2016 GiANT Guide for the New Year

Start 2016 Off Right

“Before you lead others – you must first lead yourself.”


We all have the potential to raise our leadership capacity. Being a leader doesn’t just happen at work, but it happens in every circle of influence: ourselves, our families, our teams, our organizations, and our communities. At GiANT, we work tirelessly to help people become leaders others want to follow. We also believe the best leaders are those who know how to effectively provide support and challenge to their people while fighting for their highest possible good. We are on a mission to raise up liberating leaders all around the world.

Here’s our gift to you as you begin this new year.

Click Below to Download:

2016 GiANT Guide


Or, copy and paste this link: giantworldwide.com/2016-ny

End of the Year Reflection: Who Says You Can’t?

Who says you can’t? Sometimes it’s other people. Most of the time it is you.

Prohibition is when other people tell you, “You can’t.”

Inhibition is when you tell yourself, “You can’t.”

Your end of the year challenge is to reflect back on 2015 and identify the voices or systems in your life that are prohibiting or inhibiting you from being fully alive. Ready?

winding road

The calendar year is a helpful tool to utilize for a state-of-the-soul address. There seems to be a natural rhythm in the air that carries us along to reflect at the end of the year and to re-vision at the beginning of the year. I have a practice of taking space at the end of each year to reflect on the previous year using two categories: Reminders and Revelations. This year, I’m adding a third one; Restrictions.


Reminders are things that I already knew that were pressed into my life more deeply. It’s not surprising to me that we continue to deepen in our areas of strength and core skills. I expect that I would have grown deeper in my capacity to communicate vision, develop strategy, and invest intentionally in those around me. Additionally, I would expect that I would have been aware of and compensated for my weaknesses in greater ways. Things like attention to detail, being de-energized and getting jaded by being buried in the micro-detail of the day-to-day fall to the bottom of my list.


Revelations are the fresh new learning, skills, and concepts that I picked up. Those disruptive ideas that mess with me. The research insights that provide new insight to apply to my life and the life of those I lead. The things I’ve learned from the people around me. You’ll be encouraged if you take the time to look back on 2015 and catalog what you’ve learned from your reading, relationships, and experiences.


This year, I am adding a new category: Restrictions. My specific challenge for you, as you look back on 2015, is to identify the restrictions in your life that it’s time to be free of. The holiday I celebrate, Christmas, is about a King named Jesus who came into the world to break the chains of human oppression. To heal, raise up, and cast out the rebellion or oppression in your life that would restrict you. One of the Christmas carols I sing that celebrates the birth of Jesus includes the following lyrics:

“Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.”

Some of you turned to your spouse this year and said, “I can’t take this anymore!” Or more subtly, you’ve continued in patterns that numb you and don’t bring you life. You may celebrate a different holiday, no problem. But we can all benefit from spending some intentional time pondering what last year was so we can be raised up and given, in the words of the hymn, a second birth — a restart for a new year. A rebirth of new life.

So here’s the practical challenge: As I mentioned, some of you are being prohibited by the voices of others or the system you are trapped in. All you hear from others is, “You can’t!” Others of you are being inhibited by your own voice telling yourself, “You can’t!” It’s time to get specific and bring challenge to both. Look back this year and lead yourself. Stop making excuses and listening to the squashing voice of, “You can’t!” I know there is a different tune that you can listen to instead of the song that should fall to the bottom of the charts: “YOU CAN’T,” by You.

Who says you can’t?

May you answer that question and find that 2016 brings freedom at a whole new level.

How to Communicate Well: Beware the ME Monster

I am a fortunate man. I spend time with America’s finest leaders teaching leadership courses at Air University (online and in-residence) and working with Auburn, Harvard, Cambridge, and of course, GiANT Worldwide. I’ve observed a universal question that seems to come up in every class: when to use “I” versus “we” in public forums.

I think this question is asked repeatedly because the “ME” monster lives large in almost every organization out there. The use of the words I and me are a good point of debate and discussion, and in terms of leadership and communicating well on teams, it’s important to recognize when what we’re saying becomes more about us and less about the others we’re serving.

I have spent a bit of time reviewing what the experts think on when to use “I” and “we” in public communications: my squadron vs our Squadron, my DO, my airmen, my commander’s call, etc.

It is evident that communications can make or break us as leaders. Simply put, many leaders mistakenly act as if big public communications are all about themselves, while their teams think that communications should be about them.

We need to be sensitive to the number of “I’s” versus “we’s” that the we use. Our teams want leaders to be forceful and decisive in taking responsibility for improving the situation. And this requires a few strong “I’s,” such as “I will.”

So how do we know when to use “we” and when to use “I”? I think the answer is pretty simple.

I believe it’s better to use “we” when describing positive accomplishments, and “I” when taking responsibility for stumbles, mistakes, and/or indicating strong resolve to make changes. The people on our team know the difference, and they really are listening carefully.

Command in the military is an amazing opportunity and prior to my first command, I spent a good bit of time pondering principles of command and subsequently published those for the squadron members to read. One of the top principles was this: Credit for success belongs to everyone, and if possible, pushed to the lowest ranking member. Credit for failure belongs to the senior leader present. If leaders can truly live this principle, the Me Monster will die a certain death.

Take a look at this clip from Brian Regan’s comedy sketch on the Me Monster, and please don’t be THAT GUY.

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 11.28.58 AM


5 Best Practices Great Teams Follow

From tee-ball to backyard football, some of my earliest and fondest memories center around the dynamics of team. Tracking forward and reflecting upon nearly 5 decades of this reality, I have had the opportunity to play and serve on countless numbers of teams. Some were very good, while others I would classify as marvelous discipline-shaping endeavors.


Many articles have been written about what takes a team, either in sports or in business, from good to great. As a student of the art and science of teams since the late 1980’s, here are the truths that stand out clearly from my experience and study

They Problem Solve Effectively – High-performing teams have an incredible ability to transform conflict into value.

Application Questions:

  1. What consistent vocabulary and language does your organization have “readied” to effectively problem solve?
  2. How competent are the leaders in your organization to leverage tools in framing and solving problems

They Are Clear and Committed – Is everyone on the same page? Are we clear and committed to the tasks it will take to get us to our vision? Great teams set individual goals aside for the benefit of the greater good.

Application Questions:

  1. Does your team know the way to win and have the plan to execute?
  2. Does your team acknowledge and accept the direct consequences (positive and negative) that their actions will have on the team and the organization?

They Are Collectively Accountable to Results – When teams have a high bar they are working to collectively reach, the barriers between individuals seem to thin.

Application Questions:

  1. Does your team think of initiatives as “our work,” or So-and-So’s project?
  2. Would your team’s attitude be more like business owners or divisional managers?
  3. Are your organizational goals developed to incentivize teams or individuals?

They Are Transparent Communicators – In times of plenty and in challenge, great teams calibrate support and shared truth equally.

Application Questions:

  1. Does your team communicate in ways that make it more effective and efficient for goal attainment?
  2. Do your team members have the relational capital to speak the truth in love?
  3. Is authentic communication frequent or reserved only for the quarterly retreat?
  4. Do you and your teammates have access to the information to make reliable decisions?

They Trust – Great teams have mutual respect for each other and strong camaraderie. Central to all high-performing teams is the foundation of trust. For that to happen, teams must know and respect each other well.

Application Questions:

  1. Do your team members feel they can be open and candid with the truth, while maintaining respect for each individual?
  2. What intentional efforts are invested to allow team members to build and foster authentic relationships?

What questions do you have about building your team from good to greatness? For more information visit: giantworldwide.com or email me at joseph.hill@giantworldwide.com.


3 Questions to Help Maximize Your Influence

Most people are in it for themselves.

We don’t like to think that, mind you. We typically consider ourselves, as a whole, to be rather altruistic. While most of us would count our relationships as congenial at worst and certainly non-self-serving at best, the truth is that at the end of the relationship for most of us stands a transaction. There is something we want to get out of it.

That transaction isn’t necessarily negative…

  • You want the best from the people you lead.
  • You are working toward something great together and they have an important part to play.
  • You know that what you are selling/providing can solve a problem they have.

We are typically looking for an end in mind, whether consciously or unconsciously. Think about it this way…

How carefully do you choose your words or your timing in a conversation in order to obtain the end result you want?

Be honest with yourself. We might not go into the conversation thinking about manipulating things to our benefit, but many times we do just that. We know that if we approach the person at the right moment, using the right words, our chances of getting what we’re after increase.

Now, I’m a positive person and I truly believe most of us have good intentions. We’re not intentionally self-centered and looking to draw only what we want out of the relationship, but it happens nonetheless. It’s simply the default modus operandi and the way that most people operate a majority of the time. We like to think we are in it for others, but most of the time we are in it for ourselves.

To make matters worse, if you count yourself a leader who desires to really make an impact in others’ lives and to have true influence with them, the transaction is never ultimately fulfilling. We get what we are after, but often times feel like we left greater things on the table. Despite our good intentions, there are several things actually holding us back from connecting with those we lead at a level where influence and impact can happen.

At GiANT, we like to help people discover these barriers to influence by asking three self-reflecting questions:

1. What are you afraid of losing?
2. What are you trying to hide?
3. What are you trying to prove? To whom?

The answers to those questions help us pinpoint where the risk lies. Mind you – we’re talking about real risk. When we push through those fears there are oftentimes real things at stake. The transaction you were after – all of those things we mentioned previously – are on the line if you choose to set them aside in favor of the relationship over the opportunity. Depending on how the other person reacts, you could push them away, jeopardize their performance, or lose the sale.

As real as the risk is, however, our fears are usually disproportionately greater. In fact, when we hold tightly to the things we’re afraid of losing, hiding, or proving, we may very well quicken the loss, the exposure, and diminishing respect.

True influence happens when we place relationship before opportunity. When we are willing to break through our self-preservation, that’s when real impact happens. The even-better news? When our desire is to be for others and lead them in a way that has life-changing influence, the opportunity almost always follows.

Maximizing Leadership Energy

What is your most precious and personal asset as a leader? As I toss this out in various circles, I often hear the response, “time.” While the majority of you may concur and find the clock to be your nemesis, I would argue individuals and teams can manage time well and still find themselves exhausted, stretched, and unable to concentrate due to the shortage of an even more precious resource — energy. Leaders have access to a number of tools to help manage calendar and clock, but how many of you have a system for energy management? The path to power, productivity, success and satisfaction is paved by the leader’s skill of energy management.

To maintain a powerful pulse in our lives, we must learn a tempo, balance, and focus of engagement and renewal.

Maximizing Leadership Energy

Flavius Philostratus, ancient Greek philosopher and famed Olympic coach, was the first to discover the benefits of rhythmic workout pattern founded upon exertion followed by rest. The idea was simple: the body uses biochemical resources when it works, and must rest to replenish them. When athletes struggle, it is often caused by a disproportionate training-to-rest calibration. You may not be an Olympic athlete, but the same principle holds true for those looking to compete successfully in life and leadership. Too much energy expended, with insufficient rest and recovery, leads to breakdown. Full engagement depends on balancing between full activity, rest and recovery. It is not a secret that the whole universe spins on a similar cadence – sunrise, sunset; high tide, low tide; full moon, new moon.

The heartbeat of engagement ought to be a bottom line priority. The unfortunate reality is that organizations frequently stumble and squander unnecessary resources. In fact, an alarming trend indicates that nearly 70 percent of Americans are reported to be less than fully engaged at work. Further perplexing is the fact that even a larger percentage report being disengaged from home due to an increasing and overbearing load at work. This is the maniacal mess of our age. We are neither here, nor there.

Owning Your Zone of Engagment

Training for full engagement involves purpose, self-awareness and intentional tempo, balance and focus.

  • First – Deeply define what drives your existence on the planet. What is your purpose and how might this purpose be fulfilled within each of the 5 Circles of Influence (Self, Family, Team, Organization, and Community).
  • Second – Examine yourself. Create a baseline by identifying how you now manage your energy.
  • Third – Face facts squarely. Rituals and routines are intentional actions you invest to build healthy patterns and break bad ones. Be precise, specific, and positive about new tendencies you need to onboard to securely manage between the daily challenges of stimulus and response.
  • Forth – Chart the course.  Examine yourself daily to track your growth and progress.

People around the world struggle with work/life inefficiencies. It is difficult to be productive and manage the relational dynamics of staying connected with others while finding routines to keep our batteries at full charge. The 5 Gears book project came to light as Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram masterfully applied from their experiences in working across all global sectors of leadership over the past two decades. The 5 Gears is a powerful concept that has the ability to radically change the way you live, lead, and serve. Check it out at http://5gears.com/book/.

Energy management makes full engagement possible. Take action today. Join the Liberating Leaders Movement to accelerate your team’s health, alignment, and capacity.

Discipline or Intentionality: What’s More Important?

I am sure I am not the only who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking. In a groggy, 2 a.m. state of mind, it is a struggle to grasp coherent thoughts, and usually around the time I should be getting up, things begin to coalesce and become clear. Recently I found myself awake pondering which is more important: discipline or intentionality?

discipline intentional

Let me explain. Every once in a while, I get the feeling I’m off target or perhaps chasing things in life that might not be a priority in the grandest scheme. The question is what to do to correct these tangential pursuits. The word that came to me this morning was discipline.

dis·ci·pline (noun)

  • activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
  • behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control

The dictionary’s definition of discipline is fine, but what discipline boils down to is doing what I really don’t want to do, so I can do what I really want to do. Perhaps it is paying the price in the little things so I can get to the bigger things.

However, in the leadership realm, we focus on being intentional, which is also important. Being intentional is simply doing things on purpose or being deliberate, but is being intentional possible without being disciplined?

I believe we have to have both discipline and intentionality, or disciplined intentionality, if you will. Discipline to do those things we really don’t want to do combined with the intentionality to accomplish those things we really want to do.

Ponder getting up early in the morning for a workout. For me, the alarm goes off and I’m thinking it feels like I just went to sleep. “Five more minutes, and I will dress quickly,” I say to myself. Or, “Maybe I can just skip today.” But, I honestly know that if I skip, I will feel awful later. By the end of the workout I feel good about myself and everybody around me—plus, I get the added benefit of investing in myself and hopefully my family (when they go with me). I know I have to be intentional in getting out of bed, and that intentionality takes discipline.

Discipline can sometimes be considered a bad word and it makes many folks uncomfortable, but here are three areas where I try to bring disciplined intentionality to my life:

  1. Intentionally Disciplined Thinking: This is huge for a Pioneer/Creative personality type like me. I have to keep my mind active with regular mental challenges. I blog as an attempt at thinking, pondering, and debating bigger issues. One can’t really get far in life unless we use our head.
  2. Intentionally Disciplined Emotions: This is something I think about daily. I can either master my emotions, or I can be mastered by them. My feelings can actually prevent me from doing what I should do, or perhaps drive me me to do things I shouldn’t.
  3. Intentionally Disciplined Actions: My mind and my actions are important for sure, but they can only take me so far. Actions are what separate winners from losers. Actions always reflect my degree of discipline.

Which is more important—discipline or being intentional? Can we call them equal? I don’t know, but I sure wish I could get back those hours of sleep.


Why You’re Never Quite Done Growing

I used to think back in my youth that life was a series of “learn and grow” experiences – a finite list of things that I needed to recognize and overcome in order to become the best version of myself. It was almost as if there was this future moment I was working toward that, upon arrival, would signal that I was finished and that the rest of my life would largely be maintenance, not growth, after that point.

I know how ridiculous that sounds. (What can I say? I was young.) It didn’t take too long to recognize that 1) my growth as a leader, husband, father, and man was a longer journey than I original thought, and 2) some of those “things to overcome” were less easily dealt with than I had hoped.

Self-awareness can be a difficult path. Learning to hold up the mirror in front of ourselves and be brutally honest with what we see doesn’t come naturally to most people. It’s a necessary path, however, and one that I always begin with when coaching leaders.

We spend months walking through a process of self-discovery and self-awareness to help them see the potholes in their leadership and life that need to be addressed. We all have them, mind you… tendencies that lead to patterns of action that we face over and over again. We know that they are patterns because, when we take actions based off of them, we tend to say things like, “Why do I always react that way?” and “Why can’t I ever seem to handle those situations better?”.

Our Tendencies Create Paths in Our Life Over Time

I liken it to the process of hiking in the woods for the first time. Venturing into territory that we’re not accustomed to is a new process of learning and trail-blazing, if you will. We’re not sure where we are headed, or the path ahead that will take us there, but we are determined to push through, nonetheless.

As we return to the same path over and over again, the trail begins to appear under our feet, wearing a path that others around us can see as easily as we can. Those ruts that we create over time are the tendencies that affect who we are and how we lead.

Our actions have consequences – good or bad – and those consequences affect the realities of our lives. In other words, our lives are the sum total of the actions we make, most of which are based on the tendencies within us. Where we ultimately find ourselves can be traced back to the steps we took along the way.

Know Yourself to Lead Yourself

What would it be like to be able to spot those tendencies ahead of time and to catch and correct them before they result in those negative actions? It’s a worthy pursuit that I have the privilege to walk alongside leaders in every week. But it’s not a one-and-done exercise. Those tendencies/patterns are engrained in us due to who we are and the lives we’ve lived up to this point. Our paths as leaders are less about eliminating tendencies as much as recognizing and accounting for them.

Our growth never truly ends. This process of knowing and leading ourselves is a lifelong pursuit. Because of this, we like to represent it as an infinity loop that speaks to a couple of things…

  1. We never fully ‘arrive’. We don’t wake up one morning to finally realize, “I’m there! I don’t have anything left to learn.” There is always room for growth and improvement.
  2. We must intentionally pursue growth. Our tendencies will always be our tendencies. We must intentionally look for and work through them.

The journey is worth it, and the destination of a life-long pursuit of intentional growth is better than a life of accidental wandering. If you’re not already, step onto the trail today and begin walking the path of becoming a leader worth following.

3 Letters Separating Smart Leaders From The Smartest

I was at an event last week where the keynote speaker used a term that caught a member of my lunch table by curiosity. He leaned over to ask me, “What’s a PLN?”

In response to his query and perhaps yours, the term “PLN” stands for “Personal Learning Network” and its origins are found in the Connectivism Theory. (Siemens, G. & Downes, S., 2005)

A Personal Learning Network is a vibrant, ever-changing roundtable to which leaders go to both share and learn. These groups reflect similar values, passions, yet may be widespread in terms of experience and expertise. Leaders build PLNs the same way they build any network — by investing time to find and connect with people they trust and have shared interests, values, and passions. My personal PLN includes a number of organizational leaders representing varied communities and thought leaders who support and challenge my capacity to live, lead, and serve. My PLN also provides a wider perspective to help reframe and successfully problem-solve the challenges encountered when dealing with the universal leadership realities of complexity, isolation, weariness, and fatigue.


Like many of you, I am in-tune and active within the global social network of technology. While the web can be an efficient medium for networking, the true vehicle to build healthy connections is through the power of face-to-face professional relationships. Let’s explore further the process of landing your “fit” within a PLN:

Step One: Find Your Professionals

Imagine you were moving to a new city. Initially, you would seek professionals to trust with home repairs, health, and even dry cleaning. You might find these people by asking neighbors and friends or using an online resource like Angie’s List. Similarly, finding professionals for a PLN begins by connecting with organizations whose mission statements and resources align with your personal beliefs and preferred future.

Step Two: Find Your Niche

In addition to establishing your professional contacts in a new community, you might begin to frequent places connected to your personal interests, like a gym, church, or coffee shop. In these places, you will likely find others who have shared interests. These places make you feel comfortable. In a PLN, these comfortable places are those where people gather around similar passions or experiences. For organizational leaders, those places can vary based upon roles and lines of organizational authority and responsibility.

Step Three: Find A Trusted Coach

It’s important to have a facilitator/coach in your PLN who you respect highly and who will help you grow. Thought partners are those people who you feel connected to because they “get” you and are “for” you. These trusted coaches become the foundation of any vibrant PLN and often become friends for life. These are the individuals who are respected to support, challenge, and expand your natural tunnel vision, transform your perspective, and encourage you when stress and pressure are on the rise.

Getting Real

The best part of a PLN is that it is personal. A “professional learning network” is ultimately a “personal learning network.” It’s important to explore your PLNs in a conscious way that makes you feel comfortable. Leaders gravitate to networks from all corners of personality and experience. Gelling as a collective of professionals may take some time as each member gradually begins to step from behind walls that preserve what he or she is superficially trying to prove or hide from.

Looking for a trusted PLN? Now is a perfect time to consider joining a network of smart, humble, and hungry leaders who will help you grow to become Leaders Worth Following. Similar to moving into a new home, the hardest part is the initial step of journeying outside of your comfort to meet the neighbors, taking new roads to explore your surrounding, or joining a club or study group. All of these require risk but community is essential for growth, happiness, and wellbeing.

If you want to be intentional about your personal and professional development while breaking through to a higher capacity of health, alignment, and overall leadership influence, it’s time to step into a PLN.

And to that end, here’s an exciting opportunity through GiANT to join a professional global network of liberating leaders. It’s called XCore, and it’s a 12-month program specifically designed to improve the ability of leaders to create an apprenticeship culture, raise your personal capacity to lead, and accelerate the health of your organization. Interested? Visit www.giantworldwide.com/xcore to learn more.

How to Increase Your Credibility

This week I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with a number of potential clients. These individuals were high-capacity senior level leaders who see a need to increase the performance and effectiveness of their teams. In those moments, I’m internally aware of a key question that a potential client needs to answer with a resounding yes:

Does this person have credible competence that is relevant to my situation?

For true influence to happen, establishing credible competence in the lives of those we lead must take place. Without it, we create a climate of doubt. Generally speaking, I am regarded as having credible competence in light of my experiences, education, and the organization I represent. But I’ve realized that even with the assumption of credibility, there are times that I still miss it! The way I am communicating, failing to read signals, or just my overall demeanor can cause a disconnect with a person I am speaking with and my credibility can be questioned.


Think about recent conversations, meetings, and opportunities: Did you speak and present yourself in a way that established credible competence? Take a few minutes to evaluate what went well and also where you felt uncertain.

There is no shortcut to establishing credibility. You’ve got to know your stuff and maintain the capacity to listen deeply in the moment to the greatest needs of the individuals in front of you. At the heart, however, I believe there are three phases that you need to go through in order to establish credibility:

Phase One: I know the content intellectually

Yes, you need to know what you are talking about. I had a conversation with a CEO recently who holds two values in tension. On the one hand he believes the best about people– that people want to work hard and do the right thing. On the other hand, he believes that people will be found out! In other words, you can only “fake it till you make it” for so long, and your lack of credibility will eventually be shown. This, of course, is a good thing because you can see where you need to grow. However, you’re on this blog reading this, I presume, so you can get as far ahead as possible. Take initiative this week to define where you want to increase credibility and buy the book, sign up for the course, or find a mentor.

Phase Two: I live the content personally

I’ve come to the conclusion that people either do this one really well or really poorly. Knowing is only half the battle. The other half is that you take the time to embody the content. Credibility is established through the integration of what you know into who you are. For example, let’s say you want to teach others the importance of being honest about their limits. You’ll need to be able to communicate how you are setting boundaries and compensating for your weaknesses. The minute you can communicate your lived experiences is the minute your credibility meter rises.

Phase Three: I transfer the content powerfully 

When you are living the content personally, you will begin to transfer the content powerfully. “How,” you ask?

First, when you are living the content personally, transferring to others is inevitable! If you know what you’re talking about, and live what you are talking about, others will desire to and begin emulating your example. They will take initiative to ask you how you are able to get the results you are getting, or be effective in an area in which you are demonstrating competence.

Second, you will transfer content powerfully by increasing the authority with which you speak. When we live consistent lives as leaders, we begin speaking from a place of genuine authority. Don’t let the word scare you; “author” is a part of the word “authority”. What’s coming out of your mouth is coming from the very fiber of who you are now. It makes a big difference in your influence. As you continually integrate content into your life, you will become more confident and credible. Your voice in the room will be more listened to since you have firsthand knowledge and experience of having lived out something of value.

The challenge is that if you attempt to skip from Phase 1 to Phase 3, you’re a teacher of facts. There are times when we need to teach beyond our experience, however, the progression from Phase 1 through 2 and onto 3 is the differentiator from being a dispenser of facts to a credible agent of transformation.