General: Happy Holidays

This blog is on vacation until January '09. Until then, please feel free to peruse our over 250 insightful and personal leadership posts. If you are a leadership teacher or trainer, please visit our PLI curriculum page at http://tinyurl.com/thepli.

Happy holidays to you and yours.


Emotional Maturity: What Makes Your Holidays Happy?

Emotional Maturity: What Makes Your Holidays Happy?

Here are ten things that make my holiday season joyous:

*  Listening to  Nat King Cole sing The Christmas Song.

*  Watching my little daughters tell our Christmas Tree good night.

*  Saying Merry Christmas to strangers.

*  Buying unique gifts for family and friends.

*  Taking that first sip of our home made egg nog.

*  Hanging our special "One Per Year" ornaments on the tree.  

*  Let it Snow!  Let it Snow!  Let it Snow!

*  Christmas eve with the Laubach clan and Christmas morning with the in-laws.

*  Reading Christmas cards and letters from friends.

*  Spending three straight weeks at home with the girls.

Leave one of yours in the comments. Happy Holidays.


Skill Assessment: An Interesting Look at Success

Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers is an interesting look at success. His storytelling makes the book a great read. His concepts make the book a great learning tool.

Here is an excerpt:

"The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today? To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success - the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history - with a society that provides opportunities for all."

Get it today.


Teaching PLI: The PLI Curriculum Is Here!

Click here.

Our Personal Leadership Insight curriculum is tailor made for leadership classes or personal leadership study.

The curriculum includes:

The Locator - The leadership guidebook designed to improve your understanding of how to positively influence people and situations to create value and growth. Basically, it helps you become a leadership ninja warrior.

The Navigator - Every great leader had help getting there. This is the instructor's guide to not only teaching the student material, but it includes more bells and whistles than Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It features facilitation tips, one day to one month long project ideas, over 50 of our best leadership classroom exercises and provides you access to online resources that will enrich the students' learning experience and make teaching PLI a barrel full of fun for you.

The Primer - An abbreviated version of The Locator, this element is great for just dipping your feet in the PLI pond. You won't learn to swim, but you won't be left behind either.

Find out more information, download a preview copy of the materials, get pricing and buy online by clicking here.


Innovative: The Magic of SNL

Weekend Edition is an ongoing skit on Saturday Night Live. The process that the writers go through to create the jokes that make it on the short bit teaches a quick lesson on finding creative ideas and solutions.

1. Each week, the three main SNL writers create 800 jokes for Weekend Edition. 800.

2. The head writer (Seth Meyers) for SNL then whittles that list down to 200ish that he thinks are W.E. Worthy.

3. Lorne Michaels, the head guy at SNL, then chops that down to 18-20 jokes that actually make the cut.

To get to 20 working lines, they have to come up with 40 times that many. So, next time you either think you can't find an answer or need a more creative idea, look a little harder.


Skill Assessment: The New Three Giant Jumps

I had the ultra-cool experience of keynoting the Oklahoma Association of Student Councils State Conference this morning in the beautiful Performing Arts Center on campus in Jenks, Oklahoma. PDC Productions out of Norman, Oklahoma provided the Audio/Visual support and did a great job. The 1,500 student council officers and members provided the energy and we had a powerful 45-minutes.

I put together a new "3 Giant Jumps" message for the program and here they are...

[Programming Note - The 3 Giant Jumps speaks to three big moves good student leaders need to make to become great student leaders.]

Jump #1 - Go from Concerned to Consumed

Good leaders are concerned with being a leader and everything that goes along with it. Great leaders are absolutely consumed with it. They constantly think about how they can serve others, make things better, create greatness, etc. This consumed attitude allows great leaders to create amazing things that lead to remarkable results.

Jump #2 - Go from "I am" to "I create"

Good leaders know who they are. They are very self-aware. They have a ton of language for how they are built. Great leaders not only know who they are, they also intimately know what they create. Not only do they know what they create, they also place a good amount of their identity on what they create. They are consumed with creating value, making things happen and leaving a legacy.

Jump #3 - Go from an Obligation to a Privilege

Good leaders feel obligated to lead. They take responsibility for not only the conditions of their own life, but for the conditions of those around them. Great leaders don't just see their leadership duties as an obligation (something they have to do), they see them as a privilege (something they get to do). This mindset creates a greater enthusiasm and a stronger commitment towards the responsibility of leadership. Great leaders view their work as a joy, not as a job.


Fostering Relationships: Celebrate Those Around You

No matter how you feel about your friends, peers, co-workers, family members, etc., celebrate them when they achieve or are recognized in public. When you lift up people close to you, you not only make them feel great, you also give them permission to lift you up.

You also communicate a healthy self-respect and that you are a person of character when you are seen celebrating others from your home town, home state, school, organization or place of business.


Wise Judgment: Making Complex Decisions (like who to vote for next week)

Wise Judgment: Making Complex Decisions (like who to vote for next week)

The act of deciding where to put your mark for President is an example of a complex decision filled with heavy emotional and intellectual triggers.  Its complexity overwhelms voters with pros and cons, misinformation, deep affiliations, peer pressures, gray areas and politically-motivated advice coming from everywhere.

It is a decision that is so complex many voters place their mark based on the simplest factor that is the easiest to understand (and defend) and aligns with their personal world view.  Here are some examples....

I will vote for John McCain because....

- He's Republican (so am I)
- His VP is a woman (so am I)
- He is war Veteran (we are a country at war)
- He will run a bipartisan administration (he has been a political maverick his entire career and I hate partisan politics)

I will vote for Barack Obama because....

- He's a Democrat (so am I)
- He is black (so am I)
- He says he will change things (I need change)
- He is a smooth talker and looks good on TV (that correlates to impressive and competent to me)

People who say it is crazy to decide a U.S. President based primarily on one of these basic factors are ignoring this dynamic - when people are faced with a complex choice, many times they will base their decision on the simplest metric.

Remember this truth the next time you are called to make a complex decision or are trying to get others to make one.


Goal Processing: Time Management PowerPoint

Click here to download the It's A Breeze Time Management PowerPoint from today's seminar at Great Plains Technology Center.

Click here to download David Allen's Outlook Rule PDF.


Masterful Communication: Technology Tips Slideshow

Oklahoma FCCLA Technology Techniques October 2008

From: rhettdean, 1 hour ago

A brief slide show with tips and tricks for Oklahoma FCCLA Advisors. Includes PowerPoint, Stock photos, iTunes playlists, and more.

SlideShare Link


Fostering Relationships: Resolution Pyramid

(This post includes content from Associate Speaker, Kelly Barnes...)

Working in a team environment can be a stressful situation. Conflicts arise. Tempers flair. Disagreements happen. The most cohesive teams don't agree all the time. They simply know how to resolve disagreements effectively.

Step 1: Speed. When you are experiencing a riff with a team members, get it resolved as quickly as possible.

Step 2: Process. How you go about resolving the riff is critical to maintaining team trust. Disagreements can keep from growing into major blowouts if you follow the lessons from the Resolution Pyramid below...

The top of the pyramid is you internally resolving any small issues you might have with a team member. Certain issues that you have with other team members need to just stay with you and need to be let go. You are not always going to agree with everyone, but that doesn't mean you have to make an issue out of every disagreement.

If you do need to talk it out, the top level is about you getting your side of the story mapped out before you talk to the other person. Get a firm understanding of how you feel, think about why you feel that way, and consider how your feelings are affecting how you think about the disagreement. In any disagreement, there is both emotions and logic involved. Many times sound logic can't be heard because the emotions are speaking so loudly. Giving yourself time to think about your emotions can help balance out this equation.

1 - 1
The second level is where the rubber meets the road. It is you privately approaching the person you need to have a difficult conversation with. This session starts with you asking questions and listening to learn. You are learning their perspective, their opinions and their side of the story. This is not about you stating your case or trying to convince them they are wrong. This is about diplomacy, charisma and character first. Your end goal is to get to "Our Way."

Instead of a 1-on-1 discussion, sometimes a third party needs to be included and the meeting needs to be a group meeting. This might occur if a mediator needs to be present or if more than just you and the other person are intimately involved in the disagreement. The biggest concern here is to be careful with who you think needs to be in the group. Only people who can bring valid and relevant first-hand information to the discussion need to be involved.

The bottom level of the pyramid is about clearing the air or talking about the elephant in the room. Information (and mis-information) spreads quickly among team members. The team layer is about sharing with the entire team the truth (do bad information doesn't spread) and allowing any of the disagreement partners (from a 1-on-1 or a group discussion) an opportunity to share with the team what they learned and how they will move forward. This is not a time to rehash everything (as everyone in the room d0esn't need to know everything, nor will they care).

Following this hierarchy of information exchange will allow you to build trust in a team environment and get conflicts resolved quickly and accurately.


Skill Assessment: The Abstract Curse of Leadership

If only learning how to be a better leader were more concrete.

One of the challenges of not only doing, but also teaching/training leadership skills is their inherent abstract nature.

Do you know how to eat with a fork? Either you do or you don't. Do you know how to convert a document into a PDF? Either you do or you don't.

Do you know how to encourage others? Do you know how to resolve conflict? Do you know how to make a well-informed decision that will impact the future of your organization? Not quite so black and white. Yes, it is leadership's grey matter that can cause confusion and atrophy.

Your task as a leader-in-the-making is to do everything you can to make being an effective leader as concrete as possible. Learn specific behaviors and benchmarks that you can use to self-evaluate your effectiveness. Write down and apply what you learn. Take the abstractness out of it by keeping these lessons simple, personal, patternable, repeatable, and even formulaic if necessary.


Skill Assessment: It All Starts Here

You cannot fully lead until you achieve self-awareness....

You cannot leverage your strengths until you know what they are.

You cannot make decisions consistent with your core values until you identify what they are.

You cannot communicate your ideas and opinions until you invest time in ironing them out.

You cannot make better choices tomorrow until you understand why you make the choices you made today.

You cannot achieve total self-respect until you become aware and proud of your greatness and humbled by your shortcomings.


Masterful Communication: 4 Books You Need

I have read, studied and use the techniques from all four on a daily basis. A phenomenal $60 investment...

Slide:ology on Amazon (Used from $20.95)

Presentation Zen on Amazon(Used from $17.86)

Made to Stick on Amazon(Used from $14.00)

Brain Rules on Amazon (Used from $17.78)


Skill Assessment: Up Your Technology IQ with a Few Ps

The PLI Essential Essential of Skill Assessment is about knowing who you are, making the most of what you've got and getting better at interfacing with the world. It amazes me when I hear leaders complain about how technology is making their life more difficult. That is like someone in the 1920s complaining about the automobile or someone in the 1970s complaining about the telefax. It's not the car or the fax machines or the technology that hinders production. It is the willingness (or lack thereof) to learn something new. This is, of course, because learning something new after the age of twenty-one is extremely time consuming and energy dependent. It is hard work.

If your purpose for reading this blog is to become a better, more effective leader and you complain about all the technology around you that you don't understand, stop complaining and..

Pause - When you find yourself in a technology situation that you can't figure out, stop what you are doing and make time to learn something new. It only takes two-minutes to learn how to save that number in your phone. Plus, if you save it once, you never have to save it again. If you choose not to learn how to save it, you are wasting thousands of seconds having to look it up every single time you need it.

Peruse - Everything comes with a manual for a reason. Google is Google because it has answers to your questions. Whatever challenge you are having with your technology, the answer is written down somewhere. Find it. Learn it. Plus, once you learn it, you can forget it over time, but you can never un-learn it. You will then own that information and your Technology IQ will go up.

Practice - After you find the answer to your challenge, fix it right then and try it on a couple of times. Then the next time the challenge comes up, fix it again. Pretty soon, you will either stop having the challenge or you will be able to fix it quickly. It is amazing how tangible and relevant a person's technology IQ is to their personal and professional life. For some people, it is more important than their social IQ. (And you can immediate spot the difference! I.e. - unless you are a leader in a black hole, don't sacrifice your social IQ or your emotional IQ for your technology IQ.)

Praise - Become a proponent of technology. Talk up about it. Most people who are thinking up technological designs and components are doing so to make your life easier, more efficient, more entertaining and/or all the above. Be an Expert Leader and encourage the process.

PS - Here are three cool Internet sites you will find useful and/or interesting and that you will want to share with your friends and peers. (To show them how technologically cool you are!)

Photosynth.net - Microsoft's Live Lab's newest venture. It takes photo sharing and viewing to the next level. On the home page in the top right-hand corner, type in Laubach in the search engine to see a few "synths" I have tried. I plan on using this site over at my speaking skills blog to teach people training and keynote room set-up.

Pando.com - A simple, easy way to send up to 1 GB of data to someone. We use it all the time to "email" pictures of the girls to the grandparents without having to clog up our email servers with megabytes worth of photo data. We also use it to send our Leap Show (which is a 30 MB PowerPoint file) to people who buy it.

Pandora.com - An outstanding way to discover new music. I love my iTunes and my iPods, but sometimes I want to listen to something I have never listened to before, but that is fairly similar to what I like.

Enjoy and have a great holiday weekend!


General: DUH Leadership - Drab, Uninteresting, Heroic

I, like you I'm sure, have a fair amount of cynical, too-good-to-do-good friends. You know the type...

* Too cool to follow the simple, but really important rules (like calling people back, doing what you say you will do, etc.).
* Too self-absorbed to care about others.
* Too good at what they do to be humble.

These folks think that just because they are talented or aren't in an official leadership role or don't feel like it, that following a few basic leadership rules won't make a single bit of difference in their life or the lives of the people around them. When, in many cases, their talent and ambition actually make them a perfect candidate for something called DUH (Drab, Uninteresting, Heroic) Leadership.

I have a friend just like this. The kid is as talented as anyone I know. He has moved up in his industry. Makes a ton of money. Etc. But for some reason, he chooses to live an immoral, unethical, certainly un-leaderly lifestyle. He throws his relationships around like rag dolls. His word is worth less than a button on his $1,000 suits. If he only followed even a few DUH Leadership rules, his quality of life, his relationships, and his reputation would break right through the glass ceiling he has inadvertently created.

So, what is DUH Leadership you ask? Well, it is a simple set of behaviors that are basically very boring when you think about them and even more non-sexy when you do them. Most require little energy to do once or twice, but require a heroic amount of energy to do habitually. And the acronym for them is perfect because most people who struggle with their leadership impact would look at the list of heroic behaviors and think, "Well, DUH! Everyone knows you should do those things." But then, if you asked them to do a self-inventory on how many they do on a regular basis, another DUH moment occurs. They actually don't do many of them and that is exactly why they aren't making a big leadership impact - because they aren't doing the small, mundane tasks necessary to be a heroic leader.

The PLI Essentials give us a good structure to highlight 10 acts that represent the heroic way and DUH Leadership. As you read this list, your thoughts will go to those friends you have who do the exact opposite. Just because they have chosen to be average, instead of heroic doesn't mean you have to. They want you to be "too-good-to-do-good" on the surface because they will have persuaded yet another friend to live the average life with them. However, under the surface, even your most cynical peers want you and need you to be heroic. They know there is a better way to live, they just haven't mustered the strength to do it. You can be the spark they need. How? Here are 10 DUH ideas...

Vision - Talk optimistically about the future.

Integrity - Follow through on every commitment you make. If you're not going to follow through, don't make it.

Innovative - Talk more about solutions than problems.

Wise Judgment - Admit quickly when you make a mistake.

Service Minded - Give your time, money or both for the benefit of a complete stranger in need.

Goal Processing - Create and stick to a "Not-to-do List".

Skill Assessment - Learn something today to move you one step closer to being excellent at a task you do everyday.

Emotional Maturity - When you get mad, step away from the situation before you respond.

Fostering Relationships - Be nice.

Masterful Communication - If an email you are drafting is longer than 5 sentences, delete it and call the person.

A good closing metaphor to demonstrate the power of DUH Leadership is your average American millionaire. He or she is a normal, working-class person who drives a drab car, sleeps in an uninteresting home and lives a normal life. What they did to accumulate a heroic amount of wealth was small, simple, and disciplined daily acts.

* They spent less than they made.
* They started and stuck to a long-term savings plan from a young age.
* They placed more value in the money itself (which, because of compound interest, is worth more with each passing day) than on the things it could buy (which, because of depreciation, is worth less with each passing day).

Very much DUH. Very much uncommon among the masses. Very heroic.

Sent to you from the road.


Vision: A Short Nugget From John Maxwell

A short nugget of leadership wisdom from John Maxwell's Leadership 101...

Achievement comes to someone when he is able to do great things for himself.
Success comes when he empowers followers to do great things with him.
Signficance comes when he develops leaders to do great things for him.
A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.


Masterful Communication: Handling Nervousness

Click over to the Authenticity Rules blog to see how to turn speaking nervousness into a piece of cake...

C - Change your perspective
A - Audience-focused
K - Knowledge
E - Experience

Go there now


Goal Processing: A Cloud of Dust

One of my favorite classes at OSU was an Agricultural Economics course with a guy named Justin Beadles. A group of us would get together before every test and just drink all the coffee and economics we could stand.

Justin went on to seminary and is now the Pastor at Grace Bible Church in Nacogdoches, Texas - http://www.gracebiblechurch.com/. Here is a line from Justin's welcome page on their web site...

"The last thing we want to do at Grace is feverishly stir up a cloud of dust, but essentially go nowhere. Nor do we want to meticulously chart maps, yet never leave the runway. Our desire is to chart a biblical course and energetically travel it together."

You and your team might be like the team I worked with this weekend - struggling with the issue of growth. How fast should we grow? How thin can we spread our resources? Should we put one ton of energy into 100 separate projects or put 50 tons of energy into two?

Obviously, Justin's leadership at Grace is a great model for you to follow with your team. There is no need to sow row after row of crops year after year if you deplete the land of nutrients so much you can't grow anything and dust covers the land instead of bounty.

Justin also recently joined the blogging world - http://justinbeadles.wordpress.com/. I encourage you to check it out and read regularly. Justin's wit, creativity and love for the Lord are all inspirational.

(He is also part Pastor, part Psycho - check this out...)


General: The Leadership Blog Voting

Personal Leadership Insight has been nominated for the Best of Leadership Blogs 2008 award. Please click here to vote for your favorite leadership blog.

The voting ends in July. We are currently in third place and just need a few more votes. Thank you for your support!


General: Student Award/Recognition Banquet Success Strategies

The middle of the summer isn't the best time of the year to be thinking about year-end banquets, but I promised a room full of teachers today that I would put up this post. So, if you are going to be in charge of or helping to plan a year-end student organization award/recognition banquet, here are a few tips to print off and save for later...

1. Set the date, announce it early, and build in a "WOW" factor.

Obviously, if you are working with a school's calendar, you are going to set the date fairly early. What most people forget is to announce it early. I am certain you don't have a big promotional budget (plus, you will have to send an announcement a few weeks before the event), but even just a simple postcard with a "save the date" message works wonders. Send it to local boosters, all the students' parents/guardians, all your school's staff/administration, etc. If you include a "WOW" factor, you can build in anticipation. This could be a special guest appearance, a special meal item, and/or a unique demonstration from the students. Don't be afraid to build it up and make it seem greater than it is. A little showmanship here goes a long way to people anticipating a cool event.

I spoke at one banquet where the big thing every year was what a local shop was going to do for the table center pieces. They were always something phenomenal and someone from each table got to take their table's centerpiece home. This was also a great promotional for the local vendor.

2. Assign every student a duty, check on their progress, offer them assistance and help them be exceptional.

Students get engaged in anything where they have a clear purpose and role. Find out their talents and/or the talents of their family members and go from there. Our local FFA chapter in the small town of Laverne, Oklahoma (population 1,000) had a huge banquet every year because we delegated and assigned roles. It was a huge event that created strong community awareness and support of our little 60-member FFA chapter.

Have a handful of gophers - students who simply play the role of helping you do misc. tasks. Put your nicest, friendliest and most outgoing students at the front as greeters. If you have a guest speaker, local VIPs or school administration coming, assign two students to each to specially greet them, help them feel "extra special", show them where they are seated, etc.

3. Talk positively about the event.

It is amazing how our language is powerful in shaping the mood of the planning and delivery of an event. The more you talk up about the event, the more your students will do the same. Everything is not going to go as planned and everything is not going to be as great as you say it will be, but if you (as the chief planner of the event) can't get excited about it, why should anyone else?

4. Have students perform with equipment that works.

I have been to hundreds of student award/recognition banquets and the best ones are the ones where the students not only do most of the podium work (emcee, introductions, announce awards, etc.), but where the students get to show off their talents also. This might be traditional banquet entertainment (singing, piano, etc.), but also showing off their speaking skills. Regarding the performances, whether from the podium or otherwise, make absolutely certain you have (and triple-check the morning of) facility items that add to the experience instead of detracting from it....

1. If you can't hear the speakers, then why have an event? I have been to banquets where the microphone is literally running into the portal podium built in 1960. If your town doesn't have a facility with a good sound system, someone in town has to have a portable sound system you can borrow. Ask the local churches, car dealers, auctioneers, local motivational speakers :), etc. You don't have to secure a high-dollar BOSE system, but one built after Reagan was in office would be nice.

2. If you are doing a slide-show, lighting is critical. If you can't turn the lights down for the show, then don't have the show.

3. If you can't hear the music behind the slide show, then don't have music. And a laptop's speakers with a microphone pointed at it is not good. Ask your local Radio Shack AV expert (come on, even my grandparents' town in po-dunk Oklahoma has a Radio Shack), to show you how to get the laptop's sound to run through the house sound. It takes an investment of about $40. It involves a few cords, adapters, and a little thing called a DI box.

4. If you are going to hang signs, banners, etc., make absolutely certain they will stay up. Duct tape is good, but duct tape and bailing wire (seriously) will hold anything. 50-pound fishing line works better and is more discreet than bailing wire also. You also need to check your facility's rules before using tape. Many places don't allow it. But if your banquet is in your grade school's 60-year old cafeteria, I doubt they will mind.

5. Make the room cooler than normal. If a few of your guests are complaining it is too cool, that is a good thing. 70 is a good room temp for meal functions. But remember, 65 in an empty room might get you 70 in a full one.

5. Keep the agenda short and simple.

No one ever, in the history of banquets, has ever complained about the event being too short. 90-minutes should be your target and 120-minutes should be your ceiling. You know you have reached your perfect banquet flow not when you have nothing left to add, but when you have nothing left to take away. Some say that every student should get something at an awards banquet. Well, if every student accomplished something, then that is true. However, you and I both know that not every student put in the work necessary to receive an award.

Because every event planner should be concerned with program length, here are a few time savers:

1. Have multiple registration/sign-in lines.

2. Have multiple food lines (if you are doing a buffet). Also, don't have food in a buffet line people have to assemble (tacos, sandwiches, etc.).

3. If you ask people to speak, ask them to speak about half as long as you actually want them to speak (i.e. - tell your Mayor she has 5 minutes if you expect her to go 10.)

4. Have someone other than the teacher give out the awards. It is tough for teachers to not want to say everything they can think of about every student who received an award. If certain highlights need to be said to give special recognition to work done, put it in the script. The best person to announce student awards is another student.

5. If you do a year-end slide show, put a two-song limit on it. I know you took a ton of great pictures throughout the year, but after 7-minutes even grandparents stop looking for their grandchild's smiling face and start looking for the last slide. If you have more pictures to share than can fit in a 7-minute show, put them in an online web album, put the URL in the program and announce the URL from the podium.

6. If you have a guest speaker, don't ask them to talk longer than 15-minutes. Trust me on this one, if the speaker is worth their keep, they can say in 15-minutes what they can in 30.

7. Bring multiples up all at once. If you have an award that goes to a group of individuals, call their names out all at once, have all of them come up to the front, then give them their awards individually. Award winner walking time is the third biggest time killer (second place is not having enough buffet lines and first place is a long winded teacher.)

6. Invite both friends and enemies.

Send out invitations to both your best supporters and to those people who you know don't support your organization. If you are out-of-sorts with the coaches or administration or the adult leader of a different student organization, send them an invite and call them personally to extend a personal invite. Tell them you just want to let them see the good work "the school's students" have been doing all year long. Don't make it about your students versus their students or your agenda versus their agenda. Make it about your event being a place for the school's students to be recognized for their hard work. It is amazing how much support you can create when people see you are trying to include them and, if they actually show, when people see the good works you do.

7. Seek sponsorships.

A banquet is a great marketing opportunity for local businesses and individuals that want to get their name in front of the community for a good cause. Check out this post on fundraising. The connection isn't direct, but some of the same principles apply to sponsorship acquisition. Getting sponsors isn't easy, but it gets easier as time goes on. Most organizations have a set "donations" budget and once you are in their list, it is easier to stay on their list year after year. And if you can get one bank or one retail outlet to sponsor, you can use that sponsorship to "nudge" their competition to do the same.

8. Invite the media.

Telling the good news is critical to the success of your organization. There is no better place to shout than at your annual banquet. Invite as many media outlets as you can. If no one from their shop shows, then send a picture and a press release the day after your event and ask them to run it. They will print it if the picture is good and the press release follows some basic rules. Here is a post at BNet an overview of press release rules... BNet. Also, make certain your picture has a few close-up shots of faces in it. Better to be able to actually recognize three faces than barely make out 20. Remember, the picture won't be printed full-sized and will be in black and white.

9. Have a printed script.

Your script should be in at least three, three-ring binders, double-spaced, 14-font, numbered pages and not copied until the morning of the banquet. You want multiple copies of the final event-ready script just in case something happens to one. You don't want to print it until the day of the event because things will change on you at the last minute. If things do change at the very last minute, just write in the changes. Use a three-ring binder so it will lay flat on the podium and so you can insert pages with changes. You should have students memorize their parts (the better they know their speaking parts, the more comfortable they will be at the podium), but have the manuscript available just in case their nerves get the best of them. When you put names in your manuscript, put them in phonetically correct, not grammatically correct (i.e. - Law-buck, not Laubach.)

10. Practice the night before, show up extra early to start preparing the day of and expect things to go wrong.

As much energy should be exerted in the practice the night before as the actual banquet itself. Early, in event planning terms, means as early as humanly possible. Everything at a banquet takes longer to prepare than you think. When things go wrong, as the event coordinator, you need to keep a calm head, walk with a hurried calmness and remember to put relationships before results. If something goes wrong, most times no one can tell anyway except you and your planning team. Just roll with it. And take notes after the event for next year. Send thank you notes out the next day. Send your press release and picture out the next day. Then celebrate with your students for a job well done!

I welcome any comments with more great banquet tips.


Working in the 17% Zone: 6 Big Keys to Getting and Keeping Engaged Team Members

The Gallup Organization did a study on how people feel about their job. The results:

17% felt they were actively engaged in their work.

54% were disengaged in their work.

29% actually felt actively disengaged.

How do you, as a leader in your organization, get people into the 17% zone and keep them there? Here are six big keys...


1. Encourage up. People have a basic need for reward. This reward doesn't have to always be pay or gifts or awards. Many times it is just simple encouragement. This positive interaction is especially important between a boss and a team member. The health of this relationship is the strongest factor in determining an employee's job satisfaction.

2. Target down. Identify what "a good job" means. People need loops in their life. This means they need to shoot for something, accomplish it and be given something new to strive for. Sometimes the "target" needs to be artificially manufactured, but as long as the work involved is substantial and meaningful, engagement will follow.

3. Strengthen in. Do you know what gets your team members excited both in the office and out? When you learn what naturally stimulates a person, you can help them do those things more often - even if they aren't work related.

4. Weaken out. When you ask a team member to do a task that engages one of their weaknesses, this actually weakens their ability to do other tasks. It takes time to massage the work flow around weaknesses, but it is a task worth pursuing.

5. Make it sharp. The sharper the axe, the better the cut and the easier the work. This principle works in the world of work, as well as the world of tree-cutting. Create, encourage and support (but don't mandate unless for licensing purposes) professional development opportunities. People desire accomplishment and for thousands of adults, their development path at work is their primary success outlet.

6. Rock the gap. People have a need for inspiration, even the cynical. In the world of employee engagement, this inspiration can come from seeing the gap between an average performance and an amazing performance and then being put in an environment that coaches and encourages an amazing performance from everyone - top to bottom.


General: Book Review

A Leader Becomes A Leader is a phenomenal new historical leadership study book by J. Kevin Sheehan. It includes 65 in-depth, creative and insightful profiles of highly successful individuals and the corresponding leadership trait they exemplified.

This image is an example of one of the profiles. Each profile includes images, quotes, a page description of the leader's life, a column dedicated to the leader's timeline and a sentence providing a brief, interesting story from their childhood. This profile picture is from John Coltrane, which is an example that not all the profiled leaders are your traditional historical leaders (Lincoln, Churchill, Einstein, etc. - although they are included, as well.)

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in history and leadership, as well as any educators who teach leadership in their classroom.

Purchase it from Amazon or from the publisher, True Gifts.


General: Best Leadership Blog Nomination

Personal Leadership Insight has been nominated for the Best of Leadership Blogs 2008 award. Please click here (the voting box is at the bottom of that page) to vote for your favorite leadership blog. The voting ends when July ends.

Thank you for voting and thank you for being a loyal PLI reader.


Skill Assessment: Doers, Throughers and Spewers

In my extensive time spent around leaders and teaching leadership, I have noticed there are three distinct types of people in this world - Doers, Throughers and Spewers. Understanding which category you fall into might provide some valuable insight into improving the value of your leadership footprint. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of each.


These are the Type A personalities that range from the glory-seekers to the servant leaders. They are interested in getting things done. Doers see a problem, opportunity, or challenge and they take action. Some for personal gain; some for the betterment of the greater cause. Their intentions matter in some conversations, but not this one. What matters here is not why they are in the Doer category. What matters here is how they came to become a Doer and the trail they leave behind.

The upsides of the Doers are pretty self-explanatory. They get things done. They make things better (most of the time.) Doers fail a ton, but mostly because they try a ton. Being a Doer doesn't make one right or better. It simply makes them productive and contributive (yes, that is a new word.) Many of the world's greatest and smallest solutions are a result of a Doer taking action.

The cons of the Doer are a little more complicated to explain and sometimes complex to understand. Many of the downsides of a Doer's actions are a result of a Doer taking action when...

1. They didn't have all the information necessary to make a decision.
2. They didn't have the right information needed.
3. They made a decision when it wasn't their place to do so.
4. Their decision cause them to sacrifice something more important (often times a relationship).
5. It wasn't the right time to take action.
6. And the list goes on...


The Througher is defined as someone who simply passes through situations, events, opportunities, challenges and relationships in their life without exerting any extra effort to improve or add value.

The main pro of the Througher is they don't rock the boat. They don't disrupt any preexisting leadership/decision-makers structure.

The main con of the Througher is they don't rock the boat. Sometimes the boat needs to be rocked. Sometimes all a problem or challenge needs is a Througher to stop and do something about it. A common phrase we use in many of our programs is that the problem in many organizations is not the negative vein or the poor decision makers. The problem of most broken organizations is good people who, for whatever reason, don't step up and take action. These people are the Throughers. Most Throughers are in this category because:

1. Fear.
2. They think their opinion, information or help isn't valuable.
3. They are comfortable where they are and they know (rightly) that many times if you talk about a problem or offer a solution, you will more than likely be asked to do something about it - which leads to more work.
4. They don't know how to help.
5. They don't want to find out how to help.
6. And the list goes on...


The Spewer (as you probably guessed from the name) is the worse of the three. The Spewer is defined by their negative attitude and unfortunate tendency to spew said attitude on everyone around them. They love to gossip, chat and advertise about how bad things are.

You wouldn't think there would be any pros to the spewage (another new word) of a Spewer, but there are a few...

1. They bring attention to problems.
2. They can actually provide motivation to a Doer simply by making them mad or annoyed.
3. They validate the importance of the Doers and show Throughers a way to get involved.
4. And the list goes on...

Yes, there are quite a few negatives of a Spewer. Here is the short list...

1. They don't take any positive or constructive action.
1. Unpleasant to be around. (Yes, there is a tie for first place here.)
2. They actually block the creation of positive solutions by killing the motivation, spirit, and ideas of Doers and Throughers.
3. They have a tendency to make things worse by delaying or damaging the constructive action of others.
4. They highlight the negative and make the problem or challenge larger than it actually is.
5. And the list definitely goes on and on and on and on...

So, you need to decide where you live - in Doerville, Througherland or Spewer City.

Doers, keep at it. You help more than you hurt.
Throughers, find a place to help out. You are needed somewhere.
Spewers, there is a better way. Find it.

Good luck.


Skill Assessment: The Benefit of Getting Leadership Training at a Young Age

Leadership training at a young age, especially in the formidable teen years, is life-changing for many of the students we work with. The reason is because they get ingrained with positive habits that serve them so richly throughout their life - in and out of leadership positions.

I was reading an article by Bob Costa in the Wall Street Journal today about the impact Tim Russert (recently deceased NBC journalist and broadcaster) had on him and his career. Bob mentioned a conversation between Senator Pat Moynihan and a young Tim Russert after Tim told Moynihan he didn't think he had what it took to be a journalist. Tim was born in Buffalo, attended college in Ohio and was feeling overwhelmed by his Ivy League peers...

Senator Moynihan said, "Tim, don't let them intimidate you. What they know, you can learn. What you know, they'll never understand."

This is how I feel about the impact of the leadership training young students receive through student organizations, particularly the Career and Technical Student Organizations we work with (FBLA, FFA, TSA, SkillsUSA, HOSA, DECA, FCCLA and BPA).

The leadership experiences these students go through are so extensive and challenging, they literally shape and mold them into new people. They gain communication skills, time and people management strategies, positive verbal and non-verbal cues, and critical thinking skills that many of their peers may never fully understand.

If you are a student reading this, keep going to leadership conferences, pursuing leadership positions and studying leadership material. If you are a parent, business leader, or community member reading this, encourage this in the students you know.


Integrity: The Thank You Note Investment

We do an exercise in our leadership trainings where the students write a thank you letter to someone who is very important in their life. They must have their mailing address because the letters are sealed, stamped and we mail them right after the session. Students normally take a significant amount of time writing their letters - sometimes a full hour.

At a recent training, a student noted that his letter was probably the longest letter of any type he had ever written. Ever.

A) As a leadership trainer that is a pretty cool thing to hear. That he (and a ton of other students) put in that much effort into something as simple as writing a thank you letter. It reinforced my belief that our work as leadership trainers, especially in the student market, is more meaningful than just helping leaders learn how to lead their team or organization. Most of the skills and concepts we handle at leadership conferences are highly valuable life skills that, when properly applied, will enable the students to be great at whatever they do.

B) A very cool leadership lesson popped up after the students turned in their letters. It was nine at night. The students were wore out from a full day of high-energy training on how to serve their organization effectively during their term. They had just turned in their thank you letters (again, some of them took almost an hour to complete.)

I held up the pile of letters and asked the group how would you feel if I just took the pile and threw it away? They responded with, I would cry, I would be very mad at you, I would feel like I just wasted a ton of time, etc.

I asked why? Of course they said because they spent so much time and what they said and who they said it to were both very important to them.

I then asked them to remember that feeling when they are half way through their year and they are thinking about not applying or acting on the concepts and tools we spent all day talked about. Not doing something with the learning from the day is just like me throwing away the letters (which I didn't do.) However, in order to do that, you have to care about what you are doing and saying as a leader like you care about what you put in your letter. Maybe it won't be the same level of caring (our personal relationships should always be more important to us than our professional associations), but it should be the same style of caring - passionate, important, meaningful, a guiding force in your life, etc.

It was a very cool moment. Thanks to the elected student leaders of the Oregon Career and Technical Student Leadership Organizations (FFA, FBLA, DECA, SkillsUSA, HOSA, FCCLA and AOFC) for creating it.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. When was the last time you put so much time and effort into thanking those around you who have supported you and helped you achieve your goals?

2. What are the advantages of writing thank you notes?

3. What sacrifice does a writing thank you note require?

4. Is the sacrifice worth the debt of gratitude that is paid with a thank you note?

5. If you could thank 5 people in your life for supporting you and helping you to achieve your goals, who would they be? And Why?

6. What obstacles are keeping you from writing those thank you notes?


Emotional Maturity: My 10List - Ten Reasons Why I Love My Job

Emotional Maturity: My 10List - Ten Reasons Why I Love My Job

In no particular order, here are ten reasons why I love running a business and being a professional speaker/leadership trainer:

Rhett's 10List

1.  I am in control of my time
2.  I am exercising my best talents
3.  I am engaged in bringing the best out of people
4.  I am serving as a torchbearer for my faith
5.  I get to travel
6.  I have set up a family-oriented business
7.  I provide opportunities for people of all ages, but particularly young people to develop their leadership potential
8.  I am constantly challenged to sharpen, shift and shape the architecture of my skills
9.  I love to get up in the morning and DO WORK
10.  I am serving others

So, what does your 10List contain? Identifying, sharing and celebrating the reasons you love your job plays a large role in your emotional maturity. 


Fostering Relationships: How People Respond to Success

The menu of responses from others to your success:

Encouragement... if I am proud

Inspiration... if I am impressed

Jealousy... if I am envious

Guilt... if I am regretful

Ego... if I am competitive

Disregard... if I am selfish

As you climb the leadership ladder, you will get different responses from different people based more on who they are and how they feel about their own success than on who you are or how they feel about your success. Remember this the next time you get an unexpected response from someone. Their response is mostly about them.


Masterful Communication: Filtering and Indexing

Fifty years ago, access to information was king. It was mostly kept in universities and libraries.

Ten years ago, the information itself was king. Access was digitally pushed/pulled into every household.

Today, the ability to filter (exposing yourself to only the information you need or desire) and the ability to index (the physical, digital and intellectual act of organizing information) share the throne.

Your leadership leverage is determined by your ability to gain clarity and then transfer that clarity to others. To get better at that, get better at filtering and indexing.


Goal Processing: Success Test

Base your success as a leader on the health of your relationships first. Everything else should fight for second based on where you are in life.


On Tour: Oklahoma City

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....

May 28-29 - Oklahoma CareerTech University, Oklahoma City, OK

Just spent a powerful two days with the student elected state officers of Oklahoma CareerTech's seven student organizations: FFA, FCCLA, BPA, SkillsUSA, DECA, TSA and HOSA. Congratulations to these organizations for electing a marvelous group of officers.

Every year we lead this training called CareerTech University where we help the officers understand how to effectively lead and grow their organizations. The big lesson that continued to pop up over the past two days was this:

Your job as a state officer is important and meaningful if you think it is.

This message helped many of the officers understand how to get the most out of their year of service. Mainly because back at home they are surrounded by parents, friends, teachers, etc. that don't get how big and important their role is as state officers. In that environment, it is easy to lose focus, lose motivation and not give 100% to an opportunity that, for a good number of them, will be one of the most influential positions they will have in their entire life. Some of their organization's membership numbers reach into the tens of thousands. However, if they hold their position in high and humble regard, the motivation to work hard and serve will be internal. I am confident their week at CTU will act as a constant and pleasant reminder to help keep that fire lit.


On Tour: Alva, OK

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....

May 27

How can one simple activity hold the full attention of 8th graders for 25-minutes?

We have an activity called the Amazing activity, expertly led and processed by Kelly Barnes. A blue tarp is formed into a seven square by seven square maze. A team of people must figure out how to get everyone on their team through the maze in a preset pattern without talking and without making mistakes. Every minute it takes to figure out the pattern and every mistake they make (talking, wrong steps, etc.) costs points. Their task is to not only finish, but finish with a low number of points. Every group, including our group of 8th graders in Alva, Oklahoma today, stay totally enthralled in the activity the entire time.

So, the question is why? Why do they always pay full attention? More importantly, what can trainers, teachers and speakers learn about keeping a group's attention from the Amazing activity?

1. No Talking = No Distractions

The negative side-effects of multitasking are getting more and more attention these days. The Amazing activity is a great example of how focused, determined and productive people of any age can be when distractions are limited.

2. Full Responsibility = Full attention

Everyone on the team has to try the maze. In order to know how to try the maze, you have to watch it. You have to learn from other's mistakes. So, either because I am others-driven and want to help the team, me-driven and don't want to be embarrassed or competition-driven and just want to do well, I am going to pay attention to how the other people are succeeding/failing on the maze.

3. Clear Goal = Clear Goal

The ultimate goal is totally clear to the team. Get everyone through the maze as quickly as possible and with the fewest points accumulated. Because the team goal is clear and my role in the team is clear then my personal goal is clear. This clarity leads to heightened attention because our brains avoid confusion and are attracted to concrete, visual, and simple stimuli.

4. Mystery = Interest

There is a built-in "great unknown" in the Amazing activity - what is the pattern? This very organic knowledge gap forces people to pay attention because they are naturally interested in filling the gap.

5. Clear Parameters = Clear Focus

Basic principle of human nature - we respond positively (most of the time) to clear boundaries. In a learning exercise like this, the clear parameters (the 49ish spaces the pattern exists in) provides the students a concrete space to direct their energy and attention.


On Tour - Air Travel "Opportunities"

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....

May 23 - Chicago Airport

"Air travel doesn't build character, it reveals it." me

My fellow speaking associate, Kelly Barnes, was delayed out of Portland, Oregon to Denver and barely made it home late on Tuesday night. He has been leading a three-day training event in Oklahoma and had to get home before Wednesday to start. Very stressful.

My wife and daughter made it to JFK Tuesday night, but without the diaper/make-up/jewelry bag. It showed up, but not until the next morning. Very stressful.

I was supposed to be back in Oklahoma last night, but my flight was delayed into Chicago O'Hare. I spent the night in Chicago (without luggage) and still haven't made it back. Haven't been home or seen my little one year-old in a week. Very stressful.

Yet, we all took the delays and the adjustments with a smile as an opportunity to experience life. Last night when the pilot announced that the flight into Chicago wouldn't land until 11:30 pm (scheduled to land at 7:00), almost 200 people groaned, moaned and loaned their emotional well-being to American Airlines. It is remarkable how some people (and in air travel situations - most people) just don't get it. If you don't control your emotions and be the thermostat, you are at the mercy of the situation, just like the thermometer.


On Tour: May 20 - Rutgers University

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....

May 20 - Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

The New Jersey FFA Association showed me a great time at Hickman Hall on campus of Rutgers University! 386 members responded with laughter, excitement and intense attention during the keynote. Big thanks to National FFA Officer Tyler Tenbarge for filling in for my workshop that I missed thanks to traffic between JFK and Rutgers. Big thanks also to Dr. Matt Bellace, youth speaker and comedian, for the transportation and the "after hours" trip to Wal-Mart.

Now it is two full days of fun in the big apple with the girls. Waldorf-Astoria, Little Mermaid on Broadway, and Central Park here we come!!!


May 19 - Camp Cascade, OR

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....

May 19

Phenomenal day with the 36 students leaders of the seven CTSLOs here in Oregon (Career Tech Student Leadership Organization). The three day camp is held at Camp Cascade just east of Salem at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. So, I am flying from one of the most remote parts of the country (no cell reception and more bears/cougars/coyotes than people) to the most connected and busiest cities in the world - New York City. Good times.

The training today was about speaking skills, team goals, team standards, making the most of your year of service and saying thank you to important people. It was a great conference because the student leaders were exceptional. See you next year!


On Tour: May 18 - Pullman, WA to Camp Cascade, OR

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....

May 18

I have arrived in Oregon. Here are a two quick pictures...


On Tour: May 17 - Pullman, WA

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....

May 17

Key points from my 45-minute student leadership keynote last night at the Washington FFA State Convention:

Title: 3 Giant Jumps Every Great Student Leader Takes

1. Get in a relationship with your organization. Start to make a commitment by recognizing the size and depth of the organization (the FFA nationally has 500,000 members.)

2. Live for life, not just for today. Make some sacrifices and pick where you invest your time based on what will most benefit you in the long-term.

3. Risk big. Strive for achievements that will stretch you. Strive for excellence, but prepare emotionally in case you fall short.

My workshop today:

Title: How to Communicate Like a Master

1. Be confident in who you are and learn how to be the best of you when you communicate. This starts with self-awareness and seeking out opinions and input from trusted advisors.

2. Sharpen your listening skills. Get better at putting your focus on the other person when speaking one-on-one and on the audience when speaking in public.

3. Get experience communicating at multiple levels: one-on-one with strangers, public speaking, debate, constructive arguments, team brainstormings, etc. Experience it all.

Headed to Portland, Oregon tonight!


On Tour: May 16 - OKC to Pullman, Washington

I will be traveling and speaking solid from May 16 to May 30. During this period my posts will be about what I'm learning, what I'm saying and how I'm saying it....


Sitting on my first of seven plane rides on this trip, I read a piece in the May 16, 2008 The Week magazine about some recent research indicating that human intelligence can be just as much a function of development as it is about genetics. I.e. - it is possible to get fundamentally smarter. You and I aren't "stuck" with the IQ we have today. We can improve it through mental training. Good thing for some of us!

This particular study showed significant gains in the participants' fluid intelligence - their ability to solve problems, use abstract reasoning and be quick on their feet. Particularly as leaders and communicators, those three tasks are critical to our effectiveness. If you are going to add anything to your life development list this week, add "find out how to improve my fluid intelligence."


I also was able to put together my flow for my 30-min. keynote tonight in Pullman to the 3,000+ attendees at the Washington FFA State Conference. While planning, I focused on including personal stories, unique ways of talking about age-old topics, bringing everything back to the client's expectations of my content and including humor, serious points and a touch of audience interaction. Should be fun.


Goal Processing: Managing Your Time

What is your task efficiency rate? We have always maintained that we are able to accomplish more than most because we get more done during the day. We maximize our time. Consider the following "time additives" to improve your efficiency:

1. Don't multitask. It tanks your productivity

2. Unplug. Turn the cell phone off. Turn off the wireless on your laptop (unless you are doing internet stuff.)

3. De-socialize. If you do have to be on the internet for something, close your Facebook notifier, turn off your email notifier, etc.

4. Retreat. Find a place where you can retreat from everything and really get important things done.

5. Leverage your gap times. Be productive between meetings, early in the morning, waiting in line, waiting in traffic, etc.

6. Hit the Pillow. Sleep is the best thing you can do to increase productivity.

7. Memorize in the morning. Your brain is most ready to commit information to long-term memory right after you wake up. This has nothing to do with whether you are a morning person or not. That is habit based. This is brain-research based.


Goal Processing: Map 'Em

"Its hard to tell just where you're at, when you're looking for something that ain't on a map."

Keith Anderson, Country Music Artist
From the song "I'll Know When I Get There"

If you want to actually accomplish them, get your goals on a map. Figure out the start, middle and end points and how to benchmark your progress. Then get to walking, running, riding, driving or flying.


Fostering Relationships: Hey Leader! Who Are You Following?

It never fails. Every time I pull up to a stop light a little closer than the car beside me, they pull up a little. They were totally content being back where they were until I pulled up a few inches and indirectly "nudged them forward."

This happened again yesterday and got me thinking: who do I have in my life nudging me forward? Have I surrounded myself with people who are smarter, quicker, and more talented than me? (My wife would say yes... and I agree.)

This leads to my second thought: have you? Every great leader has someone constantly reminding them that there is always room for improvement. Average leaders are content with being a few feet back from the line.

Great leaders maximize time, space, and energy by following people who nudge them forward (or downright push them.)


Goal Processing: The Fallacy of the New Year's Resolution

It is May 1. 122 days into 2008. Question: How are you doing on your new year's resolutions? If you are like most people, probably lousy. The reason why is because, by definition, the new year's resolution system is faulty. Most new year's resolutions are about changing behavior and you don't change behavior yearly. You change behavior daily. You just decide right now to do something or to not do something. What most new year's resolutions lack is the specific language necessary to invoke specific, daily behavior change. Of course, even with more specific language you still have to do the work to make the change.

Americans' Top Ten New Year's Resolutions

1. Spend more time with family
2. Start exercising
3. Lose weight
4. Stop smoking
5. Stop drinking
6. Enjoy life more
7. Learn something new
8. Get out of debt
9. Help others
10. Get organized

These are dreams, not goals. And certainly not "resolutions." Here is what they are missing.

1. A specific target (I will lose 10 pounds...).
2. A deadline shorter than a year (in two months...).
3. An action list (by replacing a stop to McDonalds with a stop to Subway, only eating half my meals, starting the day with a healthy breakfast, drinking more water, walking 30-minutes per day, etc...).
4. A compelling reason (because my cholesterol is 30 points too high...).
5. An accountability partner to help (and I will ask my best friend to hold me accountable to my plan).

This is also a great strategy to use with any resolution you set, new year's or otherwise.


Masterful Communication: Dance With the One That Brought Ya'

The next time you give a presentation, remember to dance with the one that brought ya'. Look for those handful of audience members who are totally with you, checked in, listening up, leaning forward, and "dancing the dance" with you.

Have a conversation with these few people. Make and maintain eye contact with them. Read and respond to their body language. These dance partners will motive, energize and inspire you.

Your new-found energy will bring along the folks who just need to be asked in the right way to dance. Most importantly, forget about the few people who won't dance because they don't like the song, don't like your style, or just don't like to dance at all.


Masterful Communication: The Official 7 Authenticity Rules

If you are a reader of this blog, but haven't been to the Authenticity Rules blog (my presentation skills blog), the following PDF file will introduce you to the rules and hopefully encourage you to check out, study and sign up for your weekly dose of Authenticity!

Right-click to download the PDF - The 7 Authenticity Rules

(get the free Acrobat Reader)


The PowerPoint Show

The images I use for my leadership PowerPoint show can be viewed and downloaded here...



PS - The song I use is by Mat Kearney - Won't Back Down.


Skill Assessment: Scaling the Elevator

I had a great meeting yesterday with Steven Menzel, Director of the International Association of Character Cities for Character First, a character growth organization here in Oklahoma City. We chatted about a range of topics and training leaders popped up. Steve's father was a policeman, Steve is ex-military and he works for a character company. Needless to say, he had some great insights on leadership and leadership development. Here is a quote from Steve that is an interesting way to think about your influence growth journey...

"Leadership development, any skill development really, is just like walking up a down escalator. It is challenging, frustrating at times, hard work and when you stop exerting effort you immediately start going downhill." Steven Menzel, Character First


Fostering Relationships: 10 Ways to Weaken Communication

The following 10 actions weaken our ability to communicate openly and honestly with each other - particularly in a work and/or team environment. For each of the 10, there is a solution (which is really just the opposite of the weak action.)

1. Talking bad about someone not present
Stephen Covey says a great way to build trust with people is to talk up about people not present.

2. Talking about problems without offering solutions
This not only doesn't help anything, it also encourages people to avoid having meaningful conversations with you.

3. Asking for advice and not listening
If you really don't want their opinion or ideas, don't ask.

4. Not seeking clarity
The Alpha and Omega of great communication is clarity. Seek it out at all cost.

5. Telling a lie
It is amazing how simple and equally difficult this is to not do. Read this post to put some framework to why you do it.

6. Avoiding a difficult conversation
Make a commitment to your relationships and make the difficult chats happen. When done properly (measured emotion, authentic feelings, mutual respect, separation of behavior and person, etc.) the upsides greatly outweigh the downsides.

7. Criticizing in public
Encourage in public. Praise unreasonably. Only criticize if you have been asked (from a peer) or if it is part of a feedback session (if you are a supervisor/manager/etc.).

8. Talking in generalities
Like clarity, being specific and concrete in your comments strengthens your ability to communicate effectively.

9. Not meeting regularly
Inertia sets in and we lose track of time. Take time to meet (formally or informally) with your team mates, class mates, spouse, children, etc. and don't do anything but talk about how things are going.

10. Being too self-focused
No matter the communication context (one-on-one, public venue, marketing brochure, etc.), being audience-focused is vital and enabling. Think before you talk. Consider how they will recieve it. Put yourself in their shoes.


Goal Processing: Don't Believe the No U-Turn Signs

Most people you know are conditioned to follow the "No U-Turns" signs in their leadership life because they don't understand the power of this concept...

1. If you want to change a leadership outcome (i.e. - the result of your influence), you have to change.

2. If you want to change, you have to change a pattern in your life. We are creatures of habit. We are what we repeatedly do. Your leadership influence is the sum of your life patterns. Meaningful change only happens when a pattern is changed.

3. If you want to change a pattern in your life, you have to identify a faulty pattern and replace it with a good pattern.

4. If you want to swap out a faulty pattern with a good one, you have to start with deleting the bad pattern first. Then learning the new pattern second. You can't do both at the same time. You have to make a U-turn.

The Driving Metaphor

You are currently driving west, but you know you are headed the wrong way. You are supposed to be driving east. So, you have to physically stop driving west, turn around and start driving east. You can't keep driving west (continuing the old pattern) while also making progress going east (starting the new pattern.) You can't do both simultaneously. You have to ignore the signs and make a U-turn.

This same concept works in your life. You have to ignore the physical, mental, emotional and social pressures of repeating the old pattern, stop that pattern and start a new pattern.

WARNING - This is going to require some heavy-lifting. The inertia of your old ways will be strong. Your habits are greedy. They do not want you to kill them. This is why most people you know take the easy road and simply don't do the work. They take the easy road of driving west. It takes time, energy, focus and determination to stop, turn around and drive east. However, anything worth doing is difficult. Especially in the complicated world of leadership.

So, start today. Identify a change you know you need to make. Find areas in your leadership life where you aren't accomplishing the results you want or need. Find a better pattern (via personal study, leaning on a mentor, good old common sense, etc.) and make a U-turn in your life. The habit you need to change might be a communication habit, a relationship habit, a learning habit, a temper habit, etc. The possibilities are endless. You know what you need to change. Stop expecting it to change itself, take control of the wheel and turn around.


Integrity: Don't Serve It

Great line from the bottom of Seth Godin's post today...

In my favorite hotel's kitchen, there's a big sign on the way out to the dining room:

"If you're not proud of it, don't serve it."

This is true for all of us in the context of what we are called to serve everyday - a speech, a conversation, a clean floor, a taught student, a completed project, etc.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. What is the quality of what you are “serving” everyday to those around you?

2. If you had to rate what you are “serving” on a scale of 1 to 10, what would you rate it?

3. Why is it so easy to recognize poor qualities in others, rather than in ourselves?

4. What is more important- recognizing poor qualities in others? Or in ourselves?

5. If you could upgrade one personal quality, what would it be?

6. What can you do on a daily basis to improve this quality?


Vision: How to Inspire Your Performance

Any high performer, whether in the leadership world or not, knows they reach a point where they have to make a commitment move to inspire their performance to the next level. My good friend and fellow speaker Stewart Kennedy tells the story of a rock climber who has seemingly climbed as high as he could. He has reached a point where the next hand hold is just out of reach. To go higher he has to literally let go of where he is and leap for the next hand hold.

This is a great example of the first step out of four high performers must make to inspire their personal performance - they must take a risk. It is also a metaphor for step two, which is aiming for something. I have found myself in a similar predicament as of late. I have been growing our speaking business and doing great work, but I feel like it is time to aim for something new, something more challenging, and something higher. As high performers, we have to have something to aim for. A project or idea or proposition that truly inspires us.

Step three is to leverage our relationships to get there. We all know life is a team sport. Things get done through people, not systems or emails or silos. If you are struggling to reach a higher level, start tapping people who are at or near that level already. Learn from them. Lean on them. Help them (if you can.) If the relationship is authentic, they will learn, lean and help back.

The final step is to examine where your energies are directed. Energy is one of those unique resources that is not finite like time or money. Energy comes from the weirdest and sometimes most unexpected sources. If you need to go to the next level, you will need to redirect your energies to new places and you will need to create energy from new sources. This is not easy, but it is attainable. The toughest thing about energy in the context of reaching higher is how much it takes to get there. As a high performer, you are more than likely on auto-pilot in a number of areas. This auto-pilot has to be disengaged and you must take over the wheel again.

It is exhausting, but if you are fully committed to taking the risk, if your "something" is worth the aim and if the relationships are leveraged properly, you will be creating more energy than you expend.

Be rare. Go higher. Someone in your immediate circle and an infinite number of people in new circles need you to go there. They will be inspired to do the same. And that is what Personal Leadership Insight is all about. Inspiring others through your inspiring work.
Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:
* Pick on area of your life that you feel it is time to take to the next level.

1. What does the next level look like? What are you aiming for?

2. What obstacles or challenges are keeping you from reaching that next level?

3. What is the risk that is holding you back from taking on that challenge?

4. Who is someone that can help you gain the skills/knowledge to take on that challenge? What skills/knowledge can they help you develop?

5. Why do you want to become a top performer in this area? What gets you excited?

6. How can you remind yourself of this on a daily basis?