5 Questions to Answer Before Setting Your New Year's Resolutions

New year's resolutions are useful primarily because they represent your ability to do two things:

1. Think about living your life in a purposeful, goal-oriented way.

2. Believe you can change for the better.

These two skills are valuable beyond words. Make them a part of every month - not just January. Following are five useful questions to ask yourself before you work on your NYRs.

1. Am I coachable?

2. Do I really want to engage in the hard work of meaningful change?

3. Do I have a crystal clear understanding of what is most important to me, my work life and my family?

4. Have I thoroughly audited my time spent in the past year and categorized these actions into two groups - useful and non-useful?

5. Who do I need to begin, strengthen or dissolve a relationship with to improve the quality of my life, my work and the lives of those important to me?

The process of answering these questions will bless you with the invaluable insight necessary to set realistic, challenging, value-driven and focused new year's resolutions.

To be resolute in beliefs, goals and actions... that should be your job #1 in 2011. Good luck and may next year be your best one yet.

Rhett (Twitter - @yns1)

- Posted from my back porch office using my iPhone 4.

Location:Winding Lake Cir,Arcadia,United States


Skill Assessment: Your Leadership Fingerprint

Your influence as a leader is your leadership fingerprint. It defines who you are as a manager of people and projects. A recent meeting with a client organization highlighted a short list of behaviors you do not want defining your influence. While brainstorming a project idea with my client's work team, the division leader came in. We needed the leader's approval before we could move forward. What happened next was a disheartening display of ineffective leadership...

Behaviors to Avoid as a Leader:

1. He stared at his cell phone the entire time. He used it to check something at the start of the interaction, but then continued to handle it and focus on it. (You need your eyes and attention on the people, ideas and process in the room.)

2. He never asked probing questions to learn more about our ideas. He also never asked for the up sides of the project. He only repeated the down sides. (You need to exude optimism and a supportive, creative energy during brainstorming sessions. Especially when your team's ideas and enthusiasm are at stake.)

3. He immediately told us the idea wouldn't work and repeated that mantra the entire time. (You need to be realistic and practical, but add as many positive ideas to the discussion as you can. Then if things aren't panning out, massage the discussion to "meet in the middle" ideas.)

4. He never sat down to engage in a conversation. He stood, talked at us and then left. (You have an immediate barrier when you walk in - i.e. boss vs. team. This barrier creates negative outcomes (intimidation, average ideas, muted creativity, etc.) unless you break it down and level the emotional and hierarchy playing field. Have a seat and join in.)

5. He never gave an official answer. He relied on the "read through the lines" approach of decision making. (You ultimately need to make a decision. Sometimes on the spot. Make it with class and a spirit of "we did this together".)

Being the leader isn't easy. It's even more difficult when your influence strategies are broken. Examine your style and your methods. If they include any of these, make a change. Your team is silently begging you to.

Remember, it's not about you. It's not even about them. It's about the work. Make it great.


Teaching PLI: My Library

I get asked often, "What books do you read to stay current on leadership concepts and presentation techniques?"  Honestly, most of my reading over the past few years has been and will continue to be the 150+ blogs I read daily (Download my subscriptions here - learn more about OPML files here), as well as books via my Kindle for iPhone.  However, the collection listed below is from the previous 20+ years of reading for feeding the brain...

These are pictures of the library in my office.  If you click on any image, a larger version will open.  I have included my favorites for each image...

These are all favorites.  Seth Godin is always a classic read.

Story Factor, Annette Simmons
See You At The Top, Zig Ziglar

Managing the Nonprofit Organization, Peter Drucker
All of the Marcus Buckingham books
All of the Mark Reardon books

YOGOWYPI Facor, Bill Cordes
Leadership is an Art, Max DePree
How to Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie
How to Become a Great Boss, Jeffrey Fox

Speak and Grow Rich, Dottie/Lillie Walters
The Element, Ken Robinson

Brain Rules, John Medina
See You at the Top, Zig Ziglar
My Fast Company library dating back to 2002.

Elements of Style, Strunk and White
Switch, Chip and Dan Heath
The Art of Manliness, McKay
Slide:ology, Nancy Duarte
Quantum Teaching, DePorter

The Traveler's Gift, Andy Andrews
Work Hard, Be Nice, Mathews
Children Learn What They Live, Dorothy Law Nolte

The Man Who Was President for a Day, Andrew McCrea

Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World, Zig Ziglar

The Wealthy Speaker, Jane Atkinson
Remarkable Leadership, Kevin Eikenberry

Presentation Zen Design, Garr Reynolds
Bob Hope:  My Life in Jokes, Bob Hope


Emotional Maturity: The Spirit Circle

Your best leadership is done with a spirit of enthusiasm, servanthood, kindness and energy. Spirit means these characteristics are a part of you totally.  They define who you are and are not changed by the conditions or people around you.

The Spirit Circle is a simple concept designed to demonstrate how talented leaders live a high-quality life and make a difference in the world.

Your spirit drives your attitude.
Your attitude feeds your effort.
Your effort creates your results.
Your results feed your spirit.

Great leaders live by certain metrics, rules and codes for each of the four (servant spirit, positive attitude, tireless effort, excellent results, etc.), but the fact that each of the four are dependent on the other three is the critical lesson.

The secret to getting your leadership in gear using the Spirit Circle is that you can begin anywhere.  Start by improving your attitude about something or someone.  Give more or better effort.  View your current results in a new light from a better perspective or set your sights on more meaningful results for the future.  Any of these actions will begin a chain of reactions leading to an improvement and refinement of your spirit.

Choose to be a spirited leader today.


Teaching PLI: Leadership Truths Are PLI Essentials (Part 2)

Post by Ryan Underwood

We wholeheartedly recommend Truths About Leadership as a companion to your PLI curriculum. You will be affirmed in knowing that the curriculum you are training and teaching is backed by phenomenal research and findings by Jim and Barry. To help you connect the dots, we’ve outlined below Jim and Barry’s 10 Leadership Truths with the PLI Essentials.

Leadership Truth 6: Trust Rules

PLI Essential: Integrity

When you follow the rules you showcase your character. This strength of character serves as a powerful force in influencing others because rules bring certainty, stability, order, and organization. When you follow the rules, you are more likely to attract people who will follow the rules you establish.

Leadership Truth 7: Challenge is the Crucible of Greatness
PLI Essential: Innovativeness

Expert leaders have challenges. In fact they have more challenges than most because leaders are great at solving problems. When you develop your innovativeness you become known as a solution-oriented person. People are greatly inspired by leaders who concentrate on what can be done and who know how to make it happen.

Leadership Truth 8: You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead At All
PLI Essential: Integrity, Goal Processing, Emotional Maturity

Life happens. Ups and downs, rights and wrongs come to us all. Leaders command their personal behavior in all situations. They understand when they don’t do this, they simply cannot be in a position to lead. When leaders use their values to leverage feelings and emotions they make decisions to maximize the success of the whole. They set a clear example for how others can effectively follow and positively process whatever life may bring.

Leadership Truth 9: The Best Leaders Are the Best Learners
PLI Essential: Skill Assessment

Expert leaders are self-aware. They are thirsty for personal and professional growth. They understand that they will only be able to lead that which they are prepared, have the skill, and capacity to lead. This commitment to learning inspires followers to become learners, expand their ability, and become masters of their own talent.

Leadership Truth 10: Leadership is an Affair of the Heart
PLI Essential: Vision

People are greatly inspired by passionate people with a purpose. When you love what you do, who you do it with, and what you do it for your actions are authentic. You will attract others with a similar heart. When these passions combine, you now have a leadership force that can truly improve the world around you.


Teaching PLI: Leadership Truths Are PLI Essentials (Part 1)

Post by Ryan Underwood

What are the essentials of leadership?

This is the question that started the Personal Leadership Insight curriculum project nearly five years ago,  Our goal was to truly understand the qualities all leaders need to master in order to confidently say, “I am a leader.”

Our journey to discover the essentials led us to hundreds of interviews and thousands of responses to surveys from leaders from all walks of life throughout America. White House Fellows, West Point Graduates, professional athletes, executives, elected officials, teachers and some of the best student leaders in the country all weighed in. Once we assembled all the data, what emerged was ten clear leadership attributes that became known as the PLI Leadership Essentials.

World renowned leadership experts Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner recently led a webinar sharing the “Truths About Leadership” based on their recent book of the same name by Wiley & Sons Publishing. After 30 years of detailed study on leadership, Jim and Barry’s research has concluded ten universal truths of leadership that, as the subtitle to their book reads are, “No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter, Facts You Need to Know.” Jim and Barry’s findings on leadership truths align perfectly with what we presented through the PLI Leadership Essentials curriculum project.

We wholeheartedly recommend Truths About Leadership as a companion to your PLI curriculum. You will be affirmed in knowing that the curriculum you are training and teaching is backed by phenomenal research and findings by Jim and Barry. To help you connect the dots, we’ve outlined below Jim and Barry’s 10 Leadership Truths with the PLI Essentials.

Leadership Truth 1: You Make a Difference
PLI Essential: Skill Assessment

When you realize you are a person of influence and have assessed your skills and are ready to do what you were meant to do, your next step is to make the difference you were born on this earth to make.

Leadership Truth 2: Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership
PLI Essential: Integrity

You may have all the talent in the world, but integrity and credibility are the ticket to the leadership game. Without it, you can’t play.

Leadership Truth 3: Values Drive Commitment
PLI Essential: Vision, Wise Judgement

Expert leaders are driven by their core beliefs. This forms the vision for the world they create and the decisions they make. When values are clear, the commitment, enthusiasm, discipline, and work necessary to achieve become easier.

Leadership Truth 4: Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart
PLI Essential: VisionGoal Processing

People are greatly inspired by leaders with a purpose who know where they are going and why. This lifestyle (and yes, it is a lifestyle) is a powerful force because your accomplishments and purpose-filled behavior set you apart and influence others to follow your lead.

Leadership Truth 5: You Can’t Do It Alone
PLI Essential: Service Mindedness, Fostering Relationships

Expert leaders invest their energy and time in using their skills, talents, and abilities to serve and help others. When you are others-centered you greatly expand your ability to attract others to help you.

Check back tomorrow for the final five.


Innovativeness: Time to Explore

Have you created space in your life for exploring?  New travel destinations.  New people.  New ideas.  New web sites.  New books.  Etc.  You are expected to lead, guide and direct others.  This is a daunting and time consuming task.  It is important you carve out time for sheer wonder to remain strong in your life.  Tunnel vision and constant repetitive thoughts/sights/motion will create an intellectual and emotional vacuum in your life that hampers your ability to see, find and create new ideas. 

A few simple ways to keeping exploring:

  • When you are traveling, try new restaurants, shops, attractions, etc.
  • http://www.stumbleupon.com/
  • http://www.flickr.com/
  • Stop into a Borders, Barnes & Noble or, better yet, a library or locally-owned bookstore and pick up a new book.
  • Start a blog that demands you research new ideas to share with your readers.
  • Call a friend, co-worker, industry peer, etc. and ask them to lunch.
  • Pick somewhere different for a meeting.
  • Change your routine.
  • Make a new connection with a new peer, client, friend and create a new product, service, idea, etc.


General: Out of the Blocks Review

My good friend and highly-successful professional, Sean Kouplen, has written a book that should be devoured by any success-driven student - high school or college. Check it out on Amazon at tinyurl.com/outoftheblocks. Learn more about Sean and his speaking services at www.outoftheblocks.net.

Sean is one of those guys who you just wonder how he gets it all done. He has excelled at every level in life - school, leadership, family and business. This book contains insights on Sean's secrets. Out of the Blocks is written in story form and contains a truck load of valuable and concrete advice for students to get started right in school, business and life. Get your copy today. It will be worth it.

- Posted from the road using BlogPress and Rhett's iPhone4.


Fostering Relationships: Two Simple Observations

Two simple observations from this photo:

1. The thank you note is not dead. We received these from audience members this summer.

2. As long as student leadership organizations continue to get funded and supported, we have a bright future. 95% of these letters are from members of student leadership organizations. Writing a thank you note is an act of respect, character and great relationship skills.

- Posted from the road using BlogPress and Rhett's iPhone4.


Masterful Communication: Listen. To. Me!

Addison is our three year-old. She is at the age where she absolutely knows when daddy is listening to her or not. Although her mother and I believe her to be an angel, Addison is a standard-built little human and communicates her frustration with daddy by a good dose of crying, screaming and stomping. She doesn't like it when she feels like daddy isn't giving her the attention she needs and deserves.

This exchange happens every day in households across the world. However, they also happen in companies and organizations every day. They don't always end in crying and foot pounding (at least not in public), but team members get ignored daily by their bosses and it dramatically impacts their job satisfaction, productivity and overall quality of life.

Patrick Lencioni, the business leadership author, calls this anonymity in his Three Signs of a Miserable Job. (It's one of the three signs, also.) He frames it as the feeling that no one is paying attention to you. Your voice isn't heard. Your boss doesn't care. No one is listening.

This Labor Day think about your work as a leader as an opportunity to help your team love their work. A big part of this is having their needs and desires met and even exceeded. And from the age of three your team has desired to have others listen to them - especially the people closest to them at work and at home. They may not cry or throw a tantrum, but they are telling you they want your attention. You just need to listen.

A few ideas:

- Have regular one-on-ones.
- Give your full attention to them.
- Practice active listening every chance you get.
- Remember little and big things about each individual.
- Do things that show you listen to them.
- Ask their opinion.
- Involve them in decisions. Especially when you don't have to.
- Don't make assumptions.

- Posted using BlogPress from Rhett's iPhone 4.


Teaching PLI: Resources

Following is a list of ways to connect, learn and grow from us:

http://delicious.com/pliblog - Huge database of leadership content I have gathered for you (and us) from the 150+ blogs I read daily. It contains over 1,000 articles, blog posts, videos, etc. They are all indexed by our curriculum's 10 leadership essentials (http://www.PersonalLeadershipInsight.org).

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pli-blog/id349608878?mt=8 - iPhone app that aggregates the RSS feed from this blog, my other blog, our PLI_Leadership twitter account (We also have other Twitter accounts you can follow - TeamTRI, RhettLaubach and yns1).

http://plileadership.blogspot.com/ - The PLI leadership blog.

http://www.authenticityrules.com/ - The speaking skills blog.

http://www.leadersingear.com/ - My new leadership and presentation skills book.

http://www.slideshare.net/rhettdean - A collection of my PowerPoints.

http://tinyurl.com/theleapshow - The slide show I use at the end of many of my keynotes to inspire.

http://www.personalleadershipinsight.org/- Our rich, beautiful, meaningful and interactive leadership curriculum.

We are also on Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and Twitter. Just search for our names (Rhett Laubach and Ryan Underwood).

I hope you enjoy these resources and find them enriching and valuable.


Skill Assessment: Four Big Questions to get in G.E.A.R.

One of the primary purposes of leadership conferences and classes is to inspire people to get their leadership in gear. This initiative is obviously close to my heart and one that makes a dramatic impact. As we motivate and inspire conference participants or leadership students to make a difference, there are four key questions we need to help them with. Their answers to these questions and our sage advice on how to answer them provides the foundation and fuel needed to get their leadership in gear.

Four Questions to get in G.E.A.R.
(And a few key anchor words...)

Grounded - Why are you here?

This question is not about why they are at the conference or in the class (although that is important). It is about why they are anywhere. What is your purpose in life? Leaders who understand, are deeply connected with and stay grounded to their core purpose are more likely to get and stay in gear. This purpose must align with your deepest values and beliefs. Why are you here? The answer to this question gives life meaning.

Engaged - What do you create?

Highly effective leaders are results-oriented. They are greatly concerned with making things happen, creating change and leaving everywhere they go and everyone they connect with a little better than they found them. They are excellent at creating cool, interesting and meaningful stuff; which in turn attracts people with those same qualities. What do you create? The answer to this question gives life direction.

Authentic - Who are you?

Self-awareness is critical to good leadership. You must understand your strengths, weaknesses, talents and skills before you can fully lead. Highly effective leaders are so true to who they are, their "leaderly" actions become second nature. This allows them to genuinely place their time and attention on others. People are starving for leaders who are authentic, bold and caring. Who are you? The answer to this question gives life clarity.

Relationship-focused - Who is on your team?

Life and leadership are team sports. Engaged leaders have identified, understand the importance of and spend time cultivating the relationships in their life. This includes people following them and people they follow. They put relationships first and results second. Who is on your team? Answering this question gives life joy.

If you are a leadership teacher, trainer or conference organizer, invest time examining your curriculum, material and speakers and make sure these four critical questions are addressed.

Step one is to know your personal answer to each. Here are mine:

1. Why are you here?

To bring glory to God through my relationships and my leadership teachings.

2. What do you create?

Personally, I create harmony and security for my wife and daughters. Professionally, I create a tribe of inspired and motivated students, educators and professionals armed with better tools for getting their leadership in gear.

3. Who are you?

I am a Christian, American, husband, father, speaker, author, blogger, singer-songwriter and epic fajita artist. I am more than what I do though. I am what I believe, who I spend my time with, what I read/watch/listen to and what I think. I work hard to align all of those elements with my answers to #1 and #2.

4. Who is on your team?

My most important team mates are Jesus Christ, my wife Ashley, and my daughters Vivian and Addison (and soon-to-be Emerlyn Kate :). Ashley and I's immediate family, friends, peers, church family and long-time clients also play a vital role on my team. All my audience members, clients, and suppliers comprise the rest of my team. They are all a joy to work with and make my team exciting, colorful and ever expanding.

How about you?

- Posted from Rhett's iPhone on tour in San Diego.


Teaching PLI: My Leadership Quotes

If you are teaching leadership in either a classroom, training or conference environment, here are a few of my leadership quotes to use as discussion starters, thought provokers, etc...

Rhett Laubach's Newest Leadership Quotes

"Leadership is acting on the fact that people are basically good, but naturally selfish.  They need you to inspire their better self."

"Leadership is the intimate collision of bold performances and courageous souls."

"Leadership is having and doing something with great ideas that hide under piles of blood, sweat & tears."

"Leadership is more than finding new committed people. It is also finding the new commitment in the people you already have."

"Leadership is creating awesome, meaningful stuff and therefore attracting awesome, meaningful people."

"Lead is a verb. Leader is a noun. Leadership is both."

"Leadership is creating value and seeking growth."

"Leadership is being interested in others first and interesting to others second."

"Leadership is unrealistically supporting your team's potential and working unusually hard to reach yours."

"When the world says give up, the leader whispers give it one more try."

Get more by following me on Twitter - @yns1.  You can also follow @PLI_Leadership.


Skill Assessment: What Type of Leader Are You?

Are you a Cosmetic, Slim•Fast or Healthy Leader?

[A cosmetic person's quality of life is driven by their looks.]

The Cosmetic Leader is only interested in looking good and making surface only improvements. Their focus is primarily self. They think that as long as they look good, people will follow them. They are like everyone else in the fact that they have blemishes, but they spend their energy finding new and more creative ways to cover them up instead of working hard to overcome their shortcomings.

[A Slim•Fast person's eating habits are driven by the latest diet fad and they do not invest time exercising or eating healthy.]

The Slim•Fast Leader is mostly transactional with their leadership. They keep track of good deeds others do or don't do and treat them accordingly. They are one-sided with their development and only focus on leading other's growth, not investing time in self-improvement. They look good, but never really do any of the hard work necessary to create real, meaningful change. They avoid difficult conversations, are risk-averse, too prideful to seek coaching, etc. The Slim•Fast Leader is certainly better off than the Cosmetic Leader, but their systems and philosophies hold them back from creating real, meaningful change in themselves and others.

[The healthy person exercises and eats right.]

The Healthy Leader is a leader inside and out. They look good on the outside as a result of doing the work necessary to be good on the inside. They also demonstrate and promote healthy leadership in themselves and others by doing the hard, dirty, unpopular work that the Cosmetic and Slim•Fast Leaders avoid. They are balanced in their approach to life, growth, time management, priorities, etc. Healthy Leaders serve as selfless role models for the benefits of living a clean, powerful and positive life.

- Posted using my iPhone.


Teaching PLI: A few of my Favorite Leadership Books and Blogs

At the very back of my leadership book, Leaders in Gear, I have a list of my favorite leadership books and blogs.  I have a library of hundreds of leadership and life skills books and I read 150 blogs every day.  These are my favorites...

1. The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley
2. The Bible
3. Brain Rules, John Medina
4. The Dip, Seth Godin
5. The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker
6. The Element, Sir Ken Robinson
7. Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
8. Getting Things Done, David Allen
9. How to Become a Rainmaker, Jeffrey Fox
10. How to Say it for Women, Phyllis Mindell
11. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
12. Influence, Robert Cialdini
13. Inspire any Audience, Tony Jeary
14. Leadership 101, John Maxwell
15. Leadership is an Art, Max DePree
16. Little Black Book of Connections, Jeffrey Gitomer
17. Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath
18. Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham
19. Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds
20. Quantum Teaching, Bobbi DePorter
21. Season of Life, Jeffrey Marz
22. See You at the Top, Zig Ziglar
23. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
24. Slide:ology, Nancy Duarte
25. The Story Factor, Annette Simmons
26. Teaching as Leadership, Steven Farr
27. Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni
28. Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
29. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
30. Winning with People, John Maxwell

1. Books – blog.800ceoread.com
2. Brain Science – brainrules.blogspot.com
3. Business & Sales – www.thejfblogit.co.uk
4. Happiness – www.happiness-project.com
5. Ideas – ben.casnocha.com
6. Ideas – changethis.com/blog
7. Ideas – sethgodin.typepad.com
8. Ideas – www.danpink.com
9. Leadership – plileadership.blogspot.com*
10. Leadership - blogs.hbr.org/goldsmith
11. Leadership – www.allthingsworkplace.com
12. Leadership – www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog
13. Leadership – www.marksanborn.com/blog
14. Presentation Design – blog.duarte.com
15. Presentation Design – www.ethos3.com/blog
16. Presentation Design – www.presentationzen.com
17. Presenting – www.AuthenticityRules.com*
18. Presenting – sixminutes.dlugan.com
19. Productivity – www.zenhabits.com
20. Productivity – www.marcandangel.com
* Rhett’s blog

If you are in the Oklahoma City area and are interested in a powerful personal development conference experience, check out the information and consider attending our Core Four Conference on September 9, 2010.  Learn more at http://tinyurl.com/corefour.  We would love to have you!


General: How to Maximize a Conference Experience

John Maxwell, the famous leadership author and teacher, tells us there are three things we must do to grow as leaders:

1. Surround yourself with the right people.
2. Consume the right media.
3. Attend the right conferences.

When you attend conferences, to make the most of them, follow these five guidelines.

1. Be child-like. This doesn't mean throw a tantrum if the room is too cold. It means ask questions. Lots of them. Don't let your pride or reputation or position keep you from raising that hand and getting clarity, more information or better information.

2. Take organized notes. If you aren't writing, you aren't learning. But don't just write to recall. Write with organization. Make notes of what needs to be delegated, acted upon immediately, filed for later, etc. This will help your post-conference actions take flight quicker and more efficiently.

3. Offer solutions, advice and suggestions in a CVS format. Concrete. Visual. Simple. It is important to not only add value where you can, but to be clear with your thoughts.

4. Maximize gap time. The official sessions and breakouts will be valuable learning environments, but the real magical sharing times happen early in the morning, at meals and during breaks. Make the most of them.

5. Seek out answers. If possible, go to conference with specific questions and challenges you are looking to resolve. Then hunt to find experts, speakers, exhibitors and attendees who might just have the answers you are looking for.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


General: Indiana FFA State Convention 2010

Sold out of Leaders in Gear last night after my keynote at the 2010 Indiana FFA State Convention. I am so very proud of all the students, parents and advisors for investing in their leadership. LiG is packed with tips and strategies to help them know how to use their influence to make a positive difference in the lives of others!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Skill Assessment: Vital Questions

Many times your effectiveness is based on your ability to know which questions to ask. Here a few vital leadership questions you should be reflecting on regularly:

Am I coachable?
How do I respond to feedback?
Am I fully committed to my leadership duties?
Do I represent the best of my organization?
Am I supporting and encouraging the people around me?
Do my words, body language and attitude lift others or bring them down?
How can I be my best today?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


General: Who is Your Leader Hero?

We are on a search for a few good men and women. Please comment on the one person you most admire as a leader in your life and at least two reasons why. Stories are welcomed. These individuals will be featured on this blog (by us interviewing them directly) and their stories will be shared with thousands during our hundreds of speeches and trainings throughout the year. We look forward to seeing who our readers hold up as model leaders and heroes. Please comment today! Thanks.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Fostering Relationships: The Leader's #1 Job

Achilles is famous in Greek mythology for his ultimate strength and beauty.  He was the perfect warrior except for his even more famous heel.  A small arrow shot to his heel brought him down.

Every boss, supervisor, business owner, manager and team leader strives for perfect strength and leadership.  They all can be brought down with a number of different weaknesses and tactical errors, but there is one that is the ultimate Achilles Heel - either not knowing or forgetting to do Job #1...

A leader's #1 job is to grow and develop their people.

At a recent state human resources management conference I presented a workshop covering the six keys to getting employees engaged and keeping them engaged in their work.  A major take-away for the HR professionals was based on a question:  do the bosses in your organization have this #1 job in their list of core duties?  Do they personally invest financial and calendar resources to this task?  Their responses were interesting.  Some were shaking their heads yes.  Most had a look that said, "No."

The most important relationship in an organization is the one between a supervisor and their immediate team members.  When this goes bad or isn't healthy, people under-perform, cause trouble or just leave.  There are many reasons why a leader's #1 job is to grow and develop their people, but helping people meet/exceed expectations and enjoy their job is the best reason. 

If you are a boss and/or play a role in helping bosses understand how to do their job effectively, ask yourself that question.  If you don't give a resounding yes, make some changes.  Dedicate a majority of your time developing people and helping them understand expectations, develop their strengths, minimize their weaknesses and have what they need to do their job exceptionally.  Good luck.


Vision: Personal Leadership Plan

"3. Every useful brush has a canvas upon which to leave its mark. Getting into Leader Gear requires a reason, a purpose, a place, a team, a project and/or an idea. You reading this book means you more than likely already have one or more of these. They are essential for your leadership to create real change and value. The secret is not that you need a canvas on which to leave your mark. The secret is that you need to whittle down the size of your canvas for your colors to be bright, bold and substantial. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Although this book covers a wide swath of leadership topics, skills and application points, you need to take a different approach. Focus your leadership strongly in one or two areas. As those areas gain color and strength, you can move on to others. Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for disaster. Pick and choose your battles. Prioritize. Think like a master surfer riding a wave. His most important ally is the ability to be totally present; using all his physical and mental strength to read the moment, adjust quickly on the fly and make it to shore safely. Being in Leader Gear means being 100% present for the people and projects that need your time, attention and leadership. On their behalf, thank you for giving 100% to moving from a leader in waiting to a Leader in Gear."

Those are the final words of the first chapter of my new leadership book, Leaders in Gear.  The core lesson is you must have a place to apply your leadership.  You are a leader because you have influence on others - for good or for bad.  However, your goal is to put action to your leadership and this requires a field on which to throw the ball around. If you are struggling with where to apply your leadership or if you think it is time to kick it up a few notches, you should consider going through the process of creating a Personal Leadership Plan. 

(Click here for a visual version of the following process.)

Personal Leadership Plan
Step 1.  What is your definition of leadership?  This definition should be brief - like a mission statement - and should give you (and others) a sense of your core values and beliefs about leadership and influence.

Step 2.  Who are the people and projects in your life that need your leadership the most?  This list should be short as well.  Just a handful of people and a few projects, but be specific.  List faces, not groups.  List general tasks at home, work and play, not just home, work and play.

Step 3.  What specific actions do you need to take to be a better leader for each person and project?  How can you "act out the words" in your leadership definition?  Again, be specific.

Step 4.  Break each action down.  List out the goals and the benefits of accomplishing each.  Give yourself benchmarks.  How will know that you are half-way and all-the-way finished with that goal (with the understanding that some of the goals may be perpetual)?  Most importantly, give yourself time reminders.  When will you revisit this plan to check in on yourself and see how you are doing?  You should not only write these in your plan, but also put them in your calendar tool.

Step 5.  ACT!  You might be amazed by either how much leadership you are already doing and simply aren't labeling it that or by how much you aren't doing.  Either way, a PLP is a valuable and meaningful process only if you get to and complete step 5.  Good luck!


Fostering Relationships: The Power of Importance

Feeling important is a driving force for leaders.  Like most things, this force is used for good and bad.  Leaders who have a need to feel important for the sole purpose of being a person of importance lead a shallow and roller-coaster life.  Their sense of self-worth is so attached to their current position of power or influence that they end up being very self-centered.  This is a dangerous way to lead because when your focus is solely or mostly on self, you can act in ways that only serve you – dishonesty, cheating, rudeness, etc.

The productive angle on importance is to have a need to feel important because you desire to do important, meaningful and valuable work.  This method drives you, but unlike the first approach, the end goal is not to spotlight you, but to spotlight the end results of your work.  Your self-worth is still attached to something, but it is something that is benefiting the big world, not just your little world.

The power of importance can not be overstated when dealing with other people.  If you think of your “favorite people” list, a common trait they probably all have is they lift you up and make you feel good when you are around them.  Leverage this dynamic to play a positive role in the emotional maturity and quality of life of the people around you. 

Remember, when you make others feel more important than they actually are, you become more important to them.  What a great way to be a person of importance in your home life, school or work life – to lift up others.


Skill Assessment: Grow Into Who You Used To Be

I have the great privilege once again of speaking to my alma mater this afternoon - Oklahoma State University.  I will have 75 leaders from across the campus in Tulsa for two hours.  The program is one I created a few years back called the Unmade Leader.  The concept is very simple - leaders are born and then unmade.  It is based on research and observations that as young people we have many traits that make us great leaders.  Then over time, because of pride, failures, peer pressure, misguided priorities, etc., those traits become diluted, diminished or deleted.

The program today is built on seven specific traits we tend to lose as we age, get more educated and/or get more experienced.  Two examples are energy and trust.  Being young is synonymous with having a ton of energy.  Age naturally changes this.  However, great leaders are able to defy nature and maintain an energetic mind, body and spirit. This allows them to not only get more done, but also inspire others to do the same.  A positive, active attitude is highly contagious. 

Our perspective of trust also changes as we grow older, more educated and more experienced.  The major change that negatively impacts leadership effectiveness is thinking you are above the laws - both the small and big ones.  There is an innocence that we lose over time that distorts our thinking about how we do life.  We think that because we are adults or professionals we can bend rules.  A small example is responding to voice mails or emails.  When you get a request from someone, it is not only unprofessional, but also damaging to your trust account to allow a long period of time to pass before you respond.  The distorted thinking is, "my time and attention is more valuable than your need for even a small portion of it."  This is your ego getting in the way of good manners and trust building.

The big challenge of this afternoon's program will be to "grow into who you used to be."  Many times we are so focused on learning more, doing more, getting more education, getting more professional development, etc. when the reality may be that you need to start forgetting some ways you have learned and grow back into the powerful leader you used to be. 

By the way, the other five leadership traits that become diluted, diminished or deleted over time are:  optimism, decisiveness, authenticity, appreciation and growth.


Wise Judgment: How Are You Doing With Decisions?

Decisions rule our lives.  Every action started with a decision.  Some are simple - What should I have for breakfast? - and some are complex - How can we get more members for our organization?  Our ability to make the best choice consistently drives our quality of life and our ability to gain and keep trust from those we are charged with leading. 

So, how are you doing?  Spend some time reflecting on your answers to the following questions.  Your answers will reveal where you are today with the PLI Essential of Wise Judgment...

1.  How do you respond when you make a bad choice?
2.  How do you respond when you see someone you love make a bad choice?  What about a stranger?
3.  What good choice do you make consistently?
4.  Why are you continuing to make a bad choice in a certain area of your life?
5.  Who do you seek advice from?
6.  What is a bad choice in your past that you haven't found peace with yet?
7.  Are you making choices on a daily basis for the sole purpose of lifting up and helping others?
8.  If you could teach others how to make better choices in one area of their lives, what would you teach?
9.  Do you think you are making certain choices that are wrong, but you have chosen to justify, validate or ignore?
10.  Are you patting yourself on the back enough for the good choices you are making today?  Are you doing this for your close friend and family members?
11.  What is one choice you know you need to make today to improve your quality of life?
12.  What values/beliefs serve as a guide for your decisions?


General: New Leadership Book Available Now!

Rhett's new leadership book is now available for purchase.  Leaders in Gear is the perfect companion to your Personal Leadership Insight study.  It is a powerful study guide to improving your personal leadership, team leadership and presentation abilities.  Learn more about this great new resource and order your copy today - http://leadersingear.blogspot.com/.

"A must read with powerful tips on every page to shift your leadership gears into overdrive and genuinely impact who you are, who you will become, and non-stop, real-life “how to’s.” I'd recommend this book to managers, speakers, consultants, and organizational leaders; everyone who cares about becoming more effective--now. Rhett literally hands the reader an entire career of experiences devoted to building character, skill, and personal impact. With Leaders In Gear, you’ll find yourself in the driver’s seat.”
Steve Roesler, President and CEO
Roesler Consulting Group


General: Some Leadership Food for Thought

Following are ten Tweets from Rhett's personal Twitter account that could be used as leadership food for thought and/or quotes to post in your classroom or boardroom.  Enjoy...

  1. To be a great presenter you have to equally care and have total disregard for how the audience feels and thinks about you and your content.
  2. When you fully and genuinely believe in something, it causes others to believe more deeply in you even if they don't share your belief.
  3. If you are a lukewarm leader, let someone on fire take the lead. Lack of growth is not the economy's fault - it is yours. Get in gear.
  4. You should receive personal gain from the blood, sweat and tears you give as a leader. Just make sure your gain is not your neighbor's pain.
  5. Great ideas hide under piles of hard work, bad ideas and self-doubt. They discriminate and only want to associate with people who dig deep.
  6. Love and money make the world go round. One is worthless without the other and one is worth more than the other. You decide which is which.
  7. To purely evaluate a musical piece, listen with eyes shut by yourself. To purely evaluate a leader, ask how they act when no one is watching.
  8. Famous people are leaders because they need attention. Real people are leaders because they give the attention to more important things.
  9. Stop using "the economy is bad" as an excuse to not fundraise for good causes. Avatar brought in $500 mil+. You need way less. Go get it.
  10. There are 2 types of people: 1) Those driven by improving the big world. 2) Those driven by improving their little world. We need more 1's.

Also, pre-order Rhett's new leadership book, Leaders in Gear.  It will arrive on your doorstep in April.


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Teaching PLI: Must Read Posts for PLI Teachers

We are having a great time at the California Association of Directors of Activities state conference in Reno. Over 1,000 dedicated Activities Directors, Class Advisors, Administrators and Leadership Teachers from California and beyond. Since we are going to have a number of new PLI affiliated schools, it is time to remind all our PLI teachers of the most useful blog posts for your teaching experience. Enjoy!

Essential Resources for PLI Teachers

Iphone App

Exceptional PLI Authors, Bloggers, Videos

How to Run Your Initial PLI Classes

Overview of the HUGE PLI Delicious Database

TRAX Grading/Evaluation System

Books to Supplement PLI


Vision: Are you a Visionary?

The PLI Essential of Vision is all about making decisions in the short term to satisfy the needs of the long term.  In terms of action, it is less about tomorrow and more about today.  What are doing right now, in five minutes from now or this afternoon to get you where you want to be tomorrow, five years from now or five hundred years from now (leaving a legacy)?


A Visionary is a leader whose actions today are guided by their expectations and goals of tomorrow.  A key distinction to make is that there are actions involved.  A Visionary is not just someone who sits around all day thinking about their future.  A Visionary is someone who sits around for five minutes thinking about their future and then acts all day to make it a reality.  They are someone who sits around for a week thinking about their future and then acts for a year to make it a reality. 

The only true way to know if you are living the life of a Visionary is to answer “the future” when you ask yourself, “Are my actions today guided by where I need to be right now or in the future?” 

You need $20,000 in your savings account next year?  Spend wisely today.  You need to be 20 pounds lighter in six months?  Eat less today.  You need a job next week?  Make more phone calls today.  You need to rock out a presentation this afternoon?  Stop reading this blog post and get to work right now.  :)

Vision is all about ironing out where you want to be in the future and then acting accordingly today to get there.  Goal Processing is the stuff in the middle.  Make sure you study and practice both.


Teaching PLI: The PLI Blog iPhone App is Here!

If you have an iPhone and enjoy studying leadership, you will be pleased to know the PLI Blog iPhone App is now available on the iTunes App Store.

Click here to learn more and download.
The PLI Blog App Includes:

The RSS feed of this blog.

The RSS feed of my Authenticity Rules speaking skills blog.

The RSS feed of our PLI_Leadership Twitter tweets.

The RSS feed of our huge Delicious links database.

It is a very valuable and very free leadership library in the palm of your hands. Enjoy!


Fostering Relationships: How Leaders Deliver Bad News

Deciding to step up and create change, take charge or accept responsibility for making decisions is rarely easy. There are some simple strategies you can use to simplify the leadership process, but simple and easy are not the same thing.

One of the most challenging parts of being in a leadership position is having to make decisions that are necessary, but unpopular. These decisions can temporarily alienate you from your team, turn friends into enemies and just add friction to your relationships. How do you strike an even balance between keeping people happy (satisfied, challenged, engaged, etc.) and moving the organization forward?

One of the first things you need to decide when you step up to engage your leadership is that you are ok with not always being liked. This doesn’t mean you upset people or treat others poorly intentionally. It means forward movement involves change. Change is feared, battled against and unpopular. Yet, as the leader, your job is to guide this change and because of your job description, you are not always going to be the most popular person in the office, school or construction site.

Image Source: stockxpert.com

“To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.” Harry S. Truman

Secondly, before you make a decision that you know is going to be widely unpopular, make certain you foster a few key relationships. Have a sit down with the team members who many people trust and respect and discuss the pros and cons of your decision. Your job here is diplomacy – doing your best to communicate clearly and simply the benefits of your move for everyone involved. You should also sit down with your most vocal opponent and just listen. Make them feel like they have your ear.

We have all heard stories of people being fired by text message or divorced via court documents. These stories serve as a reminder that a message’s medium is almost as important as the message itself. Zig Ziglar, the grandfather of motivational speakers, announced a major decision for his company via a company-wide email. He later apologized. Not for the message, but for how it was given. It is important to deliver the message as personally as possible. This is not the easiest path, but it is the most leaderly.

Finally, when you find yourself in conversation with your team about their viewpoint, be as cordial, caring and empathetic as possible. The ability to gracefully agree to disagree will go a long way. However, be confident and resolute when stating your viewpoint and the reasons why you made the decision you did.

Leaders have to deliver bad news or unwelcomed news because their job one is to deliver results. However, the best leaders take strides to protect and secure relationships because they are just as important as the results.


Fostering Relationships: Dealing with a Controlling Boss

How do you deal with a boss who makes decisions and policies that are negatively impacting the work place, but they continue to make them anyway because they have an inflated need for control?

1. Be empathetic. For most of the decisions your boss is making, there is a good and valid reason. Many times, those in leadership know more about the reasons than they are either willing or able to share. However, this isn't an excuse for acting powerless. Make sure to at least ask for the reason(s) behind the policy. You can also request empathy from them. Next time they set a policy that is hindering your ability to do good work, ask them (in a calm, cool and positive tone) for suggestions on how they would operate if they were in your position. Ask them for advice. This gesture will feed their need for power, but also force them to really think about the practical impact of the decision or policy.

2. Ask for changes. Powerful people are just like everyone. They are annoyed by people who challenge their opinions and decisions. However, powerful people also respect those who demonstrate power and have little respect for the weak. Your controlling boss won't enjoy you asking for changes, but they just might respect you for it. If you do it the right way.

3. Embrace risk. There is always a risk when you challenge the system, when you don't just lay down and when you try to take the lead. That is why it is very important to weigh the consequences and make sure it is worth the risk to fight for whatever you want to fight for. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is not.

4. Start small. If you have a controlling boss, you probably have a list of things you would change if you were in charge. Write down this specific list and prioritize them in order of size of difficulty for your boss to change. Begin requesting changes, but start with the small things. If you win a few small ones, this might give you some "change capital" to use for the larger items; especially if those small changes dramatically improve the performance of your part of the company or organization. Even if you don't get the larger ones changed, you at least made a few changes happen.

5. Start big. You can also try the reverse strategy. Ask for something big to be changed, but have an "other-pocket request" that is smaller and that you can use if they reject the first one.

6. State the benefits. When you do ask for changes, back up the request with a few clear explanations of how the current way is hurting the organization and a few valid reasons for your requested change. Try your best to leave you and your boss out of it. Speak in terms of the potential upside for the organization.

7. Be an ally. Although difficult to put into practice, your boss is more likely to relinquish control if they learn to trust you more. Trust is a by-product of three things: reputation (I don't know you, but someone I trust does), repetition (you have repeatedly exhibited behavior that makes me trust you) and relationship (I know you and I like you, so I trust you). Many times in a formal organizational structure, it is difficult to earn all three, but that is your goal. The most powerful one of the three is relationship. Find some small and large ways to foster a relationship with your boss. After all, they are human (even if there are times you swear they don't have a belly button).

8. Choose positive responses. Never respond to your boss with sarcasm, cynicism, anger, jealousy or greed. These times require you to be calm, professional and positive. Therefore, don't engage with them when you are filled with a negative emotion. Take a day or two to think about it and chat with them when you have a calm head.

9. Face to face. Even though you need to remain positive, these interactions are certainly not going to all be positive. There will be difficult conversations. One of the reasons why your boss is controlling is because it works. Most people run from conflict and choose not to engage or ask for what they need because are afraid. They don't think its their place. They aren't willing to stomach the consequences. You need to be a stronger leader and be willing to engage in difficult conversations with your boss face to face.

10. Its not personal. This is not true in all cases, but many times the policies and situations your controlling boss has created is a response to their need for perfection (or their need to avoid conflict). It is not about you. So, don't take it personally. Ie - its not that they don't trust you or want to see you fail, they just don't know any other way to lead.

(11. Get a new job. Life is too short to work for a leader who doesn't know how to lead.)


General: Updated Version of The Leader's Credo

The Leader's Credo

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

I will speak my voice & listen for you speaking yours.

I will be me & let you be you.

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

I will lift you up & give thanks when I am lifted.

I will live a clean, powerful & positive life.

I will focus on our commonalities & not our differences.

I will choose to smile & enjoy life.

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

I will learn from those who have journeyed before me & leave a
challenge for those yet to arrive.

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

I will arrive early & stay late.

I will strive to do valuable & meaningful work.

I will be clear in voice, motive & action.

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


General: A Short List of Exceptional Authors and Others

Who you are today is an equal mix of genetics and inputs.

Half of who you are is a product of your parent's DNA. That half is stagnant, done, and written in stone. The other half is a product of who you are around, what you read/listen to/watch. Following is a short list of inputs I keep in front of me on a daily basis.

Seth Godin - Marketing guru, author, blogger. His blog is packed with exceptional thinking.

Zig Ziglar - The grandfather of motivational speakers. His book See You at the Top is a must read.

Ben Casnocha - A young entrepreneur and blogger. His blog will expand your circle in a big way.

Chip and Dan Heath - Marketing experts. All marketers, teachers and speakers should read Made To Stick.

Gretchen Rubin - Blogger on emotional awesomeness.

Leo Babauta - Blogger on productivity.

Malcom Gladwell - Author. His books and articles are seriously intriguing.

John Maxwell - Author. The grandfather of modern leadership teaching.

Steve Roesler - Success Consultant and Blogger. If you lead others, you should subscribe to his blog.

Garr Reynolds - Author on designing great presentations and blogger.

Nancy Duarte - Author on designing great presentations and blogger.

TED - The annual conference of everything next level. Site includes hundreds of past video clips. [iTunes link]

Terry Gross - Host of NPR's Fresh Air. A daily radio show of interesting people. [iTunes link]

Ira Glass - Host of This American Life. A weekly radio show of interesting stories. [iTunes link]

Dick Gordon - Host of APM's The Story. A daily radio show of interesting stories. [iTunes link]

Dave - Host of a weekly chillout, trip hop and downtempo music called Dave's Lounge. [iTunes link]