own jerk and being stupid. “Who’s the moron now?” I often thought.

I’d have conversations with people about peer advantage. Most had no idea about it. It was so far beyond the realm of anything they’ve ever experienced that they struggled to see how it could help them. I searched for language to help convey it. I’m good with words. And have never struggled to find ways to connect. But that wasn’t really the challenge.

The challenge was like a hydra – a monster with many heads. I had too many irons in the fire. I wasn’t focused. The Peer Advantage wasn’t’ seen as solving any one problem. Customers want solutions and a generic solution – helping you make better decisions – isn’t nearly precise enough.

Leo is an adjunct professor and he was conducting a master’s level online class for a university. He thought it’d be a good exercise for his class to do a project on The Peer Advantage, this new initiative I was planning to launch. Bright people from all over the globe devoted themselves for 2 weeks to develop a brilliant strategic communication plan to help me. I interacted with the class via a video conference twice. Their work resulted in a brilliantly constructed slide deck and advice that my brand should become The Peer Advantage by Bula Network.

They did great work and I did very little with it. Again, too many distractions. Too many irons still in the fire. Saying YES too many times and not saying NO nearly enough. Nobody to blame but myself. I simply needed to make up my mind. I needed to draw a line in the sand and fully commit. But I was reluctant.

Belief. It Matters.

True confession time. I *strongly* believed in the service. I knew the power of, “Who you surround yourself with matters.” I also knew from experience how tough it is to help other people see the value of peer advantage. I was suffering the symptoms of it myself. Vulnerability. Courage. Those are big issues. They impact belief and belief drives everything. Without belief, there is little confidence and without confidence, there’s never success!

But I did believe in THE POWER OF OTHERS.

I did believe in how dramatically it could positively change the lives of anybody who dare join themselves to THE PEER ADVANTAGE.

I did believe in my ability to have the necessary conversations to find and select the best people. I even believed in my ability to convey the benefits of it to prospective members.

What I didn’t believe in was the sales conversation.

What I didn’t believe in was my ability to make this singular focus work, to the exclusion of everything else. It was scary. Deep down I knew I could, but at a surface and practical level, it was frightening.

Along the way, some personal challenges erupted that changed my life. No, I didn’t get a divorce. I’m still married to the girl I fell in love with when I was 18. In January we’ll hit our 42nd wedding anniversary. But life throws all of us curveballs and we’ve experienced our own. So have you. I’m not claiming mine are special because they aren’t. But you know that personal challenges, especially those that deeply affect us, are impossible to compartmentalize. Our lives are our lives. We’re not just podcasters, or business owners, or leaders. We’re people. And there it is again. PEOPLE.

More and more I was falling in love with what I deemed, “leveraging the power of others.”

Emotionally and mentally that was my focus. I couldn’t get my mind off of it, but I was still distracted with too many other activities. They were robbing me of any opportunities to succeed at what I most wanted to achieve. I was my own worst enemy but didn’t fully realize it.

I was isolating myself. How ironic, right? The guy falling in love more and more with THE POWER OF OTHERS. And he’s not availing himself of the power of others. Not professionally anyway.

During my personal crisis, I was fully leveraging the power of others. Four men served me. Three old men and one younger man. All of them gospel preachers. We all share a common faith. I’ve known each of them for a long time, three of them (the old men) all my life. They helped me in ways that even a wordsmith like me can’t properly express.

One of them, the youngest of the eldest, was 75. He’d been battling health issues, but nobody was expecting a hospital visit end with his sudden death. He was a big figure in my life. A man who loved me enough to challenge me. And it was terrific because I knew he cared deeply about me. Suddenly, I was without him and I’d never been without him.

A week ago the eldest of the eldest died. He was 88 and had been fighting his own health challenges, but none of us expected him to go to bed and not wake up. Another major void in the great men who have surrounded me all my life.

The last of the eldest is 83, a man as special as any man in my life. This week he’s prepared to enter hospice. And while I know he’s ready, I equally know I am not. I’m not ready to press on without access to his wisdom. He’s been a brilliant guide of unparalleled importance in my life always.

Thankfully, my fourth advisor is in his mid-40’s so I’m hoping to have him around for a while. πŸ˜‰

All that to help you better understand my context and my struggles. You can relate, right? I know you can. It’s how life happens. It’s the struggle of our lives. And sadly, I’m confessing that professionally I’ve struggled because I’ve failed (woefully) in leveraging the power of others.

I know, I’m a hypocrite. Here I am, the guy harping at you to leverage the power of others. To be courageous enough to be vulnerable so you can achieve more. And do it faster. And as much as I know that’s true. As much as I believe it. I’ve failed to do it myself. It boils down to just one thing, a dreadful lack of courage. My belief hasn’t been strong enough. My fears have been too big.

Fear. It’s real. And it destroys all of our dreams.

My fears were real. And many.

I was fearful I’d fail. Fearful I’d look stupid. Fearful I’d be judged.

All of which is true. I will fail. I will look stupid. People will always be judging. Nothing I do is going to help me escape any of them. Those things and many other fears will happen no matter what. Don’t we all know that? Surely we do — logically anyway. But not emotionally.

Something happened to my fear when my 88-year-old mentor died a week ago. Something clicked as I sat in that funeral service. Something happened as I put my right hand on the rail to carry his casket as a pallbearer. Something happened as I sat there and wept at my loss. Something happened as I surveyed having done the very same thing back in 2013 when I helped carry the casket of my lifelong best friend, Stanley. This 88-year-old man was Stanley’s dad. Something happens and it’s up to us to leverage it. To make the most of us.

A flash of insight overcame me. As if somebody had reached deep inside me and flipped a switch helping me see things more clearly than ever before. Instant feelings of stupidity and hard-headedness quickly gave way to more positive thoughts. “I don’t care anymore.” Cue Phil Collin’s hit song. It’s another song about divorce, but like Petty’s “Time To Move On” I applied it in a very different context. (I don’t know what there is with me and divorce songs!)

We buried Johnny (Stanley’s dad) this past Saturday. So it’s not even been a week. And I don’t want you to think that I trumped all this up in just a week. This has been brewing for years. I’ve been thinking, making notes, vetting and dissecting all this for going on 4 years! All the while not doing what I know now I should have.

Let me share the sad truth. It’s a truth that isn’t unique to me. It’s true for you, too.

We have failed to achieve the things we most want to achieve because we’re afraid. Who cares how illogical the fear is? It’s still real for us.

Listen, I’m closely associated with Leo Bottary who wrote the book, What Anyone Can Do. I’ve already told you that book was the result of a podcast Leo and I did, Year Of The Peer. We kept hearing stories of people who didn’t do extraordinary insanely super-human things. They were driven (and influenced by somebody who expressed belief in them). The title of Leo’s book comes from what a running coach said back in the 1970s about track champions. They mostly don’t do super-human things. They do the things most of us could do but don’t.

We fail to do the very things we could do. I had failed to do the things I could. The things I had claimed I wanted to do. Fear prevented me. Isolation helped fuel my fear. What helped me was finally seeing how intentional I had been in this personal part of my life. I had leaned heavily for over a year on four men, two of whom are now gone and one who is ready to go. And as I looked in retrospect it dawned on me, “What if you had no relied on them? What if these men had left the planet without you reaching out to them to help guide you through this?” What a loss! I couldn’t get my head wrapped around it.

Barney was 75, months away from turning 76. What if I had not confided in Barney about my challenge? What if I had not spent the hours on the phone (he lived in Ohio) getting his insights and fielding his hard questions?

Johnny was 88. Just days earlier he had celebrated that birthday. What if I had not leaned on him about my issue? What if we had not spent hours wrestling with the issue together? What if I had not gone to see him and spent a few hours with him (he lived in Oklahoma)?

Ronny is 83. I’ve spent the most time with him. He’s been my most trusted advisory. What if I had not had him in my life to see how he saw things? What if I had not been courageous enough to share my vulnerability with this most respected hero in my life? What if I had not spent hours and hours on the phone with him? What if I had not spent hours and hours in person seeking his input? He lives in Missouri.

Kevin is 46. I met him when he was 14. I’m well his senior, but he’s a close friend and like the other men, I love him very much.

The epiphany arrived. Finally.

I’m sitting there weeping at Johnny’s funeral and realizing that I had personally done what I had failed to do professionally. It was driven entirely by gratitude. Only weeks ago we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. I was overwhelmed with how thankful I felt for having these men in my life. And how thankful I was that I had formed relationships long ago with each of them. Mostly, thankful that I had such talented, insightful and caring men with whom I felt safe enough to share such important matters. It was so blindingly obvious how special and priceless these insights had been for me in my personal life.

“This is exactly why I want to get The Peer Advantage by Bula Network going,” I thought in the car ride back home. Of course, that was after a few hours of thinking, “I’m an idiot.”

No, I’m human. I’ve got the same fears and issues you do. I lost so much time because I was isolated while being surrounded by people. I didn’t lean on people as I should. It’s not their fault. It’s mine. I had intentionally put myself in the presence of people like Leo Bottary. But I didn’t want to bother people. I didn’t want to impose. Maybe I didn’t want to share my fears.

When I got back home I wrote down, “This is exactly why a paid peer advisory group is THE answer to better leverage the power of others. When we’re paying to be part of a safe group of peers we can more easily shed our fears and reservations of imposing on others. It’s the reason we’re paying to be part of the group – so we do exactly what we need to grow and advance our goals.”

It was a Homer Simpson DOH moment.

Look at your life. Look closely. Honestly.

Think about the fears that have long stood in your way. It doesn’t matter how reasonable or unreasonable they are. Or have been. They’re real because they’re yours.

What if some people had been gathered around you to help you through them? What difference would that have made?

Think about the lost time. Think about the lost advantages of having reached a goal that you’ve yet to reach.

Think about how much further up the road you’d be enjoying the achievements and success you’ve most wanted?

This isn’t a guarantee for success, but it’s absolutely the closest thing I know to it. It’s a sure-fire way to accelerate growth and your ability to figure it out.

Logically I’ve known all my adult life that it’s about making good decisions. It’s about finding out how we can make the very best decisions. Then, it’s about how can we execute those decisions? That’s it.

I don’t care what you want to accomplish. I don’t care what specific thing it is to which you aspire. The path forward is to make a good decision, then act on that decision. It’s how achievement happens in your life, my life and every other life.

Why don’t we do it better?

Because we’re afraid. Fear is the killer.

The antidote is the power of others. But that creates its own fear. Deep fear. Embarrassment. Looking stupid. Looking like we’re incompetent. Not wanting to be vulnerable. Not wanting to show our underwear even though we know everybody else feels just like we do.

We lose sight of the truth of our collective and common humanity.Β 

Your Instagram moments feel real to me. So does my lack of Instagram moments. But you’re fronting. Hoping to fool most of the people into thinking you’re fearless. I get it. I’ve been doing the same thing, just not on Instagram. πŸ˜€

Friday the 13th, December 2019. The day of reckoning. The day I say, “Good-bye!”Β 

First, good-bye to Grow Great, the podcast.

The podcast, starting in 2020, will be re-branded The Power Of Others. I’ve wrestled with other names, but that’s the one that best describes what I most want to do for the rest of my life. I want to evangelize the message that there’s enormous power in seeking and accepting help from others.

Everything will remain right here on this website. will still bring you right here. So will all these other names:

I didn’t want to rebrand the podcast The Peer Advantage because leveraging the power of others is bigger than peers. Look at my story of the four men I leaned on the past year or so. These men have been in my life a very long time and none of them is really my peer demographically. We all share faith. That’s our commonality so in that way we’re peers, but not in any other way.

Think about your life and the people who have heavily influenced you. It’s likely it may have been a boss. A parent. A grandparent. A co-worker. A spouse. A close friend. A teacher. There are lots of OTHERS out there who help us. And who can help us. I didn’t want to limit the podcast to just peers and I absolutely didn’t want the podcast to be some device to simply schill my work. And I wanted the podcast platform to be large enough to satisfy my curiosity for a long, long time. The Power Of Others will do that. I have no doubt.

Grow Great is under the business category. The Power Of Others will go into Society & Culture.

This my final episode of Grow Great. Starting in January each episode will be about the power of others. It will address whatever curiosities I have satisfied and the ones that remain. It will include business and organizational viewpoints. It’ll also include personal ones, too. It will include leadership, but it’ll also include elevating our game all along the way toward leadership if that’s something to which we aspire. It’ll take aim at leveraging the power of others no matter our circumstance or situation. Age and situations don’t matter — we all need others to help us along the way.

It’s not about promoting The Peer Advantage by Bula Network although I will shamelessly do that (but no more than I have in the past). It’s about influence and persuasion. Namely, convincing you and all of us, including myself, that we’re leaving so much potential behind. We’re wasting so much time. We can be further along in our success journey if we can find the courage to get past our fears. I hope to be just one voice evangelizing the message and helping show the way. Not because I’m an expert. Not because I’m a “thought leader,” but mostly because I care. And because I believe.

Professionally The Peer Advantage by Bula Network is going to get my attention and focus, finally at long last. No more consulting gigs. Any engagements I say YES to will be because it speaks to my desire to help companies and organizations (this includes city governments) with PEOPLE. If the issue isn’t directly related to PEOPLE, then my answer is, “No thanks!”

I’m doing some collaborations with people like Leo and Joe Bacigalupo who are also focused on people. But my focus is on my own company, Bula Network and driving the launch of my first group of The Peer Advantage. That charter group will consist of 8 (originally it was 7) SMB owners from around America. I’ve settled on and given formal invitations to just two so far. Quite a few others just didn’t feel right, which is fine. It’s not for everybody. For starters, it’s not for CEOs who aren’t owners. And for now, I’m not building a group for CEOs who aren’t owners. I may the next go-round, but not right now. It’s not for number 2’s. That too is an appealing idea and I’ve talked with lots of number 2’s, but this charter group is only for number 1’s. See, this has been just one of my problems in forming this first group. Distraction. Not being clear enough to say NO more quickly (albeit politely).

I went to 8 from 7 because I want to increase the value. The value proposition was already very high, but it was important to me to increase it even more for this charter group. And it was also important to me that the room have sufficient power to leverage the power of others to a level that’s as high as possible. Eight feels right on many fronts. First, it allows me to lower the cost to everybody in the group. That price reduction isn’t going to make a bit of difference in somebody saying YES, but it feels better for me. I didn’t do it for the members. I did it for myself. The members will benefit, too though. And I wanted to increase it by 1 because I know there may be times when not everybody can attend each meeting. It happens. We’re all busy. But I think over time the attendance will be near 100% every time. Even so, things can come up. With 8 I’ve convinced a majority of members showing up will provide sufficient feedback and insights to bring higher value to every single meeting.

I’m now diligently looking for 2 more charter members so we can begin. When we have half our members we’ll start meeting regularly. Monthly membership won’t begin until we have all 8 members at the table, but we’re going to get underway as soon as I get 2 more (four total). Those 4 will have paid their one-time enrollment fee, which is an important emotional tool more than anything. Yes, it’s the proverbial skin in the game and it’s non-refundable, but it’s such a ridiculously low sum of money it’s not going to make any broke or rich. What it will do is serve to overcome that fear I had – and that everybody has – to lean on others. It makes the group PROFESSIONAL. Yes, it will all be very personal, but the professional part is very important so we all feel comfortable and confident to bring whatever problems, challenges or opportunities to the group without any reservations.

So if you own a company doing in excess of a few million bucks a year I hope you’ll apply so we can discuss it. I only want you to have a company of that size because I don’t want the $800 monthly membership to be any kind of hardship whatsoever. My two members right now are over $50M each, pushing their way toward $100M. So don’t let the size or scale of your organization prevent us from talking. All the details are at

So there it is. I feel better for having shared the gory details with you. It’s been a long, arduous journey to reach a place where I feel I have it figured out a bit better. I still have much to learn, but we’re in this together.

And when I think of what’s driving me mostly it’s significance and meaning. It’s impact. I believe each of us matters (as Angela Maiers is so fond of saying). And I believe each of us has a strong, innate desire to matter as much as we possibly can. Further, I believe we can achieve that best when are helping each other achieve those goals and ambitions that are so uniquely our own. It’s not about me deciding for you or you deciding for me. It’s about a mutual respect and care where I want you to achieve what you’ve set out to do and I need your help so I can hit my own targets.

The sign off won’t likely change because I’m rather fond of it. And along the way together we’ll figure out the things we’ve not yet figured out. I hope you’ll stay on the journey with me and I hope you’ll invite others…because it’s all about The Power Of Others.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


Happy Holidays!


Coming In January 2020

Customer Attraction: Be Genuine (349)

Let’s get something out of the way. If you’re genuinely a jerk, then this won’t work well. πŸ˜‰

Genuine means you’re real, not hypocritical. It means you’re YOU. Whatever that is.

I can explain using myself (as always, it’s easier to pick on myself than to pick on somebody else). Here are a few bullet-point factoids about me:

β€’ I’m an introvert. I’m not socially awkward or even reserved, but I don’t gain energy from being around lots of people. I prefer deeper conversations with fewer folks. Outwardly, I can appear like an extrovert though.

β€’ Communication is key for me. Firstly, I’m drawn to other communicators. People who are wall-huggers and so reserved it requires great effort to draw them out…those are NOT my kind of people. I respect them and I understand them, but I’m not likely going to be a good fit for them because it’s honestly just too distracting for me. That’s on me.

β€’ Candidness is important. People who couch everything they say and appear overly measured in their communication exhaust me. Again, I can appreciate and understand them, but that exhaustion factor is a deal-breaker.

Now I could go into a prospective engagement intent on fooling the prospect. I could feign that the way I really am isn’t so much really the way I am. Here’s the problem: that’s really bad for the prospect, should they become my customer and it’s equally bad for me because I don’t be able to deliver the quality of service I want. The money isn’t worth it. For either of us.

But plenty of people do it. They chase the money, no matter what.

This isn’t about being happy as much as it’s about being true to who you are and your core strengths. My core strengths are closely tied to who I am as a personality and communicator.

If you need a person who is the life of the party at a big gathering, I’m not your man. The mere thought of it makes me want to go back to bed.

If you’re a person needing somebody to quietly listen to you as you peel back your most confidential vulnerabilities, sign me up. Right away.

I keep secrets. Always.

I maintain confidences. Always.

I listen intently. Almost always. πŸ˜‰

I don’t make judgments and tell people what to do. I don’t even have the urge.

I quickly and easily forgive. It’s my top core character strength. Forgiveness.

By knowing these things about myself I can choose to go all in on these, or I can choose to try to be something I’m not. When it comes to attracting customers you can fool some of the people some of the times. You may even be able to fool a lot of the people a lot of the times. But at what cost? To them and to yourself?

I’m unwilling to pay that price or to ask my customers to pay it. We both deserve better.

I’ve got good friends who are quite the opposite from me. They hate sitting down to have deep conversations. And don’t even think they’ll sit still if you want to discuss how you FEEL. Or what you’re THINKING. They’re uncomfortable. Instead, they’re comfortable having conversations that are 100% safe, where there’s no pain, no emotion, no chance for conflict. Good to know. I’d never suggest that any of them roll the way I roll. Instead, I’d suggest they steer clear from doing what I do because faking it would make them miserable. And how good do you think they’d be at it?

That’s what I mean by being genuine.

The hard part is our need for business. We all need business. New business. Repeat business.

Depending on the nature of your business, being genuine can take on a different context. For me, as a solopreneur in the professional services trade, it’s personal to ME. If you’re selling cars and have a sales staff, then it’s less personal to you as the owner of the place, but it’s still relevant. Because YOU drive the culture and the culture is going to be a reflection of you.

Over the years I’ve had some favorite eating places. As a customer – and a prospective customer – I’m fanatical about two things: food and service. And not in that order. I’ll suffer lower quality food for superior service (although it’s funny how rarely that happens). I will not suffer poor service with stellar food. The food just isn’t going to be worth the aggravation to me. That’s personal to me, as the customer.

I’ve known restaurant owners who were fixated on the food. The food was always spectacular. Sometimes the service was equally spectacular. Sometimes not. Hit and miss. Very infrequently have I gone to a place where the food was spectacular and the service was POOR. I assume it could happen though.

The owner to values the food above all else drives a culture that produces great food. He may not get all the fine details of superior service though. He could do one of two things: up his game in that area (not likely something he’ll be able to sustain unless he really experiences a conversion) or hire somebody who is as fanatical about service as he is food (in my opinion, a much better option where both can soar with their strengths).

That’s what I mean by being genuine.

Attracting the right customer mean we have to get very in touch with ourselves as entrepreneurs. We are what we are. Yes, we should grow, improve and develop ourselves…but I’m never going to grow into an extrovert (a person who gains energy by being around a bunch of people). Those situations will always drain my energy. If my business required that behavior I’d need to partner with somebody who had that strength.

So this isn’t about you do you – implying that whoever you are and however you roll is just how it is and how it’ll always be. I’m working daily to get better, but I’m not working to completely change my stripes. I know who and what I am. I want to become a better version of myself, which means I have to lean MORE into my strengths and recognize my weaknesses, which may require somebody else’s help.

That’s partly what leveraging the power of others is all about. Recognizing what others may be able to provide that we can’t. Or something that might be very hard for us, distracting us from being as great as we could be at our strengths.

Be genuine. Figure out how to best dazzle your customers and your prospective customers. Leverage others to help you create the culture and workflow that will produce remarkable results.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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