Marry Character

I’ve had my share of putting people in roles prematurely. Early in my leadership I placed someone I perceived to be gifted into a role even though they had given me reason to wonder whether they had fully embraced our organizational values and vision. I thought I was different, that I could win them over by putting them into a role that would challenge them and give them opportunity to express their leadership potential.

I was wrong, and the result was a world of relational hurt for everyone involved.

A wise leader once told me to give people tasks before a role. Allow people to demonstrate character and competence in a series of tasks before locking them into a long-term role. This was some of the best advice I’ve been given in my leadership.

It’s similar to the advice I give my children when it comes to selecting a mate: Marry character, not potential. What if the person stays exactly how they are, would you be okay living with that potential your whole life? I firmly believe that leader readiness trumps opportunity and that we need to observe the character and skills of those around us before onboarding or moving to the next level of leadership responsibility.

This is something I think leaders too often intuit rather than actually do.

What do you do to test the potential of your people?

A GiANT Guide to Leading with Love

A GiANT Guide to Leading with Love

This resource is “A GiANT Guide to Leading with Love”. Much of what we do at GiANT focuses on support and challenge, something every leader must learn to effectively use. When it comes down to it, support and challenge are at the heart of love.

There are a lot of different ways to define love. Here is how we define it at GiANT: “Love is the commitment to fight for the highest possible good in the life of another person.” This definition not only requires a lot of encouragement and support, but it also mandates a high level of challenge. For most leaders, balancing support and challenge is one of the hardest lessons to learn.

In every situation where we are dealing with someone else, we force ourselves to ask: “What does it look like to fight for the highest possible good in this situation?” It helps us narrow our focus and become more effective as leaders. This guide will walk you through the process of how to begin leading with love. Click below to join our email list and we’ll email you a copy for free!


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Being Intentional with Time

There have been many great examples of maximizing time in my life. My family did not waste time. Growing up working at the farm or in other business ventures caused us to plan our day around something I call “Formal” time. Formal time is the time when you are “on.” It is the time in front of customers, giving presentations, working on a projects, etc. Growing up with a strong work ethic gave me a good perspective on using our formal time wisely.

Time is the most consistent asset we all share. We all get up in the morning, normally drive somewhere, have lunch, work, drive home, have personal or family time, and then sleep. You may get up earlier or later, work at home instead of an office or do other responsibilities more than others, but the general commonality is that we consistently do the same things over and over again.

Yet there is another type of time that will impact your success more than any other. We call that time “Informal Time.” Informal time is typically your preparation time or down time… from what you do in the morning before you start work, to what you do in your car and the minutes before you sleep. The truth is that the informal time affects the formal time more than you can imagine.

How many times have we heard this, “I don’t care what you do on our own time. When you are at work I want to see you…”

That is exactly the problem. It is our down time that impacts the success of leaders. What goes in, comes out. The informal times are when most of the filling up occurs. The formal times are when most of what is in us comes out. That is why I am trying to make a strong case that your informal time will impact you far greater than your formal time. In fact, in a study we commissioned of 100 corporate leaders, we found that those who use their informal time are 75% more effective in their leadership ability.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Think about an athlete. Those who use the off-season to work out and strengthen are typically more productive over the long term on game day.

Informal time is considered exercise time, drive time, lunch time, starting time, personal and family time, etc. When you start to understand the importance of time I believe you will begin intentionally planning your activities more wisely. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise Time – What are you listening to while you excercise? Mix up your listening portfolio to include leadership lessons.
  • Drive Time – The average American travels 34 minutes to work one way (68 minutes round trip). If you are listening primarily to the news, you may start your day with a negative or cynical outlook. If you are consumed by talk radio, you may be ostericising 50% of your workforce because of our partisan society.
  • Desk Time – When you start your day with email, you are on your way to a train wreck, especially if you get bad news to start the day out. Instead, start the day out with inspiration in a biography or reading of some sort. We created a program, called Everyday Leader, that gives leaders perspective as they begin their days.
  • Family Time and so on

The point is to plan your informal time for growth and watch your success grow. This is very similar to watching what you eat and the portion sizes of your meals. You will see results as soon as you downsize instead of “supersize” and when you begin consuming more healthy materials.

Plan your downtime. Organize your informal time so that your formal leadership time will be more effective.

“Duct Tape Matrix”

I was speaking to a potential client this week and he asked me a pointed question: “How do you know when you’ve succeeded? I like what you say you are trying to do, and I think our company could use that outcome, but how do you know it’s really happening. You talk about “100X Teams” – an environment that fosters the growth of leaders worth following. That sounds nice; how do you measure it in a way my COO can put in a P and L?”

I swallowed and groped for a response, and as I did a picture flashed into my mind: a duct taped quadrant on the wall of a stocking room.

A week prior I’d visited a site of one of our other GiANT customers, Dahl Automotive in LaCrosse Wisconsin. I visited one of their dealerships and had a chance to meet with Tommy, their parts manager. Tommy took me into his domain, a meticulously maintained cathedral of shelved parts.

Tommy is so good at what he does that last year his inventory was off just a few dollars. They guy knows his stuff. Read more

If You See Something, Say Something

I’ve been thinking about how leaders worth following are verbally generous with speaking words of encouragement. The department of Homeland security has designed a sticky campaign designed to heighten public awareness to suspicious activity:

If you see something, say something.


What if we applied this insight to those around us when we see attitudes and actions that reflect the values we want to see lived out?

If You See Something Say Something

Xenophon (438-354 B.C.) was a historian who joined the Greek army after studying under Socrates. After his commander was killed in the Battle of Cunaxa, Xenophon, who had no prior command or soldier experience, was selected for the challenging task of leading the way through hostile enemy territory. When Xenophon noticed the blanket of dread covering the troops, he chose to say something to the leaders under his charge: Read more

The 2 Most Important Things I Look for in a Leader

When I spend time with any leader I intuitively look for two primary qualities or aspects.

  1. Are they self-aware?
  2. Are they responsive?
Know Yourself to Lead Yourself

This is the “Know Yourself to Lead Yourself” Tool from GiANT Worldwide.

Picture what you look like when you wake up in the morning. For some of us that is scary. : ) As you stand over the bathroom sink looking at yourself this is the first opportunity to lead yourself in the morning. Do you notice your hair sticking up? Can you sense the morning breath? The mirror helps you as you become self-aware of yourself. Read more

Culture Trouncing Strategy

I’m seldom my best under intense pressure. In fact, according to the Myers-Briggs research that GiANT uses as a foundation for much of our work, intense pressure often drives us in the grip of our greatest weaknesses. In my case, as an ENTP, when I get overloaded, I binge, on Ben and Jerry’s, poorly written Vince Flynn Novels, exercising like I think I’m still 25, or worse… much worse.

Stress does bad things to all of us… Stress does bad things for organizations too, not just individuals.

Culture > Strategy

One of our GiANT Axioms is: “Culture trumps strategy under pressure.” It’s too true.

Not long ago I was with a GiANT CLiENT (my wife Jill’s clever little play on words) and I saw firsthand the difficult reality of this principle. We’ve been working hard to help this leadership team drive their core values down through all the levels of their organization; they’ve been making great progress. But the day of my visit some unexpected challenges hit and hit hard. Literally, before my eyes this principle began to play out… those pressures were forcing out of the way the very progress that had begun to move the company. What was revealed was the old, stubborn culture, still alive and well.

The Good News

That leadership team saw this happening and stopped it, right on the spot. “Wait a minute,” one of the manages said, “It doesn’t matter what pressures are dumped on us. We can’t control that. But we can control our responses and whether or not we transfer those pressures down the line to those we’re leading. I can choose to stop it.”

Suddenly the principle hit me between the eyes! Even as the pressures were revealing the stubborn remnants of an old and unhealthy culture, the new culture already taking root was rising up to TRUMP the pressure. It was a very cool twist on a unbending truth… Culture trumps strategy under pressure… But a strategy to live out a new culture will trump pressure every time as well. And that’s the last word on that…

Abdicator: A Brief Guide to Bad Leadership

What is an Abdicator?

Have you ever thought about the kind of leader you DON’T want to be? (Hint: You don’t want to be an abdicator)

I have. And I think about it often. I want to be a leader who is intentional in every circle of influence, whether it’s my team, my family, my company, or in my community.

The one type of leader I don’t want to be…

…is an abdicator.

To abdicate means: “to renounce or relinquish a throne, right, power, claim, responsibility, or the like.”

Basically, it means to abandon.

Have you ever gone to restaurant, retail store, or government office and see employees who were completely “abandoning” their duties? As if they didn’t care about the work they were (supposed to be) doing? That’s abdication.

Abdicators create a culture of apathy and low expectations, and in addition to keeping an organization in maintenance mode, it is just flat out boring!

Anatomy of An Abdicator

Here are 3 Reasons Leaders Abdicate

1. They themselves are not being challenged

Someone is allowing the abdicator to function as a laissez-faire leader.

The solution if you are overseeing an abdicator is to increase challenge! Help them set goals and “get after it”!

2. They don’t know what to do

When I function as an abdicator, it’s because I simply don’t know what to do. I’m stuck. I’m at a place I haven’t been before and my creative solutions aren’t working.

The solution is to ask for help. I’ve never been afraid to ask for help and people who have managed me have never held my lack of knowledge against me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. They are wounded

Sometimes we know what to do, but because of some emotional or relational challenge, they are sidelined. Fear and anxiety can cause us to do nothing.

The solution is to have that tough conversation with a trusted friend and be made well.

2 Ways to Thrive When Your Boss is an Abdicator

So let’s assume your boss is hands off.

You’ve worked for the micro-manager and couldn’t stand that, but now you’ve got the other extreme; Alex the Abdicator (roll villain music). Alex the abdicator says hello on his way in, goodbye on his way out, and little to nothing in the middle. No initiation of input, support, challenge, or helping you go the next level.

2 Ways to Thrive When Your Boss is an Abdicator

Worse yet, when you approach Alex for a solution, he either doesn’t know or defaults to what you already knew or thought. The bar is so low that you can cut the apathy and low expectations with a knife.

If that is your environment, it’s hard to blame you for complaining but I can offer you a better way.

1. Embrace this Leadership Style

Abdicator style leadership (AKA Laissez-Faire leadership) is considered to be a hands-off form of leadership. You’ve been looking at it as non-leadership, but to make the best of your situation, embrace the freedom and permission by viewing this as a leadership style.

No it’s not ideal but it does allow for a couple of things to happen.

First: You get to set the direction! Go for it! Test the boundaries of Alex’s kingdom. Pick up the pace, be the change, and see how far you can extend your influence. (Lest you be found to be an abdicator!)

Second: Spend time on self-leadership. When you come up against a wall in your leadership, embrace the challenge of researching or identifying others who can help lead you to breakthrough understanding.

You can actually be having a lot more fun that you think right now.

2. Don’t Try to Change Alex, Wait Until He/She Initiates Toward You

Some of you may be wasting time attempting to change the abdicator. If you’ve been up to bat three times with support and challenge, I’m saying you’re out.

Stop trying to change Alex, do your thing, and wait until he/she softens and begins to pursue you.

It will happen. Wait for it.

I’m not guaranteeing that your increased influence will be met with a celebratory party, but you may be surprised.

When your colleagues begin pursuing you for input and speak of your competency and credibility, you may have awakened Alex from his/her slump.

Effective Leadership Quote

Effective leadership development is less about which specific practices are endorsed than about consistent and intentional implementation. A key to effective implementation is having the organizational discipline to introduce leadership development throughout the organization, rather than bounded by specific (usually top) levels. 

Source: Day, V. D. (2001). Leadership development: A review in context. Leadership Quarterly, 11(4), 581-613.

What Does Growth Require?

As I have grown in understanding myself to lead others, I recognize a tendency I have that is both a positive and a liability. In Myers Briggs language, I am a natural feeler. My gut reaction to others that are encountering difficulty is to support them through a high five, a pat on the back or a hand clap. All of these supportive gestures involves the “affirming” side of the hand. I am sure that anyone who has spent much time with me has felt a warm, friendly touch from my leadership style.

What Does Growth Require

But the problem is, development requires not only the affirming side of the hand but the challenging side as well. To develop someone else to their full potential sometimes requires them to be challenged in a way that brings out a better effort or a higher level of performance. I know leaders who are naturally gifted at challenge, and it offers a strength and a threat to their leadership impact.

Since both sides of the hand are necessary to develop someone to their full potential, a liberating leader must learn how to do both. A self awareness of which style comes most naturally is the best place to start. The goal is never to replace ones natural style with the other, but rather to expand and enhance leadership impact by leveraging the natural tendency as you employ the less natural style.

Once I recognize my own tendency, I can intentionally offer feedback from the other side of the hand. For me, this means finding ways to challenge. The good news is, you never have to be as good at the awkward side of the hand as you are with your preferred side. Because others have known me as an affirmer, when I do offer a challenge it tends to have a multiplied impact, even if I am a little hesitant in its delivery.

As I have grown in this skill myself, I have also seen the value of teaching others. The impact of learning to use both sides of the hand helps a leader transform from a protector or a dominator to one who is truly a liberator—a leader worth following. The hand illustration can be a simple reminder with profound development results.