Progress is stressful, but much less so when it is your desire / your plan rather than someone else’s

Leaders are entrepreneurial in that they create growth through ambition, research, collaboration, validation and go to market strategy.  They go to their leaders with “Here is the plan and I would like your feedback”, rather than their leader coming to them with “What is the plan?” or building out the plan for them to follow, mandating that there be a plan, etc.   You ask any leader out there if they would rather impose pressure on others to grow or have their team approach them with growth plans for collaboration and feedback, and I am confident that the vast majority will choose the latter, and that those that do the latter will rise at a much faster rate.

It is very easy to spot the plans that are built with thought leadership/passion vs. the plans that are put together as part of a requirement imposed by others.   It is not about the structure of the documents, or the fact that there is required data to include – it is more about the ownership that can be felt in the document.  It can be felt based on creativity, humility in admitting what needs improvement, strong goals, and a strong plan for executing.   Those plans are motivating to all and they can only start with the leader being passionate, putting the time in, and holding themselves accountable to producing a plan that will motivate all stakeholders and ultimately lead to growth.

Continuous incremental progress (not money) is the path to happiness.  This is why even the most successful people continue to have the the highest level drive and passion.  It gives them purpose and fulfillment to know they are better today than they were yesterday.   Once we have this fundamental belief, it is a crazy thought to let others impose the pressure for us to progress (be happy).



Be most thankful for the leaders in your life who give guidance and feedback, but who let you/require you to lead and do the work.

I remember a moment 15 years ago when I told my boss, and told him with conviction, that I realized my job was for him to not to have to worry about what I was doing at all.   My job was to eliminate the need for him to have to manage me or any part of the business I was running.   The reaction was a genuine expression of relief on his part and we have operated under that creed without wavering for the last 15 years.   The other thing it did was allow him to go focus on other ventures and continue growing (This is what I would call nirvana for a leader; to have other leaders impacting growth in an exponential way).  Another vivid memory from an event that occurred in the last 3 years was when a new and very strategic team member came on board.  That person said the same thing, except this time it was directed a me; I was relieved and rejuvenated; it is what I wanted and needed.

Managers lay out a plan and tell their folks what to do.  They inspect, coach, and make sure the results are being realized.   The team members they manage expect them to do these things, which often limits strategic thinking, leadership development, and overall growth all the way down the food chain.   Organizations really only get the boost and the growth when managers transition to leaders and have more expectations from their teams, and of themselves.  It is on the existing leaders in the organization to stop doing what they have always done, and let/require the up and coming managers/leaders take the reins.   This requires acceptance that mistakes will happen, which is alright as long as new/different inspection systems are put in place so that mistakes are not detrimental.   This also requires managers to subscribe to the leadership concept of “if it is to be, it is up to me”, and the underlying principle that their job is to make sure their leaders do not have to develop strategy, worry, or handle execution for the area they are in charge of.   It is also on the manager/up and coming leader to not let their leader do their work.   Leadership development is a two-way street, especially in high growth organizations where everyone is growing and replacing themselves.

Regardless if we are thinking about Management or Leadership concepts, everyone needs to feel supported.   Even the President/CEO needs to feel supported by their Board, Leadership Team, etc..  However, there is a huge difference when it comes to support expectations and how they differ between Leaders and Managers.  In summary, the less managing/leading you need yourself, the more of a leader you have become.

Manager’s (Someone who has not crossed the Leadership Chasm) beliefs on the type of support they need:

  • Leadership training
  • Guidance
  • Feedback on performance
  • Assistance with personnel matters
  • Assistance drafting strategy
  • Assistance creating inspection systems
  • Assistance in motivating team members
  • Accountability

Leader’s beliefs on the type of support they need:

  • Feedback/Accountability from their Leader/Board – Primarily when they ask for it.
  • Validation of the plans, inspection systems, culture/people/motivation strategy that they put together

So if you would classify yourself as a Manager or an Up and Coming Leader, who is trying to get cross the chasm into full leadership, have you looked your leader in the eye and said – “I got this and I understand and am committed to doing what it takes so you do not have to worry about my area”?  If you are not ready to say this – don’t.  And only say it if you really understand what it means to fully lead and ready for that awesome responsibility.   Also know that your leader wants you to do this, expects you to get there, and that it is your growth path.   Own it – Crush it!

Why? and Millennials

Millennials ask WHY all the time don’t they?

I find value in the characteristic of being asked why.  I also ask the question quite a bit myself and believe it is key in business.   The only challenge is when the person asking does not understand/accept the answer, even when the answer is accurate and comes from years of experience.  When this happens, I recommend putting that person in a situation where they can witness the why or even letting them them fail so that they can learn.   If not, they may start building up these scenarios in their memory log and leave the organization because they feel like they were not listened to.

A couple of other thoughts:

  • If the why question leads to an improvement to be made, we should always capitalize on those and recognize the person in a very positive way.   This makes them feel like they have made an impact and that is what they are seeking.
  • If how the person asks the why question is aggravating or too frequent, others will stop including them because they will see it as inefficient and non-productive to do so. If you have someone who acts in this way please SAVE THEM.  They just need some major mentoring in regards to their style.   They likely do not know they are coming across this way and you can make a big impact in their life by helping them correct it.

In our organization, more than 50% of our staff falls in this generation and I missed it by only 2 years.  The percentage of millennials in organizations is increasing each year and that will continue given that the youngest of the millennials is now 22 years old and they are still entering the workforce.    Given these statistics, organizations should like stop looking at the situation as “trying to understand millennials” and start thinking of it as “understanding themselves as an organization”

Leadership gut check: Do each of your team members feel genuinely supported and cared for by you?

This is a great question for new and existing leaders – especially those that are in constantly changing environments.

At the most simple level, a leader’s purpose is to grow and build a team in order to leverage each team member’s strengths, which in turn magnifies the success of each person and of the whole.   For net new leaders, if they fail to change and continue to be a lone soldier, who/what is being led?   For those struggling with the question of how good they are performing as  a leader, here are some questions for self-reflection:

  1. Do my team members feel supported?
  2. Do they feel I am helpful strategically and a key to their success?
  3. Do they believe I genuinely care about them?

If the answer to all is Yes – Right on!;   If the answer to any one of these is No, it is time to change and give your team members what they need to ensure their success, your success, and the success of all other stakeholders (customers, other teams, etc.).   After self-diagnosis, the next step is to ask other leaders their perception of how you are performing.   One tactic to avoid as part of the discovery process is asking our team members what they need from us.   Rarely will they tell you that you are failing, or that they need you to care about them more than you do yourself.    The only time questioning them is appropriate is for certain tasks and/or specific help they need – it is not a question we ask in regards to how we should lead them.   To care is to place our thought, energy, and priority on the other person(s), which is the only way they will feel it.   We have to be thinking about what they need rather than solely depending on them to tell us.

Leadership is tough/more work and it can be a lonely place at times.   However, we all have to remember why we signed up, which was to help others grow and because we understand  the Go Giver (“The Go Giver” book is great!) mentality and are confident in the results it will net .



Teach others the value of making it easy to say yes

The best lesson learned from one of my greatest mentors was that it was my responsibility to make it easy for others to say yes.  At the time of learning this I was consumed with something I knew we had to do as a business in order to grow at an even faster pace.   I had the passion and I was asking those who I needed an approval from to just say yes…they said NO, and I could not believe how irrational they were being…

In reality, I was asking for something without doing all the work to present my case in a way that would be easy for them to say yes.   After meeting with my mentor I did not present the same idea again until it had a plan behind it with multiple outcome scenarios that were all positive.   I spent time thinking about all the questions someone else would have and I got the answers in advance.   The next time I presented the idea, there was no frustration on either side.   The only response I received was “what are you waiting for?”

This simple concept is one few embrace; either because they have not been lucky enough to be taught, or because they lack the tenacity to work the process and would rather blame someone else by claiming that no one ever listens or cares about their grand ideas.

Leaders should be sure to teach this concept because it leads to much better results due to the team having a much higher business acumen.   They also grow up much quicker and can learn this lesson directly rather than them moving on and have to come to the realization themselves after continuous disappointment with multiple organizations.

If you are striving to be a leader in your line of work, do the work and make it easy to say yes.  I promise that it will be more work, but it will likely stop you from putting forward half-baked ideas that get a “no”, and the ideas you do put forward will likely be met with a “yes” and will propel your career.

“Exceptional customer service requires exceptional service to internal customers; each of us is an internal customer to the other”

On a daily basis I have the pleasure of working with a team that is made up of individuals who are fanatical about serving our customers.   So much so that it is easy to create high levels of internal pressure at times when our growth rate is at its highest.   The proudest moments are when we acknowledge that the internal pressure is coming from the shared commitment we have to serve our customers.  Self-awareness, honesty, good relationships (which are required for the first two) and open transparency allow organizations to  drive directly towards correcting issues and minimizing drama.   The issue can never be about anything else – because everything else is an infection.

With growth comes challenges.  The job of our leaders is to overcome those challenges and never let the mission to serve the customer (which means effectively serving one another) become blurred.

Just my annual rant on Goal Setting

This morning I sent out the following message to my MCCi family (all team members)…….

My wife recently asked what our family traditions are and what we want them to be going forward.  It was fun to think back about what each of our family traditions have been, and it was a great discussion that resulted in us making some changes based on what we want to do going forward as our lives have evolved with each other, children, family, and our friends.  We also discussed how important it was to have our own personal traditions that focus on self-improvement and being the best we can be as individuals.

As we go into the new year, I wanted to share with you some of the things that are a personal tradition in regards to ending the year and starting a new one.  It all revolves around reflection on goal achievement and setting new goals.   It is also why I am up at 5AM on a day that we have off as a paid holiday – it is that important, given it is the one tradition that I credit with every significant improvement (and failure) I have made in my life.    My overall feeling about the importance around this annual goal setting tradition is best reflected by one of my favorite quotes:   “Failing to plan is planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin.   What follows is just a list of things I do around goal setting and self-accountability.

Goal Achievement Reflection

  • This is constant throughout the year, but having my list of goals in front of me throughout the year is what keeps me focused.
  • I do this one final time at the end of the year, which helps me set new and more powerful goals the following year.
  • If I hit all my goals – I did a poor job in setting them. This is my personal take, because goal setting is about real improvement, which is tough unless you are tough on you.

Goal Setting

  • Write them down! I have mine for each year dating back to 2005.
  • Focus on a mixture of professional and personal. Just like life, growth needs to be balanced
  • Make them as quantifiable as possible for clear tracking.
  • Think through the timing and general steps that must occur in order to achieve goals
    • Throughout the year, have a system (calendar, tasks, etc.) that prompts you to focus on the nuggets to get you there.
  • Have mentors agree to hold you accountable throughout the year and provide them with a list of your goals. Remember it is on you to schedule the recurring meetings with your mentors, and it is on them to hold you accountable
  • Have family/spouse hold you accountable – give them a list too

If you have never done it – the best place to start is to just write your goals down, and make a monthly calendar item to review your goals.   Just the act of writing them down and reflecting on them will make you a better person, and the process will get better and better with time.  This morning I looked back at my goals from 2005, 2006, etc., and they were a bit humorous in regards to what my goals look like today vs. then.   My biggest takeaway was that I failed quite a bit, but the failure came from trying, and each failure was a pivot to a new goal that was actually the right path.

Many of you know how serious I am about this and many of my friends poke fun at me (my best buddy at my rehearsal dinner made a joke that I did not propose to Kristen until I had reviewed her business plan).  However, if my sharing this helps just one person – I have done my duty in sharing something that truly works and that can better one’s life tremendously.   I will leave you with one fact.    I did not come up with this tradition of goal setting on my own.   When I was 22, my mentor, friend, and the chairman of our board, Lawton Langford is the one that questioned me about if I have written goals.  He asked “do you write your goals down”.   I said “I have goals, but I do not really write them down”.   He replied – “start writing them down – it will make all the difference in the world”.

I listened and he was right, and therefore I felt compelled to share.


“We must be comfortably uncomfortable”

Leaders know that there are always problems and opportunities that need to be focused on.  And if there is ever a moment where everything feels perfect, that will change tomorrow.   The only option for those devoted to the leadership is to accept (become comfortable with) the fact that there are always issues in the organization, and especially those that are growing rapidly.   The acceptance is all about attitude and positively leading the organization through the constant change that has to happen in order to effectively handle both problems and opportunities.   The opposite of being comfortable would be to overreact to the ups and downs, which is arguably natural, but deadly for those who are in leadership positions.

The best leaders are not only comfortably uncomfortable……they take it to the next level and are constantly seeking out the opportunities and problems that the organization has not yet realized it will face.

There is no “I” in Growth

We directly impact our personal growth, however the direct impact we have on others and the impact they have on those they lead is what leads to exponential organizational growth.

Those focused on growth who have not fully bought into the concept of leadership, have likely not hit their personal ceiling yet.  I clearly remember when it happened to me.  I was leading our company and was the primary sales person.   I was good at sales and we were successful in every sense, however I was not satisfied because I believed there was so much more potential; I became frustrated.   The answer was Leadership and a shift to investing in people.

Ever since that moment, people and Leadership have been the focus.  To be more clear…..Hiring the best, challenging  them, them challenging me, treating them fairly, and creating an environment where we all win together, have been the keys to consistent growth.

Today I rarely sell anything and yet we break sales records every year.  This is because we have the best people, support systems, and because we have a culture of  knowing we can always do better.   The same concept spans across all areas of the organization because of our focus on Leadership. 

“Be most passionate and spend most of your time on the things you can impact directly”

There is nothing wrong with a person consciously deciding that they are going to spend a large portion on their time on things that are self-gratifying and that have little impact elsewhere.   However, most people tend to get caught up in all of the low impact things without regard or self-awareness of the opportunity cost, and these are the folks that can really do a 180 once they become self-aware and then focus their passion on the areas where they can have the highest level of impact on themselves, their family, and society.

Spending time on the things we like to do is important, however we must try to align what we like to do with what we need to do.  The most impactful leaders I can think of put limits on low impact things (or avoid them all together) like watching TV, playing video games, social media, and other addictive tendencies like knowing everything about every single sports team.   These are all things that we have no ability to impact.  Does it help your family, society, or yourself grow in any way?   Can you find other uses of your time that will propel the level of impact you are making and that you can become passionate about?  If you can, try to limit the things that only have the benefit of self-satisfaction.  They are important, but there are other things that can provide the same (or even higher) level of self-satisfaction if you push yourself to change.

What are the top three things you do today that they are having minimal impact and maybe even a negative impact?  If you have made that list, start changing behavior to replace those items with other things that you can become passionate about and that will have a high level of positive impact.  Other than our level of character, how we spend our time is the number one difference maker in the results we will achieve as leaders.