Leadership, It’s in the Bag

When trying to coach leadership, there is one word picture that does so much more than all the others. That picture is golf. Those of you might ‘hate golf’ or don’t know much about it, please stay with me.

The game of golf is a collection of challenges intentionally designed to test your skills. In a standard round of golf, there are 18 holes, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Some of the holes are longer than others. Some have water obstacles, others have sand. Some have both. Elevations change, grass changes, shapes and cuts give every hole a special personality.


You tee of on each hole, hoping to reach the green in as few strokes as possible. Once you have reached the green, all that remains are a few shorter touches to sink the ball into the cup, but oh how hard those last strokes can be. The turns and twists of the surface of the green make some hard uphill runs while others are slippery downhill slopes. Here, even the length and density of the grass can influence your effectiveness at putting.

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Increased Productivity is Like Rocks and Sand

When clients ask about time management, setting priorities, and mastering goals, I like to recall an old but reliable metaphor. There is a demonstration that I have used many times. I don’t know who first created this idea, but it can be profound. It goes like this…..

It’s called The Jar of Life. If you fill a container with a certain amount of sand, then try to insert several large rocks, not all of the rocks can fit into the container. But, if you start with the rocks, then pour in the sand, you can get all the rocks and all of the sand into the container.

This story can be applied in many ways, but here is the chief message I use.

The container is the 24 hours in our day; 86,400 seconds, the one constant we all share. Trying to decide what we choose to fill our day is like the combination of rocks and sand. The rocks are the important things, large challenges or tasks we really should be handling day by day. Those big rocks include progress toward key goals.

The sand is the little stuff; emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. If we spend our time focused on the small stuff, we fill our day and pretty soon there is no time left. We try to grab a few rocks. Some get done, but most do not.

The better approach is to handle the rocks first. Get them handled, then add in the little stuff. You will be pleasantly surprised that you find yourself doing it all, missing nothing. The total time in the day didn’t change, but your use of those minutes and seconds did change.

Try These Ideas

So what are the ways to maximize the use of every day? Here are my main suggestions.

  1. Be sure you know what the big things are. It is amazing how few people actually set the targets and know what they are. In particular, a big goal may require smaller steps. The corny but old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” is true. Your days need to include those smaller bites.  Yes, compared to all the really small stuff like calls and emails, the bite sized task may just be your big rock for the day, so do it first.
  2. Avoid rationalization about time management. Too many folks love their smart phones. The sense of importance derived from the number of tweets or Instagram message you see blinds you to the really important things. Find a discipline about being constantly connected and budget the usage of non-critical social media.
  3. Rebound quickly. Sometimes the day gets away from us. Those random calls and emails turn into big time wasters. Quitting time comes around and you feel like you didn’t get anything accomplished. Let the pity party last no longer than midnight, then start a fresh new day. Forget about the reasons you missed the mark yesterday. Do better today.
  4. Accumulate victories. Keep track of those amazing days where you were a Titan! Big things got done, progress was accomplished. Reward yourself by staying focused on why and how that happened. Create a habit of success. Winning is habit forming.

Keep this visual in mind as you go about working through your day. Whether the big tasks are work related or personal, handle the big rocks first, then you can fill in the spaces with all the small stuff. You will be amazed at the increase in productivity.

Does Your Story Have a Punchline?

One of the most difficult challenges for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and new managers is being able to tell their own story.What do I mean? When it comes to getting the next promotion, finding a new job, or making the next sale, telling YOUR story can be hard.

Tell your storyI don’t know what it is or why it is, but I see this so many times. Heck, I even struggle with it sometimes. Despite having run 5 start ups, counseled dozens of companies, and coached thousands of professionals, I still occasionally get stuck telling my own story. How about you?

Think of it this way….good comedians don’t build the story line of a good joke and stop near the end to let you, the listener, decide what the punch line should be. It won’t be funny. When you get the chance to talk with a prospect, a potential new boss, or a new customer, you might have a good lead in, but can you close the story with an appropriate punchline?

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The Three C’s for Effective Management

If you have been promoted into a management role for the first time, I believe there are three C’s to master. Competency, credibility, and confidence.

Once you are able to embrace the significance of each of these elements, you will find a better rate of success.



Chances are you were selected for your role because of a perceived level of competence. The age-old standard for selecting and appointing new managers has often relied upon the “best _________” mentality. It goes like this.

  • “Oh, he’s the best accountant.”
  • “She’s the best engineer.”
  • “He’s the highest producer.”

This kind of assessment is rooted in evaluating competency. So, good for you! By being the one selected to lead the team, you likely passed some form of competency review. But there is more.

Once you become the manager of a unit, you can no longer be an individual contributor. You must guide your fellow employees towards a group effort.

Your competency must now be expanded. As an example, you may have known a lot about a very specific function, but as a manager you must oversee workers who deal with various other functions. This creates the need to keep learning.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Never be afraid to learn from the team you are leading.[/shareable]

Show them respect for what they know and they will be open to share.


‘Street cred’ is gold. Building credibility for who you are and what you do is the most valuable of all workplace commodities. People are attracted to those who inspire them. Inspiration starts with credibility.

There was a tag line once that said, “I want to be like Mike”, referring to Michael Jordan when he was at the top of the NBA. There is a workplace “be like Mike” mentality that happens when someone is a go-to authority.

You build credibility with performance and delivery. It does not develop quickly, but it does materialize when you stay focused on growing a positive results based reputation.


This is one of the toughest mindsets for a new manager to master. Face it, you are new. That is the issue. So how can you be confident? Well, it starts with being able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning and repeat “I’ve got this!” Yes, a bit of self-talk to keep your head on straight. When those on your team and around you have doubt, you have to stay mentally and emotionally strong.

I do not mean you need to become hard-headed or belligerent. No. I mean you need to stay true to yourself. Seek encouragement outside of work. Find reinforcement with friends, family and your faith community. Re-energize.

Confidence never lords over anyone. Rather, it nurtures cooperation by becoming a force people upon which people can rely.

Find a solid center of belief in yourself to accomplish the job. Remind yourself often of what it takes and that you know you can do it. Remember you were picked for a reason. Start with that core idea and let it grow.


None of these three C’s are easy. They can be hard. Being able to accomplish the tasks of demonstrating competency, delivering with credibility and acting with confidence will help you mature into a well-respected leader in your work.

To get there, you need a good support network, your own determination, some mentoring, and an opportunity to shine!

Power Trippin’

As managers, many face the challenge of handling the power that comes with our position. All positions of management have some notion of power attached, whether the person filling the role deserves it or not. The fact that they were selected to be the manager gives them that power.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Use wisely the power of your position.[/shareable]

What happens when power is abused? Power in the wrong hands can be disastrous or sometimes, just comical.

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Money Matters: How Much is Enough?

From my many years as a community banker, I learned something very interesting about money. Every person has a different view on the age-old question “how much is enough”.

This issue causes a constant state of turmoil for so many people. Finding the right answer for yourself can resolve a large number of conflicts.

As I visited with customer after customer as they came in to handle their banking needs, they would share their financial circumstances and concerns. Let me tell you two stories to demonstrate the extremes.

Courtesy 123rf.com/ tsuneo
Courtesy 123rf.com/ tsuneo

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Managers: Are you Thankful?

So today is the holiday known as Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Tradition has families gathering at dinner tables all over the country. The feast is legend. Usually the main course is turkey prepared now in numerous ways; baked, fried, stuffed, and on and on.

The ‘trimmings’, as we call it in the south, can range from sweet potatoes and corn casseroles to exotic fruit salads. Various ethnic groups have their own ways of preparing the feast we call Thanksgiving.


As this year’s edition of Thanksgiving happens, it, for me, is time to pause. Quiet pause leads to reflection. Reflection leads, hopefully, to revelation of things needing to be included in a list of possible changes to come. Here is my list of things:

1. On a very large scale, the recent events in the world emphasize the fact that this world is changing very fast. New forces have risen to strike fear in otherwise peaceful people who only want to live each day. I choose to not honor that fear. My challenge is to awake each day and strive to make the day a little better for someone somewhere.

2. My business can be better by me being sure I show up, in the moment, fully engaged and ready to participate. No distractions, no exceptions.

3. My family can be better if I stay focused on maintaining my faith in God, living my love for my wife, and by showing my committed trust and love for my children, regardless of how old they are.

To be in a place where I have the personal freedom to make these choices is the biggest blessing of all. I love Thanksgiving because it causes a time to pause and reflect.

My prayer for you is that you take your own time to reflect. Give thanks where it is due. Speak the words and show the appreciation.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

New Managers – Begin with the End in Mind

This is one of the wisest teachings I have heard in a long time. Anyone who has been appointed as a new manager should be thinking about this vital aspect of the new role they are playing at work.

Step #2 in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” is ‘begin with the end in mind’. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that many things do not end well.

There are the obvious examples like divorces, car crashes, job loss, health issues, and financial change (downward). Then there are the things like our favorite TV shows that came to an end. Shows like Lost, Friends, Fraser, and Boston Legal all had pretty good endings. But some very successful and well admired shows had really bad endings; think fade to black on The Sopranos. How often have you seen a movie or read a book and said “gee, I didn’t like the way it ended”?

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