Category Archives for "leadership"

Know Yourself – How To Get Started In Discovering The Real You


Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.

Ann Landers

How well do you know yourself?

You have lived with yourself your entire life.  You should have a pretty good idea of who you are and what makes you tick.

In reality, many of us don’t really know all that much about ourselves.  We look in the mirror to make sure our hair is styled nicely and our face is clear of any major blemishes, but we too often fail to look deeper.

Getting to know ourselves takes time, energy, and perhaps some expert advice.

Two weeks ago, while I was in Chicago for a leadership development program, we spent the better part of a day getting to know ourselves better.  Before we can lead others well, we must learn to lead ourselves.  And self leadership starts with self discovery.  As part of this process, each of the participants in the program had to take the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index).  I’ve taken this assessment before, so it was not a surprise to me that my results showed I am an ESTJ.  I’m more of an Extrovert than an Introvert.  I rely on Sensing as opposed to iNtuition.  I’m much more of a Thinker than a Feeler.  And I’m more likely to Judge than to Perceive.

Here’s what the report had to say about me:

ESTJ Snapshot
ESTJs are logical, analytical, decisive and tough-minded individuals who use
concrete facts in systematic ways. They enjoy working with others to organise
the details and operations well in advance to get the job done. Although the
descriptors below generally describe ESTJs, some may not fit you exactly due to
individual differences within each type.


My MBTI results report had a lot more to say about who I am, how I tend to behave, and how I may need to adapt to potential pitfalls in my behavioral preferences.  I learned a lot as a result of going through this assessment.

A couple of months ago, I did the Strengthsfinder 2.0 self assessment which helped me see my top five strengthsHarmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer.  My friend, Rusty Pang, recently helped me see how these strengths help to describe who I am:

“When I interpret your strengthfinders results in your personality, I see a consistent, reliable person who is a studied peacekeeper. You don’t like it when two or more people are in conflict, so you rely on your training and knowledge to fix the problem directly or create a system to promote cooperation.

Rusty’s feedback was right on.  I am completely stressed out by conflict.  I want people to get along, and I want to find ways to bring resolution to situations where people don’t get along or don’t see eye to eye.  When I can’t make this happen, I become restless, I lose my appetite, and I struggle to sleep well.

Learning more about yourself is more than taking a self assessment test, but this kind of tool can start you down the right path.  Here’s a list of a few self assessments, you may want to try to learn more about yourself:

  1. MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index) – To take the assessment for FREE, click here.
  2. DISC Profile – To take the DISC personality test for FREE, click here.
  3. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – To take this assessment, you have to purchase the book to get the code required to access the test.  Click here to get the book.

Once you have the results from these types of assessments, it’s extremely valuable to sit down with a coach or expert who can help you interpret the results to get the most of your self learning.  Here are a few people I recommend you check out if you are looking for assistance in interpreting your results.  They can help you learn more about yourself:

  1. Rusty Pang  In his own words:  I’m a big believer in people and systems. Over the years, I have developed a system to identify, understand and empower individuals to be their best selves. Entrepurpose is how I’ve scaled the belief that everyone can know and live their purposes.”
  2. Chris LoCurto  From Chris’ LinkedIn profile:  “For over a decade my goal has been helping people and businesses to become the strongest and most effective they possibly can. I work with entrepreneurs, leaders, and individuals focusing on business, leadership, teams, personality styles, and life.”
  3. Lily Kreitinger  From Lily’s site:  “As a Certified LifePlan Facilitator I help individuals grow and thrive by following a tried and true discovery process to the life they were meant to live.”

Once you learn more about you, you’ll be in a better position to lead yourself and others.  What’s stopping you?

Have you taken any of these assessments?  What were the results?  What other suggestions do you have for getting to know yourself better?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

A Full Head, Heart, and Belly – Reflections on My Week of Leadership Development


My head is full.  My heart is very full.  And my belly is pretty full too.  This is how I feel after an intense week of leadership development.

Last week, I spent my time at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL (just outside of Chicago) with 22 other Siemens leaders from around the world.  It was such an honor to be included with such wonderful company.  My peers came from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and we gathered for an exclusive leadership development course.

It will take a while for me to fully digest my experience, but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:

  1. Teamwork can take you far.  As part of the experience, I was put on a team with five other participants.  We had the opportunity to work together on several assignments throughout the week, and I’m happy to say we were successful because we learned how to work together making the most of the different talents and skills we each brought with us.
  2. Being present is essential to get the most of our experiences and conversations.  We spent a lot of time learning to listen, learning to be assertive, and learning to coach.  These things are not effective if we are not fully engaged with others.
  3. Not everyone has my behavioral preferences and personality tendencies.  I must learn to be aware of how others recharge and respond to situations.  I must also learn to adapt my behaviors to lead more effectively.
  4. Getting feedback from others is crucial to helping me grow.  Before I left, I had several people from my office give me feedback through a 360 degree feedback survey.  I also received feedback from my teammates throughout the week.  Receiving feedback from others isn’t always easy.  It requires humility, open ears, and a willingness to analyze, adapt, and accept.  The feedback I received was encouraging and eye-opening.  It provided an opportunity to look in the mirror and discover more about me.
  5. Transparency opens the door to team growth.  Within a few hours, my team shared aspects of our past that influenced our leadership and life up until this week.  The stories shared led to more stories.  The stories bonded us together in a way I hadn’t expected.  By the end of the week, I not only had a team of colleagues – I had a team of friends and personal cheerleaders.  I now have people in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States who I grew close to me.  I know I’ll be able to connect with them when I have a leadership issue I need to navigate.
  6. My leadership will only get better when I let others lead.  I have a natural tendency to take on more than I should.  I fail to delegate and to pass off leadership to my team, because I want to make sure things are accomplished at my standard.  If I don’t let others lead, I’m doing a disservice to them, to me, and to my company.  As I head back to work today, I’ll be looking for ways to let others lead.
  7. I’m excited for the future of my company.  In my 20+ years with the company, I have never experienced this type of training.  I had the chance to rub shoulders with the up and coming leaders in the company, and they have so many great ideas which will propel our company forward into the future.

These thoughts only brush the surface of my experience last week.  I left the week exhausted.  I’ve spent a lot of time in silence since I left the resort on Friday afternoon.  My head is full with ideas and questions related to how I will implement my learnings.

My heart is full, because I had the opportunity to dive fairly deep into the lives of several new friends.  The coaches along with my colleagues left me feeling valued and accepted.

My belly is full, because they kept feeding us.  Thankfully, I hit the fitness center four of the five mornings I was at the resort.  This week I will get back into a more healthy and normal routine.

If you want to STRETCH your leadership, you need to invest your time and energy (and maybe some money) into yourself.  This week was all about making that investment, and I’m so excited to move ahead with the new tools in my tool belt.

When was the last time you invested in yourself?  How did you STRETCH as a result of this experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Taking Time To Invest In The Next Generation


Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.

Simon Sinek

I volunteer on Sunday night as an adult leader at my church’s high school youth group, and I have a confession:  I don’t always enjoy it.  I sometimes feel out-of-place.  I sometimes feel like I’m the “old guy.”  And I occasionally wonder if I’m making a difference.

(How did I become the “old guy”?)

This weekend, I was talking to my wife about some recent thoughts and observations regarding my role.

Without fail, I end up having a few conversations each week with students.  These conversations confirm my initial decision to volunteer with this ministry.

Students arrive at youth group with all kinds of baggage.

  • They are stressed out, because they have a big project, paper, or test due in the coming days.
  • They are exhausted, because they are super involved in sports, music, or other activities.
  • They are lonely, because they don’t have real friends.
  • They are insecure, because they don’t have a secure and stable home life.
  • They are confused, because they are flooded with conflicting messages at home, at school, and especially on-line.
  • They are struggling, because they don’t fit in, they got involved with an unhealthy habit or relationship, and they are afraid to ask for help.

I can’t solve their problems, but I can be there to listen.  I can give them feedback based on my experiences.  I can be there to be a positive example in their lives.  And I can be there to let them know they are valued.

In my discussion with my wife, I was reminded of the importance of plugging into those who are younger.  If you are reading this, you more than likely have experiences and wisdom to share with others.  You have the opportunity to become a mentor, an advocate, and a cheerleader for those coming behind you.

If you want to leave a legacy…if you want to be stretched, be intentional.  Invest in those who are younger than you.

When you do this, you’ll discover:

  • There is hope for the future.
  • The next generation is full of promise.
  • The youth of today can actually teach you.
  • You can make a difference in the lives of those who are younger than you.

If you feel like you still have a long way to go (and we all have a long way to go), seek out a mentor for you.

I have a renewed respect for those who invested in me.  I think of my youth leaders.  I think of my teachers,  I think of my bosses.  I think of my parents.  I’m guessing they had similar concerns about my generation, and yet they continued to invest in people like me.  They listened to me.  They encouraged me.  They pushed me forward.  They loved me, and they helped me feel valuable.

Now it’s my turn!

And it’s your turn too!

Who invested in you?  How are you investing in the next generation?

For other related articles, check out:




Book Review: Under New Management (@DavidBurkus)

When I received a copy of Under New Management:  How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I work for a large company.  In fact, I am an operations manager for a large company.  The prospect of changing or upending business as usual seems a little scary and perhaps a little interesting.

“The purpose of this book is to challenge you and your company to ask whether the time has come for you to reexamine some of the most fundamental concepts in management today.”  David Burkus

When I opened up the book and scanned through the contents and the pages, I honestly questioned if this book was worth my time.  Here are some of the chapter titles:  Outlaw Email, Put Customers Second, Lose the Standard Vacation Policy, Pay People to Quit, Make Salaries Transparent, Ban Noncompetes, Ditch Performance Appraisals, Hire as a Team, and Close Open Offices.  Many of these chapter titles seemed to go against what I have come to know in my 20+ years at my company.  I was a little concerned about what would be in the pages I was about to read.  As I started to read though, I began to understand Under New Management was actually a book I needed to read.  And I’m not the only one who needs to read it.  Managers across the country and around the world should consider picking up a copy of this brand new book.

Change is not easy.

If we really want to grow, we need to learn to adapt, and Under New Management:  How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual encourages managers to consider how they might adapt to the changing world that we now find ourselves.  This work by David Burkus is an important text for any manager to read, and I would highly recommend it.  I think it will encourage managers took to consider how they might change the way they’re doing business.  They may not implement every single thing suggested in this book, but I think managers will find ways to do business differently and better as they read the pages of this book.

“Business isn’t usual anymore.”  David Burkus

Under New Management:  How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus releases this week, and I would encourage any manager who is serious about making a difference where they are in their workplace to pick this up and to at least ponder whether or not they are on the right track in their business.  I’m sure that this text will stretch the readers and that’s why I’m recommending Under New Management.

What changes would you like to see at your place of employment?  What action do you think you could take to make that one of those changes a reality?

Please note:  I received a copy of Under New Management:  How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus for free from Weaving Influence in exchange for a review.  I was not required to provide a positive review.  I truly believe that this new book is a worthwhile read for anybody serious about taking their leadership to the next level.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase Under New Management:  How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

Today I’m Going Back to the Future


Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies.  The concept of journeying through the space-time continuum to another time and another space is mind-bending to say the least.  And today, I am actually already at tomorrow.  Let me explain.  My friend, Ralph Mayhew, lives in Australia.  He is a leadership blogger, and he is hosting one of my guest articles.  The post went live at 5AM Thursday Australia time.  But it’s 2PM Wednesday here in my hometown.  It boggles my mind.  Today, I officially went back to the future.

To see what I’m talking about, go visit my article – 7 Keys to Leading Yourself.  Click here to get to the article.

Leave a comment over at Ralph’s site, then come back and let me know what you think.  And in your own way, you’ll be doing some amazing time travel of your own. 

6 Actions You Can Take Today to Prepare for Your Promotion Tomorrow


Being ready isn’t enough; you have to be prepared for a promotion or any other significant change.

Pat Riley

I talk to young engineers and professionals all the time.  They want to know my story, and they want to know what they need to do to get to the next level.  It’s important for everyone to have a plan and goals for their career.  For many, this means they are looking for the next promotion.

What do I have to do to get promoted?

It’s a fair question everyone must ask themselves, their co-workers, and their management, if they want to achieve their career ambitions.  Over my 20+ year career, I have moved from an engineer to a project manager to an operations manager.  Each step on the journey has required patience, persistence, and plenty of planned actions.

Today, I will help you identify six actions you should be taking today if you want to move closer to the promotion you desire.

6 Actions You Can Take Today to Prepare for Your Promotion Tomorrow

  1. Talk to a person who is already in the position you want to be in next.  If you want to become a salesperson, talk to other salespeople.  Go out to lunch with them.  Grab a cup of coffee with them.  Pick their brains, and find out what they like and don’t like about their positions.  These conversations will help you understand the realities of the position you are pursuing.
  2. Talk to your boss about the position you want to be in next.  Communicating your career aspirations with your boss is a good idea if you want support moving along in your career.  Your boss has the opportunity to be your biggest advocate and career counselor, but this won’t happen if you don’t talk to him about your career goals.
  3. Look in the mirror and learn about yourself.  Take time to do a self-assessment.  I’d recommend looking into the DISC profile, the MBTI profile, and StrengthsFinders 2.0.  These “tests” will reveal key information you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses.  These kinds of assessments will also reveal more about you and what kinds of positions are right for you.
  4. Get the training you need for the next position.  What training will best prepare you for the promotion you desire?  Some people say that an MBA isn’t worth very much anymore, but my MBA was a major part of preparing me to move from a project manager to an operations manager.  Seeking out training helps you learn, and it also demonstrates to your managers a commitment on your part to grow.
  5. Work hard in your current position.  Don’t expect your promotion to be handed to you.  If you don’t work hard in your current position, your managers won’t believe you are capable of working hard at the next position.  If you want a promotion tomorrow, you better work hard today.
  6. Pray.  Don’t underestimate the power and importance of prayer in your career journey.  Prayer isn’t a magic wand to get you to the corner office.  Instead, prayer provides an opportunity for you to hear from God on your direction.  Prayers may seem passive, but I believe it’s active.

When was the last time you received a promotion?  What steps did you take to get the promotion?  What steps are you taking now to prepare for your next promotion?

Did you sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge yet?  Sign up below!

The Healthy Stretch of Leadership


I’ve been leading people for over 20 years now and in that time I’ve discovered leadership stretches us in 5 different ways. Being stretched is a good thing, it’s the opposite of letting us retreat into ourselves. When we retreat into ourselves, we find what we think is safety, comfort, rest, protection, but this is just a facade. What really happens is we become unhealthy, self-serving, risk averse, lethargic leaders with poor attitudes and hearts that can grow toxic.

The apostle Paul issued the war cry of the stretched leader when he said ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Phil 1:21) My life for the cause regardless of the cost, as the ultimate cost will be worth all I have. So how are we stretched as leaders and what happens to us when we aren’t?

I want to share with you what I’ve discovered about being stretched in leadership. Every leader begins the leadership journey with the same five components. The role of the leader is to steward these components toward anonymity, away from ambition, so as their influence is aligned to God’s influence, the cause they lead and the God whom they lead for is glorified. Allow me to elaborate.

Stretch 1 – Passion into Wisdom

Every leader is passionate when they first start. They are fired up, keen and excited, wanting to change the world. Passion however dilutes if it is not stretched. If passion is not pulled toward and informed by wisdom, passion at best fades to disengagement or at worst results in recklessness.

When a passionate leader presents an idea or initiative to their people they should be seeking the wisdom and not approval of those they lead. Approval does not necessarily result in the success of the idea, but wisdom always does. The passionate leader needs to seek out wisdom, for maturity to take place.

Stretch 2 – Trust into Integrity

Integrity is a leader’s greatest asset; it is from integrity that influence flows. Every leader begins leading with an empty integrity account, but they are trusted to have influence, all be it in small amounts. If a leader chooses integrity always, the trust they build increases.

Through every decision a leader either builds or bankrupts trust. Building trust is acting with integrity, so the trust others place in you is rewarded. To not build trust is to play the role of the hypocrite, pretending to be someone your followers will eventually discover you’re not. Leaders who seek integrity always hunger for the truth, whilst using it as a mirror.

Stretch 3 – Invincibility into Humility

When a leader realizes their weaknesses they begin to embrace humility. Every emerging leader is not aware of their weaknesses yet, as they’ve not been leading, but as a result they do not know what will disqualify them from leadership. They feel invincible.

It takes courage to examine yourself and have others do the same, to discover your limitations, blind spots and weaknesses. People frequently think humility is just thinking less of yourself. Humility isn’t thinking of yourself less it’s thinking about yourself less. Leadership is not about you, it’s about the God whom you lead for and the people you lead, period!

Stretch 4 – Confidence into Security

Even the most unconfident leaders begin with confidence. It’s why they decided to step onto the leadership platform. The direction they steward their confidence however determines how long they remain on and how far-reaching their platform becomes. Insecurity is not a lack of confidence; it’s the investment of confidence in the wrong things.

Every leader needs to explore what they have invested their confidence in and potentially reinvest it in something else. Insecurity breeds in us when we trust something that is untrustworthy, constantly changing, and ever unreliable. A leader needs to place their confidence in God and lead out of the security, which accompanies this.

Stretch 5 – Commitment to Resilience

Resilience is the most valuable trait a leader can have. Without it, leading is horrendously difficult. When a leader starts leading they are committed. That is until the first set back, knock down, disruption, heartbreak, frustration. It’s at that point they need to decide if they will grit their teeth and push on.

Resilience is the repeated and constant decision to not give up, to stay committed. A leader needs to constantly make this decision and in so doing, deepens the well from which they lead. Commitments can come and go, or rise and fall on any number of variables, but resilience is a white-knuckle refusal to give up. The greatest leaders are resilient.

Leading people will stretch you, it’s meant to, but you need to ensure you’re stretched in the right way. For more on this and to explore these and other concepts further you can pickup my latest book The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence.

How are you stretched as a leader and what is the result of that stretching in your influence?


It’s an honor today to host Ralph Mayhew.  Ralph and I connected through the blog world several months ago at Joe Lalonde’s site.  Despite living on the other side of the world (Ralph lives in Australia), we share several common bonds: a passion for leadership and a passion for Christ.  I hope Ralph’s post today challenges you to become a better leader.  His new book is fantastic!  And I’d highly recommend you pick up your own copy if you’re serious about becoming a better leader.



Ralph Mayhew’s brand new Amazon bestseller The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence, offers a fresh understanding of leadership and influence, and is available at He also blogs at

The Best Way To Keep Your Best Employees


Why do you think employees leave?

More money?  A bigger, better title?  A more flexible schedule?

If you are a leader in your organization, this is a question you need to understand.  Employee turnover leads to additional hiring and training costs for the company and typically leads to a decline in overall team enthusiasm and productivity.

In his 2013 article (Six Reasons Your Best Employees Quit You), Louis Efron gives these six reasons your employees are leaving your company:

  1. No vision
  2. No connection to the big picture
  3. No empathy
  4. No (effective) motivation
  5. No future
  6. No fun

And in his 2005 article for The Center for Association Leadership, Leigh Branham lists seven reasons employees leave.  Two of these reasons include:

  • There is too little coaching and feedback.
  • Workers feel devalued and unrecognized.

As leaders, we have a challenge and responsibility to address these shortcomings.

Today, I will help you identify one of the key action steps you can take to positively change things.  By implementing my suggestion, your team members will get the coaching they desire, they will gain a greater feeling of value, they will feel like they are better understood, and they will experience a higher level of motivation.

Today, I challenge you to implement regular one-on-one meetings with your team members.  A regular one-on-one meeting will make all the difference in giving your team members just what they need to feel valued, appreciated, motivated, and excited for their future in your organization.

Here’s my story:

A few years ago, I started having monthly one-on-one meetings with my team members.

As an operations manager in the construction industry, I’m challenged to balance my time as I’m responsible to make sure my group is operating as planned. I meet with my team members monthly on an individual basis to review their projects from a financial, resource, risk, and customer perspective. These monthly meetings, which typically last about an hour, provide a pretty good snapshot of things from a business perspective, but they don’t provide a lot of time for diving deeper personally.

I’m also responsible for participating in other department and company meetings. Again, these meetings are important for certain aspects of our business success, but they typically don’t provide opportunity for connecting on a more personal level.

I’ve heard it said that “It’s business, it’s NOT personal.”  Well, I disagree.  As a leader in the workforce, I have a responsibility care for my team members.  For me, this means our relationships in the business world are meant to be personal.

How can we take time to connect with our team members with all the different demands on our time?

This is the question that rolled around in my head as first started considering the possibility of implementing regular one-on-one meetings.  I have so many things on my plate already.  One-on-one meetings just didn’t seem to fit into my already busy schedule.

But my friend, Matt McWilliams, challenged me with this question:

How can you NOT take time to connect with your team members?

And so…I took Matt’s challenge and encouragement to heart.  And I started holding monthly one-on-one meetings with my team members.

We talk about business and the challenges that they are facing on a project or assignment.  And we also talk about life outside of work.  I’ve learned about their interests, their passions, and their families.

For the most part, these meetings have been 30-40 minutes each.  I use a one-page outline to guide our discussion and to take notes which helps me capture details of our discussion.  I first ask my team member for an update on how they are doing and what has them busy.  After 15-20 minutes of catching up, I typically have 5-10 minutes of items I want to cover with them.  We finish our meeting with an opportunity for them to ask for help.  With 10 direct reports, these notes have been essential to helping me remember our conversations.  And it helps with my follow through on any action items that I have taken from our meeting.  (NOTE: You can download Matt McWilliam’s one-on-one meeting template here.)

What difference does it make if you know your team members?

It makes all the difference in the world.

The average working person spends 9-10 hours of their days at work – every day. (That’s two-thirds or more of their waking hours).  Most people work over 2100 hours every year.  If my math is correct, most people work about 80,000 hours in their life time.  However you do the math, we spend a lot of time at work.

We are relational beings.  We are made to connect with others and to be in community with others.

We are missing a huge opportunity to connect with others if we go to work, come home, get our paycheck, but fail to connect with our co-workers.

Intentional connections

My one-on-one meetings have helped me be intentional in connecting with my team.  It’s helped my team to feel more connected to me.  And it’s also helped my team succeed from a business perspective.

I’m so thankful I listened to Matt and started having one-on-one meetings with my team.

Regular one-on-one meetings with our team members leads to reduced employee turnover, more satisfied employees, a better culture in your business, and greater business success.  I have also discovered that one-on-one meetings provide an excellent place to discuss employee development.  My team members have pursued advanced educational opportunities as a result of our discussions during our one-on-one meetings.  They’ve also taken steps to advance further on the road to achieving their career goals.

Call to Action:

  • If you are leading a team, it’s time for you to implement regular one-on-one meetings (if you’re not doing this already).
  • If you are not leading a team but you feel disconnected from your boss or your organization, it’s time for you to ask your boss to start having one-on-one meetings with you.

Do you have one-on-one meetings with your team?  If so, how have they made a difference?  If not, what are you waiting for?

Do you have one-on-one meetings with your boss?  How have these meetings helped you?

Looking to STRETCH yourself?  Sign-up today for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge:

Book Review: The 3 Gaps – Are You Making a Difference? by @HyrumWSmith


Gaps in our lives drain the power needed to make a positive difference in the world.

Hyrum W. Smith

The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by Hyrum W. Smith officially releases today (January 11, 2016).  I received a preview copy of this book courtesy of Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence.

I took time to read this book between Christmas and New Years, and it provided a few great insights and ideas for me to pursue as I seek to clarify my beliefs, values, and priorities.

While I’m still wrestling with Smith’s assertion that the pursuit of personal inner peace is the ultimate goal of man.  I deeply agree with the thought that we can make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us by clarifying our beliefs, by confirming our governing values, and by intentionally managing our time.

The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?is a quick read that will challenge readers to fill the gaps they may have in their beliefs, values, and time.  Personally, I was challenged after reading The 3 Gaps to write my own personal constitution, to define my governing values, and to practice the discipline of daily planning.  If you are looking for a book with practical advice to help you stretch, you should consider picking up a copy of this book.

What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing when it comes to your beliefs, your values, and your time?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

(Please note:  I received a copy of The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? for free as a gift from Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

13 Things I Learned Through My Shark Tank Experience


Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

Steve Jobs

Last week, I traveled to Phoenix for a management conference for my company.  I was asked to present an idea as part of a “Shark Tank” competition.  This meant presenting four times in front of the top line management in my company.  I spent a week before the meeting preparing my ideas and my presentation.  During the presentations, I had the opportunity to ask for an investment to implement my idea.  In each session, I had ten minutes to present my ideas and ten minutes to answer questions from the sharks and the audience.

Competing against three other finalists, I was not certain of the outcome.  I’m happy to report, my project won the competition and the investment to move ahead.

My experience in Phoenix was exciting, uplifting, inspiring, and educational.  Specifically, I learned a lot through my shark tank experience.  Here’s what I learned:

13 Things I Learned Through My Shark Tank Experience

1. Be creative.  When I was asked to come with ideas to submit to the Shark Tank contest, I had to put my thinking cap on.  In order to have opportunities, you have to be creative.

2. Be bold.  Dream big, and don’t be afraid to ask for investments.  When I initially submitted my idea, I wasn’t thinking large enough.  After getting feedback and advice from others, I decided to triple my request for investment.  We limit ourselves and the potential to do great things when we fail to be bold in our dreams.

3. Be prepared.  To be ready to face a panel of sharks and an active audience, you have to be prepared.  You must know your idea.  You must understand the math behind your request.  You must consider all the questions you will get.  In my case, I also had to make sure my technology was working properly before my presentations.

4. Be flexible.  Things don’t always go as planned.  You might forget a key point in your presentation.  The technical side of your presentation make not work correctly.  Your demonstration may not function the way you expected.  You have to adapt.  You have to keep going.

5. Be willing to ask for help.  I have been very busy at work, and I had to ask for help from my peers. I tapped into someone to help me with the technical side of my presentation.  I asked someone to watch me rehearse.  I asked a couple of people to help me with the actual presentation.  It takes a village, and we have to be willing to use the village.

6. Be grateful.  This was an amazing opportunity.  I am so thankful for all the people who made it happen.  Over the next few days, I will be writing many thank you notes to express my appreciation.

7. Be friendly.  In the green room, I had the opportunity to talk with the other finalists.  We shared our ideas.  We encouraged each other.  There is a tendency to be hostile when dealing with our competition – especially in the business world.  In the golden rule of business presentations, we should treat others the way we want to be treated.

8. Be humble.  Deflect praise to others.  I appreciated the exposure to top line management, and I want the notoriety that comes with this opportunity.  But I want to make sure others are recognized for their efforts.  It’s possible to be confident and humble at the same time, and humility is an important virtue worth pursuing and practicing in business and in life.

9. Be confident.  During the practices for my presentation, it became clear I was not being direct in my request for funds.  Thanks to some coaching, I shifted by sales pitch.  I was able to be more confident in my presentation when I realized how much I believed in my idea.

10. Be gracious.  I had an opportunity to get positive feedback from so many top line managers as a result of my presentation.  I also had the opportunity to respond to some tough questions from the sharks and the audience.  In all cases, providing a polite and courteous response was the best way to represent my idea, my office, and myself.

11. Be ready to take the next step.  After I received the news that my project won the contest, I was initially very happy.  Then I realized the work was just beginning.  Getting the funding for my project was only the beginning.  Now, I have to fully develop my implementation plan and execute on this plan.  There is a lot of work ahead.

12. Be inspired.  Towards the end of the day, I sat in on the presentation for one of the other finalists.  It was exciting to hear their idea.  My shark tank experience reminded me that people have great ideas.  We just need to stop long enough to listen.  As a result of my experience, I’m inspired to promote a local innovation day or experience in my own office.

13. Be inspiring.  I cannot tell you how many people came up to me to comment on my idea.  They are excited to try something like this in their location.  When you put yourself out there, you have the opportunity to inspire.  Don’t waste the opportunity.

Now, it’s time to get busy implementing my shark tank idea.  It’s also time to continue dreaming.  We all have the opportunity to be innovative.

How are you being innovative?  How are you promoting innovation?  What stops you from being innovative?  What keeps you going down the path of innovation?  What have you learned as a result of sharing your innovative ideas with others?