Knowing The 5 Essentials of Leadership

Happy New Year!

In the U.S., Labor Day Weekend generally signifies the culmination of summer and the commencement of another school year. I would like to offer a heartfelt solute to the educational professionals who serve our school children across approximately 140,000 educational institutions spanning the United States.

Most of us hold vivid memories of our school experience but possibly have forgotten the return of hundreds of hours of facts, data, and academic information reasoned as essential back in the day. What was deemed important then, was perhaps interesting, but most of our true learning appeared via genuine application as the realm of reality was introduced post-diploma.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. – Albert Einstein

Learning Essentials

Recently, I had the occasion of attending a community roundtable event with a number university student leaders. The conversation concentrated around the insights of these third and forth year collegians had in terms of their preparation for university learning and their suggestions for improving the college preparatory experiences. Here is a sampling of some of the suggestions shared during this engaging exchange:

  • Provide Computer Science (Coding) Exploration
  • Build Capacity for Speed Reading and Study Skills
  • Teach Time Management Techniques
  • Emphasize Habits for Physical and Mental/Emotional Wellness
  • Expand Opportunities to Work with Diverse Personalities and Communication Styles
  • Teach Money Management Skills
  • Encourage Entrepreneurial Skills
  • Provide Career Exploration/Internships

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. – Benjamin Franklin

Leadership Essentials

Applied and real life experience combine to create the secret sauce for authentic learning. This is equally true in the land of leadership, power, and influence. Every day, organizational leaders are given opportunities to empower or protect, to serve or control, to liberate or dominate. At the heart of every leader is the crosswalk of power between serving one’s self or service toward others.

Knowing The 5 Essentials of Leadership

  1. Knowing Yourself to Lead Yourself – Understanding the core of your skills/knowledge, connectivity and personal self-awareness
  2. Knowing Your Team to Lead Your Team – Knowing your unique voice of influence and that of your team as well as the skills needed to maximize the collection of these voices to successfully leverage change and high performance
  3. Knowing Your Social Tendencies – Awareness of your primary tendencies of pushing (asserting my views first) or pulling (drawing out and active listening) and acknowledging best use of each of these positions when engaging team
  4. Knowing Your Gears of Connection – Intentionality in the healthy engagement across the gears of personal rest, family, social, and full work mode
  5. Knowing Your Kryptonite – Awareness of how you become under extreme pressure and heightened stress.

Healthy culture is the essence of healthy leadership. Healthy culture is the lifeblood of successful organizational performance. Therefore, healthy leadership IS essential.

Building ongoing leadership capacity is foundational in becoming leaders worth following. Securing the basic competencies in the core academic disciplines are essential for building life-long learning potential. In the same way, developing leadership literacy is vital for maximizing one’s influence in life, leadership, and service.

Are you interested in maximizing your leadership potential? Do you strive to fight for the highest possible good in the lives of those you lead? Do you desire to equip leaders worth following and create enduring organizational culture that attracts the finest talent? Consider starting a Leadership Academy (click to learn more) through GiANT Worldwide to increase the number of secure leaders across your organization, while raising capacity and accelerating amazingly healthy culture.

Enrolling Humble, Hungry and Smart Learners Today!

Practical Help for Transitions

Are things ever going to be different? Will the vision and strategy take us to the promised land we articulated 9 months ago?

You are either finding yourself or will find yourself in the midst of a transition. A transition of a key leader, a new way of doing things, the roll out of a new initiative or something else.

Transitions can feel vulnerable, expose gaps, and provoke employees to react in some challenging ways. You’re likely facing some transition related challenge right now.

Here are two things that will help you navigate transition well right now

1. You need Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight.

You’ve got to know where you’re coming from so you need hindsight to leverage the past. Don’t be timid to declare things that you want to leave behind.

You’ve got to discern priorities for the present, so you need insight. You need to think out of the box, think about who is the best person, regardless of role, to champion a value or lead out a team. You need foresight to anticipate challenges, timeframes, and opportunities.

Take a few minutes right now and write down what you need to pull from the past, where you need insight for the present, and what are the initial big roadblocks or opportunities in the future.

2. Own the Three Phases of Transition

Key Thought: Transitions start with an ending and finish with a beginning.

I’ve really enjoyed William Bridges book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. The premise is that it is not change that does you in, it’s transition which is psychological. Transition is a time when people internalize and come to terms with the new situation. “When a change happens without people going through a transition, it is just a rearrangement of the chairs.” It frames transitions in three phases:

Phase 1: Ending/Losing/Letting Go: Letting go of the old ways and old identity people had. Help people deal with loss.

Phase 2: Neutral Zone: The old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. Here is when critical realignments and re-patternings take place.

Phase 3: New Beginning: New identity, new energy, new purposes that make the change begin to work.

You need an ending—neutral zone—and a beginning for transition to work.

Most organizations pay no attention to endings, don’t acknowledge the neutral zone/try to avoid it, and do nothing to help people make a fresh, new beginning. Here are the top priorities to engage in the midst of transition

Action Steps in the Midst of Transition

  1. Articulate how individuals behavior and attitudes will have to change.
  2. Analyze who stands to lose something under the new system (so you can be ready to deal with the resistance)
  3. Sell the problem that is the reason for change (as opposed to the solution. Most people spend 90% of time selling the solution to the problem.)
  4. Talk to individuals.
  5. Talk about transition and what it does to people.

Pushing Against the Natural Laws of Becoming

It is hard to believe summertime is winding down signaling that the back-to-school bell will be ringing soon It is the time when many children eagerly anticipate and parents rejoice… the blessing of engaging into a familiar pattern of daily routine.


Pushing Against Organizational Routines – Leadership

Peter Drucker is credited with saying that “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

If you are a leader by title or as a key influencer within your company or organization, assumption would hold that you have a keen appreciation for the messiness of management. Chaos and commotion abound. In science class we may remember learning about the 2nd law of thermodynamics (Entropy), which is a law of physics that has implication in terms of the success of a leader worth following.

Second Law of Thermodynamics – en·tro·py – [ éntrəpee ]

The entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium

In Lay terms: There is a tendency for all matter, systems, and energy to decline into a state of inert uniformity and decay. Entropy is a measure of randomness/order/disorder

To illustrate, every Christmas I receive a gourmet tin of 3 flavored popcorn from my siblings. (I love the cheese, like the caramel and tolerate the butter flavor). The popped corn is neatly organized within cardboard separators. Without exeption as the can’s seal is broken and many little hands invade my stash of snack, the cardboard dividers get tossed and the corn is comingled as a mix of flavors. As an easy going, “no worries” kind of guy, this is personally not a big deal. I can forge ahead until finding the bottom of the tin. For my wife however, this is a big deal, as she dislikes the hybrid of flavors created. Obviously, it would be exponentially unacceptable in terms of the time it took to mix the corn to the time it would take to re-fix the corn into their original compartments to satisfy her.

That is a simple explanation of this natural law. Why might this be important? I believe it points to a number of leadership factors that are key to the success of leaders worth following.

Science and Leadership Lessons

  1. The larger the system, the more prevalent the entropy. Said differently, a large organization has many more possible lanes to grow into disorder than do small organizations. This points to the seemingly weighty policies and inflexible procedures that larger systems have in place to maintain levels of structure and order.
  2. Similarly, organizations require management systems to preserve order and the status quo (popcorn separators). It is the role of management to keep entropy from taking its course and creating disorder. Management is primarily concerned with order and preserving the status quo.
  3. Leadership must build capacity to break old patterns and mindsets while creating new possibilities. Yes, it may never be possible to contain the popcorn within flavor fields after the tin has been mixed, it might be possible to create new vision of maximizing the possibilities of this current reality. This might be by introducing another level of energy not thought previously to create a change that would be a more preferred possibility. What a sorry state we could be in if peanut butter never met chocolate right?

Leaders Define and Set the Culture for Excellence

Excellence is always the “end in view,” but never the “end determined.” Often, leaders become tripped up by blindly assuming that attaining a certain position, lifestyle, golf handicap or other formidable quest, will come fully equipped with a lifetime supply of happiness and contentment. The irony is that the second law of thermodynamics applies to individuals just as much as it applies to inanimate systems. People need to continue to grow, learn, and develop in order to avoid withered potential.

“Excellence/Perfection is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends.” – Brian Tracy

This truth applies across all domains of life and leadership. Many of us can replay the joys of achieving a high level of fitness be it as a competitive athlete or perhaps a boot camp experience. What happened when the push and pull ups stopped? How about becoming proficient in anther language. Over time, if the language is not engaged, one becomes deconditioned to speak as fluently as was once the norm.

Leaders can choose to stop looking towards the future, but the consequence will be loss of recognition and impact as a leader. Leadership is a continuous pursuit of becoming. Over hurdles and horizons, leaders worth following must endure to avoid the natural laws of entropy.

  1. Think of the leaders you follow. Are they focused on a future objective or is their platform anchored on what has already occurred?
  2. Which of your skills or abilities have started to slip due to inactivity.
  3. What strategies might you engage today that would begin to put you back in play as a leader in these areas.
  4. How can we help? Consider investing in an Executive Core Group to radically impact your capacity to become a leader worth following.

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

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?

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.