Harnessing the Power of Your Mind’s Attention and Your Heart’s Affection

It’s a noisy world out there with all the dopamine induced gratification we get from social media. That ping on our smart phone or that message in our inbox telling us something about someone else somewhere. Ah, the satisfaction. How do you sift through it all?

Learning Styles Debunked

For quite some time, I have been a student of management and leadership. The topic is not limited to just the business world. Rather it is all around us. I believe our world is in serious need of solid, meaningful leadership. I don’t mean the kind that wears red or blue, but the kind that truly inspires us to be more and do more.

Yet the “more” is not only about corporate growth. I mean ‘more’ in terms of life; seeing those around us thrive and prosper intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually as well as financially. A real leader can help do that. It doesn’t matter whether the leadership role is formally appointed as in head of some community group, or informally ordained for a bunch of well-meaning volunteers as we witnessed during the Harvey flooding on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Leadership can raise the bar of success regardless of the domain it influences.

We need leaders in all sectors of life. Yet what distinguishes some leaders from others? From my observations both being a leader and working for great leaders, I find one common bond. The best leader has found a way to harness the power of marrying the mind’s attention with the heart’s affection. What does that mean?

The Mind’s Attention

Much has been written about the power of positive thinking. For decades we have heard about “you are what you think”. No doubt a positive mental state adds much to one’s ability to focus and thrive. Likewise a bad frame of mind can draw you down into deep depression and even suicide.

Don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate for working on positive thinking, eliminating limiting thoughts, and building your mind muscle for more positive thinking. A wise old farmer called it “getting rid of stinkin’ thinkin.” The Bible calls it renewing your mind. I’m all in favor of that.

As much as having a great attitude about your outlook and daily regiment is powerful, it can only go so far. Someone once said, if thinking the right thoughts is all there is to final outcome, we’d all be brains on a stick.

No, the best outcome takes more.

The Heart’s Affection

Our heart must be engaged. Our passion must be summoned to give fuel to the fire. It is the fire. When a person becomes passionate about their cause, there is little anyone can do to deter them.

Passion gives us energy to climb mountains, cross great divides, and leap tall buildings (ok yes that sounds like Superman). This heart’s affection for a purpose gives almost unstoppable energy to any situation.

Workers who have not had their passion for the job tapped into, will only perform at  a modest level. This is why making employment selection is so critical for employers and employees alike. Make the wrong fit, and you passion will never rise up. Yet by finding that work where you can become passionate, you can inspire others.

Harness the Power

Binding both parts together can achieve great things. Great minds don’t go very far without a heart filled passion. Conversely passion can be wasted without a clever mind to design a solution.

The best leaders know how to do both. They are driven by a sense of purpose which fuels the passion. Their heart’s affection is a dominating force. In conjunction, they have their mind’s attention fully engaged, finding solutions for problems and devising great alternatives to the hurdles that come up.

Leaders leverage this power, catching lightening in a bottle so to speak. You can hear and almost feel the power of the passion in their voice. You sense the wisdom in their mind’s vision for things to come. You can more easily buy-in to their ideas and direction.

Leaders build this inspiration in their team.

Here’s the Test

If you are in a management or leadership role, do you have both parts engaged and fully deployed? Is your mind flowing with ideas for ways to go to the next level, solving the problems of the day and offering great ideas? Is your heart in it? Do you feel passionate about your cause, your purpose where you are?

One without the other is a broken, unbalanced equation. You might find temporary success, but it will not last. Usually it will not be enough to get to the next level.

Make an evaluation of this amazing blend of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. If you have been operating too heavily with one and not the other, look around. You might be missing some achievement. You are likely not to be your best.

Take a moment and project what it would be like to harness this power, with both spheres in better balance, overlapping at the center for amazing results.

Question: Let us know when and how you found this balance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Leaders: Which Way Do You Shift?

Shift is a simple word, yet it has so many possible meanings. Shift is a motion word. It implies change. We shift gears when we drive. We also make life choices that involve shifting about. First you’re right here, then you’re not. That is shift. More importantly, when it comes to leadership, the shift you make may be critical.



My wife and I are blessed with a small army of grandkids, all under the age of 4. When they are together, there is a lot of shifting going on. Getting one or more of them to sit still is almost impossible. They have this natural energy to move. One of the boys, a two year old, loves climbing up in my lap to watch his shows. Yet even when he tries to be focused on the cartoon or program on the screen there is movement. It’s just there.

As we grow older though, the ways we shift and the reasons for a shift take on new significance.

First the Downside

Motion or action does not mean success. I know people who can get very busy and accomplish nothing. I’ve been guilty of that myself. If all your effort has no plan or purpose, you might be shifting for the wrong reasons. Hopping from task to task or even job to job may feel like progress, but in reality, it is not.

Causing change in your personal life or work life just for the sake of change is a problem. Before you decide on a new direction, be sure it is consistent with a plan. Napoleon Hill, in his epic book “Think and Grow Rich”, suggests that only 2 people in 100 have ever designed a life plan.

From many years in coaching people through career change, I learned the vast majority of American workers land jobs out of school just to have a paycheck. Then they get stuck doing something that has nothing to do with their real passion in life. It takes years, if not decades, to realize what the passion should have been. A few fortunate souls make the shift and get aligned with what their heart desires for vocation.

There is great success in finding the right balance between your heart’s affection and your mind’s attention. Be sure you get those in right balance and you will have a far more successful career.

When to Shift

There are the wrong kinds of shifting, then the right ones. The right kind of shift happens when we:

  • Realize a conflict has arisen that we must avoid
  • Recognize a situation as being immoral, unethical, or illegal
  • Feel a need to grow
  • Take on a new challenge

Dealing with Conflict

As conflict arises, you might need a shift. Perhaps your mindset needs adjusting. Your attitude about a subject may be the contributing factor to the conflict. As a leader, conflict is not welcome. You need to be the peace maker.

Yes, there may be a critical decision that is all on you. When you make the decision, some conflict might come up. Yet the way you choose to handle it (a shift in mindset) may be the greatest contribution you can make. Draw deep into your inner core. Use your values and leadership principles to set the course, making the shift as smoothly as you can.

Not all of your decisions will be seen as perfect, but you can minimize conflict by having your own willingness to shift your approach as needed without compromising your values and vision.

Facing a Bad Situation

From time to time, you may find yourself inadvertently getting pulled into a circumstance that is either immoral, illegal, or unethical. One of my early mentors in banking was a very senior executive who was a well respected banker. When we brought new loan requests to him, we would review the risk reward factors, but then he would ask “Is there anything about this person or this company that is illegal, immoral or unethical?” You knew he was always going to ask that question. However, it always gave us pause.

I’ve also known business partners who may get into a bind and one or the other person reaches a little too far into this area in hopes of solving the problem. As soon as you sense that a partner is veering off course, you must make the shift to return things to center or abandon the deal. Your reputation is at stake.

If your moral compass (some call it your BS meter) is going wild, check the signals. Avoid the trouble, it’s not worth it. This kind of shift away from destruction is healthy, wise, and prudent.

The Need to Grow

We all have moments in our professional lives where we begin to sense a need to grow. The job is stale. The opportunity is capped. Or you’re just bored. You may need a shift for growth.

Now, I must caution my Millennial readers that this kind of boredom should not set in on a job inside of 90 days. Job opportunities take longer than that to reveal what the job really involves. If you feel bored within 90 days, you made a bad choice to start. It’s not the company or the boss. It is your decision to take the job that needs adjusting. Leave if you must but figure out why you made the bad choice and learn something from that before you go to work somewhere else.

Growth may also come without a job change. You may just feel the need to learn more about your role. You realize you need deeper knowledge of a subject or more technical know-how to perform at a higher level. A growth shift is in order.

Taking on a New Challenge

A shift is required when change happens. Whether the change is in your position or your duties at work. Or maybe it involves a relocation. New challenges come in the birth of a child or grandchild. All of the other major life events create change that requires a shift of some sort or another. Making the right shift is critical to having the best possible outcome.

The life shifts we make to handle the changes around us will dictate whether we succeed or fail. Choose wisely my friend.

Question: When was the last time you had to shift? Was it the right kind of shift? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dealing With Pressure

It's Not If But When

Leaders must know how to handle pressure. Pressure is one of those “not if, but when” factors in life. You will face pressure. The key question is how do you deal with pressure? Is your leadership style changed when pressure comes?

When you face the outward forces crashing in on you, the heat rising, or the magnitude of consequences growing, you sense the pressure. Will the force of pressure draw you closer to your core or drive you away from it? What do I mean by “core”?

The Foundation

Your core is your foundation for leadership. You must routinely seek to build your foundation. Values, principles, and disciplines make up your foundation or core. Without a strong foundation, no structure can endure. So it is with your ability to lead.

Your foundation gives you the under-girding that is necessary to be an effective leader. You cannot give what you don’t have. So your foundation is also the source of strength to guide and direct your leadership efforts.

When pressure comes around, does it send you back to your core or drive you away from it? The best response is to revert to your core or foundation based principles, practices and beliefs. Be true to yourself.

Ask yourself whether the forces of pressure are testing your core. Respond with core-centered action. Do not take the alternative approach and run to some other system of belief or set of principles. Get back to your basics. Likely you were placed in leadership for a reason. The reputation and character that got you into your position is a function of the foundation you used.

When pressure rises, get back in touch with that foundation. Use the solid experience you know about to guide you through the current challenge.

It Truly Is Inward

If you analyze the situation or circumstance that you view as pressure, you will find that factors or elements that make up the sense of pressure are usually identifiable. The big difference is how you inwardly react to those factors.

Your reaction might be radically different form another leader’s reaction, yet the circumstances are exactly the same. What makes the difference?

The answer is your inward process. The way you choose to react or respond to the pressure is the key. Here are some important questions to consider.

Do you react the same way to pressure or does it matter what the details include?

Do you respond or react?

Think about when the doctor gives you medicine. If you respond to it, you are healing. If you react to it, you have more problems.

The way you handle pressure is much the same. By simply reacting, you may be increasing the consequences of your pressure. An inappropriate reaction may draw others into the battle or the circumstances may get worse before they get better. You may create your own compounding effect.

Instead, think in terms of responding to the pressure. Use your experience, your values, your leadership principles. Craft an emotionally intelligent response, not a reaction.

Unmask the Lone Ranger

There was once a story character called The Lone Ranger. It was set in the wild west. As the name suggests, he did most everything by himself. Yet not really. He had a trusted Indian sidekick named Tonto. The whole story is no longer PC, but that’s not my point right now. Pressure may make you feel like trying to find answers by yourself. That should be the last thing you need to do.

Instead you need to rally your support network. Gather the trusted advisers you have recruited. Oh wait, you don’t have any of those? Well, when you’re between high pressure situations, you should work on finding a few individuals who can serve as this personal Mastermind group for you. Let them come along side to provide encouragement and guidance.

Then, when you face pressure, make your assessment of the situation and turn to your network of advisers to assist with ideas for weathering the storm.

Question: When was the last time you faced pressure? How did you respond? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Procedures? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Procedures

Wait, maybe we do.....

Managers and leaders at all levels rely on process and procedure to execute scalable and sustainable delivery of the work they do. Yet from time to time, you will hear talk of being totally free-form in the operation of a business. Results speak for themselves. When you dive deep into the leadership success story of business, you will find prescribed process that is reliant upon standard procedure to make it hum.

Process and ProcedureOnce, as I was assuming responsibility for an operating unit at the bank were I worked, I was talking to one of the clerks. I asked her to describe the work she did on a daily basis. Her description was, “I take this form out of this drawer, make these entries in the computer, and place the form in the other drawer.” The drawers were right side/left side of her desk. I paused, thought, then asked “Well, who puts the form in the right side drawer and who takes the completed form out of the left side drawer?” She said she didn’t’ know because it happened on another shift. I asked how long she had been with the company. “Three years in this same job.” Wow, I was stunned.

I decided to research the rest of the story. I talked to the people on the other shift and got their version. I then went back to the first lady and explained the whole process. Turns out, her part was an important piece of the overall procedure that allowed my unit to operate at peak performance, yet she had no idea. When I shared with her the significance of what she did, she got very inspired. We arranged a meeting between personnel on both shifts to share their views of the work. The harmony this generated was appreciated by all.

While this seems like an overly simple experience, it happens thousands of times daily with hundreds of operations everywhere. Procedure is something that must be understood by all employees. As the leader of a unit, the responsibility for establishing this understanding is on you. Yes, you may delegate the training and monitoring of the work, but when the final tally is made, it will be on you to be sure procedure has been followed.

Depending on the circumstance and the nature of your work, procedure takes on significance ranging from the mundane to the life saving. Go out on a military firing range and ask whether procedure needs to be followed or not. “Keep your weapons pointed up and down range” is a procedural command that saves lives. With live rounds chambered in a weapon, the participants in target practice cannot be pointing the weapon at other people. Your job may not be as dramatic, but the importance of following procedure is just as important.

At the Beginning

There was an interview where a company representative said “At my company, we see as many as 92% of our job applicants failing to follow the prescribed job posting procedures. We count that as immediate elimination.”

No kidding! Wow, 92% of the job seekers applying to this company’s posted jobs cannot follow enough instructions to pass through the grid and become potential interviewees. What are these people thinking? Ok, maybe the company has some special requirements they have laid out, but so what? I am sure the nature of their business has some unique requirements too (as do most companies). If someone cannot or will not follow the steps, then what kind of worker might they be?

Since the job search process is as much about elimination as it is selection. Candidates cannot give the employer a reason to eliminate them by failing to follow a step in the process. If your company has rigid procedures that must be followed, job candidates must follow procedure in order to be deemed a fit for that environment.

Leadership for the Procedures

Once a process has been defined, procedure must follow. When Henry Ford decided how the assembly line would operate, procedure had to follow to let every worker know the steps they need to perform. Skip a step and a wheel might fall off.

Leaders must introduce, teach, train, monitor and adjust procedure so that maximum execution can be achieved. Management can check the boxes toward completion and delivery, but leadership brings the people into the fold. With effective leadership, you can obtain total buy-in by the work team. Since process, driven by procedure is unavoidable for best execution, the people cannot violate the procedure. Otherwise chaos happens.

Leaders must be able to inspire the team to follow the procedures that have been written. If there is any confusion about the expectation it must be resolved. If there is any inconsistency in following procedures, it must be dealt with. Coaching by the leader to address individual exceptions to the rule is required.

Question: When was the last time you had to enforce a procedure to make your team perform better? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Learn more about executive and business coaching offered by Doug Thorpe

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Link Your Brand to a Story for Greater Success

Your business provides a great product or service, right? What sets you apart from the next guy? Study successful brands, and you’ll see they each link their brand with a story. Doing so generates more than simple interest; it connects with their clients’ unconscious minds.

your brand needs a storyLink your brand with a narrative, and you will increase business success.

Why people love a story

The human brain loves a good story. Stories connect with the subconscious mind, which, incidentally is where beliefs are stored. Potential clients don’t just adopt logical thinking when deciding whether to buy products or employ a firm’s services. Their beliefs influence their choices as well.

The subconscious mind uses metaphors to communicate with the conscious mind.

Its wisdom rises in the form of stories and pictures to guide people’s actions. Thus, it might show you an image of someone carrying a heavy load if you contemplate tackling what you consider a difficult task. Or, your mind might present a picture of you meeting success if you believe doing so is possible.

Create a story for your brand that inspires people, and they will like your business. Their unconscious minds will tap into the story, and it will influence their decision to use your services.

What type of story do people love?

First, on an unconscious level, people adore a story that feeds their need to overcome obstacles. They love narratives about rising from difficult circumstances and accomplishing success. Think about your favorite movies. Usually there is a struggle in the story. Whether it is overcoming evil for good, rags to riches, or the victory for a cause, this dynamic reach for something better grabs our hearts and minds.

Furthermore, the human brain is designed to seek improvement. Tales of starting small and achieving big victories provide a feel-good factor that puts people in a good mood. Connecting with this internal wiring for improvement through a good story line helps lock in the message.

Why authenticity counts

At this point, you might imagine you can simply make up a brilliant story to attract customers, but hold on a moment. Before you get too creative, remember, people love authenticity as much as they love a great story. Winning stories are based on facts. Clients will soon smell a rat if your brand’s narrative isn’t genuine.

We all have our own BS meter. We know when people are not being real. The story you choose to build your brand must originate from sincerity and authenticity.

Finding a story for your brand

Your brand already has a story; it just needs to be recognized. You’ll uncover the right story if you think of its beginning stemming from how you had a dream. After all, there was a time when your business was a thought rather than a reality. Here lies the part of the tale where you hadn’t yet achieved success.

What were you doing back then? How did you know you wanted your life to change? What did you want to give to the world by starting your business? Answer such questions, and you’ll have the basis for the story.

The tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe 

Bear in mind the tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe your business has what it takes to improve their lives. Thus, don’t only mention how you were poor but rose from the ashes of poverty like a phoenix to make money. Consider how you discovered you could help others overcome challenges and meet their needs, and weave this element into the story.

12392060 brand story large

Do NOT be afraid

Apart from not thinking of the idea, want to know why some business people never tell their story and link it to their brand? They are scared. Telling their tale involves stepping out of their comfort zone and getting personal. When you reveal your struggles in life, you are vulnerable. However, speaking about how you began your journey will help your clients feel a connection with your brand.

If your story were only about the success of your brand, it wouldn’t be inspiring. Your customers want to be able to relate to the story. Thus, it needs to feed their desire to hear about moving from humble beginnings to achieving a dream.

You might not think you need to link your brand to a story to find success, and you may be right.

You’re more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale

You are more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale of your business to tell. Doing so will not only attract clients, but it will also boost your confidence, inspire employees, and make you proud. You’ll love your business even more than you do now, and what you love you nurture.

Footnote: Much of this article was contributed by Austin Tenette, a certified business coach at Focal Point.

Leadership: Closing Is Usually Not the Problem

In the sales world, there is a big focus on closing the deal. Tips and techniques for effective closing are taught by sales trainers of all types. Yet closing alone does not win many deals. Opening with the prospective client is a bigger factor on whether you win the deal or not. By taking a look at this essential part of the sales process, you can learn something about being a better leader.

Closing is NOT the problem

Closing is NOT the problem

The inability to close is really a symptom rather than a problem. The true problem may be in the way you open.

From the Sales Point of View

The way you open the relationship determines the likelihood of success. You need to set a vision to establish the right agenda and anchor three key areas to earn the right to close:

  • Establish trust and rapport with your target (by being authentic and transparent).
  • Agree about compelling business value.
  • Understand their sense of priorities (and their process for evaluation and selection).

Once these three things are in place, the date for purchasing commitment becomes clear to both buyer and seller. Contracting or finalizing the purchase becomes a ‘next step’ rather than a white knuckle adventure. For many in sales they feel like they need to lock their customer in a room or go sit in their lobby for days on end until the purchase order is secured… desperation is the worst way to attempt a close. You cannot water board a client to a close.

Closing must be earned. Objections from the buyer usually suggest the seller has made mistakes by pushing before trust and value has been established. It also indicates an absence of the necessary understanding of the buyer’s timing, priorities and processes.

Making the Shift

These same principles hold true in management and leadership. You cannot push an employee to success, at least not for the long term. Some degree of trust must be established before an employee openly follows the guidance of the manager.

For managers; remember that you cannot manage by results; only by activities and actions. Ask the right questions of your people at the beginning of the quarter and help them identify and execute the right actions that create progression throughout the quarter. Firing-up the blow torch with just days to go in the quarter after neglecting the inputs that create success is a sure-fire way to damage relationships and drive-down performance.

Begin with a Strong Opening

As a leader, building a team takes hard work. We are too often “quick to hire and slow to fire”. It should be the other way around. Talent selection must be a well orchestrated effort driven by specific attributes necessary to fill a job. The considerations include:

  • Alignment with company vision and goals
  • Applicable technical skills or experience
  • Cultural fit
  • Personality compatibility
  • And many more…

In Jim Collins’ watershed book “Good to Great”, he introduces the concept of identifying your “hedgehog” focus; the thing your company does best. Then he adds “getting the right people on the bus”.

Doing more to achieve better selection and placement can set the stage for better success.

Once a candidate is selected, you must have an effective on-boarding process to begin building that opening argument for why the person is here and what opportunities you have for them. When someone joins your team, they have taken the first step to say “yes, I think I see what can be done here”. As the leader, you must build on that, reinforcing the values and reasons. These steps add to the proper and effective “opening” with a new hire, thus improving the odds for a strong “closing” in their performance.

The Simple But Elegant Solution

For better management and leadership of your team, you need to have an ability to set priorities, assess the “what can I do to help you” factors, and keep momentum gaining steam. There’s an old manager’s line that says:

You must inspect what you expect.

In all my years on the front line, I have seen no better system that the Big 5 Performance Management model. The simplicity of this idea is elegant.

You ask your team to each prepare a monthly report. List five accomplishments for the prior month and add five priorities for the next month; just bulleted lists, no long text/paragraphs.

Once the employee prepares this report, they share it with the manager. The manager can use the report as a coaching moment. Setting alignment and agreement or making slight adjustments to the priorities.

Companies who have adopted Big 5 have eliminated annual employee appraisals. Why would you need them? With Big 5 you have 12 months of actual data. More importantly, if there was a need for slight correction or coaching with an employee, the manager can handle it real-time, thus reducing extended failures and missteps. This improves effectiveness of the team as a whole.

Finally, with Big 5, the employee engagement is improved. As the employee feels more connected with the boss through the routine coaching moments (monthly remember?), there is a greater sense of accomplishment and purpose.

To learn more about Big 5 Performance Management, click the button below.

Closing Is Not the Problem

Getting employees to perform better (closing) is not about cracking a whip near the end of a reporting cycle or as a deadline approaches. Finishing strong is achieved by opening with the employee through more effective means. Better hiring practices, improved on-boarding, and effective leadership nurture the employee to better performance and better results.

Through effective leadership, you can build trust and lead your team toward the right goals.

Question: Let us know how you do more to ‘open’ with your employees. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dealing with the Pain of Uncertainty

Uncertainty grips us all at some point in our lives. Perhaps it happens multiple times. It comes in many ways. When circumstances become unclear about “where this is going”, you suffer from doubt, fear, and a whole host of other emotions.

Dealing with Uncertainty

Dealing with Uncertainty

I am writing this firsthand as I and my community are experiencing the unfolding uncertainty of Hurricane Harvey. The Houston area has been impacted by what some are calling rain fall of Biblical proportions. The last reading was 52 inches in five days. For most parts of the world, that amount is a couple of years of rainfall. Houston got it in a few days.

The widespread flooding has forced thousands out of cars, homes and apartments. This event has not been partial to age, race, creed, or financial status. Anyone in the path of the flooding has been impacted. Volunteer effort has also been epic in its response. The efforts of local, state and government officials has been amazing. Thankfully the death toll has been very low, relatively speaking. With an area that is home to 6.5 million, the loss of life can be counted on both hands. This could have been much worse.

In my own neighborhood, we have not been impacted as much as the central Houston area flood water. Yet we have had our own uncertainty. My community is inside a levee district. We have the levee because of the Brazos River. The Brazos is a main artery and the largest river that slices across Texas, running from high central Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Its watershed collects a lot of rain when virtually any part of Texas gets downfall. Last year this river flooded at all-time highs. This year, we are forecast to exceed those levels by 3 feet. That’s a record you don’t want to beat.

The uncertainty of what the outcomes of these events may look like is easy to understand, but hard to comprehend. More importantly it is hard to rationalize your decisions about what to do, who to listen to, and how to go forward.

Uncertainty is by no means limited to catastrophic weather events. It can happen in all other aspects of life too. I’ve had coaching clients who are facing great uncertainty at work. The company is getting bought, sold, or reorganized. Pre and post-merger scenarios often create great uncertainty, even for the chief executives driving those changes.

Uncertainty is difficult because you suffer a wide range of possible human emotion and reaction. The list includes these:

  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Mistrust
  • Faulty information/assumptions
  • Bad conclusions
  • Compounding effects


Fear may be the greatest of all reactions to uncertainty. The fear of the unknown. You may have your own reaction to circumstances. Yet the person right next to, perhaps your spouse, may have a totally different response.

When we take in the information that is surrounding us, we try to process it against the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Will this thing effect my safety, my security, my well-being, my livelihood, or my sense of self? If you decide YES, it does effect one or all of those things, then fear kicks in.

Fear is often associated with the fight or flight mechanisms we have. If the threat, whether real or perceived, exists, then we ultimately choose to fight to defend ourselves (literally or figuratively) or we flee from danger, running away.

If you are experiencing uncertainty, the first emotion to get in check is your fear. Though it is a natural response, the energy and emotion it consumes is detrimental to successful outcomes in the face of uncertainty.


Uncertainty creates doubt. What you may have believed to be true is now called into question when uncertainty arises. You can doubt the circumstance, the source of information, or the people around you. Worst of all is starting to doubt yourself.

If you are in management and leadership, self-doubt is a killer. You must avoid doubting yourself. When any question about you comes up because of an uncertain situation, dig deep into your soul. Pull on your character. Stay strong in your beliefs about who and what you are.

If you are not yet certain about those elements of your being, then you have an opportunity to do some work to improve. If grabbing onto core values and key principles is hard for you, then perhaps you have not yet accurately identified them. A coach can help build that base.


Uncertainty can cause a great deal of mistrust between otherwise civil partners. Friends, neighbors, or co-workers can become adversaries when uncertainty raises its ugly head. As people make decisions about the uncertainty they are facing, their conclusions may run contrary to others.

This is especially problematic between partners and co-workers. When the uncertainty causes a rift between parties, the damage in the relationship may become permanent.

There is no good reason to mistrust someone you formerly trusted during a momentary condition. Wait for the actual, final outcomes to pass judgment on the other person. Hopefully, you will find the temporary interruption in the relationship was not about trust at all. Instead it was a difference of opinions and outlooks that can be repaired with some basic collaboration and communication after the fact. Clear the air as it were.


The panic that might happen inside of uncertainty can be hungry for good information. But you have to be careful. The appetite cannot be satisfied with bad information. Check your facts.

As Reagan once said, “Trust but verify”. Check that data.

Within a team setting, information can take strange shapes. There will be those who insist they have the inside track, getting juicy info to explain the situation or even cast further fear and doubt. In my case lately, there have been those who want to yell “the levee has been breached” when in fact it has not.

It is hard to understand the desire some people may have for spreading such bad information, but they do it anyway. As a leader, you must quiet those storms and share as much good information as you can.

Nothing can confuse a situation more than bad information. Prudent people perform best with solid, reliable information and assumptions. Get the facts, then craft your ideas for desirable outcomes.


Combining all of the pieces above will usually lead to bad conclusions. Fear, doubt, lack of trust, and bad data create the perfect storm for making bad decisions. Whether these decisions are personal or professional, avoid making a bad decision by fixing the other things first.

During uncertainty, you may still make a bad decision, but you can minimize its risk and significance by eliminating the other things we talked about above.


Lastly, be cautious of compounding effects. If you period of uncertainty is prolonged, one bad decisions can compound and create more bad decisions. Stay vigilant when you are facing uncertainty. You will know when you are.

Avoid making rash choices based on fear and doubt. Dig for the truth and as much actual information as you can so that your choices are smarter, more effective ones.


As I write this piece, I sit in the midst of uncertainty. A nearby river is rising to an all-time flood level. There are real people already in jeopardy. Some are homeless, some are displaced, most are just very wet. Property damages are yet to be totalled. It may be days if not weeks before we can get accurate information about what has happened.

This is no time to make decisions based on fear and doubt. We must find trusted relationships to lean on. Anyone introducing new, inflammatory information must be questioned or ignored.

Solid leadership is required.

You can eliminate the uncertainty from your job as a manager by hiring a coach to lead you through to the next level of certainty.


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How to Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

It’s an old saying you’ve likely heard before. For anyone who owns a business, this phrase is counsel that may be hard to do. For all the owners out there, all three counts in this simple mantra may be nearly impossible.



First, to Lead

On one hand that seems obvious. You own the business, who else would be leading it? Well, it might not be you. Leadership is much different from management. You might be managing the dickens out of your business, but still not really leading it.

You might even be crazy busy, but not providing key leadership when it is needed. Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are driven. They have vision. They are inspired to do something great. Yet having those wonderful ideas and inspirations won’t make you a leader. Yes, you will have the power of the position, but you will not be leading.

The drive that makes an entrepreneur want to do something can become your worst enemy. If you suffer from SOS (shiny object syndrome), you will never plot a course for success. The next big thing might be a distraction rather than benefit.

The cure is taking time to learn about leadership. Seek counsel. Unless you are one of the rare few who were exposed to leadership thought and theory along the way, you will need to grow before you become a true leader. Yes, there are an even more rare few who seem to have been with natural leadership talents. Congratulations if this is you. Sadly, for the vast majority, leadership is a refined and leaned skill that must be nurtured.

To Follow

Being a follower is not a bad thing. One of the best leadership principles I was ever taught centered on the idea that in order to be a good leader, you must first be a good follower.

Following is not just blind faith. Rather it is commitment to pay attention t the one who might be leading. Observe the good with the bad. Learn from the experience following others. If you are blessed with a good, perhaps even great leader, watch what they do. Study how they inspire and draw others in.

If, on the other hand, your leader is not so good, be diligent in the discipline of following anyway. The worst case scenario is that you might learn what never to do again.

Get Out of the Way

If either of the first two choices are not available, then door number three is needed; get out of the way. Never become a stumbling block for those around you who might be leading the charge forward with a faithful following. If you are not chosen to lead, and you don’t want to follow, then never be the bad egg who sits and pouts, making trouble for everyone else.

I’ve watched whole careers waste away as someone chooses to be disgruntled over the state of affairs. Others are getting promoted and the ideas that are happening are not acceptable either. Folks with this mindset are very frustrated human beings. You likely have know a few.

The simple answer may have been to merely get out of the way.

Question: Where are you today? Are able to lead, follow or get out of the way? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

It’s your choice. GO for it!

PS – This post was written weeks ago and scheduled for today. Ironically, where I live, just outside of Houston, Texas, the whole area has been hammered by historic and “catastrophic” rains from Hurricane Harvey that have caused thousands to lose their homes to flooding. Leadership is at a premium. Local leaders, politicians, first-responders, Coast Guard personnel, and dozens of other agencies I can’t even list here have mobilized to respond. Lead , follow, or get out of the way has been the battle cry. I am proud of the ways all parties have circled their efforts to coordinate and collaborate.

Yes, as this event drags out, certainly nerves will fray and exhaustion will set in. Then we will see who the true leaders may be. We will also see who the pretenders are. True leadership will win the day. I have trust in many. They have proven their stripes with similar circumstances and will do so again. Pray for this region as we deal with record-breaking water accumulation, run-off, and flash flooding.



10 Rules for High-Performing Teams

Being a successful leader implies success within the team you influence. While a leader’s impact on specific individuals is easier to measure, team dynamics create exponential challenges for leaders.

21139567 – teamwork works together to build a gear system

Success in today’s work world is more about team than individual performance. A team is more than just a group of workers, located together, doing their jobs. Real teams are interdependent. That means they must rely on one another to get the job done. So what are best practices for effective teams? Here are 10 rules from a chapter on “Best Practices in Team Leadership” by Kevin Stagl, Eduardo Salas, and C.Shawn Burke.

1. Define and Create Interdependencies. There is a need to define and structure team members’ roles. Think of sports teams, everyone has their position to play, and success happens when all of the players are playing their roles effectively. In baseball, a double-play is a beautiful example of team interdependency.

2. Establish Goals. Teams need to be focused on shared goals and outcomes. Commitment to that goal is essential for success. Ideally, team goals should allow both the team as a unit and the individual members to achieve both personal and group goals.

3. Determine How Teams Will Make Decisions. Whether the leader makes the decision, or it is a democratic or consensus process, the team needs to understand beforehand how decisions will be made. This reduces conflict within the team when a decision or choice has to be made.

4. Provide Clear and Constant Feedback. Teams need to know how they are doing in order to stay motivated and to correct performance problems or inefficiencies. Ideally, a system should be in place so that team members receive ongoing feedback while doing their jobs. A simple example from manufacturing is when the team members do both production and quality control testing. They find out immediately what their success/failure rate is and can take action to improve.

5. Keep Team Membership Stable. Particularly in complex tasks, it takes a lot of time for team members to learn to work together at an optimum level. In sports, there is a relationship between how long team members have played together and their winning record.

6. Allow Team Members to Challenge the Status Quo. If innovation is important, it is critical that team members feel secure in being able to challenge processes if they feel that there is a way to improve. In order to innovate, teams need to be open to considering and constructively criticizing existing practices when needed.

7. Learn How to Identify and Attract Talent. Just as processes sometimes need improvement, teams can get better by attracting new talent. Organizations that put a lot of resources into identifying and recruiting talent simply do better.

8. Use Team-Based Reward Systems. Too much emphasis on individual rewards can lead to in-fighting and resentment. A combination of individual and team-based rewards is often best.

9. Create a Learning Environment. Emphasize the development of the team, learning through successes, but particularly through mistakes. A team with a culture of continuous improvement and where members are motivated to develop their skills and knowledge are high-performing teams.

10. Focus on the Collective Mission. Mission-driven teams and organizations perform better because they see beyond their individual workload and tasks and feel as if they are working for a higher purpose. It is imperative that team members be committed to the shared mission, or they should be replaced.

These rules apply whether teams have a formal, appointed leader, or whether they are self-governing. The key is to put in the time and energy needed to adhere to these best practices.


Stagl, K.C., Salas, E., & Burke, C.S. (2007). Best Practices in Team Leadership. In Jay Conger and Ronald Riggio (Eds.). The Practice of Leadership (pp. 172-197). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This article is contributed by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.. Ron is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. Professor Riggio is the author of over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas of leadership, assessment centers, organizational psychology and social psychology.