Career Moves: What’s So Special About Me?

I Am Special

Professionals in all walks of life often struggle with one key element. When asked about their strengths, they sometimes stumble through the answer.

I Am Special
I Am Special

From all of my coaching experience, I find that most people have a hard time accurately describing their greatest accomplishments and their core strengths. It seems that social standards keep us from “bragging” about ourselves.

I contend it is actually deeper than that. When we have a gift or a natural talent, we take it for granted. It feels natural, so you don’t think it’s all that special.

Here’s an example. Pro golfers who hit tee shots over 300 yards don’t think that is very special. They are concerned with hitting a few feet left or right of a target spot out there over the 300 yard distance. Any other golfer though is in awe of being able to hit a ball that far.

There are similar analogies in business. A finance chief who can run detailed calculations in his head does not see that as a gift. Rather he is concerned with decimal accuracy. The engineer who can see a detailed design in their mind doesn’t count that as a talent, but rather a natural facet of their work.

The list of examples goes on. So what’s the point?

As we make career moves, we must be able to explain core strengths, talents, and accomplishments. You have to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition for a job. The best way to do that is to describe key strengths and unique talents, evidenced by key accomplishments.

Regardless of how routine YOU think those accomplishments may be, they might be very special to a potential hiring manager. The thing you can “do in your sleep” may be the missing link at a new company.

If you think about it, finding a fit for your highest and best use is the perfect opportunity; one where you are able to perform what comes so naturally and what can be in high demand at a new job.

In his breakout book “Promote!”, author, speaker and superb career coach Rick Gillis explains:

Your career success depends on your ability to properly promote yourself. Yet most people can’t express their value in a way that wows without also bragging or being obnoxious. As an employment and careers expert, Rick Gillis has come to consider this skill gap a deadly deficiency. Left unaddressed, it kills careers.

Here are six PROMOTE! points for your consideration.

  • Don’t assume that your boss knows exactly what you do. S/he doesn’t.
  • Embrace the difference between articulating your value and bragging.
  • Adopt an accomplishment mindset and narrative.
  • Quantify your worth.
  • Source and shape your wins.
  • Master the three-part accomplishment statement.

Your accomplishments demonstrate ways you build value for your current or potential employer. You have to be able to talk in terms of those value-adding attributes when you want to make a move or ask for a raise/promotion. Don’t leave anything on the table. Just because something you do feels natural and “easy” for you (like hitting a golf ball 300 yards), to a hiring manager or your boss, that can be a big deal!


As you start the new year, take a moment to look back on your skills and abilities plus the key accomplishments in your career. Build an inventory of all of that valuable information. Write them down! Keep the list handy when you decide to talk about raises or career moves.

Four Responsibilities A CEO Cannot Delegate (and why)

CEO Duties

Here is a guest post from friend and HeadwayExec colleague Keith Okano. You can read more of Keith’s work on his blog at ClosingStrong.com

One of the most common tasks I have is to help a CEO in writing their own job description. Since they work in a variety of industries and possess diverse talents and strengths, much of the job description is different for each individual. But there are four responsibilities essential to a CEO’s job description and which only the CEO can do.

CEO Duties
CEO Duties

The four non-delegable responsibilities are culture, vision, strategy, and CEO sales (from my experience, this is not what most CEO’s immediately think).

  1. Culture. Culture defines who the company is – or in other words, its character. This includes its values, ethics and expectations. It is the way you expect every employee, starting with yourself, to think, speak, and behave. Embracing culture is a must for promotion. And lack of compliance a reason for dismissal. A strongly defined culture is essential for Collin’s “flywheel” as described in “Good to Great”.
  2. Vision. Vision is the where and why for your company. It is the company’s manifest future defined in terms that everyone can understand. It is the charter that empowers your team to utilize all of their creativity, intellect, and other resources to pursue this destiny. Name it and claim it!
  3. Strategy. Strategy defines the what, how and when. A strategy defines how the company will progress from its current position to the one described by the vision. Not to be confused with the notorious 200-page document, a strategy might be recorded in a single-page. It is not the strategic plan; it is the basis for the plan. Add budget, milestones, execution, and timeline to create the appropriate sized strategic plan for the organization. Please delegate the creation of the strategic plan.
  4. CEO Sales. Everyone knows there are things that can only be sold by the CEO. Absolutely correct! But they are not the company’s products or services. The CEO is the only one who can sell the company’s culture, vision and strategy to all of its stakeholders, from employees and suppliers, through customers and owners, forming the types of relationships essential to trusted partnerships.

All of these responsibilities can only credibly belong to the CEO, and their implementation essential to guide the organization. If you do NOT have all four defined and in place, it is more than likely that you are not the CEO, you are the “Answer Man.”

If you would like assistance in how to write a CEO job description, or to how to right-size the implementations of these responsibilities for your organization, I’m happy to help. Just contact me by clicking here.

“The one thing I have learned as a CEO is that leadership at various levels is vastly different. When I was leading a function or a business, there were certain demands and requirements to be a leader. As you move up the organization, the requirements for leading that organization don’t grow vertically; they grow exponentially.”

— Indra Nooyi

8 Tips For Productive Offsites

Many organizations have now entered the fourth quarter, the home stretch. But it is also time to begin hard planning for 2017 – and that makes it offsite season.

Here are a few tips to help your meetings be most productive.

  1. Have the offsite “offsite.” This seems obvious, but it is worth pointing out that getting away from the office is necessary to get out of the day-to-day mindset. Offsite meetings held in the office, or in close proximity to the office, encourage interruptions and make it too tempting to run there during lunch or other breaks.
  2. Turn off all phones and computers. No exceptions. Consider what is most important. It better be the future of the company, which is the point of the meeting.
  3. Don’t place brainstorming and planning sessions back-to-back on the agenda. The human mind finds it difficult to switch between the creativity of brainstorming and the structure of planning mode quickly. Scheduling such sessions back-to-back mean your executive team will not be able to perform at their best. A great way to avoid this is to hold the offsite over two consecutive days. The first day should be reserved for brainstorming, and the second day for planning. If the meeting group is small or the brainstorming agenda is short, start the offsite at noon on the first day, take a break overnight, and start again with the planning part of the agenda first thing the next morning.
  4. Open the meeting with an icebreaker that steps directly into the first item on the agenda. An icebreaker is great for loosening up the meeting attendees and getting everyone active. Very important. But it doesn’t have to be limited to this.
  5. “Biggest bang for the buck” is not strategic. If during the brainstorming sessions the team discussions focus on selecting the most ideas, the executives are thinking too small. Brainstorming should result in the best choices, not the most. “Biggest bang for the buck” planning is only maintenance.
  6. Break into workgroups to avoid groupthink. Groups naturally work toward conformance (see The Abilene Paradox). Separating the team into smaller groups for evaluation or discussion will result in more ideas to put on the table for the entire group to work with.
  7. Close the brainstorming day with decision-making. Bringing the team to clear conclusions keeps the team in alignment after a day of creative ideas. It is likely the executive team will not be able to come to decisions on all ideas, but this puts a good stake in the ground. Click here for a collaborative exercise that might be useful to conclude the first day.
  8. Hire a third-party facilitator – regardless of your own, or available internal facilitation skills. An internal facilitator already has knowledge and relationships with the executive team members, inserting politics and limiting the degree of openness. Consider a situation where the CEO is running the meeting. The executives will be able to “read” the CEO based on their prior interactions and will be less likely to push back on things he feels strongly about. A third-party facilitator has the ability to provoke more difficult topics or force issues to agreement, since they have no working relationship to be concerned about following the meeting.

Having Intentions Vs Living Intentionally: What’s the Difference?

There is a big difference between having intentions and living intentionally. Our intentions are our thoughts about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Some think about it as choices.

We are faced with dozens of choices every day — some little, some big; from whether to choose a salad or a chocolate sundae for lunch to what job we take, our world today is full of options.


On the other hand, living intentionally requires action. Your good thought is meaningless without action. Once your thoughts get put into action, then you can become intentional.

The thing is, sometimes it’s much easier to just go with the flow and not think about those options and the required action.

What is an Intention?

TheFreeDictionary.com defines intention as

a course of action that one intends to follow, an aim that guides action, an objective.

Merriam-Webster.com defines intention as a determination to act in a certain way.

As shared in “When your Relationships are Good, your Life is Good”, an intention is a clear and positive statement of an outcome you want to experience.  An intention is a goal, or vision, that guides your activities, thoughts, attitudes, and choices.   Hence, your intentions influence your actual experiences.

You can set an intention in any area of your life- physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  Although intentions start with a mental picture of your goal, intentions require focus, action, and positive energy to manifest.

Having Intentions; Good or Otherwise

Many fathers have stood in the doorway to their homes as a young man approaches planning to pick up their daughter for a dance or a date. The Dad usually works into the conversation “what are your intentions young man”? That may sound a little dated phraseology, but its meaning is clear. The Dad is saying tell me what you are thinking about doing even before the evening has begun.

Our active minds can conjure thoughts of very good intentions like:

  • I’m going to lose weight
  • I’m going to spend less or save more
  • I’m going to get that promotion
  • I’m going to marry him/her

Why are Intentions Important?

Intentions provide a framework for you to set priorities, use your time wisely, and align yourself with the resources you need to manifest your goals.   The process of setting and working towards your intentions declares to yourself, others, and the universe that you are serious about your dreams and goals.

A strong, positive, and energized intention is likely to repel that which is not in alignment with it.  The opposite is also true.  A strong, positive, and energized intention will attract the essence of what it is.

Having good intentions is a far cry from living intentionally. As the sage wisdom tells us “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. This sentiment makes it clear that having good ideas, or well meaning ones will not be worth anything without action. This is where intentional living kicks in.

Living Intentionally

Living intentionally is about doing the things that are important to you even when they’re not easy. It is about solid choices consistent with your vision about where you want to go.

Too many people get lulled into routines and habits that never produce the outcome they dreamed about. Instead of intentional living, they drift.

In the best selling book “Living Forward“, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy describe the need to stop drifting through life. They ask the question are we drifting through life as spectators, reacting to our circumstances when necessary and wondering just how we got to this point anyway? Or are we directing it, maximizing the joy and potential of every day, living with a purpose or mission in mind?

They describe three stages of the transformational change that can occur when one decides to live an intentional life; drift, shift, and lift. I’ve added a fourth segment; gift. As you decide to stop drifting and move to intentional living, you ultimately become a gift to those around you and the communities where you live.

When you apply these four stages of growing toward intentional living, you can see the differences in each of the three key areas of work, life, and faith.

Intentional Leadership

If you are in any position of leadership whether at work, at home, or in your community, you must be intentional. You know that, you feel that. Yet how often do you sense the drifting in your own actions? Are you just riding the wave? Or keeping it in cruise control?

Perhaps you have found your own ways to stay intentional with everything you do. Congratulations. But I am guessing that there are many of you out there who suffer from the occasional drift in your actions.

Let today be the day you decide to change. Forget yesterday and the opportunities lost. Today is a new day. Start fresh. Get your focus. Set your course. Remember, your good intentions need action.

There are way too many great plans and coaches available to help you plotting that course. There is no excuse. You can make a difference, right where you are, right now.

[reminder]How are you living and leading intentionally?[/reminder]

What Is “Slowly, Rarely or Never”?

Leadership, purpose

That’s the answer to the question “how do people change?”

There are plenty of situations in our lives and in the world around us when people want to talk about change. Whether it has to do with a red state/blue state matter, an economic trend, a market condition, or the price of something, change is all around us.

Leadership, purpose, meaningYet why is it that individually, people don’t really embrace change all that well. I mean it’s great for the other guy, right? However, when you ask me to change, how dare you!!!

Ah, we are creatures of such strange habits. I’ve spent many years encouraging managers and executives to make changes in their own lives, so that the lives of the people around them can be enriched. Highly successful people still need to make certain shifts, hopefully for the greater good.

There is a great principle shared by John Maxwell. Maxwell says:

Success adds value to you, while significance adds values to others.

When he founded the The Halftime Institute, Bob Buford challenged business leaders to think about moving from success to significance. For many people, the early years of their career is about achieving some level of success; bigger bank accounts, better job title, fame, reputation, notoriety, etc. Eventually there is a realization that what is really desired is significance. The higher levels of success do not fulfill a deeper sense of calling and purpose.

The quest to find significance can be summed up in three simple questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going?

Leadership, purposeMaking the transition from success to significance may be the toughest change of all for most people. Which, brings me back to the opening statement. How do people change?

Slowly, Rarely, or Never.

If you are a regular reader of my articles, you have embraced the concept of striving for personal change. You are seeking to learn more about being a better manager and business leader. You want to do more for your family, providing them with the right leadership. Or perhaps you want to grow as a leader in your community. Simply, you want to be a better YOU.

Beginning the journey to move from success to significance will be a life changing experience. That I can promise. For every client of mine who has committed to taking the first step in that journey, the rewards have always exceeded the wildest expectations.

I invite you to join me in some upcoming webinars I will be hosting. The sessions will be free. I will introduce you to some irrefutable laws of leadership that will propel you to new heights of inspiration and understanding about becoming that leader with real significance; impacting others in great and wonderful ways.

Be on the watch for more information coming soon.

Finding Good Fit

Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to identify “good fit” during their hiring process. Candidate selection is driven by the magical, mystical notion of making a good fit decision.

Clearly the first step usually involves matching job description requirements with the candidate’s stated background experience. Right away, the matching process starts to break down because so much screening is now contingent on keyword matching, and not much else.


Even if resume screening works well, the next step takes the candidate into an interview process. Here’s where it really gets fun.

First, well coached candidates can ace interviews while really not bringing much value to the company. Poorly trained hiring managers, who only occasionally may conduct interviews, (i.e. it’s not their full time job) do not possess the right skills for getting maximum value from the interview process. So the “good fit” effort takes yet another hit.

With these two key areas suffering, the station of last resort is the look and feel test. Does the candidate look and feel like the right person for the job? Sadly, this often takes us back to the untrained interviewer who merely decides to hire someone who looks like or thinks like they do, assuming that alignment of core values and ideals will work.

Have I touched any nerves yet? How’s your good fit guy doing so far?

Yes, good fit selection is a far more complex challenge for companies and their job seeker candidates. Even more important is the unit manager who gets involved in the selection process.

Finding true good fit requires the ability to properly identify what that means to the company and the team. Jim Collins in his “Good to Great” talks about this challenge as ‘getting the right people on the bus’. Once your company defines its core value and vision, there will be key individuals with unique talent who can make things happen. Hiring anyone short of that impacts the final outcome, not to mention the headache and liability of releasing a “bad fit” employee.


There are several emerging ways companies are trying to do more for good fit hiring. Here are a few of the main ideas.

Personality Traits

Ever since Karl Jung first developed his 4 part personality classification system, there have been spin-off theories that are widely adopted by major corporations. These include DISC, Myers Briggs MBTI (R), and Birkman testing. While the Jung-based psychology gives interesting personality indicators, the complexities of human thinking and its far reaching impact in the workplace can only be counted as a starting point. Whether someone scores an INTJ or ENFT will only go so far in helping a manager make a good fit decision. See this interesting opposing view at Wired magazine.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence testing or “EI” has become a popular topic for defining and exploring better fit conditions. We probably know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They’re excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their strengths, however, they’re usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance.

People like this have a high degree of emotional intelligence, or EI. They know themselves very well, and they’re also able to sense the emotional needs of others.

emotional intelligence, leadership, business, management

For example, one large cosmetics company recently revised their hiring process for salespeople to choose candidates based on their EI. The result? People hired with the new system have sold, on average, $91,000 more than salespeople selected under the old system. There has also been significantly lower staff turnover among the group chosen for their EI.

Cultural Fit

Companies seeking to define their own culture must identify candidates who fit that culture. Whether the elements are work ethic, training, expertise, or attitude, the company’s culture helps define fit.

From Entrepreneur :

There’s no denying that cultural fit is important but make sure you actually know what it is before judging candidates. It’s easy to mistake cultural fit for personal biases — just because you wouldn’t mind being stuck in an airport with a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a great fit for your company.

A candidate’s approach shouldn’t be so divisive that it creates rifts among employees, but you shouldn’t be afraid to hire somebody whose personality clashes with your own. If you perceive that a candidate would make a meaningful contribution to your company while maintaining decorum, that candidate might be a cultural match.

The Bigger Question

Good fit ultimately comes down to being able to harness the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. Managers tapping into the hearts and minds of their team will yield the greatest results. Having employees who are not open to contributing at that level will never be a good fit.

Using the tools mentioned above can give insight into ways people might fit well with your team. However when all is said and done, your own ability as the leader to direct, inspire and instill fit within your team is your biggest task.

[reminder]How do you and your company manage finding the right fit?[/reminder]

Images courtesy of 123rf.com

Leadership and Foundation Repairs

Not long ago, my neighbor had to have some foundation repairs done at his house. I live in an area of the Texas Gulf Coast where there is long term terrain subsidence. Foundations can shift and begin to crack without intervention.

business, entrepreneur, coaching, leadership

If you are not familiar with repairing a foundation, the crew will dig holes around the edges of the slab. The holes go as deep as it takes to hit bedrock. Then concrete piers are poured into the holes. Once the piers dry, shims are used to level the structure, returning the foundation to a true and level condition. Once the piers go in, there is very little movement. The foundation becomes strong and firm again.

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Managers – What Will You Be on Halloween?

This evening is Halloween; celebrated in many different ways.

Business executives, entrepreneurs

Of the many best loved traditions in America, the donning of costumes is at the top of the list. Many, many years ago, in times past, adults began dressing in elaborate costumes for Halloween parties, also known as Masquerade parties, long before it became an annual event for children. Dressing up in Halloween costumes is a recent tradition that developed in the twentieth century. The first store bought Halloween costumes were not available before the 1930’s.

With the holiday being very loosely based on old Celtic legends about the closeness between the mundane world and that of the spirits at this time of year and the Catholic Church’s celebration of their saints, it is no wonder that Halloween costumes have taken on a rather macabre appearance.

Witches, blood thirsty vampires, moaning ghosts, zombies, vicious werewolves and many other frightening monsters became the popular choices of trick or theaters every where. Thus the American idea of a creepy Halloween was born. Dressing in costumes gives one the opportunity to “let their hair down” and be someone else for a while, all in good fun of course.

When you are in a leadership role, do you dress up for the occasion? Is there a mask you like to wear? Or perhaps there are several “costumes” you choose depending upon the circumstance.

business executives, entrepreneurs

In leadership it can be very easy to revert to alter-egos, whether good or bad. Let’s roll this altogether and call it wearing a mask.

Do you ever wear a mask at work? I don’t mean the silly kind you buy at a Halloween store. I mean the face we put on when things aren’t working as they should or you have been “found out”. Masking can be a convenient way to dodge ever having to fess up to something or admit a short coming.

Dealing With Feelings

On one hand, we are taught not to complain, right? If things aren’t going well, we need to show strength and courage. People ask “How are you doing?” and we respond “Fine, thank you.” Yet you’re NOT! Now, obviously, we don’t let the folks who report to us get inundated with our “stuff”, but there are times when being real with our team is more important than masking over it.

Taking off the mask with those around us allows us to build trust and credibility. Being real doesn’t mean you have to be like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, constantly looking at life like the glass is half empty. However, you can share honest reality of what may be going on.

Now, when the big boss is raining on your head, bringing heat and pressure to perform better, it is wise to NOT simply pass down the heat. Instead, you need to be the buffer for your team, fading the heat from above. You still need to distill the message so that your team understands the new expectations. You can do that without masking.

Fear and Doubt

Fear and doubt causes some to put on a mask. If you are suffering from any doubt about your ability to manage your team, you may expose yourself in various ways. There’s the nervous laugh when others get too close to the truth. Or the dodging of questions when you truly don’t know the answer.

Masking over fear and doubt only serves to perpetuate the problem. Instead, take a proactive approach. Identify the exact reasons you feel this doubt. If it is about knowledge, go get the training you need. Sometimes simply asking to be mentored by someone in your field, outside the company can fill the knowledge gap.

It’s Tiring to Pretend

Wearing masks at work is exhausting. Fake it ’til you make it can only last so long. Maintaining a false persona takes incredible energy; energy that could be spent on far more positive efforts. Give yourself a break and remove the mask.

Deal with any root causes of the need to have a mask. Masking is only a symptom of a much deeper cause. Fix that and eliminate the need to mask.

entrepreneurs, business executives

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Brian Tracy has been quoted as saying:

“No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.”

You need coaching and mentorship to grow. Many companies are providing leadership development programs for their rising stars. There are services available, provided by trained and certified coaches to help you grow your leadership skills. Go to the web and check out a workshop or lunch-and-learn near you.

What is your favorite mask to wear at work? Why not take it off permanently? Let your people see the real you. I promise you’ll be happier for it.

Finding Purpose: Know Your Swim Lane

life purpose

Competitive swimmers must stay in a prescribed lane during the race. It’s actually a violation to get out of your lane.

life purpose

Business professionals occasionally have a hard time defining their lane and staying in it. This often happens when an individual is asked to step into a supervisory or management role. Several things might occur:

  • They embrace the promotion and adequately shift gears (change lanes) to work on becoming a good manager.
  • They take the role, but stay in their old lane, trying to still be a contributing worker when the real need is for team supervision.

I was talking with a new contact who was relaying his job history. He shared the fact that at one point he had been promoted into management. That chapter of his career did not end well. He reverted to sole contributor mode and became a very successful professional, outside of any supervisory duties. He said he loved being his own boss again (although he has a real boss). The fact was, he hated being a manager. It was not his “thing”.

The root of this phenomenon has to do with passion and purpose. Finding your lane and staying in it is about seizing an understanding of your purpose.

We’re all wired differently. The strengths we have help to define our purpose. When you accurately identify your strengths, and follow the pursuit for using those strengths, things get easier. Your purpose emerges and you can see a better definition of your own, personal swim lane for life.

When we attempt to operate with our weaknesses, life seems hard. Conflict is everywhere. Our energy levels are low. We get tired and frustrated far too often. Our purpose seems muddled and unclear.

Reverting to our strengths gives us energy. You seldom get tired of operating inside your set of strengths.

Using my new friend’s example, being a supervisor was not his strength. He hated it because he just didn’t want to deal with the people and their perceived problems all day. He felt far more comfortable, no energized, doing his own work, growing his book of clients, and making a difference for his company as a sole contributor.

Finding your swim lane means finding your purpose.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe” text=”As you live life on purpose, you make better, more meaningful contributions.”]As you live life on purpose, you make better, more meaningful contributions to your work, your family, and your community.[/shareable]

[reminder]If you need help finding your swim lane, write me here.[/reminder]

The Millennial Mindset Is Nothing New

As some of you know, I run a contrarian view of the widespread concern for millennials in the workplace. Time and time again I find workshops and speakers touting their newfound wisdom about how “to cope with millennials in the workplace”.

Executives everywhere are pondering this epidemic conundrum, or so the pundits tell us. I, on the other hand, am the father of 5 such citizens. These are 30–something, young adults who are moving through their lives, working jobs, making budgets, having kids, and basically living life, one new experience at a time, just like we all have done.

millennial, business, workplace, entrepreneur

Are they really different? I say not so much.

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