Who Do You Need? – Grow Great Daily Brief #190 – April 16, 2019

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Long-standing conventional wisdom among performance gurus tells us that the super achievers ask WHO not HOW. When facing an opportunity or challenge, I see the high value of asking who, but I also know the high value of asking how! Gurus love absolutes. Just more proof I suppose that I am NOT a guru! Although I do always buckle my seatbelt, keep my arms inside the rides at Six Flags and I never grab a dog by the ears. So there’s that!

Seriously, WHO is a great question for leaders. Is it the best question? Personally, I don’t think there is some secret question contest. I’m rather fond (as you well know) of lots of questions because I believe in the high value of curiosity.

But this is about YOU. It’s about you because you’re a leader. The paradox is that if you don’t work on your own personal growth, then your service to others will be more limited. It’s the stuff of growing great. You need to be great in order to help others achieve their own greatness. That’s what leaders do.

Do you have a growth plan for yourself?

Your daily life has a fairly intense focus on WHO. Even around your house. Who is going to fix that minor electrical problem with the house? Who is going to collect and carry out the trash? Who is going to rake those leaves?

You arrive at the office and the same question continues. Who is going to finish that analysis? Who is going to submit that report? Who is going to begin that project?

Today, we’re going to internalize the question and have you focus on the title question of today’s episode…

Who do you need?

It’s not who you need to do the tasks you need to be done. It’s who you need for your own personal and professional leadership growth.

Sometimes I encounter leaders who have never given it much thought. A few even arrogantly declare they don’t need anybody. Funny, but nobody ever says they accomplished success alone, without the help of anybody. We all readily admit others helped us along the way. And are still helping us.

Why then is it so difficult for some to soberly consider who they need to grow even more? I suppose a variety of things…like success, which can make some complacent. Or pride, which can make people refuse any sign of vulnerability.

We don’t have time to dive into all your personal issues that may prevent you from reaching out for the help you most need. Just know this, if you don’t ask – you don’t get. You know that’s true. So sit there being brave or courageous or whatever description you use to portray your hardheadedness. But you’ve got an awful lot of advantage to gain if you’ll just surrender to the truth that you need people around you to help you achieve more, to help you increase your self-awareness, to help eliminate your blind spots and to help you learn, understand and grow.

I can’t possibly know the exact answer of who you may need at this very moment. I just know you have the need because it’s universal for people intent on growing great.

What do you want to accomplish?

That’s for you to figure out. Please let me urge you to raise the bar. And that may lead to the first who. Somebody willing to challenge you and push you.

This doesn’t mean a combatant. It means somebody who understands you and your context enough to nudge you toward heights you may not even think are possible.

But who?

Somebody who believes in you. People who don’t believe in you can’t push you in the most positive ways. Only the people who know you well enough to have faith in your capacity can do this for you. You have a responsibility here in that you alone determine how well people get to know you. I know that restricts the population of people who may be able to do this. You’re not going to let just anybody get to know you in such an intimate way. Certainly not professionally. I get it.

But you need somebody with whom you can be completely candid, honest and open. I know it’s a tall order. That’s why so few CEOs and business owners leverage the advantage of people like that in their lives. I’m urging you to be exceptional and join the ranks of the very best operators in the world, the top leaders.

Who else?

It’s congruent with a person who has a deep belief in you and is able to challenge you to grow…but you also need a person who will encourage you. Everybody – including leaders – needs an encourager in their life. Somebody with the necessary willingness and ability to fully express that belief in us.

Sometimes it may be the same person who is able to nudge us forward with an appropriate challenge. But maybe not.

For years I’ve been fascinated at the behavior of little boys. Probably because I’ve been surrounded by so many of them. From coaching sports to raising a son, to having four grandsons. And I was once a little boy myself.

Showing off is not restricted to little boys – I’ve got a granddaughter who readily competes for attention all the time. But there’s something unique in how little boys want to show off especially to mom or grandmother. It’s that “hey look at me” thing. It’s how God wired us as males. Yes, Virginia men and women are different. I didn’t say better. I said DIFFERENT.

I have a Christian viewpoint. I believe in the creation story you read about in the book of Genesis. I also know the Bible commands wives to respect their husbands and for husbands to love their wives. It speaks directly to the knowledge God has in how He created us. He knows what we most need.

Little boys (and big ones, too) want respect, adoration, and praise. We want mom and grandma to brag on us. We crave their encouragement.

Yes, little girls (and bigger ones, too) want and need the same things. The little girls who have been in my life – and are still in my life – crave love, affection, and safety.

This isn’t a one or the other affair. It’s an AND kind of a deal. We all need and crave respect, adoration, praise, love, affection, and safety. The order of those can differ because we’re individuals.

People need encouragement. It’s a unique form of having somebody who truly believes in us. Who in your life provides that? Anybody?

Maybe there are other areas where you desperately need somebody…a who! Figure that out and find them. Don’t be bashful to solicit their help. Remember, if you don’t ask…you don’t get.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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It’s among one of the most underrated elements of leadership. Underrated in that not enough leaders give it the full attention it deserves. It’s very difficult to keep it at the forefront of our intentional behavior, but surely most of us can do better.

How do you show up?

When I was growing up – and attending elementary school – times were very different. Parents – just about ALL parents – impressed their school-age kids to behave and “act like somebody.” Moms made sure we were all clean, neat and prepared for our first day of school. And every day thereafter. Shirttails tucked in. Homework completed. On our best behavior. And they’d ask our teachers how we behaved. That was back when kids didn’t rule the world and our folks insisted we treat teachers with respect. We called all adults “sir” and “ma’am.” Like I say, it was a different time. 😉

Our parents taught us the importance of how we showed up because of the way we looked and how we behaved reflected on them. We had a responsibility to our family and our name.

Fast forward into the corporate office, shop floor or any other place where leadership is exhibited and that principle is still valid. How we show up matters.

What does it mean?

It may be easier to consider what it doesn’t mean because it includes most everything. From major appearances to micro-movements of body language. Mostly, it means that people are watching and paying attention. They’re taking visual and audible cues from leadership. That puts a positive burden on leaders to display things that will serve others.

It doesn’t mean leaders front. Phony leadership isn’t effective. Hypocrisy isn’t a trait of any good leader.

It does mean an honest, self-awareness of what others need. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

Contrivances aren’t part of it, but intentionality is. Effective leaders show up with intent and purpose to provide whatever is most helpful at the time.

Social intelligence is defined as the ability to successfully build relationships and navigate social environments. In short, it’s our ability to read a situation as a leader and respond in ways that can serve others. Social intelligence requires listening, watching and paying close attention to others. Leaders unwilling or unable to do that will fail to show up as they should to best serve the people they lead.

Questions can help.

What’s going on?

What are people doing?

What are they feeling?

What do they most need?

What can YOU do to help? What can YOU supply?

If all eyes and ears are on YOU (and they are), then what’s the message you’re sending (either intentionally or unintentionally)?

Part of this is why leadership is so lonely. It does require a more public display that may not always be fully congruent with how you truly feel, or what you truly think. That’s not being fake. Or hypocritical. It’s being a proper servant of the people you lead. Again, it’s about them – not you. You put yourself on a back burner.

Sometimes displays of anger or displeasure are effective. People need to see it. It can curb poor behavior, spark improved behavior and help people get on track.

Sometimes displays of patience and longsuffering are effective. People need to know they’re no longer in the dog house. They need to feel reassured that you have confidence in their ability to recover.

How you show up is determined not by how you feel when you wake up, but by what the organization needs from you today. Right now. And that may change during the course of the day. Or depending on who you’re interacting with.

It means you pre-think and prepare how you’re doing to show up before you actually (physically) show up. Before you enter the conference room or the meeting, you’re highly aware of your mood, how your voice will sound (tone) and how you’ll look. Your facial expressions, posture and body language will all impact the people you lead. You’ll be fully responsible to provide the best vision possible for your people so they can perform at their highest level.

Lastly, it means if you fail to do that…you’re being selfish, making it all about you. Don’t do that. Get behind a closed door and do whatever you must to make sure that when the door opens you’re appearing as you need to to help others. As the leader, you have what Pat Riley created in the old Los Angeles Lakers’ culture back in the days of Kareem and Magic…he called it, “Showtime!” You’re on stage. Even if you’re an introvert. People are paying attention to you. You want that. It goes along with leadership.

Be responsible for how you show up. Make it always count to the favor of the people you serve.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


30 Seconds To Decide – Grow Great Daily Brief #188 – April 12, 2019

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We’re kids. Somebody has a basketball in their hands. Without warning they use both arms to shove a pass toward me shouting, “Think fast!” If I did (think fast enough), then I’d extend my arms and catch the ball before it hit me in the chest. If I failed (to think fast enough), then I might find myself gasping for breath. And when I caught it, I’d likely go tearing after the guy who hit me. Catch the ball or retaliate. Either way, I win. 😉

That whole “think fast” game we played at kids had value. For starters, always pay attention. You could be blindsided at a moment’s notice, like Cata’s sneak attacks on Inspector Clouseau.

Snappy reflexes help. Snappier decisions drive those reflexes.

When a basketball is coming at you hard from four feet away, there’s no time to ponder. In fact, before my friend has a chance to say, “Think fast” I already am at full throttle to get my hands up to catch the ball.

Have you ever been going along, with some point of view – or some decision you made – and in mere seconds your view changes? Your mind changes? Faster than the snap of your fingers you find yourself deciding something very different. Feeling something different. Thinking something different.

It happened to me about a week ago. The details don’t matter. I started considering this whole speed thing when it comes to making up our mind, or changing our mind, or deciding something, or doing something. Or all of the above.

Recently, much of my work has been focused on things like character, values, and principles. Namely, as it relates to leadership and culture. What we believe determines our character, our values, and our principles. These aren’t static things. That doesn’t mean they change with the wind, but it does mean our experiences, learning, understanding, and growing can adjust them. Usually, that happens gradually and slowly. But not always. It depends on how we’re living.

This college admissions/Wall Street scandal is dominating news lately. Until it hit the fan, these folks, including Hollywood actors and actresses, were living whatever normal might describe their lives. Suddenly, when the FBI knocks on your door, you experience a “think fast” moment. Steve Farber has another name for it, an “Oh-S#@!-Moment” or OSM! for short.

In these cases, I suspect panic ensues in less than 30 seconds. Decisions to call attorneys are likely the only decisions to make. That, and the decision to keep one’s mouth shut.

None of us can argue that lives can be dramatically altered in mere seconds. I often think about the song by Matt Kearney, a Nashville singer-songwriter, “Closer To Love.” We’re all just one phone call from our knees.

Do you suppose the values, character, and principles of any of the indicted people in the college/Wall Street scandal have changed? Well, if they’re guilty of what they’re accused of, I’d hope so. I’d hope seismic shifts have happened for them so they’ll learn, understand and grow. So it goes with values, character, and principles…when we’re behaving badly because those components in our life are poor quality.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced the FBI knocking at my door, but I have experienced seismic changes in my life brought about by sudden news. Life changing events. Most of us have experienced those.

But I’m talking about changes we make in our own mind. On our own. Meaning, we decided. Not that we did it alone without any input or impetus, but nobody did it for us. Within seconds some shift occurred to change our mind. Within seconds we made a decision that set us on a different path than the one we previously had decided we’d travel.

Think fast.

People often challenge us to go with our first answer. Follow your gut. The same people may also criticize us if we’re too impulsive. Or not thoughtful or intentional enough.

Well, which is it?

It depends. And you know what it depends on. It depends on whether you got it right – as they see it. If your first answer was the right one – meaning, they think it was the right answer – then you should go with that one. If your first answer was the wrong one – meaning, they didn’t agree with it – then you need to give it more thought.

Forget what other people think. Instead, think about what’s right. This is why I’m increasingly fascinated with character, values, and principles. The guiding beliefs behind our decisions and actions are everything. Each of us is going to behave in ways congruent with what we believe. That’s why we often urge our children and young adults in our lives to “guard their heart.” We want them to protect themselves from allowing their character, values and principles to erode. It’s also why we care about who our kids hang around. We want them to be around good humans who embrace the values we prize most.

Thirty seconds to decide is both an exercise and a practical tool.

Watch any true crime show on the Investigation Discovery channel and you’ll see people who within seconds made really bad choices to murder. For reasons I don’t understand, within seconds that seemed like a good decision to them. Mostly, because it reflected the terrible state of their character, values, and principles. So job one is – be a good human being. Be as good as you can possibly be. Embrace honorable beliefs so you’ll serve humanity well.

Think fast – giving yourself 30 seconds to decide – will most likely result in your deciding something that will be congruent with your beliefs. If you need money and your beliefs are those of a good human, then your first thought isn’t going to be to go rob somebody. But if you’re not a good human being, that may very well be your first thought.

That may explain the apparent wisdom (sometimes) of going with your first answer. It’s likely why so many assessments or tests urge the participant to trust their first answer. Your first answer may more properly reflect your true character or personality.

As we enter Friday and the weekend, let me encourage you to consider how quickly you can alter a decision. How quickly you can change your mind. Literally.

What’s the current impediment to your higher success? What’s keeping you from reaching whatever “the next level” is in your leadership or your life? What’s the constraint standing in the way of your company finding the next rung on the ladder of achievement?

Eliminate every answer that is outside of yourself. This will be tough. You’ll want to blame people, capital, opportunities, challenges and whatever else you can. Don’t. I’m not saying those things aren’t real, but I am saying those may not likely be THE thing standing in your way. More likely than not, you – and a decision only you can make – is the hurdle.

What haven’t you decided that you know you should decide if you’re going to move forward? Quick, think fast. Thirty seconds. Make up your mind in the next 30 seconds to change it.

We fool ourselves into thinking we need more time. Maybe we do. Sometimes. But mostly, I’m growing increasingly less sure about that. We need time to figure things out. To learn and understand and grow. To forge relationships where we can serve. And where we can be served. But each of those can begin right now. This very moment.

Like encouragement, decisions can happen in a flash. Earlier this week I was given a handwritten note. The person listens to my hobby podcast, Leaning Toward Wisdom. She listens to this podcast, too – Grow Great. But over at Leaning Toward Wisdom I’ve grown more focused on a project I’ve labeled #CravingEncouragement. I’ve long loved the little parable of the starfish.

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

I open this little note given to me by this listener and enclosed what a little picture she’d drawn depicting the little boy tossing a starfish back into the ocean.

It didn’t take me 30 seconds to read the nice note and look at the drawing. The impact lasted much, much longer. And so it goes.

I suspect she decided in a moment to create that drawing and write that note. She spent some time doing it, but her decision was likely fast. My reaction was also fast. The feeling I got the moment I opened it changed immediately. I wasn’t having my best day ever. But in a “think fast” moment, it all changed because she took the time to do this for me. She expressed feeling like a starfish for whom I made a difference when in reality I’m the starfish for whom she made a difference.

I’m closing out this week with an offer to you if you’re a small business owner in the United States willing to decide right now that you’d like to be more intentional and thoughtful about who you surround yourself with. I’m forming a 7-member peer group, mastermind group (call it whatever you’d like; I call it THE PEER ADVANTAGE). Quite literally, it’s my starfish project to serve just 7 entrepreneurs in a virtual group that will meet regularly using video conferencing technology where we do for each other what nobody else can or will. Details are at ThePeerAdvantage.com. Go there right now – it won’t take 30 seconds to get there – and click on the APPLY NOW button (you can read the details if you’d like), but please apply now because there’s no obligation. You’ll just complete a short Google form so I can learn a few things about you and your business, then we’ll schedule a phone call so I can learn more (and you can ask whatever questions you’d like). I look forward to hearing from you.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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In 1990 a paperback book’s title captured my attention while browsing through a bookstore (I frequently haunted bookstores; I miss it).

Learned Optimism: How To Change Your Mind And Your Life

It was written by one Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. I knew I had to read it ’cause the author had TWO middle initials. E.P. stands for Elias Pete by the way. That actually had nothing to do with my buying the book, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Dr. Seligman is the Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the Penn Department of Psychology. I hadn’t heard about “positive psychology” in 1990. Nobody else had either since it was introduced by the good doctor in 1998 when he became the President of the American Psychological Association. The University of Pennsylvania website offers us this definition…

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

There’s a chapter about kids. On January 25, 1992 I had my two kids take an assessment contained in the book. My kids were both under the age of 12. I’ve still got their answers, written in their own handwriting. It’s proof of how interested I was in helping my kids grow up to be optimistic.

Dr. Seligman writes…

“Your habitual way of explaining bad events, your explanatory style, is more than just the words you mouth when you fail. It is a habit of thought, learned in childhood and adolescence. Your explanatory style stems directly from your view of your place in the world – whether you think you are valuable and deserving, or worthless and hopeless. It is the hallmark of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.”

According to Dr. Seligman, there are 3 crucial dimensions to our explanatory style: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization. Today, let’s focus a bit on that first dimension, permanence.

People who quit or give up easily believe the causes of the bad events that happen to them are permanent. They think the bad events will persist, always impacting their life. People who resist hopelessness believe the causes of the bad events are temporary.

Words matter.

If you think about bad things and attach words like “always” and “never,” then you’re bent toward a permanent, pessimistic style. “This always happens to me,” is a common refrain we heard. Maybe from our own lips. “I never seem to win,” is another common one.

Contrast those terms with these: “sometimes” or “lately.” Those kinds of qualifiers, says Dr. Seligman, blame bad events on transient conditions and mean we have a more optimistic style.

Hopelessness is real for all of us. Sometimes. Because failure makes us all feel hopeless momentarily. We describe it as a gut punch. It buckles our knees. It hurts. Badly sometimes. But the hurt dissipates. For some, it can go away almost immediately. For others, it takes more time. Still, others don’t seem to get over it. They seethe, feeding the pain until it grows into bitterness. These people can remain helpless and hopeless for a long time, even after a small setback. If the hurt is big enough, they may not ever find their way back.

The flip side of this is how we explain good events. No point talking about how we process bad events without considering how we process good ones.

The optimistic style of explaining good events is just the opposite of the optimistic style of explaining bad ones. People who believe good events have permanent causes are more optimistic than people who believe they have temporary causes.

Optimistic people explain good events to themselves in terms of permanent causes. That’s why their self-talk includes terms like traits, abilities and always. Pessimists use different language: moods, effort, sometimes.

People who believe good events have permanent causes try even harder after they succeed. People who see temporary reasons for good events may give up even when they succeed because they’re tempted to believe the success was a fluke.

That’s why yesterday I urged you to keep growing if you’re “on the gold.” Lean into the success and create even more success.

This particular dimension of our explanatory style – permanence – deals with TIME.

It’s important that you – the leader, the business owner – learn to be optimistic and view failure or bad events as merely temporary conditions on the path to success. While simultaneously seeing good events and success as being more permanent and things well within our control.

Why does this matter? Because it will determine our outcomes and the outcomes of our organizations. Pay close attention to the language you use with yourself and with others. You can start changing that language to something more profitable, but I encourage you to do some deeper work by changing your mind so you truly believe.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


Mine The System Every Day – Grow Great Daily Brief #186 – April 10, 2019

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The other day I saw an online story about Henry Winkler reinventing himself from “The Fonz” on Happy Days to the comedic acting coach on HBO’s Barry. His wife of 40 years talked about how important working is to Henry. And how sad she was for him going to audition after audition without being hired. Henry admitted that during days when he didn’t know what to do, he just hung on. He likened it to surviving a gale force wind. Last year, he got the part in Barry and won an Emmy for his performance.

“I mine the system every day,” says Henry Winkler. “But it really does work. If you are tenacious and if you have the will, it all comes back to you.”

Mining the system every day resonated with me. It likely resonates with you, too. It’s what we do inside our businesses. We mine our own system – our business. We dig and dig and dig some more. Working hard to find the gold, or diamonds or whatever precious thing we can. Mostly we’re all mining for success – defined however we choose to define it. We’re searching for momentum. And if we find it, or create it, then we keep mining to keep it. Or amplify it.

Hard work. Few occupations seem harder, more difficult physically and mentally than mining. At least, being the guys who go into the mine. Entrepreneurship is a different, but sorta the same kind of tough. It’s tough physically and mentally. It’s often dark and lonely, too.

Nothing beats hard work. Nothing.

You can’t replace it with anything else. There’s no equation where anything equals or surpasses hard work. Not talent. Or know-how. Or experience. Largely because a person who works hard has the number one ingredient for success, willingness!

Willingness was what drove Henry Winkler to find his next level of success. He was willing to do whatever was necessary to get a part. He wanted to keep working as an actor. That desire fueled his willingness, which in turn, amped up his work ethic.

He’s talented. Let’s not forget that, but even with a proven track record of success his phone wasn’t ringing. He had to go get success. He had to mine for it every single day.

Yesterday we talked a bit about complacency. There are many reasons why a person – including YOU – might grow complacent. But this much is sure, complacent people don’t mine every day. Willing, committed people do.

The system could represent any number of things, but for our purposes, it first represents your business or organization. Your enterprise is the vehicle that produces the value. The vehicle requires constant care and keeping. As the owner, or as a leader, that job depends on you doing your part.

For most top-level leaders, the mining you do is done through others. Non-leaders think it’s easy, but they don’t understand. It means worrying about the miners who do the actual digging inside your company. It means providing them with all the tools and resources they need. It means taking care of them. Each and every one of them. Their problems are your problems.

You know the pain of it. And the loneliness, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the kind of mining you most love.

Henry Winkler mined the acting system every day by doing what he could. Same goes for us. And all the people on our team.

When we’re on the gold it’s easy, but when we’re not it can be hard to keep up our determination. Winkler mentioned two aspects of mining that are critical: tenacity and will.

Tough times test them both.

Today’s episode is about encouragement. I want to encourage you to mine the system every day even if today’s haul isn’t what you hoped. Or if it is.

If it’s not, then keep at it. Henry’s right. It will come to you. Keep digging and believing. Keep learning, understanding and growing.

If it is coming to you, then amp it up even more. Strike while the iron is hot and all that. But there’s also the reality that a small improvement in success garners much greater success than a large improvement in failure. When you’re growing is the time to focus on growing even more. Give it all you’ve got. Every day.

No matter what.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!