Archives For leadership

I’m honored to be the featured guest on The Answers From Leadership Podcast with Joe Lalonde.  My episode is titled Importance Of Stretching Your Leadership With Jon Stolpe.  I’d be thrilled if you stopped by and gave it a listen.  Click here (or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher).

Then stop by and let me know what you think in the comments.

ten-keys-to-achieving-excellence

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

Pat Riley

Are you content with mediocre?  Or do you want to live a life that matters?

I chose the second option.

Living a life that matters requires intentional striving for excellence.

Yesterday, we talked about the nine things holding you back from excellence.  Today, let’s look at the keys to making excellence a reality in our lives.

10 Keys to Achieving Excellence

  1. Determine your priorities.  Take time to figure out your priorities.  List them in order from one to ten (or twenty).  For example, here’s an example of what your priorities might look like:  1) God, 2) Me, 3) Spouse, 4) Kids, 5) Health, 6) Job, 7) Family, 8) Friends, 9) Side Hustle, 10) Neighbors.  It’s important to know our priorities to help refine our focus.  If God is really my number one priority, my calendar should reflect this importance.  Making the first things first is part of becoming excellent.
  2. Get sleep.  Exercise.  Take a break.  Excellence requires the best of us.  We prevent ourselves from achieving greatness when we are worn out, exhausted, and out of shape.  Sleep, exercise, and rest will give you the energy to make excellence a reality in your life.
  3. Just say “No.”  Saying no to things that distract us from our ultimate goal is crucial to achieving excellence.  We must create margin in our schedules to pursue the things that really matter most to us.
  4. Get a coach.  A coach will help bring clarity to your life and will push you to excellence.  The wisdom and encouragement of a coach can take you to a whole new level.
  5. Find accountability.  Plug into someone who will ask you the hard questions and will keep you on track to achieve the goals you are pursuing.  Make sure you find someone who is dependable.  Accountability only works when you find someone who will be consistent in asking the tough questions.
  6. Plug into experts.  Who is already doing excellent things in the area(s) you are pursuing.  Talk to them.  Read their material.  Watch their videos.  Find out how they made it to the top of their fields.
  7. Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  If you want to be excellent, you have to put in the practice time.  If you want to be an excellent piano player, practice the piano every day.  If you want to be an excellent writer, write every day.
  8. Create a road map to success.  “If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.”  I don’t know who said this, but it’s true.  If you want to achieve excellence, you have to put in the time, energy, and effort up front to map out your journey.
  9. Get off the couch and get moving.  Excellence will not come to you.  You have to go get it.  Stop being lazy.  Make your excellent dreams a reality by taking action TODAY!
  10. Keep going.  Don’t get discouraged.  Don’t lose momentum.  Get rid of the obstacles in your life, and press on to the goal for which you are aiming.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs

If you want to live a life of excellence, it’s time to get going – NOW!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to achieve excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

the-nine-things-holding-you-back-from-excellence

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

One of my favorite movies as a teenager was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  It’s a teenage boy movie full of teenage boy humor.  I think that’s why I liked it so much.  I remember seeing the movie with a few of my friends, and the rest of the year we repeated lines from the movie to each other as we went about our activities.

In the movie, “excellent” was a word thrown around by Bill and Ted to describe anything they thought was cool, interesting, or fun.  If the movie had been made a few years ago, it might be called Bill & Ted’s Phat Adventure or Bill & Ted’s YOLO Adventure or something similar.

I like the word excellent or excellence.  Here’s how Wikipedia defines excellence:

Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance as measured e.g. through economic indicators.

Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, being front-runner in terms of products / services provided that are reliable and safe for the intended users, meeting all obligations and continually learning and improving in all spheres to pursue the moving target.

Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes planning.  It requires repeated action.  And excellence means constant analysis and adjustment along the way.

I want to be known for going about life with excellence.  Despite this desire, there are several things preventing me from achieving excellence.

9 Things Holding You Back from Excellence

  1. Lack of focus – Excellence is impossible when our mind is concentrating on too many things at the same time.  I want to be an excellent husband, an excellent father, an excellent son, an excellent brother, an excellent grandson, an excellent friend, an excellent employee, an excellent boss, an excellent writer, an excellent speaker, an excellent coach, an excellent runner, an excellent driver, an excellent brewer, an excellent landscaper, an excellent reader, an excellent conference attendee, an excellent mastermind member, an excellent mastermind facilitator, an excellent Toastmaster, an excellent Toastmaster Area Director, an excellent missionary to Guatemala, an excellent leader, an excellent saxophonist, an excellent small group leader, an excellent youth volunteer, an excellent community volunteer, an excellent Eagles and Bears fan, an excellent Phillies and Cubs fan, an excellent Survivor fan, an excellent Amazing Race fan, and the list goes on and on and on.  Things things are great, but it’s hard to be excellent when I’m not focused.
  2. Lack of energy – Excellence is challenging when we lack energy.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by getting up at 4AM and going to bed at 11PM every day.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by working every day without rest.  In reality, my ability to successfully pursue excellence declines as I fail to recharge my battery by getting enough sleep and taking a break from time to time.
  3. Lack of time – Excellence won’t happen if we don’t have time for it.  I fill my calendar with activities, meetings, and “commitments” leaving little time for actions which will lead to excellence.
  4. Lack of clarity – Many fail to achieve true excellence in their lives, because they lack purpose, passion, direction, and overall clarity.  If you don’t know where you’re going, you will get their every time.  Too many of us go through life doing what others tell us to do instead of figuring out what we were meant to do.  We chase after things that don’t matter, because we don’t know the difference between “doing good things” and “doing the right things.”
  5. Lack of appropriate input – Excellence may never happen if we don’t get the right input in our lives.  If I want to become an excellent saxophone player, it won’t happen without the right instruction.  I won’t become excellent at playing the saxophone by taking lessons from a beginner drummer who has never even seen a saxophone.  And listening to podcasts about leadership will do little to help me improve when it comes to playing the saxophone.
  6. Lack of appropriate skill development – Excellence doesn’t happen with practice and intentional skill development.  Chances of becoming an excellent public speaker can be improved by listening to polished, professional public speakers, but I won’t become excellent at public speaking unless I work on my speaking skills by practicing, getting feedback, correcting my mistakes, and doing it again and again.
  7. Lack of planning – Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  I will fail to become an excellent marathon runner without a plan.  I’ll fail to write an excellent book without an idea, an outline, and a plan to get to the final product.  It’s nearly impossible to achieve excellence without intention.
  8. Lack of action – Excellence won’t happen by sitting on the couch.  If I want to run a 5K, I have to get off the couch and run.  If I want to write a book, I have to open my laptop and write.  If I want to dunk a basketball, I have to jump.  Excellence won’t come to us.  We have to go get it!
  9. Lack of repetition – Excellence isn’t a one time event.  Excellence requires repetition.  If I want to write a book, I have to write every day.  If I want to become an excellent husband, I have to work on it every year, every week, and every day.  Too many people miss out on excellence, because they give up after the first attempt.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi

Come back tomorrow for thoughts on how you and I can make excellence a reality in our lives.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

What’s holding you back from achieving excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

THE LITTLE BOOK OF PERSONAL GROWTH (BY DAN BLACK)

Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.

John C. Maxwell

When I was a child, my parents measured my growth by marking my height on the door frame of one of the rooms in our house.  I could see growth happening, because my mark kept getting higher on the wall.  I eventually passed my mother.  Then I passed my father.  And eventually, my mark on the wall was over 6’5″ above the floor.

When it comes to my height, I stopped growing many years ago.  But this doesn’t mean I stopped growing.  I still pride myself on my appetite for personal growth.  I read books.  I listen to podcasts.  I watch educational videos.  And I hang out with smart people.  I participate in these activities to make sure I keep growing.

Personal growth doesn’t happen by accident.  If you want to grow (or STRETCH as I like to say), you have to be intentional.

Today, I’m excited to announce the release of Dan Black’s new eBook, The Little Book of Personal Growth.

In the short book, Dan unpacks the meaning of personal growth, and he provides a road map for helping readers create their own plan for personal growth.  The book outlines the five stages of personal growth.  Then Dan unveils the ten core benefits of engaging in regular personal growth.  He discusses the components necessary for personal growth.

Dan does a great job recognizing that we have different learning styles.  He describes nine methods readers can use for their own personal growth.  And finally, he walks readers through a simple step-by-step process for developing a personal growth plan that will take you to higher heights on your personal growth chart.

If you are looking for a power-packed, concise read that will push you higher on your personal height chart, you should check out The Little Book of Personal Growth.  Click here to get your copy.

How tall are you?  What are you doing to help yourself grow?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

(Please note:  I received a preview copy of The Little Book of Personal Growth for free as a gift from Dan Black in exchange for my pre-purchase of his new eBook and for my agreement to participate on his launch team for this book.  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 and your personal growth.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The Little Book of Personal Growth 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!)

5 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUTLEADERSHIP WHEN THE DRESS CODE CHANGED

I was shocked last week when my boss forwarded an email to me from our area manager indicating that the dress code for managers and salespeople in our area was being relaxed for the summer months (June 1st thru September 30th).  I am no longer required to wear a tie Monday thru Thursday during this time period.  In his memo, our area manager stated that he had reconsidered his long-held stance on more formal attire after reviewing the acceptable social norms in the industry.

Ties have been a requirement for managers and salespeople for years, and I honestly did not expect this news.

Thanks to my area manager’s memo, I learned somethings about leadership:

5 Things I Learned About Leadership When The Dress Code Changed

  1. Leaders requires flexibility.  Our area manager could have kept things the way they have always been.  Instead, he adapted.  Flexibility in leadership keeps your business headed in the right direction especially when business currents change directions.  Don’t get so stuck in your ways that you miss opportunities to take your organization to a better place.
  2. Leaders lead best when they give and take.  Our area manager gave into a long-standing “tradition”.  In return, he got more respect from his team.  There are trade-offs in business when it comes to leadership.  If you want to take your leadership to the next level, learn to make these trade-offs.
  3. Leaders must be aware.  Our area manager was paying attention to the industry, and he noticed that ties were no longer the norm during the summer.  If you want to be a great leader, pay attention to what is going on around you.  Visit your customers.  Watch your competitors.  Learn.  And learn some more.
  4. Leaders understand how the little things matter.  A tie is a little piece of fabric that hangs around ones neck.  It’s a simple thing, but it meant so much to many of the employees impacted by the simple change to the dress code policy.  If you want to become a better leader, find ways to impact your employees through simple actions.
  5. Leaders listen.  Employees have been asking for a relaxation of the dress code during the summer for a few years, and our area manager listened.  If you want to improve your leadership, take time to listen to your team.

While my ties will miss getting out of the closet the next few months, I’m happy to give my neck a break.

What’s the dress code at your place of employment?  What changes would you like to see in the dress code?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

ONE WAY TO BECOME A BETTER COACH FOR YOUR TEAM

A month ago, I attended the Foundation Leadership Program with 22 other colleagues from North and South America.  (To read more about my experience, click here.)  It was the best week I’ve had in my 20+ years with the company.  One of my biggest takeaways from the experience relates to how I coach others.

Coaching others isn’t about giving the answers.

Coaching is about helping others discover the answers for themselves.

I’m a fixer, so I naturally want to dive in and figure out the exact steps necessary to overcome a challenge.  Here’s the problem:  Our team members don’t need a fixer.  They don’t need someone else to do the work for them.  They don’t need someone to do the thinking for them.  When we as leaders jump in to fix things, we take away valuable opportunities for our team members to think for themselves and to take action.

As leaders, we need to give our team members the opportunity to learn, to think, to take action, to succeed, and to fail.

To effectively coach our team members, we should use the GROW Model for handling the discussions with our team members.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the GROW Model:

The GROW model (or process) is a simple method for goal setting and problem solving. It was developed in the United Kingdom and was used extensively in corporate coaching in the late 1980s and 1990s.

There have been many claims to authorship of GROW as a way of achieving goals and solving problems. While no one person can be clearly identified as the originator, Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore all made significant contributions.  Max Landsberg also describes GROW in his book The Tao of Coaching.  Other similar models include collaborative helping maps in family therapy and Gabriele Oettingen‘s WOOP model.

This is what I learned in my leadership program:

  • G stands for Goal.  When coaching your team members start with the goal.  The goal may change as the discussion moves along, but it is the starting point for your coaching discussion.
  • R stands for Roadblocks.  It’s helpful to identify the things that are standing in the way of achieving your goal.
  • O stands for Options.  What options does one have to overcome the roadblocks that stand in the way of achieving the goal?  When discussing the options, it may become obvious that the goal needs to be re-calibrated.  When the goal shifts, we have to go back and look at the roadblocks standing in the way of achieving the new goal.
  • W stands for Will.  Is your team members willing to take action on the identified options?  If the answer is no, it’s time to go back to the drawing board (or end the discussion).  If the answer is yes, the discussion transitions into action.

Who are you leading?  Maybe you are leading in your business or place of employment.  Maybe you are leading in your community.  Or maybe you are leading in your home.

Whatever the case may be, it’s time for you to help your team members GROW (or STRETCH as I like to say).  Learn to become a better coach, and discover a path to greater success among those you lead.

What methods have you used to help your team members tackle their problems?  What step(s) do you need to take TODAY to help your team members?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you’re looking for more ways to STRETCH yourself, sign up TODAY for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge:

KNOW YOURSELF

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.

Decisive
Direct
Efficient
Gregarious
Logical
Objective
Organised
Practical
Responsible
Structured
Systematic
Task-focused

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

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?

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