Leaders Build Stepping Stones

What do you think of when someone says something about a stepping stone? The origin comes from placement of stones across a stream so that a pedestrian can walk across the flow of the water without getting wet.

Courtesy 123rf.com

Often the stones are placed by hikers trying to make a crossing in a river. The stones can be randomly placed or symmetrical.

I like to picture these stones when I think of key people who have been major influencers in my life. Likely, you too have had mentors or significant personalities that have played a role as a stepping stone in your life.

The Back Story

When someone stands up or stands in to provide support, they become a stepping stone. For me, I grew up the only child of a single Mom. My Father passed away when I was only 2 years old. Mom was determined to provide me with significant male role models to aid in my development as a man.

As a result, my stepping stones evolved thanks to the contributions of at least 6 of these caring and giving men. The time they spent teaching me things like baseball, golf, fishing, tennis, woodworking, and camping, taught me much more than the basics. Yes, I learned how to hit a fastball, bait a hook, fly a plane, light a good fire, and varnish a mahogany cabinet, but more importantly, I learned about hard work, seeking wisdom, and living by faith.

The other interesting aspect of this mentoring experience is that these men were not rock stars. They were neither Titans of business nor famous celebrity motivators like a Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell. They were regular guys who lived life day-by-day, attempting as best they could to do the right thing.

Ladies, I do not want to forget you. What I am saying here applies to women as well. I have known plenty of young ladies who likewise received counsel from a mentor. Everything I am suggesting about this principle applies to both genders.

If you have been blessed by someone, a stepping stone, I hope you now have a desire to mentor. You don’t have to achieve some big celebrity status or have a big footprint in the media. You can make a huge difference in some young person’s life.

Here are the basic parts of being a mentor (in no particular order).

1. Availability –  Just showing up is a good place to start. Whatever the strength or skill set, whatever the core values you possess, making yourself available is key to setting the stage and the environment for mentoring.

2. Trust –  Earning the trust of your mentee is so necessary in order to make the sharing work. It will not matter how wise or helpful your experience may be if the person does not trust you.

3. Reliability –  Once a trust expectation begins to develop, your reliability to engage and respond is critical. Nothing does a young heart more harm than an unmet promise. Promises like “I’ll be there at 3:00” then no-show.

4. Patience –  Young students will do dumb things. Roll with it. Yes, you can assert some form of discipline, but gauge your student and apply the firmness wisely.

5. Candor –  Being open to share who and what you are is important. That is the ultimate teaching tool. Mentoring is about giving the mentee someone to emulate. If they don’t know YOU, then the best is not coming out.

6. Honesty –  Don’t make stuff up. If your candidate asks something you don’t know, admit it. Guide the person in exploring together where and how to find the answer.

7. Giving –  Be able to give. This is not about money. It requires all of the attributes above. A giving, servant’s heart and open mind is what makes you a good mentor.

One last note. I believe mentoring is different from coaching. Coaches can be good mentors, but a mentor can be effective without the more stern and disciplined aspects of what a coach should be doing for you. Mentors have a special passion about their gift. The way they give to others and inspire those around them to grow, is the center of a great mentorship experience.


The point is, there are very effective mentoring opportunities that do not require coaching skills. So do not hold back when a situation comes up where you could be a mentor to a young person. You, too, can be a stepping stone for someone’s greatness.

In closing, I will tell you it has been over 40 years since I last saw some of the men I mentioned above. Yet almost every day some small aspect of my life reminds me of something they taught me or showed me. Their work and their gifts became a part of my actual psyche and emotional intelligence. The stepping stones they laid in my life remain strong.

If you are wondering about leaving a legacy, become a mentor to those around you.

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Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Tags: mentoring, management, leadership, mindset

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.

Workforce Planning 101; Measuring Your Talent Pool

Talent Assessment

As a leader, finding and motivating great talent is a challenge. If you already have a team performing at a high level, how do you sustain that as people move around? Is there a secret sauce you’ve found for selecting your team? What if you could map both a personality and a behavior mindset pattern that ties to your top performers?

If you had such a pattern map, you could select new recruits based on that match. Sounds great, right? Well it’s not some new Hollywood movie. It’s here and now.

Talent Assessment
Talent Assessment

Science and technology have significantly influenced what we now know about leadership and management. In terms of assessing what makes a good team tick, we can do a great deal to define the attributes to look for in new employees while we are going through the hiring process.

Several years ago, I was introduced to just such a model. I asked my team to each take an assessment. There was a series of questions and examples of various thoughts for the candidate to weigh in on. The assessment checked areas like cognitive reasoning, learning capacity, sociability, manageability, and other areas.

When the results were tabulated, I identified my highest performers, not based on this survey, but based on factual experience I had by having them on the team. Then we compared my list of top performers to their responses for the items on the assessment. Sure enough, a very distinct pattern emerged.

Of course there were highs and lows in a range of the applicable attributes, but a pattern existed nonetheless. Now I was equipped with a benchmark from which I could compare future job applicants. By having a new candidate take the same assessment, I could determine whether this person fit the success pattern.

If they were a fit, the odds of making a “good hire” were increased significantly. Much to my excitement, the theory worked. Once we began applying the new measurement, our selection process and the subsequent success of the employees we hired improved dramatically. Team performance grew steadily.


Using the assessment tools is never about scoring. There are no right and wrong answers. People are different. Any aspect of numbering or metrics is purely used to place each person on a scale of attributes that help determine fit in the job. Think of the scale as simply as hot versus cold. Certain attributes make someone a hot fit (got to have them) for the job as opposed to being a cold fit.

Here’s the Why

The logic in this approach makes very good common sense. You wouldn’t hire a bunch of engineers to do heavy lifting on a freight dock. Nor would you put a team of welders in a library to stack books. The contrast is not just about physical or academic/technical profiles. No, it’s about core personality attributes as well. The mindset the person brings with them into the job determines as much about job success as the technical skills they have. Training can help once a new person joins the team, but innate mindsets cannot be trained. Therefore, being able to identify and make selections based upon proven patterns for success sets the stage for better outcome.

To be accurately matched for a job based on personal demeanor and temperament can mean as much as the technical ability to perform the job.

Using tools like these assessments provides executives at all levels greater confidence in their ability to understand what makes a team tick. Once you achieve a level of success, you can strive to scale the team by deploying these assessment models on a regular basis, particularly for new hires and employee movement within the organization.

Functional changes across various departments can be factored into the scale as well. To the extent every department has its own key measure(s) of success attributes, employees considering an internal move can be evaluated on the measurable patterns established for each department.

An employee who is a rock star on one team may not be so strong in another. Having the tools to assist with placement and deployment can significantly improve a company’s ability to maximize their talent.

Putting It to Work

I rely on these assessment tools to help companies identify job matches with existing staff as well as establish methods for improving hiring selection practices. Executives and business owners who are not familiar with these tools can find great value in having their teams take the assessments for the first time.

When I go into an organization and they submit to performing these assessments, there has never been a time when something of great value was not revealed. Taking the assessment is easy and does not take a long time. Results are available immediately. Now, you might need a trained professional to help you understand what the results tell you, but once you’ve been through the basics, the core meaning can be easily interpreted.

It is not uncommon for HR departments to take on the role of becoming the repository of the assessment findings so that later personnel actions like internal promotion and transfer (hiring from within) can be managed using the data from the assessment. Again, the results of these assessments are not “the final answer”, but they will provide incredible insight for making more informed personnel decisions including initial hiring decisions.

Whether dealing with new hires, high potentials, employee retention, or employee development, using the new tools that are readily available today can make a big difference.

If this still sounds too vague for you, simply think of these assessments as ways to get an indication of “can do”, “will do” and “want to”.

Need a coach

Here’s a Proven 6 Step Way to Manage a Career Change

Making a successful career change can be as easy as following six critical steps. I call it STRIVE.


Over 4,500 of my professional clients have used this model for their own job search success. It has been presented in numerous workshops and forums. In the next few pages, you will be guided through these steps.

strive-2016Here we go….. Step #1…..


If you find yourself between jobs, the first thing most people do is sit down and bang out a resume. That’s a horrible place to start. (That is of course unless you change jobs every six months or so.)

No, in order to be successful at job search, you need a solid base; a firm footing from which you gather thoughts and ideas about your search. Therefore, STRIVE Step 1 is to SURVEY.

Survey your prior Success, your Passions, and your Talents. Everyone has achieved something noteworthy. Whether you are just starting out trying to build a career or have 30+ years of experience, there are successes along the way that need to be highlighted and amplified.

Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

Build a list of key achievements and successes. Try to identify the “resulting in” effects of those achievements. Tie the final outcome to the task or event. The statement looks something like this:

“I was manager of a sales team that increased national sales 45% resulting in a net $10,000,000 earnings increase for the year”.

Let this list become an inventory of juicy nuggets of key accomplishments that will be the fruit from which you feed to power your search.

Survey also includes locking down on the focus of your attention. What do you really want to do next? You must be firmly rooted with an answer to that essential question. While you look at your accomplishment list, think about which items were exciting and rewarding versus those that got done, but you hope you never do again.

And yes, this is the time to rekindle passions for life accomplishments that may be unfulfilled. I realize financial necessity gets in the way, but if you’re between jobs, why not give yourself the momentary grace to get back in touch with some passion or fire that can fuel your next chapter of work?


Take the survey information and the design you created in Step 1, and then create a TARGET.

Most job search planners tell you that you must focus your search. That is definitely true. Targeting means you are not going to market with a vague and slippery explanation like “I can do that too.” With targeting, you have a specific, identifiable landing zone you want to achieve.

Setting a targeted list gives your job search a framework and a way to be accountable for the effort.

Turn your successes, skills, and passions into a set of functions that you might want to perform on a daily basis. Then formulate a job description that includes all of those functions. Once you have your own job description of your dream job, you can begin to research the companies that need those types of jobs.

Targeting also gives you purpose. Being able to speak in specific targeted terms allows you to talk boldly with family, friends, and colleagues who may be able to help you with new opportunities; those around you can “get it”. They will have a better understanding of what you are trying to do. Empowered with that knowledge, others can do more to help in your job search.


Now and ONLY now can you begin to write the proper resume to tell your story.

Use a resume format that highlights the key accomplishments. Start your resume story with what you can do for the employer. You cannot assume anything in telling your story. YOU need to fill in all the blanks for the reader. List your prior employment history only after you have first gotten the reader’s attention with a “Here’s what I will do for you today” objective statement. Build a personal BRAND.

36762097 - job interview concept with business cv resumeHighlight a select list of 3 to 5 accomplishments right near the top of the resume will grab the reader’s attention. The obituary style (Chronology) of prior employment is super boring, but needed to simply prove you’ve had a run at doing the things you featured in the accomplishments.

Yes, you will need to flex your resume depending on the target company. A one size resume does not fit all. Use different accomplishments depending upon the target you are connecting to.

The resume must pop with your story, explaining what you can do for them. Remember, the target company has a need you can fill, but you have to lead the reader of the resume through the story. You can never assume any conclusion about what may come from your resume. Get others to read it before you submit it ‘Live’. Adjust the story based on how well it seems to be received by others.


To maximize your job search success, you need to think “INTERACTION”. This is where networking comes in.

Networking by itself is not the answer. Networking alone, just for the sake of going out and meeting people can become a big waste of time. You have to think Interaction. Begin building high trust relationships that last.

Ask yourself “am I really suited to be a long term part of this networking group?” Can I find value here and can I give value too? Get involved in industry groups and professional gatherings that are fits for your targets and your passions. Pay it forward!

When you attend an event, have some goals set to do things like “meet 5 CFOs” or “meet 3 new recruiters”.

As you talk with people, ask engaging questions that allow them to talk. Studies show you become more memorable based on what people felt about the way you made them feel. Having them talk about themselves helps to build that bridge. It seems counter-intuitive; I mean you are there to get a job right? Rather than dominating the discussion talking about yourself, get to know others first.


Build value in the story you are telling. Companies today need people who can contribute a positive outcome to their performance.

In this step we begin to prepare for the job interview. The sooner you can explain and present a solid value statement to a potential employer, the faster you will be considered for hire.

Help the hiring manager understand the value you can bring to the table. Include this in all aspects of your job search. Focus your personal story on the specialized and incredibly valuable contribution you believe you can make.

Landing your next job does require some sales skills. If selling something has never been a talent for you, learn how to tell your story with a brand value in mind. Shift your thinking to look at yourself as a brand rather than a job candidate. Your experience and job history should give you the right ammunition to use for building a strong brand.


This last step is perhaps the toughest. Here we assume you have landed the new job.

The question now becomes “how are you going to go about keeping the new job?” You must create a plan to carry through all of the great and wonderful things you have sold the employer. Build a specific plan of action to engage and embrace the new company, your co-workers, and managers with positive outcome.

Set your standard of performance early and stick to it. Prove to the new team that you are the best hiring decision they have made.

In the HR world, there is a saying:

“We hire on skills and fire on behavior.”

Your behavior at the new job is a big part of success in the job. Get engaged with the team around you and the environment within the company. Learn things, understand things, and then do the things that fit.


STRIVE is a clear and concise way to plan for your job search. It provides constant reminders for every aspect of the search. Use the handy checklist in the Appendix of the eBook I am offering here to grade yourself on the search.

And remember, with STRIVE you can Thrive!


Help Helpers Help

Whether you are in career transition or just trying to advance your career, have you given your “helpers’ everything they need to know to help you? Keith Ferrazzi just published an article that talked about executives giving their admins the right tools to help grow and nurture the exec’s network. But I think that idea goes further.

What do you do to tell family, friends, and neighbors about the things you are doing in your career? I don’t mean the boring stuff that sounds like bragging. I mean the meaningful pieces that can help someone understand your personal brand; what you are and what you do. A friend once said

Even my neighbor’s 12 year old daughter knows something about what I am doing

Plumbers, painters, carpenters, doctors, dentists, etc. have it pretty easy right? But what about C++ programmers, or high temperature flow mechanics engineers, or senior debt managers, or even HR professionals? How do you go about breaking down the fancy titles and terminology into easy to understand and even easier to remember sound bites that can help others help you?

Here’s a test. Try telling your story in new ways to five people for the next week. Enforce it when you can. Then watch to see what may come from those contacts.

Are You a Cool Breeze or a Fog Machine?

Workplace conduct always has its ups and downs. Personalities of all shapes and sizes interact, presumably to accomplish some common goal. Yet as each new day unfolds, there are extreme ends of the spectrum that are worthy of our consideration.

First the Cool Breeze…these are the people who find the positive in most any circumstance. They seek first to understand before being understood (ala Covey). These good folks look for solutions to problems as they arise versus becoming the problem. Whoever invented the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ had these souls in mind. With these people on the team, you can enjoy a renewing energy each and every day. They bring positive outlooks and smiling faces to the task regardless of how difficult or taxing the chores may be.

Then The Fog Machine…these are the personalities who look for ways to obstruct and/or derail a project. Eor in Winnie the Pooh had nothing on these guys. Chicken Little looked like an optimist compared the dour and sour attitudes voiced by the fog machines. Why fog? Because that’s what they bring. Their attitudes and opinions fog the clearest of days and make seeing the goal line almost impossible. Too much energy gets drained pushing out the fog.

Funny thing is, we have a choice each day to be either personality. What shall you choose?

Is Conan O’Brien the New Permanent Temporary Worker?

NBC’s decision to juggle its late-night schedule has caused quite a stir. Regardless of which star’s side you might take, one thing is clear. Employment, even for major network superstars, is temporary at best. Conan’s gig only lasted 7 months.

He now represents a growing number of workers in America who are facing the very real probability, not just possibility, that their next employment opportunity may be short lived. Companies of all sizes are considering the very real idea of bringing on workers for short term engagements to accomplish projects, make changes, expand product lines, and other execute on strategic decisions. Yet they have no intent to retain the employees for long term assignment. Some management teams consider it long term employment “bloat”. The thought is to reduce headcount at all levels to maintain a lean workforce profile.

The primary concern with successful implementation of this course of action is that the average American worker has expectations rooted in 50 years of workforce history. After WWII companies began offering various incentives to draw workers back to their specific firms. Competition for benefits and perks grew. As a result, workers began expecting these additions as part of the total compensation package.

For companies to successful wind back time and reduce benefit package offerings, the workforce will have to embrace these changes. As NBC has learned in their ouster of Conan, watch out for public outcry. The story is far from finished.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

We’ve all heard various ideas about managing our lives. When you break it all down, things can get lumped into these three categories.

Yesterday is long gone. There are only three things we can do about yesterday.

  • First, learn the lessons whether good or bad. Take an HONEST assessment of what happened and try to understand why. But do not let this become a new vocation.
  • Next, let it go. There is nothing you can do about yesterday’s outcome.
  • Build a marker for the ways you saw God active in the events of yesterday. These markers can be physical or mental, but keep track of what God seems to have done.

Tomorrow will come. Let it come on its own. There is nothing you can do to change the actual events of the day tomorrow. Oh you might plan and strive, but ultimately, things will turn out all on their own tomorrow.

Today is the only real time you can do something about. Live today as if it were your last. I don’t mean live frivolously. I mean make a difference today. Do the things that enrich your family, friends, and neighbors. Today is not about YOU. Today is a gift from God. Accept this precious gift and live to the full!

2009 Year End CloseOut

As 2009 comes to an end, people in job transition are still facing big challenges. Now is the time to do a year end closeout just like a company or an accountant might do. Here’s how:

  1. Take out all correspondence journals, logs, email records etc. Review the content and the contacts. See with whom you might try to reconnect. That recruiter you spoke with last February may just now be handling a new order that fits your profile. Revisit those connections.
  2. Make a good review of the practices you used during the past year. Refuse to continue old habits that did not create results. Make new changes. Map new strategies.
  3. Identify the things you did that worked well and decide on ways to do more of those.
  4. Clear the decks and get ready for a solid, fresh start to the new year. Zero out all old logs and lists. Make new entries as you begin new connections and contacts in the new year.
  5. Get rid of office clutter that can limit your efficiency.

Oh, and last, but by no means least, have a Merry and Blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays.

If you are a job seeker, visit AskJMS.org.

Are You a Go-Giver?

Are you familiar with this term? It comes from a great little parable in book form written by Bob Burg and John David Mann. In this story the writers tell of five key principles that define a “go-giver”. With so much buzz about networking for new business, networking for your next job, and all the social media hype, there is a good chance the fundamental spirit has been stripped from networking.

If I am to reach out to others with the single goal of finding what the target can do for me, we both miss the best possible outcomes. Long term, sustainable, and rewarding relationships are what make the best networks. Good, some may call old fashioned, one-on-one relationship building is the true key.

I encourage any reader here to grab this book and I bet you will find it a life changing story. To those who already practice this fine and rewarding method, my congratulations to you. Please drop me a note and let me know about your experiences and outcomes.

Here are the 5 principles I mentioned:

  1. The Law of Value – Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  2. The Law of Compensation – Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  3. The Law of Influence – Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  4. The Law of Authenticity – The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  5. The Law of Receptivity – The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.