What Do Successful Leaders Do?

We are in the midst of a huge cultural shift.

In the video below, Steve Cockram, co-founder of GiANT Worldwide, discusses how our culture and the world of business is shifting and what successful leaders must do in the new world. This video describes the essence of what GiANT is apprenticing leaders to do in programs like the Executive Core.

If you are going to differentiate yourself in the 21st century, you are going to need more skills than purely the credentials you carry.

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10 Vital Leadership Lessons From the Farm

Fall is a-comin’ and tis the season of abundance as seen across the Heartland of our nation’s agricultural producers. Like many, I am quite fond of the local flare of our community based Farmer’s Markets. I love the festive feel and the opportunity to discover rare fruits of the earth such as lychee, pattypan squash, kohlrabi, Chinese spinach etc. My family and I also enjoy catching new uses for tried and true products while getting to know the exceptional personalities behind each of the productstands. The artisans of the earth are beautifully creative individuals!

The Law of the Farm

The law of seedtime and harvest is an age-old principle which has been practiced before the dawn of civilization.

…One reaps what is sown.

The mind is a wide-open field on which seeds are planted with impact broadcasted to cover just about any area in one’s life – Financially, Materially, Emotionally, Spiritually, Recreationally, Etc.

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny – Ralph Waldo Emerson

These Law of the Farm principles apply to every facet of life and can be practiced or put in motion subconsciously. Life decisions are made daily. The effects of decisions five years ago can be seen in one’s quality of life today. If a bad seed is planted, no fruit or perhaps bad fruit is generated. The overarching truth in the Law of the Farm is in the discipline of cultivation – staying intentional to envision the preferred harvest we expect to produce in life, leadership and in service. Read more

Competitive or Cooperative?

Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Leadership is influence. Influence is the application of power, and I am a believer that true influence is earned not demanded.

While people may have positional influence and follow you because they have to, ultimately people choose to give someone the privileged place of speaking into their lives. We have the privilege of using the power given to us for the sake of others, to engage them in the process or project.

I’m a pretty competitive person. I like to win, even when on vacation with my family playing laser tag against them. (I’ve learned my lesson).

There is such a thing as healthy competition that builds up the team culture of our organization, however often times competition is about us using our influence and power for ourselves. When we do that, we lose credibility, our influence decreases, and we miss out on the great opportunities to apprentice and fight for the highest possible good in the lives of those around us.

It’s time to give up unhealthy competing and allow cooperation to take us the next leg of the race.

Competing looks like:

  • Making sure we are seen as the most important one in the office
  • Making sure decisions are my preference
  • Being stingy with giving others opportunities
  • Over-isolating rather than investing in others.
  • Being too stingy with profit sharing because you need to get further ahead.

When you give up competing for your personal benefit, cooperation can truly begin. Cooperation is mutually beneficial and the results are significant.

Where do you need to lose so that others may win?

When it Comes to Challenge: Bring the Concrete not the Wet Cement!

Liberators fight for the highest possible good in the lives of those we are entrusted to lead. The effective calibration of support and challenge is at the heart of functioning as a liberating leader who empowers others.

Certain types of leaders have a tendency to live in the land of the big picture and lean toward communicating generally and abstractly rather than specifically and concretely. These types of leaders think they are communicating challenge clearly and effectively because they themselves know what they intend, yet people don’t quite know exactly what you mean.

Other types communicate too broadly, leaving options open when it comes to challenge. People are left confused and wondering exactly what they should do. If they are stuck somewhere and you are brining challenge, giving them options is probably not going to work.

A vital skill of bringing effective challenge is to bring the concrete, not the wet cement.

The double challenge is that leaders who tend to be abstract and conceptual sometimes struggle with identifying specific ways to bring and surface challenge.

One of the tools I shared with an amazing leader who is growing in his ability to bring challenge the other day is the lens of goal, strategy, and tactic.

If you struggle to bring concrete challenge, this is a great way to surface exactly where your team is in need of the most input and you will find bringing specific challenge much simpler on this backdrop.

Goal: Ask; “What goals are you working on right now?” This will show you whether or not your team is tracking progress and achieving great results or just going with the flow. You may be surprised if you are not used to asking this question.

Strategy: Ask; “What strategy are you using to achieve those goals? How is it working?” This allows you to check on the effectiveness of their goal implementation overall.

Tactic: Ask; “What are the specific next steps you need to take to progress in your strategy?” This will give them a clear picture of their daily and weekly deliverables.

Give the goal, strategy, tactic approach a go and let me know how it goes. You should be able to surface specificity and bring concrete challenge!

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section about practical ways you challenge your team.

Vito Love

On a recent trip to Bayeux, France, I had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel Le Bayeux and meeting a liberating leader, the hotel’s general manager, Vito.

On the morning we were checking out and set to depart for our next destination, we were alerted that a rail workers strike had cancelled our train to Paris as well as most trains throughout France.

Getting to Paris that day was critical and missing our connection there would have severely delayed our trip.

Upon learning of our situation, Vito invited us to have a complimentary coffee in the hotel’s restaurant while he dedicated the next two hours of his time to pursuing a solution to get us to Paris while also juggling everyday managerial tasks.

Vito called transfer and taxi companies leaving messages and negotiating deals, checked for any other rail possibilities, and finally lined up a rental car that would fit my family of five. It would have been impossible for me to have made any of those calls due to the language barrier alone! Knowing that the rental facility was approximately a 10 minute drive across town, Vito grabbed his personal car keys and in a very matter of fact manner told me to “Come On”. He proceeded to drive me to the rental facility so that I could secure the car.

The outstanding fact in this story was that we had already checked out of the hotel and paid our bill in full before Vito went to work on finding my family a solution.

The transaction was over and Vito had nothing more financially to gain.

At GiANT, we define love as “fighting for the highest possible good in the life of another”. Vito modeled a high degree of love that Sunday morning in Bayeux. Here’s to great liberators like Vito across the world.

My questions for leaders today:

  • How are you showing love in your workplace today?
  • Are you fighting for the highest possible good in the lives of your customers and team members?

A New Way to Get Unstuck

You’re stuck.

What do you do? You locate the problem, find a few solutions that could work, and pick the one you think will give you the biggest boost out of the quicksand you are in. This seems to be the most common way for individuals and organizations to move forward, and to be clear it is a great one.

One of the things I’ve been learning is the need to move beyond surface level problem solving to the deeper ground of purpose finding. Purpose finding is about asking fundamental, often more inspirational questions about why you are stuck. Purpose-finders dig deeper and ask more fundamental questions.



  • What is my purpose?
  • Reflect and Discuss
  • Where are we doing well?
  • Where are my weaknesses?
  • Revisit the core purpose of the of the organization (or project)
  • Result: Inspiration and Breakthrough




  • What is the problem?
  • Research and Analyze
  • Where are we failing?
  • Where are the low-performing individuals?
  • Assume everyone knows the core purpose of the organization (or project)
  • Result: Clear problem identification and direction


Please don’t misunderstand me; Problem-solving is important and good when you are stuck. I’m convinced we are in need of some more purpose finding.

A part of my regular routine is to check in to see if my internal core passions are contributing to the external challenges. To reengage purpose while dealing with the problems.

Try it out; Where are you stuck? Take the time to dig a bit deeper through a more purpose-finding approach and see what happens. We are passionate about investing in the core issues in the life of the leader. The core is the convergence of IQ (Skills), EQ (Connectivity), and Personality (Wiring).

When we attend to issues of who we are, what we do will look and feel really different.

Is Your Team Positive, Negative, or Neutral?

The evening news may be the biggest violator of truth in advertising that exists.  “Good Evening” says the news anchor, and the stories that follow after the next 60 minutes demonstrate why it isn’t a good evening!  We are good at delivering bad news stories aren’t we?  So much negativity and despair.

The Truth About Your Team’s Atmosphere

Now let’s bring this to the organizational and team level.  It may not seem as important to your team as your latest strategic plan, but that’s where most people go wrong.

The question is: What is the general tone of your team?  Positive, negative, or neutral?

Positive teams perform better. Period.

That isn’t just opinion, research has demonstrated that teams with a higher ratio of positive, life-giving words perform better than their less positive counterparts.

Is your team’s atmosphere Positive, Negative, or Neutral?

I’ve been around many teams who could be characterized as neutral: Not giving any good news or bad news, just dealing with the mundane.  This kind of a culture fosters friendship with the status quo.  Not inspiring. Some teams are flat out negative: It’s always bad news and bleak circumstances.  There may be a small chance that light will break through the thick blanket of darkness, but don’t hold your breath.  And then there are a few outliers.  Teams that are intentional about speaking positive, hope-saturated, life-giving words to each other as individuals and as a team.  They don’t ignore challenge or the conflicts that exist, but they refuse to allow toxic words to pollute the team.

A study done on literature in the business world from 1982-1999 showed the scarcity of positive language and a four-fold increase of negative words.

Take Charge (+): Give Life to Your Team

Battery PictureI’m not suggesting to ignore tough stuff: Speak the truth in love!  Fight for the highest possible good in the lives of those around you! But ladies and gentleman, we have to be intentional about speaking positive, encouraging words into the lives of those around us.

Take a quick inventory of the actual status of your team right now.  Are you liberal with positive words?  Are you being specific in those words so that they land in your teams soul in a way that is truthful and transforming?

So good job for reading a blog on improving your leadership, for wanting to grow in the character and skills of a liberating leader who fights for others.  It shows your interest in leaving a legacy that matters for those around you.  Continue fighting the good fight and don’t forget to pass on what you’ve learned to your team. They will be all the better for it. Well done. Press on.

A New Way to Think About Your Career

A New Way to Think About Your CareerA recent thirty something reached out to me looking for a job. I listened as he shared all the things he was interested in (none of which fit what we did at GiANT).

As he shared I could feel the pressure he was under to find a job.

I grabbed a marker and headed to the white board to draw a large plus sign for our discussion. What I shared with him may be helpful for you and / or for someone you know looking for a different career or a job itself.

Think of work as a portfolio not a linear timeline of a job.

When you think of ‘portfolio’ you often think of money. Most of us have a financial portfolio with levels of risk from low to high. The same can occur with all of us as we look at work differently.

3 Big Questions

  1. What are you interested in pursuing?
  2. Where does your passion meet your skills?
  3. What opportunities do you have in front of you?

Back to the plus sign. Draw a big plus sign and begin building your portfolio.

What if your job was a collection of jobs that all met your interests?

One friend of ours who moved to England around the same time we did had plans to:

  1. Continue his event planning company in England as well as
  2. Starting a non-profit and
  3. Offering consulting.

These three are his job and make up the bulk of his salary and his time in areas of interest.

Another friend of mine had four areas that made up his life work:

  1. Executive coaching
  2. Started a vacation rental business
  3. Managed real estate
  4. Started a cleaning business.

This portfolio not only paid the bills but also gave him time to figure out which one of these fit him best. Two years later his portfolio has focused to the vacation rentals business and to managing real estate. His coaching is now a part of his giving back to younger leaders.

Don’t rely on a job to fit your needs. Create a portfolio of opportunity that will open doors of opportunity while you try each opportunity on for size.

Once you have drafted your portfolio then simply add potential % amounts to each section and then the time which you think it will take in percentages and the desired time for each. Here is an example that a young leader might create:

  1. Work at ABC corp part time as marketing coordinator – $3K per month; 30% time
  2. Create a web app company – $0 currently; 50% of my time moving to 75% of my time in future.
  3. Teaching marketing at … $500 per month, 5% of time
  4. Property Management at K properties – $1500 per month; 15% of time

What is your portfolio?
Practice building one and see how it changes your view of work.

One Thing Every Leader Must Do

Have you ever been in a position where you know you need to grow, but you’re not quite sure how? What does “becoming a better leader” look like? What do great leaders do?

When it comes down to it, “great leaders” make things grow, and as a result, they grow themselves. For this reason, I think leadership is akin to farming.

My brother-in-law is a crop consultant (who knew that existed?) and has built his professional life around helping farmers protect their territory from unwanted danger and helping them grow their crops as efficiently as possible. If there is an issue with the soil, the crops will suffer. If there are pests that are devouring parts of the field, the yield will be lower at harvest time. If the crops aren’t being watered sufficiently, they will die.

Farmers are very clear on two things:

  1. They know exactly where their territory is and what’s in it.
  2. They want their crops to be healthy and flourishing.

Can you see the parallel between this and leadership?

What Great Leaders Do

Leadership comes with a territory. This territory, or field, has been entrusted to the leader and it’s up to the leaders to guard their territory from unwanted danger and to invest in growing it to become as healthy as possible.

So what do great leaders do?

Great leaders tend their field.

Leading others comes with a significant level of responsibility and opportunity to influence.

I want you to think about your own life right now. Let’s dig deeper into understanding your current role as a leader and what needs to happen for growth to occur.

Define Your Field

Your field is your domain. This is everything from your responsibilities to your roles and relationships. Think holistically about what is in your field.

  1. What roles are in your field? (Ex: Manager, Husband, Father, Small Group Leader)
  2. What relationships are in your field? (Ex: My team members, my boss, my wife, my kids, my neighbors, etc.)
  3. Are there any other responsibilities that are in your territory that are important for you to keep in mind?

Grow Your FieldTend Your Field

  1. Looking at your field, how healthy would you say it is? Is it green, lush and growing? Is it “so-so”, but needs some work? Is it dying or dead?
  2. What is needed for you to grow your field from where it is now to where you want it to be?
  3. What do your key relationships need from you right now? What about your roles?
  4. What do you need to prune?

Use these questions to get you started. Honestly assess your current reality and make a plan to take ownership of your field, protect it from harm and begin growing it.

It’s not going to be easy because it goes beyond you and requires you to sacrifice for the sake of others.

The reward of tending your field and investing the time, money and energy into growing it will be well worth it.


How to Hire an All-Star

How to Hire an All-StarAny of you looking to hire an amazing person for your organization?

Figuring out how to hire a new team member can be hit or miss. This is something we often deal with when working with our clients.

There is a simple but effective concept that I have learned from my business partner, Steve Cockram, that will help.

It is simply understanding the DNA, Skeleton and Skin of your business and the desired new hire.


First, define the DNA of your company or the DNA you are hoping to find. The DNA is normally the soul of the company and or the mission of the business. If you are a missional company who values impacting people then the potential new hire must carry the same value and vision.


Second, detail the Skeletal structure of the organization. If you are a non-profit then there is a different style of work than a for-profit company. What are your work hours, how does work get done, what is the social norm of the culture, etc.? If you are a fast paced sales organization then you need to ensure the new hire has history working in this environment.


Third, understand the Skin of the business. This is not about race, but rather the type of person that fits well.

For instance, if you are a company that works outdoors or handling goods then make sure the new hire is not a “suit” who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty. They must look the part as well as be able to work in it.

Do We Have it Backwards?

Most of my past mis-hires have come with the Skeletal system.

The people I hired had the DNA and some had the Skin, but they were not used to working in the environment and or style we had.

That was my fault.

I saw the missional aspect of their DNA, but didn’t test the skeletal structure enough.

Now, what about your key hires? Are you being thorough enough in your strategic hiring? If you want to think of this another way, think about the divorce rate. Why is it so high?

My view is that most men and women start backwards.

They start with the Skin – “Wow, she is good looking”.

They then move to the Skeleton – “And, she is going to be a lawyer.”

Once they are married with kids they dig into the DNA – “You mean you don’t believe in God?” That is when the rough patches come and people claim “Irreconcilable Differences.”

To me this is an illustration of the lack of due diligence. If they had started with the DNA there might be a big difference.

The same is true with resumes. “Wow, they look impressive and look at who they have worked for?”

DNA is rarely interviewed.

DNA, Skeleton, Skin.

Try it on your next hire and watch what it does to the process.