Service Mindedness: The Elected Student Leader's Credo

The Elected Student Leader's Credo.
Thoughts on Intentional Leadership

I will lead and always remember what it is like to follow.

I will speak my voice and listen when you are doing the same.

I will be me and let you be you.

I will not pretend to be perfect and not expect that from you.

I will lift you up and give thanks when you return the favor.

I will live a clean-powerful-positive life and help you do the same.

I will focus on how we are the same and not worry about how we are different.

I will choose to smile and let you smile when you choose to.

I will look for the good in myself and in you.

I will learn from those who have come before and leave a challenge for those yet to come.

I will change where change is needed and remain the same where it is not.

I will arrive early and stay late.

I will strive to do valuable, meaningful work and help you do the same.

I will be clear in voice, motive and action and strive to understand you.

I will remember my job is to serve and every day find a way to take you to work with me.


10 Ways the Threshold Thread Works


The Threshold Thread is a concept I have developed to frame the quintessential success trait of high-achievers.

They all have developed the ability to push their capacities further than the average person.

So, what are the most common skill areas high-achievers have pushed the threshold in? The following list highlights one skill area per PLI Essential. As you read through the list, think about how you are doing with each skill area in your life. When was the last time you worked to push yourself in each area?

Visualize the future you want for yourself, your organization, your company, your family, etc. just a little clearer, believe in that future just a little stronger and work just a little harder to create it. If you do, you are living the Threshold Thread.

Be just a little more convicted in your beliefs and values than you were yesterday. Make them stronger as you go. Your average person's conviction in their values gets weaker from the time they set them. You will be a living example of the Threshold Thread if your values and beliefs get stronger.

When faced with a challenge, move quicker into solution mode than you did yesterday.

The Threshold Thread is a powerful concept when applied to your decision making. Are you making better decisions today than you did yesterday? One way to do this is to gather clearer and more exact information than you did before. You can't create specific solutions with vague information.

It is natural to be self-serving. It is a basic human defense mechanism that dates back to the start of the human race. Oh, look - a bear! I had better think about myself and away. However, the Threshold Thread is about crossing over certain lines so you can have a higher quality of life today than you did yesterday. One of those lines is the line between MySpace and YourSpace. It is the line between thinking about yourself first/second/third or thinking about yourself first and then others second/third/etc.

What have you done today to move you closer to a big and/or small goal you have? Most high-achievers don't make few huge leaps forward, but many small steps forward. Remember, the Threshold Thread is about pushing your capacity for action just a little further than you did before. Most of this "pushing" will be done in small spurts.

This PLI Essential is about knowing who you are and how to leverage your uniqueness for success. Get to know yourself a little more today by thinking about why you do what you do and how you can make adjustments to achieve a higher quality of life.

This is the Threshold Thread's most fertile ground in terms of helping you achieve a higher quality of life - your Emotional Maturity. One starter example, how do you respond to stress in your life? How do you respond when something goes wrong, someone aggravates you, something breaks, you disappoint yourself, etc.? Really think about if your responses to these situations are adding or detracting from your quality of life, learn how to make them better and then act.

Relationships are just like plants: they come in all different shapes and sizes, some can survive with minimal attention, but most require daily care and we aren't born with the ability to keep them in great shape - we have to learn what it takes to do so. Push your relationship fostering abilities just a little bit forward. A few small changes can make huge differences.

Your quality of life is directly impacted by your ability to effectively communicate with those around you. Next time you find yourself struggling in a writing, listening, or speaking situation, afterwards make a note to find out how people who succeed in those situations do it and model their success.


Skill Assessment: The Quintessential Success Trait

What does it take to reach success in any field?

I believe it entirely depends... if you are trying to fully explain each high-achiever's individual success. The most common traits that show up on these lists include determination, luck, hard-work, timing, passion, intelligence, networking, etc.

However, upon closer examination you will find there are a few commonalities.

My day job for the past 10 years has been teaching people how to be better leaders and, ultimately, how to do life better. Therefore, I have spent thousands of hours studying, examining and thinking about success and how to help people get there and stay there. Through this I have discovered a very powerful common trait among successful people.

I call this common trait... The Threshold Thread.

The Threshold Thread is a concept I have developed to frame the quintessential success trait of high achievers. They all have developed the ability to push their capacities further than the average person. They have expanded, enhanced and empowered -- this is the threshold part -- a large variety of skill areas -- this is the thread part, this capacity is woven throughout many aspects of their life.

The Threshold Thread concept leaves us with many questions:

  • How did they achieve this capacity expansion ability?
  • Who are some specific examples of The Threshold Thread?
  • What are the most common skill areas high-achievers have pushed the threshold in?
  • How does this concept gel with the success concept of getting highly skilled in one or two very focused areas?
  • What is preventing the average person from achieving this?

These are the questions I will be challenging you to think about and work through over the next few posts as we close out 2009 here at the Personal Leadership Insight blog. Keep checking in for more...


Fostering Relationships: Negotiating With Your Advisor

I teach leadership to thousands of young people and professionals every year. One common question I get often from student leaders is, "How do I get things done when my advisor keeps saying no and shutting me down?"

Here are the strategies I shared with a recent group of young leaders:

1. Understand why they are saying no. A good amount of their motivation for saying no (especially if they are a veteran advisor) is because they have been burned by previous students in your position who have had great ideas or wild ideas that the student didn't follow through on and the situation ended up with the advisor having to do all the work. Your advisor may also have constraints or barriers that are only visible to them (administration pressure, peer pressure, funding limits, school rules, etc.) and sometimes it may be quicker and easier for them to use the strategy of just saying no instead of doing what they should do which is to say no (if they have a valid reason), explain to you why they are saying no and then helping you come up with an idea that will work.

2. Which brings us to strategy number two, when you approach your advisor (either on the local, state or national levels) be prepared for a no response. Ie - don't get so emotionally invested in an idea or project before you seek approval that a no is going to totally topple you.

3. If you do get a no response, ask for an explanation why and start going to plan B with them. Plan B should be a version of Plan A with compromises made. This is where the negotiation strategies begin. This will demonstrate a few things: you are committed to the idea at least enough to fight for it, you are willing to work with them, and you have put enough thought into your idea to actually have plan B. And of course, have a Plan C, D, and E ready also.

4. There are some strategies you can employ to give your plan A a fighting chance right off the bat though:

A. Do as much information gathering beforehand as possible. Find out school/organization policies, do market research, get your team together, etc.

B. Do some initial work to demonstrate your commitment to the project. Now, it is important not to do too much and it is important not to use that pre-work as a bargaining chip. Ie. don't say, "But how can you say no? Look at all the work we have already done!" This is a negative negotiation strategy that will cost you trust chips with your advisor, not earn them.

C. Be ready to answer questions from your advisor to support and sell your idea. Most ideas get shot down early not because they are bad ideas, but because they didn't have someone doing a good enough job championing them.

Good luck and if you need specific help with your specific struggle, feel free to email me at rhett @ yournextspeaker.com. Or send me a Facebook message - Rhett Laubach.


Fostering Relationships: The S.M.I.L.E. Formula to Networking Success

There are many times when leaders (especially younger, student leaders) are called to host events, attend events or otherwise be in potentially uncomfortable or "new and different" social situations where you are seen as the leaders of the room. In these situations, it is important to remember that you can make or break the situation. Ie - if you look bored, disengaged, stressed, etc. - these body langauge signals are read by and mirrored by a large portion of the group. However, if you look, feel and act energized, engaged, joyful and excited - again these signals are picked up and mirrored.

Therefore, in order to remember how to maximize these opportunities, remember to S.M.I.L.E.:

S - Socialize...

...with as many different people in the room as possible from as many different groupings as possible. These groupings may include age, profession, school, how well you know them, etc. It is important to look and be active, moving and welcoming to all. It is also vital that you not look like you are showing favortism to any one person or group.

(Student elected leaders - your natural inclination in situations like this will be to hang out with your safe and comfortable friends on your officer team. Avoid this. Set a 10-feet rule and try to stay at least 10-feet from the other members of your team. This will be a way to ensure you are spending your time with the students/parents/teachers and not just your friends.)

M - Model...

...what a gracious, friendly and excited leader should look, feel and be like. Even if you don't feel like it, fake it until you find it. You are the leader in the room. Your presence is felt in a large way. Make it a good one. One that makes people feel glad they chose to come to your event, meeting, etc.

I - Interested/Interesting

This double "I" is so important. The first I is Interested. As you work the room and make people feel at home, be interested in what is going on with them. Have a list of standard questions you are going to ask people. If you need help with this, visit this post. Also, be interested in terms of their needs. Is the room hot/cold? Do they have everything they need for the purpose of the event (paper, pen, drink, food, place to sit, etc.)?

The second "I" is to be Interesting. This means when they ask you questions or you have an opportunity to share, have something interesting to say. Be knowledgable about your organization, the event, yourself, etc. The point here is not to get the attention on you ("The best conversationalists actually say the least." Dale Carnegie), but when the attention does fall on you, be worth listening to.

L - Laugh

The best way to lift a room and get people ready for a great event, meeting, etc. is to look and feel in a good mood. Throw a smile on your face (you will look better) and remember to have fun. Even the most serious meetings and events need a foundation of humor, laughter and positive emotion to take the edge off of the room and the people in it. You will also find that if you laugh and enjoy yourself, your stress will turn into positive stress and you will actually enjoy yourself more. This is especialy true when something goes wrong (which it always will.) Remember this phrase: take your job serious, but not yourself.

E - Energy

I have personally attended or spoken at thousands of meetings and events. The number one strategy I use to help influence the mood and feel of the room is to express energy in my body language. Walk fast. Lean forward when people talk. Ask questions. Respond in a positive manner to questions. A week after your event, the majority of the people at your event will have forgotten what was said or what they ate, but most of them will remember how they felt when they were around you. Lift their spirits by having your energy and engagement high. (Here are a few tips from one of my favorite bloggers on the right ways to find and maintain energy.)


General: A Healthy, Happy Leader

As a leader, you are not only more active than others, but you have more responsibility than others. This means you need to do what you can to stay healthy and happy.

St. Jude was one of four institutions world-wide asked by Washington, D.C. to help create vaccines for H1N1. Here is a release from St. Jude with some H1N1 prevention tips...

It's almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions. The portals of entry are the eyes, nostrils and mouth/throat. Contact with H1N1 may not be as much of a problem if you can avoid proliferation.

While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps can be practiced (instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu):

1. Frequent hand washing

2. "Hands-off-the-face" approach. That doesn't mean just your eyes, nose and mouth. Resist all temptations to touch any part of the face (unless you are eating or bathing).

3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (or use Listerine if you don't like salt). H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.

4. Similar to 3 above, clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. Use of a Neti Pot can help wash away proliferating viruses. Blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down the viral population.

5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C. If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.

6. Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.


Goal Processing: T-COIN Time Management

A quick time management strategy that will save you a ton of time:

Spend your time with T-COINs: Take Care Of It Now.

If you are presented with a small task that will take 2-minutes or less to do (entering a business card into your digital rolodex, washing a dirty dish, making a quick phone call, sending an email, etc.) do it right now. Every little thing you think of that you either don't do or don't purposefully put on an action list weighs on your mind and bogs down your ability to focus on larger tasks.

Clear up your mind by spending your time with T-COINs.


The Purpose Must Match the Challenge

All great challenges must be matched with a great purpose.

As a leader, you are probably asking others to give more, do more and be more - to rise to the challenge. Their performance is directly influenced by your ability to develop, frame and sell the purpose behind the challenge.

The Challenge's Purpose

1. Make it personal to them. Not for the company's benefit or your benefit, but for their benefit. Use their language, their stories, and their outcome.

2. Make it simple, especially if you are communicating to a large group. Some of the biggest decisions we make in life are based on the simplest of truths.

3. Make it timely. I am going to be more equipped to give a ton of energy today if it helps me solve a problem or accomplish a goal I have today - not miles down the road.

4. Be Authentic, Believable and Compelling. The mechanics of effective selling (whether it is a machine or a message) include both content and delivery.


Teaching PLI: How to Run Your Initial PLI Curriculum Sessions

This post is primarily for our wonderful teachers and facilitators of the PLI curriculum, but is also a good read for anyone teaching leadership. Following are a few tips/suggestions on how to run your initial sessions (i.e. – your sessions before you start going through the Vision Essential.)

1. Pick one of the five breakdowns of the PLI Essentials in the opening section of your Navigator (PLI Essentials Defined, PLI Natural Laws, Basic Questions, Heroic Acts, Team Needs) and use it as a basis for group discussion/overview of the ten Essentials. The purpose here is to get everyone enrolled in the ten Essentials, as well as get a very specific conversation going about leadership behaviors.

2. Take the breakdown of the PLI definition (on the page in your Navigator that is titled Understanding PLI), and have the group member’s go around and read each element out loud. Either after each piece is read or after the entire breakdown is read, have a discussion about the group members’ thoughts. The purpose here is to get a very general conversation going about leadership.

3. Ask each of your group members to peruse the PLI blog and come to the session armed with one blog post that resonated with them and that they would like to have the group discuss the merit of. The purpose here is to get them started using the blog, as well as engaging them in the session very quickly by having them bring something of value to the table.

4. Pick anything on the Locator’s pages 6-7 (their intro pages) to use as fodder for group discussion.

5. Ask each group member to pick either a historical leader or a leader they personally know and prepare a short explanation outlining: why they picked that person and which of the PLI Essentials that person demonstrates at an expert level. Again, the purpose here is to get the group members immediately engaged in the session by having an assignment to bring. They will also have to study up on the Essentials to know which one(s) to tie to their selected leader.

Let us know how it goes!


A Leadership Skill List that Roars!


The town I grew up in is called Laverne, OK (Population:  1,200).  I rarely make it back to Laverne, it is in far Northwestern Oklahoma, but I made a special trip this past weekend to help 50 of their high school students learn how to be better leaders. 

One of our goals of the day was to get everyone in the room on the same page regarding how they expect each other to act as leaders.  Laverne’s mascot is the Tiger and their Top 10 Tiger Skills list is a clear, precise and thorough checklist for anyone wanting to be a better leader in their home, school, business or community:

1. Find the Good in Others

2. Be Aware of Others

3. Help Others Daily

4. Listen Actively

5. Speak Up

6. Stand Out

7. Be Convincingly Positive

8. Be Wildly Creative

9. Own Your Life

10. Do Leadership Today


Great list, huh?  Also, if you are teaching leadership, this is a great idea of what to do with a list like that.  After we created the list together (which I only cleaned up the language on – every list entry was their idea), each student set a very specific and action oriented “how I will help my home, school or community this year” goal, wrote it on an index card, wrote why the accomplishment of that goal is important and then showed and talked about their goal with all their peers.  It was a powerful day!



Teaching PLI: The Absolutely Huge PLI Delicious Links Database

Del.icio.us is one of the most popular social bookmarking sites. It works just like the favorites in your internet browser - only anyone can see what you bookmark. For example, if you have an interest in gardening, you can peruse Deli.cio.us and look through other gardening enthusiasts' links to find their favorite sites.

We have this set up for our leadership curriculum. I read around 150 blogs every day. When I come across a post that fits into one of our 10 PLI Essentials, I tag it. This enormous collection of leadership lessons, strategies and advice is now over 800 posts large!

So, how can you find value in this resource? If you are reading this blog to engage in personal leadership development, you can read through our Del.icio.us links to further your studies. If you are reading this blog as a PLI teacher/facilitator, you can find additional fodder for group discussion, ideas for lessons and much more from the Del.icio.us links.

Beware, even though every Del.icio.us link is indexed by PLI Essential, the size of the database can be overwhelming. Therefore, we have culled a few from the herd to get you started.

Vision [all Del.icio.us links]
9 tactics to effectively communicate your vision [link]
Creating a personal vision [link]
Ducks In A Row: Leadership Vision [link]

[all Del.icio.us links]
What you say, what you do and who you are [link]
Is effort a myth? [link]

Innovativeness [all Del.icio.us links]
5 Practical Steps for Generating New Ideas and Insights [link]
Where are you most creative [link]
10 Tips on how to think like a designer [link]

Wise Judgment [all Del.icio.us links]
The Essential Guide to Effective Decision Making [link]
The Fine Art of Decision-Making – 7 Tips for Getting Decisions Made Easier [link]

Service Mindedness [all Del.icio.us links]
How Giving Changes Everything [link]
A Guide to Cultivating Compassion in Your Life, With 7 Practices [link]

Goal Processing [all Del.icio.us links]
Theory of Productivity [link]
Topics du Jour: Give Your Life Direction in Less than 10 Minutes a Day [link]
Seven Productivity Tips For People That Hate GTD [link]

Skill Assessment [all Del.icio.us links]
12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness [link]
Do You Have an Excessive Need to Be Yourself? [link]
50 Things Everyone Should Know How To Do [link]

Emotional Maturity [all Del.icio.us links]
Happiness Quiz: How well do you know yourself? [link]
12 Practical Steps for Learning to Go With the Flow [link]

Fostering Relationships [all Del.icio.us links]
50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind [link]
21 Keys to Magnetic Likeability [link]

Masterful Communication [all Del.icio.us links]
Nine steps to PowerPoint magic [link]
PowerPoints are not your Presentation [link]
7 Little Tricks To Speak In Public With No Fear [link]


Teaching PLI: Essential Resources for PLI Teachers/Trainers

This post is a quick resource list for our many PLI curriculum teachers and trainers across the nation. If you are not familiar with the PLI curriculum, go to our web site to learn more and/or preview this document.

If you need any help or additional ideas for teaching PLI, please email me at rhett@yournextspeaker.com. Thanks!


Motivate with Direction

In my many travels this month (eight days of trainings in Oklahoma, two in Boston, two in Springfield MO, one in Nashville TN, and one in Las Cruces NM), a recurring question popped up:

How do we get people motivated to act?

This question was stated to me via four questions:
  1. How do we get our student leadership board to take action?
  2. How do we get our adult teachers/advisers to start using technology?
  3. How do we get our field managers to adopt new practices?
  4. How do we get and keep our team members engaged in our monthly leadership study?

Although each situation requires different approaches, the basic strategy has one common thread: Your average person needs specific and clear direction in order to be motivated to act. It would nice (and easier) if everyone was internally motivated to constantly scan each situation and asking "how can I help out right now in the most meaningful and purpose-filled way?" However, we know two things are absolutely certain: 1) Leadership is not easy and 2) the reason leadership development is so important is because most people will default to their average behavior unless and until their better self is inspired to act. This direction that people need comes in many different forms, as well. Here are the suggestions given to the situations listed above:

  1. How do we get our student leadership board to take action? Make sure there is a clear and trusted leader in the group - either a highly-equipped adult or peer leader will work. Then give the team either concrete and/or abstract responsibilities. Make sure you "inspect what you expect." Remember, it is pointless to get frustrated that the board isn't behaving in a certain way when they haven't been told how to behave.
  2. How do we get our adult teachers/advisers to start using technology? Fear and purpose are the two big enemies here. Your average, mature human brain is very fearful of change. The best antidote for this fear is compelling purpose (second best is good ole' fashion basic training.) If you can demonstrate how the new technology will help them do their core job functions better, faster and more efficiently, then they will be more willing to get on board.
  3. How do we get our field managers to adopt new practices? Same strategy as number two.
  4. How do we get and keep our team members engaged in our monthly leadership study? Give them duties. This strategy is similar to how you can increase attendance at monthly member meetings or your garden variety social/family gathering. If you delegate small tasks (bring something, make something, create something, etc.), people will feel a higher sense of ownership in the event, as well as feel a higher sense of responsibility. Its easier to just not show up than it is to not show up AND be the one that didn't do something.



LiFT – Life instantly Feels Tremendous


What is the driving force of your happiness? I.e. - when your life instantly feels tremendous, why? It's important to notice, the emotion in question here is happiness, not joy.

Think of happiness as short bursts of energy that are powerful, fleeting and created by good things that happen in life. Joy is just as powerful, but is a more sustained state that sticks around no matter what is going on in life. However, joy gains energy from moments of happiness and helps you survive the bad times. We all know people who get happy from time to time, but who are missing joy in their life. They live on a roller coaster and have little to no consistency in their emotional life. This post is about helping you understand how to have more happiness in your life, but happiness alone is shallow without a foundation of joy.

So, what creates happiness in your life? More importantly, as a leader, is your LiFT created primarily by giving or receiving? I.e. when you think about your good times, are they a result of people or circumstances lifting you up or you lifting others? The most effective leaders and managers focus their LiFT on giving praise, building others, and serving the greater good.

The concept of LiFT in terms of achieving happiness is comparable to the lift that creates flight for airplanes in four specific ways. Examining each might give you some insight into how to have more moments of happiness throughout your day. This will result in strengthening your leadership abilities because the fuel of life is a positive attitude mixed with helping others achieve a positive mindset, as well.

1. IT IS AN INTENTIONAL ACT. Obviously, it takes a coordinated effort of many different people and machines to get an airplane into the air. Certainly, there are times when we get happiness from unexpected people and places, but consistent happiness is drawn from the pool of taking intentional steps to respond positively to life's circumstances. Happy people do not have great days consistently. They respond positively to the days they have consistently.

2. IT TAKES A GOOD AMOUNT OF ENERGY TO CREATE IT. The best example of this in flight is the space shuttle. The amount of energy it takes to pull that massive airplane from the earth's gravitational pull is enormous. Those booster rockets have to work hard to make it happen. Happiness also takes hard work. It is easy to be sad. It is easy to negative. It is easy to be a pessimist. It takes time and effort to make happiness a regular visitor in your life. It is easier for some more than others. Each of us has a default demeanor that was formed early in life. Yet another reminder that we are mostly hard wired by the age of six. Development after that age is just software upgrades. The happiness upgrade requires a large amount of resources, but it is well worth it.

3. PEOPLE SEE IT, BUT MOSTLY DON'T UNDERSTAND IT. Line up ten non-rocket scientists and you will be lucky to get one correct answer of how lift works in aerodynamics. Happiness is elusive to many people, as well - at least genuine happiness is. Genuine happiness is the kind that isn't followed by negative baggage. I.e. when you seek out happiness from putting things into (alcohol/drugs) or doing things to your body (plastic surgery), you might have a surge of good feelings in the short term, but in the long term these actions result in guilt or shame. Again, many people don't grasp the concept of how to create genuine happiness because they are blinded by the hard work it requires and because many times it involves being entirely others-focused. Genuine happiness can be very counter-intuitive. A great example is parenting. Many parents feel unhappy in their role because they are looking inward instead of outward. Parenting is tough and tiring. The genuine happiness comes from focusing on the end result of your work - (hopefully) happy, well-adjusted and caring children (who will take care of you when they grow up. :)

4. ONCE IT IS CREATED THERE ARE LARGE FORCES FIGHTING IT. Gravity is the most pervasive force on earth. You simply cannot escape it. Gravity is constantly working against lift. There are multiple forces working against your happiness. The primary one is other people who do not have it. They would give anything to have your genuine happiness and many times they can only create it in the short term by putting down or making fun of yours. These people are Chicken Littles and they can and will diminish your happiness if you let them. However, as a skilled leader, your task is to understand these forces, work hard to fight back, be human and admit when you can't and keep a smile on your face and love in your heart through as much of it as possible.

Good luck!


Goal Processing: 6 Indicators of Great Time Managers

What do Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan and you have in common? They all had/have exactly 24 hours in each day. One of the major differences between successful and unsuccessful leaders is their ability to effectively manage their time.

So, how do you know if you are a good time manager? Here are six indicators.

A good time manager:

1. Gets an adequate amount of sleep. Success in multiple fields is based on energy. This means you need fuel. There are many different types of fuel (healthy food, emotional support, intellectual stimulation, professional development, etc.) The most important fuel is spelled S-L-E-E-P. Some people can function at a high-level with five hours of sleep and some need eight hours. You need to figure out what your optimal sleep number is and work to get it as often as possible.

2. Meets deadlines. Leadership is based on trust. One of the best ways to build and maintain trust with others is to only say yes to those deadlines you can deliver and then deliver on time (which is early.) This consistency for earliness can only be achieved by managing your time.

3. Is working on meaningful projects. Not a common entry in lists like this, but absolutely a vital indication of someone who manages their time. If you are able to have time to work on meaningful projects, it means that you have found a way to minimize the time you have to invest on trivial projects. Not an easy task, but critical to great leadership.

4. Has the right type of stress. Losing weight, achieving wealth and reducing stress are three of the most popular themes of late night infomercials. Coincidentally, two of them are counter-productive. Having a ton of money doesn't make your life simpler, easier or full of sleep-filled nights. Ask your average multi-millionaire or your lucky lottery winner if they have more stress or less stress now compared to their pre-money days and chances are each dollar brought more stress. The trick is not to reduce stress, but to have the right type of stress. The right type of stress is created by challenging life tasks that you have chosen to work on. I.e. - marriage to the love of your life, children, doing what you love at work, challenging hobbies, etc. These activities all create stress, but stress that is wanted and necessary for growth and creating value in life.

5. Follows the rules. Good time managers don't have to cut corners to meet deadlines. They don't have to skip breakfast, drive too fast, be short with people, under-deliver on a project, etc. The basic rules of successful living exist, are well-known and are achievable if you manage your time instead of letting your time manage you.

6. Has time for their "Epic Journeys." All of us have those big life to-do's, missions, wish list items, etc. We call those Epic Journeys. These are the things that make it into people's Bucket Lists - must do before I die sorta activities. Your average person (i.e. - not retired, super wealthy, jobless, or a college student) who has time for their Epic Journeys has that time because of many factors. The biggest one is their ability to manage their time in such a way to make room in their life for their Epic Journeys.


Key Lessons From the 2009 Oklahoma Career Tech University

Last week, we had 50+ elected student leaders from the Oklahoma BPA, DECA, FCCLA, FFA, HOSA, SkillsUSA and TSA organizations for 16 hours of leadership training.

They were one powerfully excited and intense groups of student leaders! Here are a few of the key lessons we taught at this three-day Oklahoma CareerTech University...

  • You are now an Intentional Student Leader. An ISL is someone who intentionally engages at a deeper level than ever before.

  • Many people would have loved to be in your position, so remember to treat it like a privilege rather than a burden.

  • You must know what it is that makes your organization successful in order to continue achieving your goals. You must know yourself and your organization.

  • You are the face of your organization. You represent your organization with every action.

  • Many people in leadership positions deal with an ego problem. For you as an ISL to be interested in what is going on in someone else’s world is HUGE.

  • It doesn’t matter how much you love your organization, unless you know how to share that passion with the world.

  • To overcome team creativity barriers, encourage others' ideas, consider thoughtfully those ideas that conflict with yours and sometimes compromise is the best way to go.

  • Teams don't get things done. Individuals do. We must work hard individually toward the team goal.

  • Thousands of messages are sent with body language, and only a few with what you are actually saying.

  • Keep the emotional charge going and transition straight into serious mode. Emotional charge turns the audience into wet clay and you can take them wherever you would like to.

(Special thanks to Kelly (Sugar) Barnes and Sarah (Hootie) Reasnor for all their help in making the instruction of the leadership lessons awesomenominal!)


General: PLI Twitter Feeds

Just a few of my recent Twitter feeds:

"65 student leaders just learned:  The habit of helping others gives you the power to help yourself and less need for it.  Think about it.".

"The true test of problem-solving ability is not whether or not you have problems, but if you have the same problems you had yesterday.". Innovativeness

"Teaching problem-solving today. Stop, Drop and Roll. Stop blaming others. Drop your negative emotions. Roll forward with positive actions." Emotional Maturity

Follow Me:  http://twitter.com/yournextspeaker

Add me on Facebook:  http://profile.to/rhett/

Become a fan of PLI on Facebook:  http://companies.to/pli/


Teaching PLI: TRAX

TRAX is an evaluation tool built into the PLI curriculum.  The PLI philosophy is built around the concepts of value and growth.  As my old student leadership mentor put it, “When you’re green, you’re growing.  When you’re ripe, you rot.”
TRAX is a leader’s way of telling if they are at the Entry, Emerging, Engaged or Expert level of leadership ability.  There are two goals here: 
  • Be better everyday to become an Expert leader.
  • Be better everyday even when you are an Expert leader.
Each TRAX level has a task associated with it.  If you are able to fully complete the task, you know you are ready to work on the next one.  An Expert PLI Leader is able to say they have successfully completed all four tasks for all Ten PLI Essentials. 

The Four TRAX Tasks
Entry Leader – Provide a written description of the Essential in your own words. 
(Demonstrates Essential awareness.)
Emerging Leader – Provide an example of the Essential being used properly, as well as improperly.
(Demonstrates Essential understanding.)
Engaged Leader – Provide evidence of implementing the core principle of the Essential in your life.
(Demonstrates Essential action.)
Expert Leader – Provide evidence of you helping someone else learn and/or act upon the core principle of the Essential in their life.
(Demonstrates Essential mentoring.)

This is an excellent testing method for your PLI class, as well.  Good luck!


Integrity: Lex Luther vs. Forrest Gump

Which is worse - A or B?

A. A person with intelligence and without integrity.

B. A person with integrity and without intelligence.

Basically, if you only had these two options, would you rather have a team full of Lex Luthers or Forrest Gumps?

PLI Teachers/Trainers - Have your students discuss this question within the context of the current U.S. economic crisis. The part of Lex Luther is played by Wall Street traders/analysts and SEC officials and the role of Forrest Gump is played by your average, everyday investor and middle to low income home buyer. Key terms to research: sub-prime mortgages, credit default swaps, and AIG.

Good follow-up questions:

1. Which is rewarded more in today's society, Lex or Forrest and why?

2. How do we create leaders that are strong in both intellectual and moral prowess? Provide historical and local examples of leaders who had/have both.

3. Why is it so difficult for humans to be strong ethically when large sums of money come into play?

4. How have they personally been impacted by the current recession our Lex Luther Leaders put us in?

5. Who should ultimately be held most responsible for the crash of the mortgage industry? Lex for creating such a risky environment or Forrest for choosing to live in it (knowingly or unknowingly)?


Teaching PLI: PLI Required Reading List

There is a great new book titled "The 100 Best Business Books of All Time." The authors have put together a fabulous collection and did a great job in the book of summarizing the main points of these classics and new-classics. I personally have my reading to-do list done for the year, as I have only read 31 of the 100.

The other great benefit of this book to our PLI teachers and trainers is that it inspired a "PLI Required Reading List." This list certainly isn't all-inclusive, but it is a great place to start to get your students doing some out-of-class, non-curriculum PLI reading.

Again, the following books are all in Jack and Todd's new book. So, you can get a quick synopsis of each by reading their new book. Click on the ^ after each to go directly to that book's 800CEOREAD page, where you can read about the book and/or buy it. If there is more than one book listed in an Essential, I put an * to donate the one I would recommend most.

Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will^
What Should I Do With My Life?*^

Questions of Character^

The Art of Innovation^
The Innovator's Dilemma^
Orbiting the Giant Hairball*^
The Creative Habit^

Wise Judgement
The Power of Intuition^

Service Mindedness
(This being a business book list, there isn't a book about service leadership. All the service books listed are about customer service.)

Goal Processing
Getting Things Done^

Skill Assessment
Now, Discover Your Strengths^

Emotional Maturity
Emotional Intelligence^

Fostering Relationships
How to Win Friends and Influence People*^
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team^
The Team Handbook^

Masterful Communication
Made to Stick*^
The Story Factor^
Never Give In!^

Following is a list of the books that I would recommend you have your students read, but they just don't fit nicely into one of the Ten Essentials:

The Leadership Challenge^
Leadership Is An Art*^
The Leadership Moment^
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People^


Skill Assessment: Your Career Insurance Policy

No matter what condition the economy is in or what misc. talent/information/skill set you might be currently lacking, if you are these two things you will always be in demand:

1. A hard worker.
2. Fun to be around.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. Why is hard work always touted as a key to success? Produce at least one historical case study and one case study from your circle of friends, family members and/or community members.

2. Is "being fun to be around" really valuable if you are involved in serious projects, activities, jobs, etc.? Defend your opinion.

3. What careers have historically been the most "recession-proof" over the past 50 years? Which ones will be over the next 50 years? Site your sources.

4. How are you personally on the TRAX Scale with being a hard worker and being fun to be around?


Skill Assessment: Shining a Light on the Torchbearer Concept

A Torchbearer is a passionate and highly-skilled organizational ambassador. Their "organization" could be personal, professional or third-place in nature.

(Third places include hobbies, associations, volunteer efforts, etc. Anything not directly associated with their home life or their work life. Starbucks if you will.)

The list below breaks down the seven defining characteristics of a Torchbearer and includes strategies for moving your staff, volunteers, or student leaders away from the dark side and closer to the bright light of the Torchbearer world. Some of them are pre-filters (I.e. - while picking your people, look for these qualities.) Some of them are developmental in nature.

A Torchbearer...

1. Is thirsty for helping organization grow.
Powerful Torchbearers are servants. It is in their nature to help others for the sake of helping others. Although the basic behaviors can be taught, the internal "servant compass" is developed from a young age. Look for people who have it.

2. Owns a strong allegiance to organization.
Pure allegiance is a powerful force. Think soldiers. Think father-daughter relationships. Think a person of faith. You want people who will stick with your organization through the good, bad and ugly. The mechanisms of allegiance include self-interest, loyalty to relationships, shared experiences and common values and beliefs. These are all emotional elements. How are you making an emotional connection with your people?

3. Values and fosters relationships within organization.
Of all the allegiance elements, the relationships piece is the most powerful. People may join organizations because of material gains, but they voluntarily commit blood, sweat and tears because of relationships. If you are trying to mobilize a volunteer staff, don't send out a form letter to the membership body. Get ten inner-circle folks to each call thirty Torchbearers-in-Training they either have a relationship with or are willing to form one with.

4. Gains part of identity from organization.
Where do you see this in every day life? An NFL football game in Pittsburgh with thousands of fans waving their Terrible Towels. 3:00 pm at a middle school with every mini-van plastered with stickers announcing their children's academic accomplishments or sports team affiliation. Anyone accessorized in clearly designer bling-bling. These folks are all visually and vocally proud of their connection with their sports team, 13-year old or Prada shoes. You need to ask yourself, what are the personal benefits a member of your organization would receive from being vocal and visual with their affiliation with you and have you provided them the means to do so? I.e. - how can you be upset about no one shouting your message when you keep all the megaphones in the closet?

5. Clearly understands role in organization.
One of the simplest ways to get someone engaged in your organization - give them something to do. The clearer the instructions and the amount of time/money/skills they will need to do it, the better.

6. Knows and believes in organization's core values.
If we refer back to the allegiance elements, we see that common values and beliefs is a driving force in getting people to go to battle with you and for you. Common values and beliefs are so foundational to the DNA of an organization, that many times we forget to shout them from the rooftop. If you are going to really get the best from your Torchbearers, you need to constantly remind them of the deeper, wider and more significant reasons why your organization and their work for it are, not just important, but vital.

7. Speaks positively about organization, its leadership and members.
This final characteristic is very similar to the servant-minded one - either someone is in the habit of talking positively or they aren't. Research actually states that our optimist/pessimist nature is both ingrained in our DNA and a function of the environment of our early developmental years. Find people who are built with a positive bent. A price cannot be placed on the value of the subtle and forceful work they do to bring other people into the fold. However, even the most positive soul needs something to say. It is your job to continually push the good news of your organization and ideas on how to use them.

Google the books The Tipping Point, Tribes and Bowling Alone for even more great info on this topic area.



Processing Questions for PLI Teachers/Trainers:

1. What are organizations are you a member of and do you know: why they exist, who formed them, when they were formed, what are their greatest strengths, what are their great shortcomings, and what role you play in each? List all six answers for each of your organizations.

2. When we think about "organizations" in the context of Torchbearers, why do we include not only tradition school-based, community-based organizations, but also peer groups, your family, your hobbies, etc.?

3. Read one of the above mentioned books, write a 5-minute speech on the biggest lessons you learned from it and deliver the speech in class.


Fostering Relationships: How to Motivate the Unmotivated

Your official strategy for dealing with someone who "isn't motivated"...


1. Identify what you mean by "isn't motivated" for the person. What exact actions are they not displaying that you wish they did?

2. Ask yourself these questions...

  • Do they know they are supposed to do those actions?
  • Do they know how to perform the actions in the manner you expect?
  • When was the last time they were reminded of those actions?
  • Are there clear reasons why those actions are important, necessary, valuable, etc.
  • Are there clear guidelines on what will happen if they don't do those actions?
  • Are there regular or irregular sessions between you and the person to discuss their movement from where they are currently to where you wish them to be?

3. Your strategy for dealing with the "isn't motivated" will come directly from your answers to those questions. They either aren't clear on what is expected of them, there isn't a clear reason for doing the actions, there aren't clear repercussions for not doing the actions and/or no one is coaching them to get from point A to point B.

Motive to act is ALWAYS driven by self-interest. Even actions by the most selfless, giving, Mother-Teresa like person in the world. Your great task as a leader of your people is to figure out which of their self-interests you can tap into clearly, gracefully, leaderly.

Just a few Self-Interests to consider...

  • Respect from Others
  • Contribution to Team
  • Achievement of Goals
  • Self-Image
  • Job Security
  • Friendships
  • Money
  • Social Status
  • Avoiding Pain
  • Gaining Pleasure
  • Love
  • Safety
  • Personal Well-Being


Emotional Maturity: The Copernicus Solutionicus

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543) was the first astronomer to put the Sun at the center of the universe instead of the Earth, which was the TRUTH before Copernicus disproved it.

As leaders of others, we need to take a lesson from ole Nic and take our own little world out of the center of the universe and put the true source of our power there - the people who, by choice or chance, are following us.

The Copernicus Solutionicus - Stop being so self-centered and get to thinking about your people more.

Some strategies -

* Let your first interaction with people be asking them questions to get them talking about their world.

* Don't make assumptions (which are based primarily on your perspective) and go straight to the information source.

* Ask for help more often. Being the leader doesn't mean you have to know all the answers or are supposed to be right all the time.

* Adapt your leadership style to the situation. Being one-dimensional in how you deal with people is very self-centered.

* Think about the full impact range of each decision you make. As the leader, your words and actions make bigger ripples on the pond.

* Make time to get to know your team members. This will also provide space for them to get to know you.

* Publicly (or privately, depending on each person's preference) celebrate big and small accomplishments. Unlike the Sun, your source of power is not always self-powering. They need you to fuel their motivation and attitude.

* Ditch the Golden Rule and follow the Platinum Rule - "Do onto others as they would have done onto them." (Google Platinum Rule for source - that one's not mine. I would, but I am driving right now and driving while Googling is extremely harmful to the environment.)

* Make personal sacrifices for the benefit of the team. And I mean "above and beyond the call of duty" ones.

* Above all, be your team members' biggest FAN - be Fair, be Aware of others and be Nice.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. What is one thing that you do on a daily basis that is solely for the purpose of benefitting someone other than yourself?

2. Why is it sometimes difficult to put others’ interests before your own?

3. Why is it easy to think only about our own needs and wants?

4. Why is it important for a leader to be selfless?

5. Would you rather be under the leadership of someone who is selfless or someone who is selfish?

6. Who is an example of a selfless leader in your school/ community/ workplace?

7. What does it mean to have a one-dimensional leadership style? And what can you do to develop multiple leadership styles?

8. Name 3 things that you can implement into your daily routine that would help those around you.


Skill Assessment: Guts

"If you don't have the guts to be honest or the cooth to know how to pull it off without making us want to slap you across the forehead with a two-by-four, please let someone else be in charge."
Your People

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. Have you ever been in a situation in which the leader created more anxiety within the group members than they relieved?

2. What are some ways the leader could have resolved the issues without creating added anxiety to the group?

3. Why is it hard to let someone else take the reins on a project that you have started?

4. It is hard to step down from a leadership position, but it is sometimes the best mode of action for a group. What are some ways that group members can help to ease this difficult transition process?


Teaching PLI: A Few Simple Leadership Truths

Six Simple Leadership Truths

1. The best leadership truths are as simple to say as they are complex to do.

2. Any person in a position of power should hold an inborn fondness for the complete well-being of the people they are called to lead.

3. The most effective leaders find out what their people need to be successful and help them get there.

4. You can't get an accurate diagnosis of your leadership effectiveness until you ask the people you are leading how you are doing.

5. In the workplace, the best leaders are trusted by their team, help their team have pride in their work and help everyone enjoy one another.

6. Your role as a leader is separate, but not wholly separated from your primary job role.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. Have you asked the people you are leading how you are doing lately? What are some ways to raise this question in a professional, yet relaxed manner?

2. What are some actions that show that a leader has an “inborn fondness for the complete well-being of the people they are called to lead?”

3. What are some ways to build trust within a team?

4. What are some antagonistic qualities of group members that result in team mistrust?

5. If you could add a 7th Simple Leadership Truth, what would it be?


Skill Assessment: Five Skills to Practice Today

1. Talk up about people not in the room. It will build trust with those that are in the room.

2. Talk more about solutions than challenges. Your primary job function as a leader is to creatively solve problems (seen and unseen).

3. Smile more and be nice to people. One of the main purposes of your leadership should be to be an encouraging and uplifting force.

4. If you are a talker, listen more. If you are a listener, talk more. Be balanced.

5. Tell your team about the high expectations you have for them. People will only give you their best when they know A) What the best looks/feels like, B) They have someone consistently helping them get there.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. How often would you say you practice these skills?

2. Why is important to have an enumerated list of skills to practice each day?

3. What are some ways to practice being an encouraging and uplifting force to group members?

4. Do you consider yourself a talker or a listener?

5. How can you create a balance between the two?


Fostering Relationships: Four Resources to Develop Your Team Leadership

The PLI Navigator Introduction Section
Rhett Laubach & Ryan Underwood
PLI website Link

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and Their Employees)
Patrick Lencioni
Amazon Link

Eight Ways to Win With People (60-minute Audiobook)
John Maxwell
Audible.com Link

Seth Godin
Amazon Link