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.