Fostering Relationships: Five Essential Skills

We invested fully this weekend with 500+ young leaders working on one thing only - helping them to understand how to be better at relationships. We covered many topics and worked on many areas. However, the following five lessons are the relationship techniques that will stick to their ribs for many days to come.

Five Essential Relationship Skills

1. Don't make people fight for your time and attention. Quickly and easily put your focus on others. When they share something with you, be impressed, encourage them, lift them up, etc. Don't fall into any of these three categories: Know It All, Always Better Than Others, or Indifferent About Others.

2. Talk up about others not in the room. Stephen Covey says this is one of the most powerful way to build trust with people in the room. A foundation of trust is an essential building block for healthy relationships.

3. Follow-through. People who stick to commitments are always in high-demand. Learn to say yes only to those meetings, projects and commitments that you are fairly sure you can keep. I'd rather you say no to me early than no to me late.

4. Share smiles with many. Share frustrations with one. People who are great at relationships understand this principle. Look for, celebrate, cultivate and share the good spaces in life. When you have gripes, whines, complaints, etc., share them with your closest people only. That's one of the responsibilities of being a close family member or friend. We are called to be the proverbial shoulder.

5. Forgive first. This last one is the heaviest. True forgiveness is never earned. It is given freely with heroic effort. If you have someone who has broke trust with you in any way and you are waiting for them to earn your forgiveness, you will be waiting forever. Forgiveness only works truly when you decide to pay the debt for them and take that burden off your heart. It's one of the rarest and most powerful relationship acts.

You can tell the running theme here is taking personal responsibility for the condition of your relationships. This is how any great team works - each individual investing fully and personally working hard to make it great. As your relationships go, so goes your quality of life. Make them great.


Vision: 4,543 Words of Great Leadership

Guest post by Ryan Underwood @teamtri_CEO

Politics and a presidential election is such an interesting time for those in leadership development. It's one of the few times so many of us stop and pay attention to just the idea of leadership, what it is, what it isn't and the impact of it.

If this election season has you interested in leadership, pause for a moment and read one of the greatest leadership reads around. It’s just four pages. It’s co-authored by 55 of the most talented minds America has ever known. It’s EPIC. It’s 4,543 of gripping awesomeness we call the Constitution.

I love that our Founding Father's made us stop every four years and assess who is running our nation. It's good to stop and evaluate. You can decide if you’re on the right path or need to make a course correction. I wonder if that's why high school is four years or a bachelors degree takes four years…so at the end of that time you can stop and assess? While you’re assessing for the next few weeks who should lead our nation, stop and assess how the president of YOU is doing and if you need to stay on track or change directions.

I love that our Founding Fathers started the Constitution with "We the People."  Our future has always been more about what "we" do rather than what "they" do. We worry about who lives in the People's House when the Founders knew that America's success was more about the leaders and people living in your house.

I love that our Constitution outlines our principles as a nation…justice, tranquility, defense, general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty. Have you established your principles?  What do you stand for? Have you defined them or have you allowed others to define them for you?

I love that our Constitution wasn't perfect.  55 talented minds wrote it, but only 39 actually agreed with the final product enough to sign it. And, even then we've amended it 27 times. You are not perfect. Leaders are not perfect. There’s nothing wrong with expecting things to be perfect—it makes us strive harder to be our best. But, in reality, the key is to fail forward; to fall ahead; to strive for perfection and fall short with just awesome. Where do you stand? Do you line up with the 16 negatrons that didn't get perfect and took their ball and went home? Or do you line up with the 39 people who pushed ahead and said, “it’s not perfect, but, it’s still pretty awesome” and changed the world? Will you just sit there and complain about how your life is going, or will you stop, realize you can amend you at any time, and lead a better life?

I love that our Constitution has three basic qualifications to become President: be at least 35; be born in the U.S.; and, while it’s not specifically noted, you have to decide to do it. Hundreds of millions of people could be President:
  • A “C” student (President Bush)
  • A guy whose federal experience was serving 4 out of 6 years in the Senate (President Obama)
  • A guy who was the Governor of a state half the size of San Bernardino County in CA (Candidate Romney)

Like this election, the world comes down to a few types of people: decided, undecided, and those who will just sit it out. If you are in the last two categories chances are your life is being led by those who have decided and you complain a lot. But, it doesn't have to stay that way. You can decide any day to lead your life…and…you don’t have to be 35 and where you were born makes no difference either!

In the end, you are the President of YOU. Will you stop and assess your leadership? Are you more concerned about what happens in someone else’s house or your own? Do you have your principles? Do you realize that you are not perfect, but are perfect enough? Will you decide?

If you've still got questions, take a moment and read 4,543 words…it’s just four pages. It built the greatest nation in the history of the world. Perhaps there is an answer in there that can inspire you. 


Fostering Relationships: A Quick Study in Teamwork

The following five questions/answers contain the top lessons I teach audiences about effective teamwork. Cross-reference these with your life and examine how you can improve the positive contributions you make to your teams (family, friends, work, school, etc.)

Why is becoming an effective team player important?
  1. Life is a team sport.
  2. When our teams are good, life is good.
  3. People need great people-people around them to give their best.
What is the definition of effective teamwork?
Effective teamwork occurs when each individual clearly understands how their core strength plays a valuable role in the team accomplishing its shared goals.
What are the common traits of great teams?
  1. A trusted leader.
  2. An agreed upon goal.
  3. An agreed upon decision-making system.
  4. The creation and revisiting of big memories.
  5. Each individual engaging a core strength.
What are the common traits of great team members?
  1. Intensely focused on their work, trusts others, are trustworthy and therefore creates an environment where there is low drama and high trust.
  2. Optimistic and create the impossible by focusing on solutions and the positive.
  3. Identify, put into action and develop habits that create an environment of encouragement, excellence and high expectatIons.
  4. Skilled at maximizing change and solving problems by seeing things differently and getting to the true core of challenges.
How can you help team mates give their best?
  • L.E.A.D. - Look for, Encourage, Appreciate and Draw out the best of others. How most people treat you is based on who you are to them, the environment your interactions are in & how you treat them. Make them good.
  • Be a lover of what other people are doing. Be Interested. Make someone else feel more important than they think they are and you instantly become more important to them.
  • Build up others when they aren't around. Stephen Covey said, "A great way to build trust with those in the room is to talk up those not in the room."


Goal Processing: Time Management Pillars of Success

You either manage your time or it manages you.  Simple as that.  Time is one of the most commonly used excuses for poor performance (at home and at work). Not enough of it, not allocated properly, not in control of it, etc. It is so commonly used that it is widely accepted as truth. And many times these excuses are truth. Not because of the realities of time, but because of our poor use of it.  IE - Ruthie absolutely didn't have time to complete the project assignment. However, it wasn't the lack of time that caused the problem.  It was the fact that she didn't prioritize or plan appropriately.

The following list is a short collection of the mission-critical time management strategies I use daily and I teach in my time management workshops.  Before you work through them, click here to see if you even need them.

This stands for Take Care Of It Now.  Much of our ineffectiveness with time management is caused by fatigue - low energy, low focus, etc. Much of this fatigue is caused by things "piling up". If you can take care of a task in two-minutes or less, do it.  Get it off your desk, out of your inbox, out of your life. This will prevent you from getting to the end of your day with a million little things to finish up. This technique also helps you to conquer, what David Allen calls, Open Loops.

Action Lists
To do lists are vital for anyone juggling more than one ball.  The key to effective to do lists is to only put actionable items on them - not line items that involve fifty smaller actions. Only put the next step necessary to accomplish at task.  This will allow you to mark things off quicker and give you reachable benchmarks instead of just a long list of items that each contain their own to do lists.

Open Windows
There is a difference between time to do something and the "right" time to do something, called an open window. Open windows are unique to each person and each task.  Picking your open windows involves understanding what time of day you work most efficiently, what location works best for which task, when your distractions are lowest, which hours of your day you can accomplish flow (described below), etc.  The open window strategy is a true example of taking control of your time. Learning, leveraging and taking actions based on when you work most efficiently and effectively.

This is a time management strategy based on brain science.  Flow is described as the mental state when you are working most efficiently.  Every task requires a complex coordination of functions in the brain.  It normally tasks around 20-minutes for your brain to get "up to speed" and work most efficiently on a task.  This post-20 minute state is called flow. If you are not controlling your little distractions and interruptions (email, phone calls, walk-ins, etc.) throughout your day, you are probably never accomplishing true flow and never working most efficiently.

Empty Inbox
Your email inbox should not be used as a to do list.  Primarily because that is not what it is intended for and because it is a totally reactionary tool. IE - the items were sent by others and when they wanted to send them. Whenever you do check your email, do something with each.  Take action, delegate, move to a to do list, put it in a folder (you can search to find it later if you need it), archive it, delete it forever.  A hefty inbox is a major source of fatigue (even if you don't notice it) and is a sign of poor time management.  Take control and get your total email count (read, unread, etc.) to under 15 every day.  If you want to learn more about how to do this magical trick, email me - rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com. My strategies in this area were originally inspired by Merlin Mann.

Just Say No
The magic bullet for most people when it comes to managing their time better is to get better at saying no to any commitment that you know you either can not do or can only do halfway.  I would personally rather you say no to something than say yes and not follow through. And so would most people.  This also includes commitments given to you at work.  You know your work load better than anyone.  If your boss or team leader gives you a task and you are already over-committed, be honest and let them know that something will have to not get done if this new commitment is to happen. Of course, this strategy will only fly if you have built up your trust account with others and it is well known that you are working hard and committing fully to your current tasks.

Focus longer. Set realistic, but stretch goals for the task in front of you and get them done. The tools listed above (and the thousands of others out there) will only work if you will.

Click here for another quick list of techniques.

Tweet That
Following are a few pre-made tweets to share with your network.
Follow us - @pli_leadership

@pli_leadership says to spend your time with T-COINs - Take Care Of It Now. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership says that your inbox should not be used as a to do list. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership says to let your co-workers know if their request will over-commit you. http://ow.ly/e6re6

@pli_leadership recommends reading the works of Merlin Mann and David Allen for time management tips. http://ow.ly/e6re6


General: Performance Capacity

Performance Capacity is the level of available resources to accomplish a task. Here is a short list of mission-critical metrics most professionals (students or adults) have their eye on:

- Time Management
- Stress Management
- Job Specific Tasks
- Networking Skills
- Presentation Skills
- Active Listening
- Feedback/Coaching
- Work Ethic
- Emotional Maturity
- Goal Processing
- Energy Level

Any highly successful person will tell you they are good in many areas, but great in a few. Your task is to identify which metrics are absolutely critical and then follow this process to develop:

1. Get clear on where you are today. Self-awareness is the key.

2. Identify what "excellence" looks and feels like. Set a clear, specific goal.

3. Develop a reasonable, routine-based action plan to reach that goal. It's all about creating the correct patterns in your life.

Expanding Performance Capacity is not achieved by short-term actions. It's reached through daily excellence habits that become part of your lifestyle.


Emotional Maturity: The Failure Factory

(This is a repost of one of our most popular posts...)

Failure is a reality of life for all of us. None of us achieve what we want all the time. Expert leaders do not have less failure than novice leaders. Expert leaders simply have a better built Failure Factory.

This Failure Factory is not the production line; failure is a given in life and is produced just by being alive. This is a processing factory and everyone has one. Failure goes in, how we choose to respond or react to it is the processing part inside the Factory and our leadership effectiveness is strongly impacted by what comes out the other end, which is how we are fundamentally changed (for good or bad) by the failure.

Expert leaders positively influence people and situations to create value and growth. This means they are able to remain positive, still influence others and have the uncanny ability to create value even when failure is fed in. How?

Expert leaders have developed the ability to...

1. Recognize and be okay with the fact that they are flawed. They are very self-aware.

2. View failure as temporary. They have their sights set on the long-term.

3. Actively seek out learning lessons by asking why did this happen, not just how did this happen. They look for meaning.

4. Laugh at themselves. They take their job seriously, but not themselves.

5. Risk, Fail, learn, adjust, risk again, fail, learn, adjust, risk again, fail, etc.

Take a good look at your Failure Factory. You can drastically improve your ability to create value and growth by improving the inner-workings of your Factory.


Vision: Cheetah Leader

Click on the image to download the high-res version.

The following text provides on overview of seven human qualities that tend to be stronger when we are younger that help us make a positive impact on others. Basically the concept is that, in many ways, we are born leaders and then we lose many of these natural traits over time. The information below also provides insight into how to get these back, strengthen them and even retain and excel at the natural leadership traits you had when you were young in the face of the challenges, pressures and responsibilities of adult life.

Being curious allows you to discover new ideas.

When we are young, we want to learn about everything. Our favorite question is "why?" No item is too trivial to be asked about. Our entire world revolves around learning and satisfying curiosity's appetite. Our knowledge jars are open and constantly being filled. As we age, we thrive on looking smart, doing right and knowing all the answers. The most popular, longest running TV show ever made is based on this one fact - Jeopardy! We take our knowledge jars, put lids on them and put them up for good. This diminishes our passion for asking questions. Make a change and see yourself as a life-long learner. Get great at what you do, but live out the quote, "When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." Stay on top of the newest trends, techniques and material. Avoid the common leader pitfalls of arrogance, behind-the-times, stuck-up, etc. Think like a student, but act like an expert. Surround yourself with learning environments and people who are willing to push you to learn more and do more.

Being hopeful allows you to push the envelope.

Young people not only have great big goals and life dreams, but they also fully expect them to come true. They are filled with hope for the future, for the weekend, for the afternoon. However, as we age we lose our faith in others and we lose our ability to trust. We lose faith in our abilities and we lose our hope. We set low expectations and stop dreaming big. Make a change and push the envelope, see the future before others do, motivate the best from your team, etc. These actions are driven by having an intense sense of hope for the future. Believe in the truth behind the quote, "When the world says give up, the leader whispers "try it one more time."

Being energetic allows you to get more done.

One look at a garden variety playground demonstrates this trait. We have a ton of energy when we are young. Always running, always playing, always going until we literally fall into bed. However, energy boosters are a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason. We adults are starved for energy. Most of our diets, exercise routines and lifestyles are not designed to give us energy. They deprive us of it. Make a change. Run fast. Get twice as much done as others. Do big, meaningful work that demands a large quantity of time, attention and energy. The average corporate CEO lives on five hours of sleep per night, yet they have the energy of a five-year old. Use effective time management strategies. Use natural energy boosters: sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, etc. Refuel often. Use effective stress management techniques. Make time for a hobby you enjoy. Make time to relax.

Being expressive allows you to communicate fully.

As children we are OK with outwardly expressing our feelings, emotions, frustrations, happy days and sad days. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. Whether you want to hear it or not, we will tell you or show you what's going on in our world. Personality and extrovert/introvert factors play a role here, but generally speaking we are less skilled or willing to express ourselves as we age. We fear speaking in public. We don't raise our hands in class. We have to work at clearly, authentically, and consistently communicating our world with others. I'm not suggesting you start running around shouting and crying all the time, but make a change and work to improve your ability to express your thoughts and feelings when necessary and meaningful moments arrive. This requires continual practice, separating judgment of self from judgment of performance and learning the foundational success principles that guide each unique (yet repetitive) communication experience.

Being trusting allows you to bring the best out of others.

Young people believe in others. They are shy and reserved at times, but have a natural faith in other humans. They don't know any different. We are born to trust one another. Then life happens; too many people break trust with us. We begin operating from a starting point of, "guilty until proven innocent." We expect to be disappointed, heart broken and stepped on. Make a change by choosing a starting point of, "innocent until proven guilty" when dealing with other people. Develop a core faith in other's character, abilities and talents. This will serve as the spark and fuel to those people actually living up to the your expectations. Again, surround yourself with great people. View failures/shortcomings as temporary. Work through challenges with people. Most importantly, never work from assumptions or misinformation. Communicate clearly with people and expect the same from them.

Being awe-struck allows you to enlarge value.

Everything was new, awesome and inspiring when you were young. You were in constant awe of your surroundings, your future, etc. You got excited about the smallest things. Then you became used to everything. You started taking things for granted. Now it probably takes a true effort to catch and hold your attention. Make a change and see yourself as a risk taker, dream waker and love maker. Appreciate and lift up the ordinary to make it extraordinary. Be easily impressed by others; don't make them fight for your approval or attention. Seek out new adventures, new people, new routes, new books, new thoughts, etc. It is easier to fuel your awe-struck trait when you surround yourself with inspiration.

Being happy allows you to attract others.

A 5-year old laughs more in one day than the average 50-year old does in a year. They find fun and laughter in everything. It helps that our lives at that age revolve around having fun, but even the "non-fun" things spark laughter and joy from us. However, at some point we stop laughing. We see "happy" as foolish. Its not grown-up to be smiling and laughing all the time. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to wipe that grin off your face. Make a change and decide today to love your life. Smile often because you find reasons to be happy and work hard to delete, diminish or dilute those things that bring you down.

Follow us:  @cheetahleader

Download the poster here.


Vision: Three Success Patterns for Students

Source: Ben Heine

Students are back in school and the American Dream Factory is in full force.  Study hard, keep your nose clean and you too can have the life you want.  Scholarships, college of choice, great career, etc. However, what the best students know is there is more to getting what you want in the future than just getting good grades and being a good person.  Following are three patterns that are non-negotiables for students who are putting themselves in the best position for success.  These are not "do more and you will get more" principles. These are "do more of what works and less of what doesn't" principles.

1. Create and expand your network. Its not what you know. Its not who you know. Its who knows you. Students (secondary and post-secondary) need to pick a target career goal for many reasons. One of the most important is it gives you an industry to get involved in.  Seek out internships, attend industry conferences, network with professionals who are successful doing the job you want to do and ask them questions. Companies don't hire people; people hire people. Schools don't give scholarships; people give scholarships.  Get to know people.

2. Build up a robust trust account. Future "gatekeepers" are going to check all the basics of your past: grades, extracurricular activities, etc. However, they will place just as much stock (if not more) in what your references say about you as a person. Character, work ethic, integrity, creativity, people skills, willingness to learn, flexibility, emotional maturity, etc. You need to invest a ton of time and energy in building trust with people in your life today; especially your teachers, school administrators, bosses, etc. You will need their help in the future. Be trustworthy - worthy of other's trust.

3. Go above and beyond expectations. Build a reputation as someone who will do more than expected. And not because you are always asked or because there is a "prize" for it, but because it is who you are. Figure out how to maximize your school opportunities (inside and outside of the classroom) and then act. This list includes: internships, student organizations, helping your teacher with projects, etc.

The competition for scholarships, college admission and jobs is higher than ever. Put yourself in the best position for success by incorporating these three patterns in your school routine. Good luck!

Book recommendation - How to Be a High School Superstar, Cal Newport

"Disguised as a peppy college-admission guide, Newport's book is actually a profound, life-affirming manifesto for ambitious high school students. Forgo the sleepless and cynical path to college acceptance. Instead, blaze your trail to the Ivy League by living a full life and immersing yourself in things that matter. Relax. Find meaning. Be you." David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us


Fostering Relationships: The Value of Team Bonding

Pop Quiz: Which method of communication most effectively conveys every aspect of a message?

A. Face-to-Face
B. Phone Call
C. Email
D. Text Message

The answer, of course, is A. Face-to-face communication is the most effective method for delivering and responding to every element of a message: words, context, body language, emotional content, etc. As you move down the line from face-to-face to phone call to email to text message, the complexity of the message is filtered because the amount of information given and received diminishes. 

This dynamic is pretty well-known; even though many people do not have the willingness or understanding to apply the proper medium to the right message.  However, this communication lesson actually serves as the best explanation for the value of team bonding. Here is a quick overview:

Text Message = Working on a project with someone you've never met.
Text messages are great at conveying quick information, but are ineffective at conveying tone and meaning. Similarly, it is difficult to work efficiently with someone you've never met because all you know about them is right-now information. Therefore, you have to take everything at face value and tasks can take longer because everything has to spelled out and clearly explained.  Assumptions are not always a bad thing, but they are almost always a bad tactic when you have no prior knowledge of the other person's intentions, actions or behaviors.

Email = Working with a new team member.
Email is the preferred "quick" and "traceable" method of communication in the workplace. It is efficient to a point. Everyone has had that moment five-minutes into drafting an email when you hit delete and then just call the person because you realize it is faster. Email is clear to a point also because tone is not always easy (or front of mind) to explain. When a new team member arrives (especially if the team is already robust) many people will simply not take the time to explain tone or context to the "newbies" and just skip past that step.  Therefore, the complexity of the messages are left to assumption by the new team member. This creates miscommunication, confusion and, in many cases, no clear person to blame.

Phone Call = Working on a team with someone you know professionally, but have never learned anything about personally.
Phone calls are many times just as useful as face-to-face in terms of fully conveying the message at hand. However, they are not quite as good. One of the major differences is what choosing the medium conveys.  If you have the option of meeting face-to-face or over-the-phone with me and you choose phone, it does place a lower value on the interaction; except in all the cases where the context is just a quick chat. This same dynamic works with office relationships. If you don't take the time to get to know me or learn more about me, I don't feel a sense of investment in the relationship from you (and vice-versa). This can create a working relationship that is not as powerful and robust as possible.

Face-to-Face = Working on a team with someone you know both professionally and personally.
The most effective medium for delivering and receiving the complexity of a message is face-to-face. I can read your body language. I can see your tone.  I can see, not just hear, how you are responding to me.  It is efficient, effective and clear (as long as the words are clear). This is the perfect metaphor and support for the value of team bonding.  When two people take time to learn more than just surface level knowledge about each other, they are better equipped to read intention, context, purpose, understanding, etc. Only a small percentage of the messages we send every day are conveyed in our words. The vast majority of the message exists in our body language, tone, assumed intent, etc. When teams invest time in bonding and understanding how each other ticks, these larger messages are more clearly delivered and more appropriately received.

Tweet the lines in italics - @pli_leadership


Skill Assessment: Solar System Leadership Lessons

A simple, fresh metaphor is a powerful tool in gaining clarity on what's important and meaningful. Leadership is a complex and diverse subject. Following is a look at how basic, effective leadership and team motivation works.

The players in this metaphor are the sun, moon and earth (it's difficult to find a more basic and simple metaphor). The earth represents each team player. It is an intricate entity comprising of a million moving parts - much like each person on your team. It does work, provides value, is difficult to keep in good working shape and exists in its present form because of one primary energy source - the sun.

The sun, obviously, is the earth's energy source and represents a team player's energy source - motive. Each person is motivated wholly by a complicated mix of inputs, but the lesson here is that leadership is not the primary motivator. The source driving action is personal motive.

So, what does the moon represent? This is where the team leader enters the picture. He or she uniquely plays the same role as the moon in the ecosystem. Visually, the moon reflects the sun's light. It is similar, yet all together different from the earth. And it influences certain movements on earth - i.e. the tides. An effective team leader does the same. He or she works hard to reflect back to the team their core motives. He or she is self-aware of the similarities they have with the team, but also recognizes core differences. And, of course, the leader's work (and primary utility) revolves around positively influencing the team's actions.

I think one of the biggest ah-ha moments this metaphor serves up is the recognition that neither the leader nor the team players are at the center of the ecosystem. That position is held squarely by motive. When leaders try to play this role they become overbearing, self-centered and out-of-whack with how true leadership and motivation work. When team players try to fill this position, they aren't in tune with their role within the organization.

Remember this solar system metaphor next time you are attempting to either build a high-performing team, fix one that's off kilter, or working hard to take a team from average to excellent. Continue to sharpen your understanding of each team member's authentic motives, be a reflective model of positive motives and keep those motives as the center of your team's ecosystem.

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Fostering Relationships: How To Become a Master Ninja Relationship Coordinator

I had the wonderful pleasure of speaking once again at the St. Jude Collegiate Leadership Seminar this weekend in Memphis. The conference is designed to educate and inspire college students and advisers across the country who raise money on their campuses for St. Jude. The purpose of my workshop to the advisers was to give insights on how to strengthen relationships across campus. Following are the main lessons; they are applicable on and off of college campuses.

1. Own it. Take responsibility for the condition of the relationships you have with persons of influence on campus.

2. Make two lists - Friends (people who support your work on campus) and Future Friends (people who either don't support your work or don't actively know you or your work). The goal is to turn Friends into Raving Fans and to turn Future Friends into Friends.

3. Work hard to change the way you view the power hierarchy on your campus. Especially those views that you have that are holding you back from moving forward with certain requests or relationships. A step in the right direction is added the words "Right Now" to your vocabulary. Instead of saying, "The athletic department won't work us," say, "The athletic department won't work us Right Now."

4. L.E.A.D. - Look for, Encourage, Appreciate and Draw out the best of others. How most people treat you is based on who you are to them, the environment your interactions are in & how you treat them. Make them good. (Tweet that - @pli_leadership) Take your Friends and Future Friends lists and turn them into a Campus Water Well Book - a place where you keep track of relationship activity you are involved in.

5. Be a lover of what other people are doing on campus. Be Interested. Make someone else feel more important than they think they are and you instantly become more important to them. (Tweet that - @pli_leadership)

6. Build up others when they aren't around. Stephen Covey said, "A great way to build trust with those in the room is to talk up about those not in the room." Example - Use we, never us and them. Master Ninja Level Relationship Coordinators do not have the luxury of having a loose tongue. (Tweet that - @pli_leadership)

7. Be Intentional. Foster a relationship weekly or bi-weekly with at least one person in each of the areas of campus that directly impact your work. Lunches, coffee, share resources, etc.

8. Piggy-Backing. Investigate how your core work can help another department's core mission also and do more cooperative activities.

9. What comes to mind when people hear your name/office/projects? What habits do you have that are creating or blocking the pattern of others seeing you as a Master Ninja Relationship Coordinator?

Action Steps

- Develop or sharpen your Campus Water Well Book.

- Discover actions you need to start or change or increase.

- Start now. Take action. Email. Call. Schedule.

- Identify what's holding you back from making certain calls to Future Friends.

- Get clear on what other people are saying about you/your department/your work.

- Think of yourself as a Master Ninja Relationship Coordinator. Be self-aware and own this title.


Masterful Communication: Absolutely Dominate the Interview

Following are my top tips on how to rock in a job interview...

  1. Be early. 15 minutes before is on time. If you are interviewing on a large corporate complex or institutional campus, be in the parking lot no later than 30 minutes before.  Give yourself time to get to the interview room in a relaxed, focused and ready-to-go fashion.
  2. Call beforehand and find out what type of attire your interviewer will be in. Dress at the same level. Your first impression is huge here.  This first impression will be largely based on your face (smile, direct eye contact, friendly) and your attire (polished, ironed, everything-in-place).
  3. Research the company. Strengths. Weaknesses. Early years. Big changes. Future plans. Etc. Memorize some facts and practice discussing the company's industry in conversation form. Be knowledgeable about the company you are seeking to start a relationship with.  This process is just as much about you picking the company as it is the company picking you.
  4. Research the job you want. Talk to someone in that position or someone who used to be. What is the job really like? What are the best parts and worst parts? Most importantly, what skills/attitudes/behaviors are needed for success? Then cross-reference those with genuine skills and strengths that you have. What are the worst days/weeks like and why?  How can you demonstrate that you can handle these down times effectively?
  5. Do as many mock interviews as you can. Have a friend or family member ask you a list of random questions from your resume. Practice putting your answers into one of these three templates: the story structure (answer with a brief, visual, concrete story), the list structure (put your answer in a list of 2-4 items) or the anchor word structure (answer with one word or phrase and then give evidence of why you chose that answer). The most important step here is remembering that evidence is king.  Don't just say you are a good time manager, have good people skills or can handle high-stress situations.  Say that and then tell a story about a time you applied that strength.  Provide evidence.
  6. Maintain an eager (but non-Red Bull) body language. Speak up. Hold eye contact. Have variety in tone (serious, jovial, light-hearted, factual). Lean forward. Take notes.
  7. When discussing a weakness or shortcoming, follow this template: 1. Answer honestly. 2. Discuss how you are working on the weakness or have developed a strength to off-set it.
  8. Stick to your core values, beliefs and standards. Don't be someone who "will do anything to get the job." Demonstrate a willingness to learn, be flexible and grow, but also demonstrate you are a person of conviction.
  9. Be very clear on the top three to five strengths necessary to be successful in the job you are applying for. Work to model or discuss evidence of ownership in the interview.   Provide evidence with Concrete, Visual, Simple (CVS) stories from past work experiences or from your personal life.
  10. Every job involves other humans. Model and discuss evidence of ownership of your people skills. Be gracious. Compliment. Be honest. Demonstrate trustworthiness and credibility. People get hired for their resume, but get fired for their people skills.
A bonus tip is how to approach the job-hunting world in general.  Act exactly like getting a job is your job.  Wake up in the morning.  Get showered and dressed professionally (biz casual is fine). Go to your "sales job" with you as the product. Call more people than others.  Submit more resumes than others. Go to more interviews than others. Work hard to be okay with rejection or delayed responses. Work it and it will work.

(A part of my business is teaching interviewing skills.  Email me if you would like discuss working with me - rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com.)


Service Minded: 12 Principles Revisited

I have been training a ton lately on customer service.  Here are the direct links to the posts overviewing each of the 12 Principles of Remarkable Customer Service:

The 7-Iron Principle - Excellent service is elemental.
The Chicken Little Principle - Emphasize the positive.
The Open Space Principle - Build on what works.
The Platinum Rule Principle - Do unto others as they'd like done unto them.
The Tony Bennett Principle - Have a veteran's expertise and a novice's energy.
The Irving Principle - Get clear on why you are successful.
The Fresh Air Principle - Ask great questions.
The Toddler Principle - Friendly first.
The Toyota Principle - Enable and encourage problem solving right now.
The Walking Billboard Principle - You are the brand.
The YourSpace Principle - Your way + My way = Our way.
The Thunder Principle - Have one face for the organization.

Contact me when you'd like to discuss my customer service keynote and/or seminar training options.


Innovativeness: The Seven Great Barriers to Creative Work

Creativity is a key element of leadership. In fact, it is essential. Leadership is measured by results. Good results = good leadership. Poor results = poor leadership. Creativity is not something you do or are or make. It is an output. It is a result of other factors at play - risk, failure, brainstorming, awareness, perspective, etc. You can't "be creative" just like you can't "be respectful". You do something that then results in both of those happening. Creativity is a vital part of a great leader's results list.

Since creativity is something you produce, not something you do, the question isn't, "How can I be more creative?" The question is, "What do I need to do to produce creative work?" That answer depends greatly on the nature of your work. However, if you work to overcome the following seven barriers, your capacity for producing creative work will go up.

The Seven Great Barriers to Creative Work

  1. Silos - Every person thinks differently, but no one knows everything. Silos is the barrier of either intentionally or culturally (read: work culture) not asking for or seeking out help, opinions, experience, ideas, or facts from others. This creates a debilitating effect on ideas, motivation, solution-seeking and more. Creative work thrives and dances in interconnected environments.
  2. No WOO - There are very few work environments that are not social or built around team contribution. Woo is a monicker from Strengthsfinder's personal assessment tool and stands for "Win Others Over"; meaning the quality of likeability. Creative work is highly social work and when WOO is missing, ideas are not shared as freely or as frequently.
  3. Chicken Little - In the cartoon world, he yells, "The sky is falling." In the real world, Chicken Littles are negative people. They contribute ten negatives to an idea session before even thinking of one positive. This constant focus on what is wrong snaps the oxygen supply from creative work. You have to deal with challenges if problems are going to be solved, but Chicken Littles simply never get to the second part - the solving.
  4. Run Forrest, Run - This barrier has a Catch 22 title. If there was one thing Forrest Gump did not do, it was run from who he was. He embraced and pursued every aspect of life. However, most people run from the scary, new and risk-laden projects or ideas at work. This is sourced from a variety of things, but one of the strongest sources is a fear of the judgment of others. Creative work requires bold actions and risky moves. Most people run from those things.
  5. Leftovers - Creative work also requires you to see new things. This is challenging to do when all you see at work are leftovers; projects, ideas, people, concepts, tasks, etc. that were in the fridge yesterday. Very few people are working on brand new, never seen before projects. The standard for most creative work is taking something old, seeing it as new and then making it so.
  6. My Brain Runneth Over - Fatigue sets in for professionals (in many ways) and creates barriers. One of the most damaging to creative work is the lack of desire to learn more. When learning stops, creative work stops.
  7. Lost Hope - You can see there is a running theme of emotional content through these barriers - fear, negativity, etc. Lost hope is the strongest emotional barrier and is the nail in the creative work's coffin. Once you decide something great cannot be created, it becomes an absolute certainty. Additionally, once you lose hope that you could ever do creative work, it is decidely so.
These seven barriers all have wrecking balls - strategies for breaking them down and not allowing them to dilute, diminish or delete your creative work. We will take a look at those over the next few weeks.

Because creative work is so vital to your leadership effectiveness, I encourage you to print this page, give it to someone who knows you well and ask them to give you feedback on whether or not these barriers are negatively impacting your work or personal life.

Tweet this: 7 Barriers to Creative Work: Silos, No WOO, Chicken Little, Run Forrest Run, Leftovers, My Brain Runneth Over, Lost Hope. @pli_leadership


Vision: Marco YOLO

We've been having some fun with a new catchphrase at conferences - Marco YOLO! Yep, Marco Polo is so five minutes ago. This YOLO stands for You Only Lead Once - a concept that should guide your vision as a leader. The lesson is two fold:

1. The change from polo to YOLO is a fun metaphor for the change effective leaders make in how people talk, label, converse and interact. Leaders don't just help people do better, they help people be better. Many times this transformation begins with improving, sharpening and "classing-up" language. How we speak is a reflection of how we think. Yet, leaders who make an impact understand that how we speak greatly influences how others think.

2. The personal application of YOLO - You Only Lead Once is about total commitment to every opportunity you have to lead today. View each leadership moment as your last and apply full personal resources. Anything less is not leadership; it's averageship. This is not about wearing yourself out all the time. This is about acting on the understanding that the people you lead deserve your best every time.



Integrity: Six Actions of Great Leadership

How do you know if you are actually creating results as a leader? Focus your work around the following six actions and the results will follow.








Fostering Relationships: Parent = Leader



Parents are some of the most influential leaders on the planet. Following are four key behaviors of parents who make the most of this influence and are creating children ready for the best of times and the worst of times.

1. Secretly pay the debt for your children.

My wife is in the middle of a bible study that contains a key lesson of Christian leaders: we must pay the debt for others who are either not strong enough to handle it on their own or who can't pay it. We must unselfishly act with resolve, integrity and responsibility. Effective parents do this for their children. The key here is to do it "secretly" without ever expecting your children to earn it. They deserve it because they are in your care. You must be strong for them and never use these acts as a reward for good behavior. This creates a home environment filled with unconditional love and support.

2. Be filled with a genuine desire to learn and love their ways.

The generational difference can create barriers. It can block understanding, compassion and a sense of community in the home. Effective parents tear down these barriers each time they seek to see life through their children's eyes. A simple example is cell phones. Young people use their phones (via text messages, social media, photos, etc.) to create real community and connections with their friends. Embrace this. Set rules and help them understand the dangers, but be a team player in this area (and many others) with your children.

3. Create a home where mistakes are cherished, celebrated and communicated.

My PLI co-leader Ryan Underwood and his wife have a painting in their home that says something similar to this. It serves as a visual reminder every day that life is full of twists and turns and they will talk, learn and grow together as a family through them. Effective parents help their children understand that the best life does not mean a mistake-free life. The best life is created by responding positively in the face of mistakes. Help your children feel safe to risk big, try new things, and be comfortable with sharing their good days and bad days with you.

4. Time is where families grow.

Effective parents create moments in their day regularly where the focus is just on being together as a family. Do things that involve conversation, being present with one another and just enjoying each other's company. This creates a stack of moments that lead to understanding, connections and memories children can lean on for strength when the lonely times come that every young person experiences.

Parenting is tough for many reasons; stress, commitments, work, troubles, etc. However, it is primarily tough because it is the textbook definition of leadership. And leadership is difficult. Because it matters. Work hard to be a leader for your children. One that is inspiring, motivating and worthy of their unwavering trust and devotion.


Fostering Relationships: Leadership Principles for Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations are just about as fun as a root canal, but they are way easier than the pain of not getting the needed root canal. Effective leaders make difficult conversations happen because they are necessary for growth, excellence and the long-term health of an organization or team. Here is a short list of difficult conversations that happen in the workplace:

  • Explaining why someone is not getting a promotion.
  • Confronting repeating unacceptable behavior.
  • Providing honest feedback on poor performance.
  • Respectfully challenging a colleague or customer.
  • Holding someone accountable for their output.
  • Sharing tough decision outcomes.
  • Delegating responsibility.
  • Discussing a taboo issue like hygiene or dress.
  • Thoughtfully saying no.
  • Addressing opportunities for improvement.
  • Explaining options in the face of adversity.
So, why don't these conversations happen? A big reason is because, not only are the conversations challenging, but the skills needed to make them happen successfully are also inherently challenging. The really important skills here fall in the leadership category. The following five leadership principles (which can be applied to many more areas than just difficult conversations) will help you shape your thinking, your approach and your execution of the next difficult conversation you need to have with someone.

Leadership Principle One: Others First. Self Second.

  • Be committed to seeing the other person succeed.
  • Focus on the behavior or necessary changes, not the person.
  • Be entirely focused on the conversation and the other person. Remove distractions.
  • Arrange for a private setting.
  • Speak only for yourself, not on behalf of people not in the room.

Leadership Principle Two: Difficult is Not an Excuse to Delay.

  • We do more damage to others by not saying what needs to be said.
  • The process of the conversation might not be pleasant or positive, but the end result can be.

Leadership Principle Three: An Adaptive Approach is the Only Approach.

  • Honesty must be tempered with compassion and tact.
  • Make decisions on what to say intellectually, not emotionally.
Ask yourself these questions beforehand to prepare:

  • How will I be helping this person?
  • Will telling them this make them better in the long run?
  • Why am I delaying telling them this?
  • If I was in their position, would I prefer to know?
  • How will they react? How do I know?
  • Will they accept advice from me?

Leadership Principle Four: Find the Common Ground Quickly and Build From There.

  • Find something early on that you both can agree on.
  • Get them saying yes.
  • Be preemptive by fostering relationships with people.

Leadership Principle Five: Goals and Values Guide Action.

  • Be clear on the best possible outcome.
  • Be specific with discussion items, needed changes, etc.
  • Be clear on what company or organization value or belief is driving the need for the conversation.


Goal Processing: Create Change by Asking the Right Questions

"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers."- Voltaire

Successful people know the right questions to ask to spur development and improvement. Many of these questions do not have pleasant answers. They reveal weaknesses, blind spots and mistakes. They also create answers that require making difficult changes. This is why average and mediocre are rampant. Real success needs honesty, humility, a growth mindset and hard work to flourish.

An example of this is the question I am constantly asking as a small business owner. "Why did he/she say no?" I fight hard to learn why "lost clients" say no to us. I've been in the speaking/training business for twenty years. I don't need to ask why people hire me. A client saying yes today can almost always be sourced back to a specific and successful presentation I gave in the past. The great unknown is why people decide to say no; which in my mind is actually a "not right now". Some business owners choose not to get this information, but I see it as the other side of the excellence coin for any business.

Side One - Have an intimate knowledge of what the client needs and over-deliver it.

Side Two - Have an intimate knowledge of why potential clients choose other service providers and, if it fits our core mission, work hard to sharpen those skills, services and products.

This coin metaphor also applies to personal success and drives the need to learn what questions should be asked to create real positive change in our personal and professional lives. I have a good friend who has been struggling with personal challenges. One the biggest lessons he has learned can be summed up with four words, "Walk toward the pain". This means getting closer to the source of the problem, not running from it or making excuses for it. The first step in walking toward the pain is knowing what question(s) should be asked. Spend some time thinking hard on this. Journal your thoughts. Discover new answers to gain the necessary insight for meaningful growth and improvement. If you are looking for a place to start, consider this quality of life equation:

Quality of Life = The alignment of expectations/desires and the reality of life.

No matter what area of improvement you are interested in, if there is misalignment in these two key elements, you won't have the natural energy and momentum needed to take action and produce tangible change. Therefore, look closely first for anything that might be creating an imbalance between your expectations/desires and the reality of your life. The possible sources could be:
  • Health challenges (injuries, lack of sleep, etc.)
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Unfinished conversations
  • Unrealized goals
  • Incomplete projects
  • Unnecessary expenses
  • Misaligned perspectives
  • Incomplete information
  • Lack of preparation
  • Lack of resources
  • Unresolved mistakes
  • Unforeseen events
  • Overtaxed (time, duties, projects, etc.)
  • Giving up too early or too easily
In your quiet time, go through this list and examine honestly which ones are true to your life. Begin your questioning journey here; these are the sources that make the biggest difference to your quality of life. When quality of life goes up, your Performance Capacity increases accordingly.

Performance Capacity = Your available resources to accomplish a task.

Creating meaningful change in your life requires a large amount of Performance Capacity. Any increase in your resources will provide the fuel you need to take action. Be honest with yourself, seek out what questions you need to be asking and be bold and confident in turning the answers into real change.

A little morsel you can tweet to your peeps:

@pli_leadership Success is based more on what questions you ask than on what answers you know. http://tinyurl.com/thepliblog

Follow us:  @pli_leadership


Masterful Communication: The Authenticity Rules E-Book

The new Authenticity Rules E-Book is here.  Following are just a few of the questions answered in this 120-page speaking and facilitation handbook.
  • What is the best way to control nerves?
  • What are your three biggest enemies?
  • Why is authenticity so important?
  • What is the CVS Formula?
  • What makes a great keynote?
  • How do you keep an audience engaged?
  • Why does it matter how you give driving directions?
  • What can you learn from a kangaroo?
  • What is the Can’t Ignore Club?
  • How do you make boring content engaging?
  • What is the 7-Minute Rule?
  • What are energy gaps?
  • What is the difference between effective and non-effective coaching?
  • How do you establish credibility?
  • What are the steps to effective workshop planning?
  • How do you handle difficult audience members?
  • How do you know what the audience wants to hear?
  • Why does your personality determine how you should build a speech?
  • How is a surfer like a great presenter?
  • What is the MOVE Formula?
  • What do you do when a herd of water buffaloes attack your presentation?
Click here to purchase your copy today ($5).  Enjoy.


PS - Learn more at www.AuthenticityRules.com.


Skill Assessment: The "Ready to Serve" Elected Student Leader

Hundreds of our clients are student organizations.  Places where young leaders learn the joys and discomforts of "being in charge". If you are a student leader, think deeply about how your actions and thoughts align with the follow two keys to success and my specific tips for each.  If you have direct influence over a student leader, please share these.

1. There is a difference between the skills it takes to get elected and the skills it takes to serve.  Go into your year of service with a growth mindset.  Be open to coaching and sharpening of your skills.  You will receive instruction you will need this year and that you can use for a lifetime.  Don't miss it.

Take notes, ask for specific feedback, don't make excuses, work to improve, mirror success you see around you, take responsibility, be honest with your weaknesses, be humble with your strengths.

2. A team of talented leaders does not make a talented team; that takes a team of talented team-focused leaders.  Serve each other just as passionately and purposefully as you serve the members.  Leaders leading leaders is difficult because of big personalities, people not afraid to speak their mind, people used to getting their way, etc.  This can lead to disagreements, arguments and hurt feelings.  Just know those are growing pains to success.  Work through them, not around them.  If you contribute positively to your team mates, your "team" will last much longer than one year. 

Don't try to earn the approval or attention of your team - give yours generously to them first, celebrate each other's success, encourage publicly, say thank you, listen actively, spend time together even when you don't have to, be nice, give constructive comments in private, sacrifice for each other, build your team mates up with your words when they aren't around, randomly call to say hi, say I'm sorry, invest time really getting to know them.

Good luck and let us know how we can help!


Skill Assessment: Performance Capacity and Quality of Life

Performance capacity is your level of available resources to accomplish tasks.  These resources might include time, knowledge, dexterity, etc. Increase your performance capacity and you increase the likelihood that you will do better work, more work and more enjoyable work.  How do you increase performance capacity?  This is a question on every effective leader, manager and contributing team member's mind.  There are many ways - coaching, training, proper job placement, attending conferences, effective management of resources, etc. However, I believe that if you improve your quality of life you will also improve your performance capacity. 

Quality of life is the alignment of your expectations/desires and the reality of your life.  I.e. - if your work day is going as you expected it to go, your quality of life is higher.  If you are paid what you desire, your quality of life goes up.  If your family treats you and other people as you expect, your quality of life goes up.  Your quality of life factors into performance capacity because a good portion of the resources you need to accomplish tasks effectively are emotional.  These commonly discussed elements include attitude, patience, focus, empathy, happiness, etc.  Your emotional components are fueled by how you feel about your life and the situations and people in it. So, how do you improve your quality of life?  How do you bring a tighter alignment between the expectations/desires and the reality of your life?  Check back for more...


Emotional Maturity: The Good Life Affirmations List

The following list contains forty "this works better than that" affirmations.  Consider it your reminder of how to reach The Good Life.  Section one are life affirmations, section two are emotional affirmations and section three are relationship affirmations.
Life Affirmations

Your life works better than you think
Outside works better than inside
Sunrise works better than snooze
Reading works better than ignorance
Saving works better than spending
The park works better than the couch
Planting works better than chopping
Growing works better than rotting
Stewardship works better than wasting it
Journaling works better than forgetting
Experience works better than education
Earned it works better than given it
A plan works better than winging it
Winging it works better than playing it safe
Simple works better than complicated
Less works better than more
Now works better than never

Emotional Affirmations
Joy works better than sadness
Safe works better than I'm afraid
Calm works better than drama
A smile works better than every alternative
Forgetting works better than holding on to it
Responding works better than reacting
Failing works better than regretting
Fear works better than holding back
Patience works better than I'm sorry

Relationship Affirmations
Together works better than alone
Truth works better than selfishness
Forgiving first works better than forgiving when
I'm sorry works better than I'm right
I'm right works better than I don't know
Giving works better than receiving
Listening works better than talking
Talking works better than texting
Community works better than alarm systems
Asking works better than telling
Working through it works better than going around it
Accepting works better than judging
Learning works better than assuming
I care works better than leave me alone

(Click here for a high-resolution poster version.)


Fostering Relationships: What is Your Texture?

What is the texture of your leadership style?  Is it abrasive - motivating people through fear, force and manipulation?  Or is it smooth - leading others with understanding, forgiveness and empathy?

Two big questions to consider here:

1. Do you know your style? If the answer is no, find out. Get feedback from the people you lead. Feedback is the grading system for professionals, especially leaders.

2. Is your texture too extreme one way or the other? You need to be yourself, but this need must not trump your attention to being flexible in how you deal with others. Think of your leadership style like sandpaper.  Each type of sandpaper performs basically the same function, but you wouldn't use a coarse paper on a delicate surface or on a job that doesn't require that much friction.  Your leadership style should be just as flexible and adaptable.


General: The Act of Pure Leadership

There are many different acts of leadership.  However, for an action to be a pure act of leadership it must require the leader to employ the following three personal characteristics:

Altruism - the act must be selfless and driven by a concern for others.
Tenacity - the act must involve a great challenge that requires discipline and grit to complete.
Vision - the act must push the envelope; bring to life a reality that others can't see or have refused to believe is possible.

Using this metric, ask yourself these three questions:

How often do I act entirely out of the selfless concern for others?
Am I working on projects and ideas that challenge me?
In what areas of my personal and professional life am I risking big?

Your answers to these three questions are a meaningful measurement of your leadership effectiveness and strength.


Skill Assessment: The Cult of Cultivation

As a leader for your organization/company/school, I challenge you to think about this question...

"How am I developing in others a passion for growth and excellence with what really matters?"

I have a new program series called the Cult of Cultivation that is designed to give you the eight "what really matters" training areas you should be purposeful about growing in others and ideas on how to do it.  These programs inspire an enthusiasm for growing a state of excellence for each topic area. The eight areas are:
  1. Attitude Cultivation  
  2. Culture Cultivation
  3. Creativity Cultivation
  4. Presentation Cultivation
  5. Service Cultivation 
  6. Stress Cultivation
  7. Team Cultivation
  8. Time Cultivation

Keep checking back over the next few weeks to learn more about how to cultivate properly in each of these areas. 

Cult - An interest followed with exaggerated zeal. 
Cultivate - Foster the growth of. 
Cultivation - A highly developed state of perfection; having a flawless or impeccable quality.