Podcast

How Can You Reboot Yourself?

How Can You Reboot Yourself?

Thank you for clicking play on the Grow Great podcast.

Warning – some sports analogies ahead! 😉

I’m an OU Sooner football fan, the hazards of being born in Oklahoma. Sooner fans were shocked over a month ago when head coach, Lincoln Riley, resigned to take his talents to USC. Within weeks a new head coach was hired, a previous defensive coach for OU whose been in Clemson for the past decade. It was a homecoming for coach Venables and for fans. Within a week or two of his hiring the entire OU football program was completely restructured from top to bottom. The whole thing looked completely different within 30 days or so! It was amazing to watch the OU brain trust reboot themselves – and reinvent what was already a successful program. 

Most OU fans – my hands are in the air – quickly became more excited about the program than we’ve been in a very long time. We went from disbelief that our coach left us for USC to elation over the changes and improvements in coaches, staff and even players! It’s been remarkable and over time I suspect there’ll be many lessons organizations and leaders can learn from such shifts in direction. It truly has been a lesson in how to make lemonade out of lemons. To go from an unexpected resignation to vast improvement.

I regularly ask leaders to consider the hypothetical of losing their top right-hand person. Most don’t want to think about it. But it happens. Would you be able to do what the president and athletic director of OU did? If you’re prepared, bold and able to quickly gather information to deepen your understanding you can. 

On Sunday the Dallas Cowboys disappointed their fans…again. A team that can’t seem to ever get out of their own way, the Cowboys lost their first playoff game of the season – something that seems to be an annual habit, assuming they even make it into the playoffs. Fans worldwide are wondering when and if anything will change. It doesn’t seem it will because Jerry Jones, the owner, continues to keep the coaching staff and other insiders littered with remnants of the past. Since he bought the team and cleaned house, I’m not sure it’s ever happened since. And the results haven’t been great for over 20 years. 

Sunday’s game resulted in some coaching decisions that national and local pundits are claiming should cost the head coach his job. But ownership has expressed high confidence in the coach indicating they have no designs on making a change, an improvement. It begs the question, “Can or will the head coach reboot himself in the off-season and do a better job next season?” Time will tell. If you’re a betting person, I’d suggest you keep your money in your pocket though.

Can you reboot yourself? If so, how?

First of all, of course, you can. Anybody can. Rather than shuffling past that, maybe we ought to spend more time on that point. I’m fascinated by the number of top-level leaders who subscribe to the philosophy that “we are what we are.” Pressed about our ability to change, I mostly hear, “Well, sure people can change but mostly they don’t.” I admit that I endure bouts of being blue – melancholy – especially after over-exposure to pessimistic people. It’s depressing to hear leaders talk about a direct report as though there’s no influence on the planet capable of helping them grow and improve. It goes against everything this podcast is about – change, transformation, growth, and improvement! But I’ve learned there are many, many leaders who feel that way about people on their team. 

Experience has taught me to better understand it though. 

Mostly, we’re surrounded by people – and we have been surrounded by people – who are what they are. We’ve not seen people make big changes in their life. And when people recite examples where people have done it, they’re usually stories of redemption from destructive behavior. A drug addict who got clean. An alcoholic who has been sober for 20 years. A convict who was released and made something of their life. When is the last time you heard a story about growth and improvement – a story about somebody performing at some level who found a way to elevate their performance? We don’t hear those stories. Does it mean they’re not happening? Turns out I think a lot of people assume they don’t happen. 

I define leadership simply as a focus on others coupled with the ability to do for others what they can’t do for themselves. 

Largely, this means leaders have high impact influence (which is why I once used that as the moniker for this podcast). It’s shocking to sit with a leader who simply doesn’t believe she has that level of influence to help people grow and improve. But I honestly think it’s simply because we’re all a bit jaded. And while each of us can do whatever we want, it doesn’t mean we lack the power to help and influence one another to become better!

When asked about my coaching process I usually answer simply. “I help people paint themselves into a corner so they can look in the mirror and begin to figure out what they need to do to grow and improve.” More than half the time people aren’t carefully listening though and they’ll follow up their question with, “You paint people in a corner?” So I have to clarify and repeat my statement, “No, I help people paint THEMSELVES into a corner because that’s where the magic of growth happens – when we no longer have any excuses. We all do what we want. My clients always do the heavy lifting to improve their lives.”

That’s why I’ve posed today’s questions as I have.

Can you reboot yourself? 

How can you reboot yourself?

Yes, others can help. Like the leaders I’ve talked about. Trusted advisors can help. Peers can help. Professionals can help. But the saying is absolutely true…”If it is to be, it’s up to ME.” 

I hope you’re fully convinced you can reboot yourself – even if rebooting means making some necessary, but incremental improvement. I’m also hopeful that as a leader you’re convinced you have a role to play in serving the people on your team. Their performance can be enhanced by your willingness, ability and determination to help them grow and improve. No, you can’t do it for them, but you can give them the best opportunities to figure it out for themselves. And if you’re the boss, then you also have the power of authority, which means you can leverage your influence even further for their good. 

But how can we do this for ourselves?

First, a big dose of reality – you can’t do it for yourself if you don’t want to, or if you don’t see any need. 

There is a remarkable truth about high performers…they’re always looking intently for ways to gain an edge, to find ways to improve. They pursue growth all the time. High performers tend to avoid complacency. And when they do find themselves leaning toward it, they work to get themselves out of it. Their mantra is universal and consistent – keep moving forward!

Conversely, those who have yet to figure that out suffer a myriad of excuses and feeling like victims. Their conversations are peppered with “if only” or phrases meaning the same thing. I’m sure many of them fully believe their statements are true. The universe is imposing on them whatever failures or challenges they suffer. I can’t claim a high degree of success in convincing people otherwise. And at this stage of my life – professionally and personally – I mostly don’t devote an extraordinary amount of time to the cause because I simply have found myself somewhat powerless to convince the unconvinced. More importantly, I choose to invest my time in helping high performers working hard to find an additional 2% improvement than in struggling to convince an average (or even below average performers) that so much more is possible. 

But I’ll share what I’ve learned through the years. 

Step 1: Find a way to see yourself with greater control over the outcomes of your life.

I know it sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s not easy for those who don’t yet believe it. Make up your mind that you’re going to accept responsibility for what happens. It doesn’t mean everything is your fault. It simply means you don’t have power over anybody except yourself. So forget what others are doing – or failing to do. Get busy doing what you can to improve your life. Nobody is going to devote themselves to improving your life as much as you’re able. And there’s no downside to accepting responsibility for your life. It empowers you to do more. It removes any tendencies to feel like you’re a victim. Again, this isn’t about playing the blame game. Forget about who is to blame. Just accept responsibility for your life and move forward no matter what.

Step 2: Surround yourself with safe people. 

Safe people are those people you can rely on. They’re people who won’t use your weaknesses or failures against you. Rather, they’re happy, willing and able to help you through them by helping you figure out what to do next. They’re not quick to judge, criticize or tell you what you ought to do! 

A side component to this is to rid yourself of unsafe people. Surrounding yourself with safe people won’t help if you continue to linger around unsafe people. Jettison them. Get them out of your life completely. These people don’t help you. They’re harmful and destructive. They’ll weaken you if you let them. Don’t. 

Step 3: Listen and watch so you can understand reality.

These safe folks can help you look more closely in the mirror. In order to figure out where you need to go…you must first understand where you are. Facing reality is one of the hardest jobs for anybody. Especially the reality of our performance (that includes how we think, talk, behave and make decisions). When the boss tells us we need to grow or improve in a certain area we can resent them and the information or we can accept it and do our best to lean into helping ourselves get better. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with them fully. But it means we look for as much acceptance as possible by declaring ourselves responsible for the outcomes of our own life. We have to acknowledge that the viewpoint through our own eyes may differ from how others see us. Let’s leverage the viewpoints so we can more accurately see ourselves.

Step 4: Make up your own mind and figure it out.

Gather the insights from the safe people. Look inside yourself. Think deeply about who and what you are. Make your own conclusions. Figure out the very next step. Remember, this is your life and you’re responsible. Just because you’re listening and watching what others (who are safe) are telling you doesn’t mean you’re surrendering your life to them. For starters, they don’t want and will refuse that responsibility. They’ve got their own lives. Additionally, safe people who are capable of helping us will not impose or influence us toward anything that’s bad or harmful for us. By being safe they’re naturally most interested in helping us become better. Even so, it’s up to us to put in the work. 

Step 5: Take the first step then keep working to figure out “now what?”

I know we want to know every step of the process, but nobody ever does. So what if you don’t know step 2 or 27? You just need to know the very next step, step 1. Then repeat the process. So often we get stuck refusing to take the first step because we don’t know what step 4 is. Who cares? And besides, by the time we get there, whatever we thought step 4 would be is likely to be very different. There’s power in taking the first step and figuring it out from there. Life is all about taking actions and making adjustments. Commit yourself to become an expert at both.

Step 6: Keep it going. Don’t stop. Ever. No matter what.

Talk to any high performer and you’ll quickly see a person committed to lifelong learning and improvement. Join their ranks. 

Years ago Nike launched a Michael Jordan campaign, “Be like Mike.” Well, when it comes to your commitment to your own growth and improvement, then “be like Mike.”

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

That’s right. Returning to my roots and a simpler way to go. After all, the short way here to the website is GrowGreat.com. It’s a terrific URL because it’s short, simple and easy to remember. 

During the Holiday season, I engaged in a few conversations with friends about how I was craving a simpler life. In every way possible. Repeatedly I’d say, “I’m not interested in how many plates I can keep spinning. I’m looking to spin fewer plates that matter more.” I wound up writing on my whiteboard the title of today’s show, but it wasn’t a show title. It was a personal admonition – verbs. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.

I don’t know why I wrote it down 3 times in a row, except I assumed it was to reiterate it so I’d get it through my head that “THIS is my current ideal outcome.” And it is.

During the 4th quarter of last year – October through December – I had so many meetings where some semblance of that was the theme. Not because I directed the conversations in that direction, but the other person was so craving it in their professional and personal life. Younger folks. Older folks. Women. Men. Married. Single. It didn’t seem to matter. It was as though we were all seeking the same thing – a more basic, simple way of living. 

In early October it began with a conversation about leading direct reports. I asked, “How often do you get everybody together?” I didn’t mean because of Covid. And I didn’t mean in person, face-to-face. I meant it quite literally, “How often do you all spend time together?” This leader had about 6 direct reports. He said he tried to have a “staff meeting” (translation: getting his team together) once a month. 

I asked, “Is that frequently enough to suit you?”

He had a harder time answering that than I anticipated. It was as though he was trying to figure out how his answer might affect how I felt about it all. 😉 I remedied it by saying, “Makes no difference to me, I’m asking if it suits YOU? Maybe more importantly, does it suit THEM?”

“It probably should be more frequent, huh?” he answered. Well, he was really asking me for an opinion. 

As the conversation unfolded he realized how wrong it felt to him to not get together with these people more frequently. The more we focused on how once a month likely impacted his team of direct reports he muttered, “It’s so crazy and chaotic.” And there was the rub. Going crazy in the process of leading people. Going crazy in the process of managing the work. Craving simpler. Craving a more straightforward way of life. 

 “What’s stopping you?” I asked. “Where are the constraints?”

He rattled off a few things that consumed his time. Things he didn’t’ value much. Some of them beyond his control. Most of them well within his control. 

Eventually, he stopped and said, “I guess it’s on me.” 

We were off to the races working to figure this out for him. But both of us knew the answer was largely going to come down to one thing. Making up your mind. 

We mostly do what we make up our mind to do. Period. End of story. 

We mostly neglect getting done those things we’ve yet to make up our mind about. Period. End of story. 

Here I am, over 3 months later, sharing with you the profound, but simple truth that YOU can simplify your life. You can decide right now to change some things that may be driving you crazy. 

Like my title of this podcast – a podcast that I’ve been doing for years and years. But I’m no different than you. I can be prone to overthink it. Over do it. Slather on layer after layer of things and stuff. Most of which don’t matter. Until the weight of it all compels me to crave more and more basic, simple and straightforward. Like Mr. October. 

So during the Holidays I started jettisoning stuff. Including offers and things I was doing that I no longer wanted to do. Pursuits that may have been perfectly fine, but pursuits that didn’t matter as much to me. 

I asked Mr. October, “Describe how this complexity and chaos took over.” Turns out neither of us was very surprised. Like adding a coat of paint, he slathered on a color. It’d dry and he’d quickly open another can of metaphorical paint, different color. Slather it on. It’s dry and on he’d go. Turns out he was busy painting, but painting wasn’t what he wanted to be doing. Nor was it the thing he was best at. He didn’t start out to be this proverbial painter, but he wound up doing nothing but painting! 

I could relate. 

Simplify, simplify, simplify means doing the most important work – our best work – and letting go of the rest, to whatever degree we’re able. It means looking in the mirror to truthfully acknowledge what we’re doing – to see if we’re doing what we most want to be doing. And if we’re doing what we’re best at. 

Like that famous Einstein quote, “Fish don’t climb trees.” Sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Am I fish trying to climb trees?” Sometimes, like Mr. October, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Or trying to do. And that chaos and commotion result in driving us crazy. 

What would you like to quit? Right now. Today?

What would you like to give somebody to do? Something somebody could likely do much better than you? And something you hate doing?

What value are you leaving behind? For Mr. October, he decided that once a week he wanted to get his group of direct reports together to leverage their skills in helping each other. By the way, in the first announced “weekly” meeting he set the tone and reported the energy was “higher than I’ve seen in years.” Turns out the team was craving the same simplicity he was craving. 

As a leader, you’re a finite resource. I know you think you have infinite reserves, but you’re wrong. Keep it up and in time you’ll visit a doctor who may be able to convince you that this stress – the chaos and commotion of doing crazy – will kill you. But first, it’ll kill your organization, your business, your team and your effectiveness. 

Avoid all that. Let this year be the year you make up your mind to find your way to the basics of what really matters. Find those things that can really move the needle in a positive direction. It’s not about adding another coat of paint. It’s about getting the fit and finish fine enough to serve the purpose well. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Randy

6-Month Program For Executives/Leaders & Small Business Owners Beginning 2022

NOTE: As of February 1, 2022 I’ve made an adjustment based on feedback from prospective clients. “I’m interested in starting this program, but a March start is better for me. Can I apply?” Go here for an update to this post and my pivot. 

Matt owned and operated a small manufacturing company (annual revenue $45M+). Stuck by supply issues, exacerbated by a primary domestic supplier who was struggling to meet production deadlines, Matt was an experienced engineer and business person, but he’d been struggling for four months, with no end in sight. He realized he needed somebody safe with whom he could sort through the challenges. 

Eileen was a new city manager with 7 direct reports, all of them directors of important departments inside the municipality. Savvy, experienced, and highly educated, Eileen had been struggling for over 6 months to improve what she described as a “broken culture.” She’d been hard at work to get the right people in place, but was dissatisfied with the slow pace of growth and improvement. Eileen craved somebody with whom she could be completely honest and open, without fear of any negative consequence. 

Leadership is lonely. For good reason. We can’t always shell it down with just anybody. Our employees are beholden to us. Suppliers and vendors, too. Peers are often quick to tell us what we “should” do. We don’t want people anxious to tell us what we ought to do – especially people who aren’t voting with their own money, time, and career interests on the line!

For the past dozen years, I’ve coached many leaders in business and city government. Most of these engagements last 10 to 24 months (some longer). Most of the time, these engagements are based on monthly retainers of a few thousand dollars. That’s beyond the reach of some, but the work is intensely personal, confidential, and always customized to meet each client right where they are. No two engagements are the same. That’s by design. For every hour of one-on-one engagement with a client, there are many other hours invested by both me and each client. But make no mistake, the clients do the work! I’m here to help them figure it out and provide the support they desperately need to move forward. Their success is my success.

Around Labor Day 2021 I began to construct a “program” that would take people on a leadership journey to help them accelerate their growth. I was (and am) determined to meet every client right where they are. One size does not fit all. However, I knew if I could systematize things a bit, then using that system – and applying it to where clients are – that I could compress the investment in both time and money. 

Timing is everything. I knew I simply didn’t have the time to devote to this new endeavor until January 2022. Well, here we are…on the cusp of the New Year. I’m making this offer to you, or anybody you know who may be interested. 

Who is this for?

Honestly, it’s for anybody who has direct reports. Size and scale don’t matter. That is, it doesn’t matter if you have 1 direct report or 20. It doesn’t matter if you’re in business or the public sector. It doesn’t matter what space (industry) you occupy.

This is about YOUR growth, improvement, and leadership. It incorporates how to make better decisions…and faster. How to elevate the performance of your team. How to create a high-performance culture. For business owners, it’s about helping you hit the trifecta of business building: getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process. 

Some Important Details

  • I’m only accepting 6 people for January through June and 6 for July through December (2022). You can go ahead and apply for either session: first half or second half of 2022. 
  • Executives and other leaders who are NOT business owners can apply here.
  • Business owners can apply here.
  • Every session is conducted on Zoom. Convenience and efficiency are key. 
  • We meet every week for 90 minutes. Anybody unwilling or unable to devote this much time should not apply. We’ll schedule meetings in advance so we can make it as convenient as possible for you.
  • The program lasts 6 months at a cost of just $1,000 a month (paid monthly at the beginning of each month). This is a savings of almost 70% which is why I’m limiting it to just 6 individuals at a time. 
  • The program will include digital sessions you can consume on your own timetable. 
  • The program will include personalized digital content aimed at helping each individual client.
  • The program includes unlimited (that’s right) email and phone support. In 12 years I’ve never had a single client take unfair advantage of that offer so I make it with confidence. I want to be available. I don’t promise I’ll be able to answer every call, but I promise I’ll respond quickly (usually with just a few hours). 

Questions? Call my cell phone at (214) 682-2467. I’m happy to help. If you’re ready to apply, then click the appropriate link listed above. Feel free to refer others who may be interested in this unique program. 

Happy Holidays! I hope you and your family have a safe and peaceful holiday season. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Thank You, Happy Holidays & Good-Bye 2021

My work continues all the way deep into Christmas week. I guess it’s the hazards of operating retail companies for so many years. I struggle to wind things down and do my best to serve clients up to and for as long as they need my help. The week between Christmas and New Year’s – that’s a different story. Partly because on January 2nd my wife and I have our anniversary. This coming January 2nd will be number 44 for us. 

This week and next are a hard push toward the finish line, but I wanted to take a few minutes to say “thank you.”

First, thank you to all my clients and the people who have entrusted me to help them figure things out. Make no mistake, the clients do the work. They put in the effort – and the courage, which is really humility – to look inside themselves and challenge themselves to get better. Without their personal commitment to personal and professional excellence, nothing happens. Thank you for allowing me to serve your growth.

Next, thank you to my podcast listeners. This podcast has morphed over the past 20 years and many of you have stuck with me throughout that entire time. The objective of this podcast remains as it began – to help you feel, think and do. Your time and attention are valuable. I appreciate you giving me chunks of both and I have high hopes to keep improving. Please let me know what I can do to make the podcast more valuable to you.

The holidays are joyous for some but challenging for others. We likely know some who are enduring some tough times right now. In recent weeks I’ve encountered some who have lost family members to a tragic death. Some endure ongoing health difficulties. Others are grinding through some professional challenges. Life’s problems are boundless – and I’d like to take just a second to acknowledge that none of us are living true Instagram moments. Our lives are roller coasters. It’s up to us to navigate it and to lean on the people who can best help us do that. Don’t get discouraged by comparing your circumstance with others. We’re all going through something. Things aren’t always as they seem. Push forward. Grind it out. Mostly, figure it out.

I wish all of you happier days than not during the holiday season – and every other season of your life. The struggles help define us – more accurately, our positive response to our struggles define us. As we wind down 2021 let’s commit ourselves to put in the work to overcome the problems we can and to endure the ones we can’t overcome. Let’s elevate our expectations with optimism that we can do our part to make our lives better tomorrow – better than ever before. 

Gratitude is the path forward. A focus on what we have, rather than a focus on what we lack. I appreciate you. I appreciate being a small part of your life and trying to make you stronger for the lift necessary to tackle your challenges. 

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?” The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” The man laughed to himself and said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference to that one.”

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

The Power Of Scenario Questions (for hiring, management & leadership)

What if?

It was the foundational question behind spreadsheet analysis when LOTUS and other tools were around before Microsoft brought us the defacto standard, Excel. The name Excel is a dead giveaway of the power of asking and answering “What if?” questions. It’s what we all hope to accomplish. 

Many years ago I was heavily involved in what was then a burgeoning new sport, roller hockey. For a few years, I served as a volunteer appointee for USA Hockey’s “inline” section. I was on the rules committee and involved in training officials. It was my first organized experience with situational training – scenario training! Ice hockey officials are trained with many hours of examining situations. Training manuals are filled with a variety of situations, from simple to complex. Trainees are asked to make a determination based on the scenarios presented. It’s a highly effective way to learn the rules and for every official to be accountable for their level of expertise. 

The moment I saw that training I knew it was something I could incorporate into my own management and leadership. You may want to consider it for your life.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Clients Who Demand My Best

Those of us in the helping business – as our friends in the UK refer to it – are defined by our clients. That’s why we seek out high-performing clients who demand our best. They want us to push and challenge them to get better – which means we have to get better ourselves. Birds of a feather flock together and all that. 

Big clients can be terrific, but big doesn’t define best. Or qualify as great. Not in the sense of helping define us and our work. Quantity isn’t quality.

Today the focus is on the value of great clients. And greatness isn’t defined by the size of the client’s organization, the high-profile status of the client, the list of the client’s accomplishments, the size of the purchase order or jaw-dropping reaction prompted when people hear about the client – “You’re working with THEM?”

The clients who more accurately define us are those who require our best. The ones most driven to excel themselves. 

Since I don’t plan to record again before Thanksgiving 2021, I’m taking this opportunity to say, “Thank You!” to my clients who have demanded my best. And to further explain how this all works – especially for those of you who may have never experienced executive or leadership coaching before. I hope you’ll listen carefully and click the link for a free conversation so we can investigate your needs. Just go to BulaNetwork.com/free.

A dozen years ago when this whole coaching thing started for me, I was hoping to help a few people. Nothing resonated with me more deeply than that little parable about the little boy saving starfish washed ashore.

Early on I was criticized by business buddies as pursuing something that would never scale. They were right of course. And I told them I didn’t care. Scale wasn’t important to me then. It’s even less important to me now. If that’s possible. 😉 

I argued, “How can you scale impact? It’s like trying to place the ROI (return on investment) on your wife.” Yep, sometimes they’d chuckle about that because not all of them had great marriages. Sadly, not all of them were as in love with their wives as I was – and still am – with mine! 

When you start out you’re looking for anybody willing to say, “Yes.” You quickly learn that not every engagement is ideal because not every client is as willing as you might hope. Some are more reluctant than others. Some aren’t as capable as others. We don’t have the highest leadership potential, even though all of us can improve! Mostly, what dawned on me very early on is what I had discovered years earlier in hiring employees. Not everybody has a high degree of willingness. Those most willing were always the most successful. Whether they were employees I hired or clients I accepted.

Gratitude. We’re coming up on a time of the year when people focus more on being thankful than they normally do. Giving thanks should likely be a daily habit, but for most of us, it’s not. We’re so busy chasing our dreams, dealing with our struggles and trying to figure out what to do next — we often neglect being thankful. 

Today, I’m thankful for the clients who make me better. The ones who most define who and what I want to be. The clients who pressure me in all the best ways to be my very best. I’m learning better to seek you out. It’s been a hard thing to figure out. I’ve not always succeeded. 

Frequently during coaching sessions with clients, we talk about saying “no” to some things so we can say “yes” to more important things. Discriminating like that can be hard though. Many high achievers enjoy saying “yes” as often as possible. In my experience, more so than the average person. Where many people fixate on what might go wrong, so they steer clear – the high achievers tend to see possibilities, so they say “yes” more quickly. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. High achievers don’t dwell very long on losses. Instead, they maintain optimism that the next “yes” will work better. 

I’ve learned through the years that some clients aren’t willing to put in the work. They’re searching for easy answers. I don’t have easy answers. Some are simple, but none are easy. Truth is, this is hard work. Arduous work. Extraordinarily worthwhile, but hard. 

Some clients are jerks. They lack humility. Hubris isn’t a highly prized trait for leadership. And while it’s rare, I have had occasion to be hired so a boss could have a new person with whom to show off. A new audience member for their brilliance. Even so, I’ve gone on record that I’ve been so fortunate that I’ve only had one (1) client in a dozen years who I simply was unable to serve in a meaningful way. And it wrecked me because empathy runs high for me, and it’s among the most difficult things I have to do – manage my empathy. 

Clients have pushed me to figure out a path forward – a way to serve even the most difficult people. Clients have made me better. Without them, my growth and improvement would be vastly lower. And those times I’ve failed have taught me the most. It’s not even close. 

Coaches, like clients, aren’t perfect. We sometimes mess up. My approach has always been the same, born from when as a young man I was running retail companies. When you know you’re mind is made up to do the right thing – to make it right – then there’s no reason to worry. 

I made up my mind as a young man, in whatever endeavor I pursued, that my business philosophy would always be in play. It hasn’t been without a few stumbles though. Being competent and giving more is often a bigger challenge than being honest and making it right. But honesty and making it right sure help overcome those times when I fail. 

One of the toughest lessons I had to learn is to let clients get stuck. Watching people struggle as they work through figuring things out isn’t tough for me, but watching somebody remain stuck is. Experience taught me that some clients have to endure a period of being stuck before they can move forward though. I’m such a proactive personality, sitting back and letting a client remain stuck for weeks, is really hard. Thankfully, over time I’ve learned the high value of leaving well enough alone though. 

The growth all happens when we’re uncomfortable. As I work to bring new energy into a person’s life and career, it’s not smooth, nice work. Kindness is always in play, but sometimes I can’t play nice – meaning, I can always tell clients what they most want to hear. It’s part of that always be honest approach, too. 

During the first minutes of every engagement, I now find myself sharing with clients exactly what’s going to happen. Never mind that they almost never fully understand what I’m telling them because most have never experienced it before. And when they do, rarely do they love it. What they always do love though, is the outcome. Their ideal outcome! 

I’m going to help you paint yourself into a corner. I’m not going to paint you into the corner, but I’m going to help you paint yourself into it. Because that’s where all the excuses go away. Together, we’ll suck all the oxygen out of the room so your excuses have no life left. The corner represents that place where you’ll accept responsibility for everything in your life. That doesn’t mean you’re to blame for everything, but it means you’re going to at long last hold up a mirror knowing that the face in the mirror is the only thing you control. And that control is plenty to make enormous steps forward once you’re willing to make up your mind.

Clients who have pursued and realized their ideal outcome have – to a man and woman – more fully embraced that process. Not always with a smile, but always with a willingness to avoid running and hiding. That’s always an impulse. To avoid the corner. 

I work very hard to persuade clients that the magic happens in the corner. The faster our willingness to do there, and the faster our willingness to hold up the mirror, the faster we start moving toward our ideal outcome – that thing we most want. 

Today, and every day, I’m most thankful for clients brave enough to accept that challenge and allow me the enormous privilege of serving them to have a high impact influence in their work and their lives. It’s no small thing when clients trust me enough to let me do for them what they can’t do for themselves. So here’s to all the great clients I’ve had – and currently have – who have helped me grow great!

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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