Vision: Long-Term Context

Here is a simple conversational tool that will help you think and act with more vision. When you talk with people, talk in long terms. Ask yourself this question… when was the last time you spoke with someone about something that wouldn’t occur or come to fruition for at least two years? Have conversations like this more often. This will encourage forward thinking from others and put many of your seemingly mundane daily conversations into a broader context.

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General: Oklahoma wins Miss America Back-to-Back!

Congratulations to Lauren Nelson on becoming Miss America 2007! Lauren is from Lawton, Oklahoma and attends college at the University of Central Oklahoma in my hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma.

Also, congratulations to my business partner Jonathan Smith. Jon coached Miss America 2006, Jennifer Berry (also from Oklahoma), and he coached Lauren.

Learn more about Jon's communication coaching business...


Masterful Communication: ¿Qué?

"Esto es apenas como tratar de hablar con su equipo cuando usted no toma el tiempo de aprender cómo que ellos quieren ser comunicados con."

For those of us that don't speak Spanish, you just read...

"This is just like trying to speak with your team when you don't take the time to learn how they want to be communicated with."

It's difficult to lead a meaningful life as a leader when we stop searching for meaning and understanding from others...

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Masterful Communication: Disagree Without Disagreeance

The PLI Essential of Masterful Communication is defined as firmly commanding the right tools at the right time with the right message.

I know many leaders who have the right tools, but struggle with the right time and the right message. Masterful timing is one of those illusive "ninja-level" communication art forms. Some people have it, some don't. However, framing the right message can be more primal, but it still takes miles of practical experience to obtain.

Here is a practical experience you can create to get your hands around the message you need to master (which varies based on your professional duties and leadership position.) Seek out someone who you know disagrees with you on a number of key issues. Listen to them, empathize with their position, learn how they formulate their opinions, but do not try to sway them. This is critical! Just listen to their language and seek to understand. Not only will you befriend someone who you may not have had the best relationship with, but you may also discover missing links in how you are framing your opinions and messages.

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Fostering Relationships: Light a MATCH!

When leading and motivating your team, remember the following formula for what they need to get and stay motivated over the long haul...

M - Modeled... Behavior is influenced directly by what we see modeled by those around us.

A - Appreciated... Appreciation is statiscally more important to employee performance than compensation.

T - Trained... People naturally want to perform their duties. However, they must be trained in a manner that is condusive for learning and retention. This is true in a wide swath of workplace competencies. From day-to-day technical duties to the creation and maintaining of culture.

C - Communicated with... Lack of clarity is the second highest reason why people leave their job (the first is they don't like the people they work with, specifically their boss.)

H - Heartfully encouraged... There is a place and time for cynicism, but not in leadership and not today.

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Wise Judgment: Bodyguard

Your reputation needs a bodyguard. Business, school, peers, and even family members can and will ask you to help prop up their shortcomings by looking out for them first and your values and integrity second. This is a basic survival instinct, but is contrived. The best way to mentor and model for others is to stick to your core values on a yearly, monthly, daily, and hourly basis. To do this, your reputation needs a bodyguard to save your life as a leader. This bodyguard is your ability to make wise choices in the face of bad information.

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Integrity: The Way to Loyalty

Stephen Covey on Integrity...

"One of the most important ways to manifest loyalty is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present."

Think about how you can manifest that in your relationships today.

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Goal Processing: Purpose = Passion = Performance

Quick goal check...

When you read the word Purpose, what word(s) come to mind as to your primary purpose for being on this earth? Write it down...

When you read the word Passion, what word(s) come to mind as to what you are most passionate about? Write it down...

When you read the word Performance, what word(s) come to mind as to what you are most skilled at? Write it down...

THE QUESTION - do these three sets of words line up? If not, you have just discovered one key reason why you are not, if you feel you are not living up to your full leadership potential in life.

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Masterful Communication: SMART Facilitators

I speak for a living. I feed my family by feeding information and experiences to others. The professional organization for speakers is called the National Speakers Association. I am actively involved in our state chapter. We have a small, but meaningful chapter that serves the needs of professional speakers and the interests of those who would like to learn how to be a professional speaker. Because I have recently announced this blog to many of our chapter members, potential members, as well as a large number of student organization leaders who speak and train others, I thought it timely to spend a little time on the PLI Essential of Masterful Communication.

I spoke in Utah last month and had the privilege of working with a group of young people who were charged with helping me facilitate in a team environment. This was the list of tips and reminders that would help them have a great facilitation experience and help the students have a great learning experience...

SMART Facilitators

Smile - This speaks to the fact that our interaction with the students is one of "how can I serve you?" We view our students as customers we aim to please, not people we need to control. Now, of course, don't sacrifice authority and orderliness for this, but this is our base camp to work from. This also speaks to the truth that students enjoy the process more when their leaders are enjoying the process. So, have fun and be in the moment.

Movement - People need to be engaged through movement; physically, mentally and emotionally. We will be engaging them in all three ways. You can help tremendously by simply understanding the concept of the crest of the wave. In surfing, the crest of the wave is the point where the ride is the fastest and the tallest. However, after that point the energy starts going down. So, keep your eye on this during activities and discussions and "report that information up-chain" if you can.

Attention - Much of group facilitation is attention management. You can encourage attention with your group by being on high-receive yourself, handling disruptions appropriately and in a courteous manner, encourage discussion through asking questions, prompting the students to build off of each other's comments and encouraging the students to take notes.

Rememorable - We want to help the students have a "rememorable time - something they will want to remember and memories they will want to and need to revisit often. We can fuel this memory creation by encouraging the students to risk boldly, engage full-on in the activities, stay in the meeting room as much as possible and mingle with other students from other chapters. Their memories will be tied more to the people they meet than to the things we say. Encourage them to take pictures, as well.

Time - A successful conference experience has many moving parts. The biggest moving part is time. Here are a few time formulas we will adhere to...

3-Second Rule - People develop a first impression of you in the first 3-seconds; many times this is before you even meet them. So, mind your smile and your appearance.

30-Second Rule - Listeners either check-in or check-out in the first 30-Seconds. So, mind your first words and get them engaged quickly.

5-Minute Rule - Listeners look for meaning and purpose and they need to be able to either find personal meaning in what they are hearing and/or are told something that they can use (purpose) every 5-minutes or so. So, give your students tangible, real ways they can take action on what they are learning or experiencing.

7-Minute Rule - Listeners need a change in how they receive information every 7-minutes. This could be listening to the speaker, reflective thought, table discussion, partner discussion, writing in their booklet, seeing something happen, feeling an emotion (positive or negative) or engaged in an activity that combines many of these.

90-Minute Rule - When meeting in big groups, listeners need to unplug from the meeting every 90-minutes. Hopefully the schedule is already set-up to accommodate this, but if it isn’t, remember this very important dynamic!

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Service Minded: The Little Things Build Community

My hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma has been under six inches of ice for almost a week now. I have joked with my fellow Oklahomanites that we don't know which is worse; six inches of ice or six feet of snow!

The entry/exit to my neighborhood is sloped. Not very steep, but steep enough that when covered by ice, it is very dangerous. The temperature finally got above freezing today and you could hear machines and shovels everywhere taking advantage of the window to clear some of this frozen mess. Especially since we are expecting a dumping of snow this weekend.

Some good Semaritans went above and beyond the call of duty today and decided to do something about the ice on our sloped neighborhood entryway. My wife said it looked like probably three families. I don't know how long it took, but they worked until the ice was cleared and drivers were able to safely stop and go.

These three families demonstrated a key aspect of what it takes to live and thrive in a community. Their Service Mindedness not only helped drivers, but it served to remind all of us that leadership starts in the community structures we all live within - families, neighborhoods, towns, workplace, etc.

Challenge: do something today in your communities to build community....

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Skill Assessment: The Experiences Lever

Since ancient times the lever has been used to move physical objects farther with less effort. Much has been written about the value of education vs. the value of experiences regarding our ability to be successful leaders. Certainly this debate will go on for many years to come.

However, I believe our experiences provide a type of leverage that many types of traditional education paths do not. For example, my experiences have been heavily influenced by student organizations; both in high school and college. Consequently, that is where I spend a majority of my time training and speaking. I see thousands of students every year increasing their leadership potential because of their grand experiences in these organizations.

Here are logos of just a handful of student organizations out there that are providing an amazing avenue for students to build up their experiences lever. If you are a parent or mentor of a student, learn more about these. If you are a student, sign up today!!!! They will change your life. Comment below if you want to know more...

Of course, the most powerful lever is the combination of both education and experiences, which all of these organizations provide since they are directly tied to some sort of educational institution.
So, the question is, what experiences do you need to add to your repertoire to accomplish meaningful significance as a leader?
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Integrity: The Impact of Authenticity

Know your beliefs... know your strengths...

Act on both...

Be authentic...


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Service Minded: Go Beyond Lucky

"Everybody can be great because everybody can serve."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our little girl turned two this weekend! The party was a needed respite from the otherwise routine and house-bound past three days. Snow and ice moved into the Oklahoma area on Friday and a five-degree wind chill has kept it on the ground and us in the house!

One of our little one's favorite gifts was Lucky the Incredible Wonder Pup. It is a Labradoodle (seriously?) that responds to a stagnant list of voice commands; sit, put em up, good dog, go get the paper in the freezing cold, etc. He is pretty cool, but our little girl thinks he is magic!

Lucky is similiar to us in that we are all fortunate enough to learn "commands" and the appropriate response for each. Lucky is somewhat un-lucky in that his list of commands will never change. He is as smart today as he ever will be.

The most effective leaders of men, women and children go beyond lucky. They change, adapt, learn, and grow over time. And the highest level of leadership is accomplished when this process is guided by a focus on service for others. Some people change for selfish reasons. Some people change for servant reasons. Bring a meaningful smile to someone in your life this week by improving your list of "commands" and the response you have learned for each!

View an inspiring MLK, Jr. video

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Books to Develop Your PLI

This blog will periodically contain books I am reading, have read, and/or utilized in our leadership trainings.

Season of Life, Jeffrey Marx
This book is for men to develop their Emotional Maturity. It is about how to be a man built for others, instead of a man built for self.

Winning with People, John Maxwell
First of all, if you don't read Maxwell, you are short-circuiting your depth of leadership understanding. Winning With People provides simple tactics for Fostering Relationships. You should also get his 25 Ways to Win With People.

How to Say it for Women, Phyllis Mindell
I encourage any woman who desires to increase her leadership potential to study this book. Every woman I have told about this book thanks me for showing them a great tool for developing their Masterful Communication.

What are you reading to develop your leadership skills?

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Technorati Profile


Innovative: Searching for Solutions

The sheer quantity of information that exists and is being created, indexed and searched for today is staggering. There are a multitude of statistics that show how much there is today in relation to how much more there will be in a few week from now. This is why Google, Amazon and E-Bay are the largest internet companies in the world. They exist to help us sort through the billions of options.

Today's most effective leaders exercise their innovativeness by searching for solutions habitually. They get great at weeding through all the information, surgically breaking it down, and then working diligently to find solutions. They also develop a system for capturing solutions as they appear. For example, my method is the notes funtion on my Blackberry. It syncs with the notes in my Microsoft Outlook so I have access to revisit and utilize any and all solutions that come my way.

If you want to find more meaning in your life, find more solutions...
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Emotional Maturity: Picking the Perfect Cup

How do people learn how to order at Starbucks? I haven't seen the official list, but the list of potential drink options at Starbucks has got to be huge. Venti soy non-fat latte. Grande caramel macchiato. Tall chai latte whipped. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. (And to infinity and beyond...)

Most of these drink orders are not specifically on the menu. So, how do people know in which form they would like to be caffenated? And with the thousands of options out there, what is the process like to filter the list down to something they can call "their drink?"

The answer, of course, is trial and error, repeated over time and a great need to learn what works for them. This coorelates to exactly what great leaders do regarding the mastering of their Emotional Maturity Essential. They know there are a thousand options for how to deal with life in an emotionally mature manner. If one isn't working, they pick a different one. And they continue this process until they land on the perfect cup. The key learning is, they don't let life order their response for them!

Think about it. What menu option do you choose when someone upsets you? When you are disappointed with a loss? When you are not feeling well? When your stress level gets a little out of control? When a friend does something nice for you? When you experience a win? When you finally decide that most of the things in life that you normally let crash you are not really worth it?

So, what do you order at Starbucks? Please comment.

Sent via Blackberry

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Service Minded: The Four Stages

There are four stages of life....

  1. Crawling... when we are struggling.

  2. Walking... when we are strengthening.

  3. Running... when we are succeeding.

  4. Carrying Others... when we are surviving.

Our job as leaders is to..

  • Define and understand which stage we are currently in.

  • Learn how to move to the next stage by understanding and overcoming that which might be holding us back.

  • See the final stage, Carrying Others, as our primary purpose in life.

Life is a team sport. Life might contain family, friends, work, and play, but life is made out of relationships. The healthier the relationships, the healthier the life. And the more focused we are on serving those relationships and growing those relationships, the higher our quality of life will be.

Still, relationships are at the core of many of life's challenges and frustrations. They are complex, dynamic and ambiguous organisms. So, make one simple vow today and grant yourself the gift of one less challenge and frustration on your list:


This is not a touchy-feely, "oh, how sweet of you to do/say/buy that" to-do list item. This is a reality of life that the people who are more focused on others than they are on themselves live happier, more meaningful lives. They call their friends regularly. They treat their family members with respect and dignity. They smile and are cordial to strangers. They have difficult conversations with others out of care, not spite. They understand that in order to gain trust in their relationships they have to be trustworthy. They are always striving to move to the next stage in life and when they reach the fourth stage, they understand that their real purpose in life has only just begun!

I encourage you to post a comment with ways you have seen others "carrying others!"

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Goal Processing: GREAT Goals

What is it about January that makes all of us fitness crazy? Probably the combination of acute fudge and eggnog poisoning during the holidays and the tradition of renewal and self-promise that manifests itself as New Year's Resolutions.

Yet, the stores in the mall are filled with workout clothes (which will be at the Salvation Army in April). The TV commercials have a disproportionate amount of advertising for the Bowflex, the Air Climber, the Gazelle, and the Nautilus (which you can find on E-Bay in four months under either the fitness equipment section or the clothes-hanger section). The rotating white-box in my hometown's downtown switches from a temporary book store to a workout facility every year. The workout place opens in January, when we are all ready to look like Jessica Simpson and P-Diddy, and then closes in May, when we remember it is more important to look good on the inside than on the outside. The book store fills in the remaining months when their best selling books are probably The Biggest Loser Cookbook: More Than 125 Healthy, Delicious Recipes Adapted from NBC's Hit Show, Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss and, It's not Really That Important: Why do Today What You Can Just Put Off Again Tomorrow?

So, I don't think the question is, "what makes us fitness crazy in January?" I think the better question is, "what makes us lazy crazy in May?" (And no, I did not plan on that rhyming...)

Well, our ability to maintain a course of disciplined action is important, obviously. Most people think you get motivated first and then you start or continue doing something second. This can prove rich temporarily, but poor as a long-term strategy. The best strategy is to just start doing something first and then you will feel like doing it second. However, this takes the key ingredient of being a self-starter and a self-starter over the long haul. I think that is officially called a self-continuer, but don't quote me on that.

I believe we need to get better at setting the right type of goals. Consider this goal setting formula we created for our audiences....

GREAT Goals -

G - Genuine
The goal has to be something you have identified as personally important and relevant to your life today!

R - Real Benefit
You not only need to write down your goals, but you also need to write down the benefit of reaching each goal. Keeping your eye on your goal is important. Keeping your eye on the outcome of reaching your goal is more important.

E - Exact
This is the BIGGEST DOWNFALL of most goals that are set - they are too general, too vague, and too broad. Your goals need to be very specific. You need to be able to know exactly when you have reached them. This also allows you to benchmark your progress.

A - Accountability
The strongest motivation to achieve goals is a combination of self-motivation to act and having a support team around you for accountability purposes. Make a list of three trustworthy people and ask them to hold you accountable for achieving your goals.

T - Time Factors
There are three time factors to consider: Timeline - set a timeline to benchmark your progress. The right time - make certain the progression toward this goal fits into your life today. Give it time - great goals take effort, work, dedication, self-motivation and time!

It would be very valuable to our readers to see some comments on the goals you have set and what you are doing to help yourself accomplish them! Good luck!

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Wise Judgment: Child Leading a Child

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning about the current state of our airline industry. With airlines still at "just after 9-11" reduced staff and airline schedule level, the stress produced from the customer and staff experience is at an all-time high. This is resulting in packed planes, delayed schedules and Denver luggage ending up in Sheboygan. The decisions having to be made by the airline leadership are complicated and it reminded me of a decision I was faced with on a recent trip.

Standing in the ticket line at the DFW airport, I had a man in front of me talking on a cell phone. He had a 4-year old girl trying to run around the airport in front of him. I say "a" and not "his" because I hope that he was just transporting a child movie star or helping out his brother and that he was not one of the primary care givers to this girl.

After being repeatedly warned to stay put, she finally made one final dash for anywhere other than the ticket line. He grabbed her arm, literally threw her back into him (her feet flew off the ground), picked her up and proceeded to threaten her within an inch of her life, all while still on the cell phone - obviously not talking to his anger management coach.

My "manly-man" instinct was to find someone four times larger than him, have that person give him the Vulcan death grip and throw him into a wall. Seeing that Andre the Giant obviously wasn't traveling to Dallas that day, I just bit my lip. However, my "leaderly-man" instinct was to not react, have empathy for his impatience and then thoughtfully consider whether I should intercede. Her life wasn't in immediate danger and I was not an authority figure in her life or in his life. In retrospect, I could have carefully asked him if he needed help.

Question - what would you have done? Say something to him? Say something to her? Say something to security? After getting my ticket, I just called my wife and asked if she would have driven to Dallas to visit me in the hospital if I would have said something to him and would have probably been thrown into the nearest load-bearing wall...

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Skill Assessment: A STEEP Hill to Climb

As you think about your career goals this month, consider the STEEP model of deciding where you should put your efforts. Our best life can be found in our careers when we are able to align...

  • Our skills (what we have learned to do)

  • Our talent (what we do naturally well)

  • Our experience (what we have been doing)

  • Our education (what we have been taught)

  • Our passion (what we love to do)
To make a list of all five areas is a considerably large project to undertake. But once you do, you can discover that your best life is being lived now or you might find hidden opportunities!

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Goal Processing: The One Thing Widget

For me to be a great father to my two girls (well, one and a half - second one is due in a few weeks!), the most important thing I can do to reach that end is to be a great husband. That is the one thing I have identified in my life that will make the biggest impact on being a great father.

As you work on your PLI Essential of Goal Processing, remember that whatever it is you want to be, want to do, need to do or need to be, there is a great complexity to achieving those ends. However, many times there is a single widget, if you will, that once identified and mastered can be your sharp axe; you can get twice as much done with half the effort.

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Vision: Used Car = New Vision

My wife and I just bought a new car. Well, new to us, but used to the world. The experience has reminded me of the oddity of seeing things that you never saw before even though you knew they were always there. Upon purchasing the aforementioned vehicle, we now see them all the time and I don't recall seeing even one on the road before.

This same dynamic happens with the Vision PLI Essential. It is amazing how, once you set your sights on accomplishing something and you actively begin pursuing it, people, resources and opportunities begin popping up to support you in your quest. This dynamic only works up to a certain size of vision. History shows us that the larger and more robust the vision, the less support you will find from others.

These realities remind us that whether you own a "2001 model vision" that is common place or a "2010 model futurstic vision" that is strange to people, believe in your vision and gladly accept any supportive words you receive (and remember to return the favor).

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Vision: Walt Disney

There are 10 PLI Essentials to effective leadership. Today we look at Vision...

Walt Disney modeled his Visionary insight….
The guiding principles in Walt Disney’s business philosophy were dream, believe, dare and do. His ability to do all four while staying clearly focused allowed him to blaze a trail in the animation and entertainment industries. Because of his immense dedication to his vision of how entertainment in America should and could be, Disney persevered after his first two companies failed. His purposeful enthusiasm and faith in his future fueled his drive to perfect the art of animation and today the wildly successful Walt Disney Company owns five vacation resorts, eleven theme parks, and eight motion picture studios.

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Teaching PLI: The PLI Essentials

The Personal Leadership Insight curriculum stucture provides a look into the areas of concern for leadership development. There are 10 PLI Essentials...
  1. Vision
  2. Integrity
  3. Innovative
  4. Wise Judgment
  5. Service Minded
  6. Goal Processing
  7. Skill Assessment
  8. Emotional Maturity
  9. Fostering Relationships
  10. Masterful Communication
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Masterful Communication: Openly and Actively Listen

Great leaders actively listen to others. They understand the power of one-on-one interactions and that each one counts. How do you know if you actively listen? Follow this simple guideline...

Openly and Actively Listen...

O - Open body language - Be mindful of your eye contact, responsive body language, facial expressions, etc.

P - Paraphrase - Repeat back what your partner said in your own words. This will demonstrate you listened to them and this will be a clarity check.

E - Encourage your partner to talk - "The best conversationalists actually say the least," Dale Carnegie.

N - Not Talking - Great listeners actually listen. They don't just wait to talk.

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