A Leader’s Vision Needs Buy-In

While there are many attributes that define good leadership, we usually think of a leader’s ability to share a vision as the real indicator of that leader’s reputation. Vision is often thought of as being synonymous with leadership. Having a vision for where the team is going is what being a leader is about, right?

a Leader's vision needs buy-in

You don’t have to be the owner or CEO to commit to a vision for growth and success. You can lead from within an organization by being able to inspire others to get on track for driving toward a vision; a vision set by others above you.

However, there is a breakdown that can occur when a person in authority tries to execute on a vision. I’ve seen managers, very senior managers, who know the vision. They helped write it. Yet their ability to lead others to achieve that vision fails. Why?

Once a vision is crafted and carefully written, you have to get buy-in from those who must execute the vision. Your team has to embrace the merits of the vision. They need to understand why and ‘what’s in it for me?’ Those are fair questions for employees to be asking.

Obtaining buy-in is where a Manager may fail as a Leader

Buy-in is hard to achieve because people don’t buy into ideas, they buy into people. The person sharing the idea must be credible, relatable, and someone with whom others can identify.

Your people need to buy-in to you before they buy-in to your vision. Being just another talking head in a management seat will not go very far.

John Maxwell writes about the principle of the buy-in in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”John Maxwell” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”18″]People don’t follow worthy causes, they follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.[/perfectpullquote]

Having an understanding of that will change your whole approach to leadership. When your team begins to process the content of the message you may be sharing, they first filter it through you.

Ask Yourself This Question

What is the current level of buy-in for the people you lead? If your team is small, make a list. Rate each team member’s buy-in on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 means they wouldn’t follow anything you say. A 10 means they’d follow you anywhere. If your overall ranking is low, you have a lot of work to do before the team decides to find another leader.

coaching call

What to Do?

Here are some ways you can earn credibility and increase your leadership.

  • Develop better working relationships
  • Be honest and authentic as you earn their trust
  • Hold yourself to high standards, setting a good example
  • Give them the tools to do a better job
  • Help them achieve personal goals at work
  • Develop others as leaders; mentoring them along the way

Make your strategy unique to each person. As Maxwell says “If you make it your primary goal to add value to all of them, your credibility factor will rise rapidly.”

Question: How are you doing with earning buy-in from your team?

Managing “UP” the Organization or Fixing a Bad Boss

bad boss

Do you have one of those hard-to-work-for bad bosses? OK, that’s too kind. Is your boss a jerk? Do you sometimes want to pull your hair out? Or even throw things after a talk with Mr./Mrs. Wonderful?

bad boss

Bad bosses almost always lack emotional intelligence. They play favorites, gossip, and have private agendas not always in the best interest of the team. They can’t handle the fact that someone else on the team could be as smart/smarter and they do not like to be challenged.

Bosses who exhibit bad people skills or who fail at problem-solving do not deserve the title of “leader”. They might be the owner, founder, or boss, but Leader? No way.

If you have the misfortune of working for one of these people, you have a lot of work to do. Clients often ask me about managing this situation. Most call it “managing up” the organization. That’s an interesting concept, easier said than done. Here’s why.

You can’t make them change

A senior executive or a company owner who has a less than favorable management style is not likely to want to change. That a ‘Leopard can’t change its spots’ holds true for most of us in one respect or another. The Idiom from the Old Testament speaks to the fact that certain basic traits of a person can never change, just like the spots on a Leopard.

Fooling yourself into thinking you have an opportunity to change the basic traits of a bad boss could be a waste of valuable time. When your boss performs within a narrow band of acceptable behavior, but has frequent forays into unacceptable territory, thereby making the situation almost unbearable, you have some choices you need to consider.

Bad Bosses usually fail in several ways

Here are the most common ways I see bad bosses failing to be effective.

  • They create a low or no trust environment. Bad bosses have ways of killing the trust factor. They violate trust by telling others something you told them in confidence. Or they twist information shared in trust. And they often betray the trust by promising to one thing and then doing something else.
  • They strip empowerment. Any hopes of having a confident, empowered work team can be destroyed by a bad boss. Often these bad guys delegate a task, then immediately begin micromanaging the mission, thus gutting the sense of empowerment from the person given the assignment.
  • They have behaviors that violate moral standards. Bad bosses tend to be the ones caught abusing employees with emotional or even physical advances. I firmly believe that if you could uncover all the stories about the people being accused in the “me too” movement, you would find their overall behavior in the workplace is pretty poor; definitely not demonstrated leadership.
  • They violate ethical, and sometimes legal standards. Cutting corners to win deals or make a profit is often associated with poor management. Employees with higher ethical standards who find themselves working for bad bosses must make tough choices.

How do you deal with a Bad Boss?

When I am asked the question about managing up, I share these things.

  1. You must choose to be the bigger person. What do I mean? You don’t have to confront the bad boss at every turn, but rather let whatever blowup comes from an encounter with them stay isolated. You cannot take your frustration down to your own team. Avoid the temptation to broadcast the idiocy of your boss’s behavior to your team. Instead, filter the message. If the boss gave you a task for your team, just deliver the particulars of the task. Do not get into the details of how bad it was to deal with the boss.
  2. Be the Leader among your peers. The other direct reports who suffer at the hands of your boss need encouragement. You can gather with them offline to discuss the frustrations about the boss, but at the end of it all, you should be the one to say “Ok folks, this stays right here. Now let’s go do our jobs.”
  3. Play within the boundaries. Your company should have its own set of policies and procedures for dealing with most employment situations. If the company is small though, and the founder is the bad boss, you might not have options per the policy. The point here is that you need to be without your own blemish in dealing with the situation. You should not violate some standard to create an opportunity to get back at the boss.
  4. Lastly, and this one always gets people, you need to consider the option to leave. If it becomes crystal clear that the boss is perpetually bad, you may have no choice but to resign. Your reputation is at stake. In larger companies, you might ask for a reassignment. The options are limited for smaller companies.

The way out

By now you can tell I don’t believe in “managing up” an organization. It just doesn’t work.  At least in my 30+ years in the workforce, I’ve never seen it accomplished. Bad bosses are part of our work life. If you’ve never had one, just wait. More importantly, if you stayed with this message this far, and you might be one of the bad bosses, take a moment to decide where you want to go with your responsibilities. Find an outside voice to review your style and approach, Get an independent opinion about your work. Maybe you have some blind spots that can be fixed.

Executive coaching can identify the areas where bad boss behaviors exist. With the right coaching, bad bosses can be rehabilitated, and, in some cases, even cured.

Images courtesy: Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Making It Real with People, Productivity, and Profitability


Executive coaching is a growing business. It is no longer limited to Fortune 500 companies. Entrepreneurs and owners of private businesses of all sizes have turned to coaching for business and personal growth.


Back in 2004, the Harvard Business Review reported that executive coaching got started in the 1980s, yet still lacked reliable information for measuring success. The report estimated $1 billion spent on corporate coaching in 2004. It was anticipated that the coaching industry would continue to grow due to the considerable need for executive improvement.

Even after the 2008 recession, the executive coaching industry has continued its wide adoption by leaders everywhere. The attraction is simple: executive coaching prepares new executives to lead and equips established executives to master their own abilities. This potent combination has driven the substantial growth seen in the executive education marketplace. A 2012 study released by the International Coach Federation (ICF) “estimated the industry’s annual revenue at about $2 billion,” according to Frank Kalman of CLO Media.

While the individual executive coaching practice has been widely adopted, business coaching has emerged as its own specialty. With business coaching, the client hires a coach to provide an independent, third-party look at what is going on in the business. Coaching eliminates the blind spots business owners and operators tend to develop.

Yet with all of this market growth, I still get asked from time to time about the exact benefits of executive coaching. Occasionally, people think “coaching” is still too vague. On one hand, I find an odd disconnect here. Some of the same business owners who question the validity of business or executive coaching spend thousands of dollars at the gym on personal trainers or with golf coaches. My answer to them rings with the same logic from the sports world. If you want to move your game to a new level as a business leader, you should consider hiring a coach.

Measure What Matters

With any business endeavor, whether entrepreneurial start-ups or bigger corporate giants, the results from executive coaching can be measured in one of three ways. Good leaders impact all three.



Unless you are that very rare entrepreneur who operates all by themselves, you need a team to conduct business. The people making up the teams just may be the most valuable measure of the effectiveness of an executive’s growth from coaching. As a leader, your ability to influence the team around you makes up the essence of your effectiveness.

Leaders who broaden their influence and strengthen their ability to lead can realize significant gains with the people they lead. When a leader is on his game you can measure:

  • Team morale
  • Devotion to the purpose of the team
  • Alignment with vision and mission
  • Engagement
  • Retention
  • Continuity
  • Reduction in turnover
  • Reduced talent acquisition costs


Finding ways to do more with what you have is productivity. Time, money and materials can be wasted or optimized with effective productivity. The leader can directly impact productivity by finding ways to streamline procedures and process, improve workplace conditions, set reasonable goals, and inspire the team.

The leader must see the process from end to end. If the business owner or senior executive is struggling with seeing the big picture, productivity can suffer. I’ve said before, you must inspect what you expect. Knowing when and how to do that can increase productivity.


Profitability, the last measure of coaching effectiveness is obvious. Seeing profitability improve is a direct gauge of executive effectiveness. Making the right changes, implementing the best practices, negotiating good deals, and all the other aspects of running a business result in bottom-line performance.

As the senior executive, your own ability to impact profitability can make or break your success. Entrepreneurs who have great ideas, but no business skills, need help. Executives who climb the ladder but never get training for the technical aspects of business management need help.

Best Practices

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask how they measure what they intend to do for you. If the outcome doesn’t include one or all of these three areas, you may have the wrong coach.

Coaching can be measurable, whether for your personal growth or your business growth. Ask your prospective coach to walk you through these tangible ways to gauge success from the coaching. If they either can’t or won’t do that, you may need a new coach.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Here’s the One Topic Always Missing from Everyone’s Top 10 Leadership Lists


Are you curious when you read a headline about leadership “Top 10”? I know I am.  There are certainly some great thoughts that get covered in the popular lists of success factors attributed to great leadership. Goodness knows we need good leadership.

Leadership attraction
Leadership attraction

Yet there is one topic that seldom gets mentioned in any Top 10 list of attributes for managers. I feel obligated to bring it up. What am I talking about?

It is GRACE; not a person or a thing. Rather, in my humble opinion, grace is a state of mind. We can’t earn it. Many feel they don’t deserve it. So, I believe that is why I have yet to find the topic of grace being spoken about in any of the management and leadership books I follow.

Maybe you first heard about grace from a Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. No, this will NOT be a Bible study article. I simply want to tell you about adding grace to several parts of your life. Perhaps it will be the missing ingredient you need to round out your leadership toolkit.

What is Grace?

Please allow me to explain my thoughts about grace, then we will apply them to your situation.

1. I said grace is a mindset. It lives halfway between our head and our heart. We can over-think it, thus killing the spirit of it. Or, we can over-give it, thus defying the logic of what we might need to be doing with it. It is a delicate balance of thought, logic, emotion, and self-worth.

2. It does include a dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness not just for a moment, then later to be revoked, but permanent. Wiped clean, wiped off, wiped out.

3. In modern terms, grace gives us the ‘break’ in ‘give me a break‘. It cuts you some slack. Grace soothes the hurt. Having grace takes away the sting. It is the essence of ‘let it go’. My eldest son suggested ‘breathe’.

There is so much more to grace, but I will leave it at this for now. So with these ideas in mind, how should you and I apply grace? I have several recommendations.

Where Does Grace Need to Be Applied?


First and foremost, apply it to your own life. No one ever grades us harder than we grade ourselves. Grace allows you to add a curve to the grading. It gives you bonus points.

Giving yourself grace for the things that have not worked out helps to eliminate negative forces that can cripple your effort to move forward. When you look back in life, are you haunted by things not done? Do you lament decisions you made? Are there any serious regrets? Do you beat yourself up over relationships that went wrong or business deals that did not work out?

If you said YES to any of those, you, my friend, need some grace in your life. Decide when, where, and how you will give yourself some grace so that you can move forward without hurdles.

Your Team

Next, if you manage people, what grace do you give them? There are boundaries and standards that must be applied at work, but your co-workers are human. You need to extend some grace.

It is a certainty that someone somewhere in your circle will fall short of a goal. Once the required administration of the situation is complete, do you offer grace? You can demonstrate grace by establishing a work environment where the employee feels the slate is truly wiped clean once any offense is addressed.

Sidebar –  Yes, I know managers must deal with disciplinary matters that set up probationary periods. So there will be a cloud over the employee while that period is in force. While this is happening, will you treat all other aspects of the person’s work effort with grace?

Your Family

Family is the other area in your life where grace is vitally needed. Starting with your spouse (if married), then your children. Have these people committed some offense for which you have yet to forgive? Have you thought about giving them grace?

Being a leader requires the ability to give grace.

Here are 5 key questions about grace.

  1. When was the last time you visited the topic of grace?
  2. Have you received any grace lately?
  3. Do you owe yourself some grace?
  4. Who do you know that needs you to give them grace?
  5. Will you add grace to your leadership toolkit?

Think about your use of grace; at work, at home, and in your relationships. Are there ways you can share more grace?

Using Halftime Thinking for Greater Significance

Bob Buford

Busy professionals seldom think about the total impact of their lives until they get to an age where the end is near. When your own mortality becomes a reality, you begin to think in terms of changes you want to make to move from success to significance.

Younger adults don’t think about this much. After all, in your 20s and 30s you feel invincible, right? I know I did.

In 1995, a very successful businessman named Bob Buford wrote “Halftime”, a best-selling book that came out of his desire to find fulfillment in the second half of life. The second book in 1997, “Game Plan” continued the sports metaphor, but presented practical ways to go through the process to make a change. His writing in this two-book series was a life changer for me.

The attention from these best-selling books led to the founding of the Halftime Institute.

Bob suggested that our lives can be viewed as a football game. In the middle, there is a halftime, where the teams retreat to their locker rooms. Depending upon the results of the first half of the game, they make adjustments to their plans for the second half. If you are winning, what can you do to keep the lead and finish the game as a victor? If you are behind, i.e. not getting the results you hoped for, what can you change to have a more significant second half?

Buford’s thinking was that we all go through our careers striving for success; climb the ladder, get the next raise, get the promotion, do the next big deal, and so on. Yet at some point, there is a time when we realize there is much more. The ‘much more’ is not about a bigger bank account, but rather about making a difference in the world around you.

Buford proposes taking a halftime break. Be introspective. Take note of your current circumstances. From that vantage point, you can make decisions about the things that have genuine value. You can reset your life priorities.

Right now you may be saying “Well, that would be nice but I have bills to pay, payrolls to meet.” Yes, you do. But to what end? What is it all about? Are you creating a legacy for the time you spend here or are you just turning the wheel?


Buford, born September 16, 1939, in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, achieved considerable financial success as CEO of Buford Television, Inc., a business started by his mother. It had begun with a single ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas. It grew it into a network of cable systems across the country. In 1999 Buford helped sell the family business interest in order to create philanthropic initiatives designed to serve churches. He often joked that he hoped the last check he wrote just before he died would bounce—because he had given away the last of his millions.

Buford’s awakening to this halftime thought came as the result of a tragic family accident. His son drowned during a rafting trip. The grief and ensuing recovery spawned his search for purpose and significance after losing his son.

In 1984 Buford—at age 45—and Fred Smith, Jr. started Leadership Network, along with Gayle Carpenter, as a way of trying to help the newly emerging wave of pastors who were breaking worship attendance barriers of 1,000 and sometimes 2,000 or more.

During his business years, Buford had spent countless hours talking with and seeking guidance from Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, and he now tapped into Drucker’s guidance for how best to frame Leadership Network. He later remarked that Leadership Network would not be the same—in fact, might not exist at all—were it not for Peter Drucker. (Buford later developed that 23-year mentoring relationship into a book, Drucker and Me.)

I share this back-story on Bob Buford for two reasons.

First, Bob Buford passed away recently at age 78. He had made a very valuable shift from his business success to use his God-given skills and experiences to influence millions of others through his life work. His inspiration to teach people how to make the shift, moving from success to significance, changed so many lives. It certainly changed mine.

More importantly, I share this to encourage you to begin your halftime. Your current age is not a factor. The purpose you sense in your life is. If your purpose is unclear or forgotten in the day to day battle for achieving success, stop. Take an inventory. Do a self-assessment.

You can write a new game plan. I help clients do this. Making a new plan for your journey in this world can be a life changer. You don’t need to have amassed great wealth to do that.

Another story

Once there was a lady attending my career transition organization. To that point, her career had been working as a hotel housekeeper. While she took pride in her work, she knew there was something missing. Through a series of meetings and coaching sessions given by my group, she devised a whole new vision map for herself. She stopped coming to our meetings. I was concerned she had lost hope.

About six months later, I received a copy of the vision board she had crafted from our workshops. Everything on the board was marked complete. She informed me she was the happy owner of a restaurant in her hometown, offering country-style food to the locals along with a charity kitchen on Sundays for the homeless in her town. The change to significance had begun. You can make the change too.

Here are Bob’s Top 10 Values. Enjoy.

1. Build on the islands of health and strength.

2. Work only with the receptive and only on what’s trying to happen.

3. Go big or go home. Focus; don’t do dribs and drabs.

4. Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value? What is our business?

5. Giving is not a result— changed lives are.

6. The fruit of our work grows up on other people’s trees.

7. The entrepreneurial-style leader is where the leverage begins.

8. The essential ingredient for success is a steady stream of innovation.

9. Leaders –  It’s your job to release and direct energy, not to supply it.

10. Structure follows strategy, and strategy begins with clear desired outcomes.

Leaders: Lead Like the Great Conductors

When talking about leadership and management coaching, sports analogies are often added for greater effect. Stories of great coaches who have won championship titles fill the business and executive coaching landscape. While these parallels can be powerful, there are others to consider.

lead like a conductor

Perhaps a more meaningful representation of effective management and leadership comes from the world of symphonic music. World-class conductors stand in as good examples of effective leadership. The symbolism abounds. Here are my Top 5.

Lead Like the Great Conductors

1. Generally, the conductor never plays a single note. The actual production of the sound a symphony makes is comprised of individual notes struck by the musicians playing a wide variety of instruments. So, too, it is with business and most organizations.

Yes, conductors get their pictures on the album covers, just like CEOs often do. Yet the contribution of the musicians is just as significant.

Unless your venture is a sole-proprietor model, where you are literally doing everything, the leader must rely on others to turn the cranks, push the wheels, and deliver the goods or services.

Guiding the way is the leader’s primary purpose while others deliver the goods and services.

2. The conductor defines “now”. A composer creates a piece of music, but it is subject to the interpretation of the conductor. Creative adjustments to timing and tempo make the piece come alive. The conductor keeps it steady. His effort keeps the whole orchestra in sync with one another. The conductor’s subtle gestures keep the entire group playing as one. One section out of sync would be a disaster for the piece of work as a whole.

The CEO or senior leader must be able to do the same with their team. Defining “now” is just as vital to an effective work team performance as it is to the New York Philharmonic Symphony. Having an employee or employee group lag behind, or get ahead of, prescribed performance definitions results in less than expected achievement.

3. The conductor keeps his back to the audience when he works. The best leaders are frequently unseen while they work. His/her focus should be on the team at work; keeping an eye on the plan (the music score) while the musicians play. There is no time for letting the audience shower the conductor with praise or applause. While the piece is in motion, all focus is on the orchestra.

When the conductor raises the baton, it is time to be still and wait for the music to begin. All throughout the piece, the conductor stays in motion. Hand movement might range from subtle to big and demonstrative. Regardless, the conductor’s purpose is to focus on the team.

Once the piece is over, the conductor may turn to get a reaction from the crowd.

4. The conductor creates synchronization and harmony, working through dissonance. Admittedly, this is a layman’s commentary. My wife, the musician, might challenge me on the technicalities of this point. Granted, harmony and dissonance are uniquely different aspects of a musical piece. My point is that when all the instruments are in sync and following the arrangement and the conductor, the sound is generally more harmonious than not.

Similar to #2 above, getting sections of the orchestra off tempo or out of sync with the rest of the orchestra creates a sound that is discordant. Go to a symphony performance and listen carefully to the warm-ups. Every musician is operating independently, tuning their instrument, running notes and scales. The joint effort is cacophonous.

As soon as the conductor raises the baton and the work begins, every note falls into its perfect place and harmony is achieved.

The workplace runs like this too. When an office or a shop is working in perfect harmony, there is a buzz that can be heard and even felt. Solid productivity has that buzz. You can just sense the flow of the work effort.

5. Everything is NOT about the conductor’s story. The focus of the great symphonic music is not about the conductor alone. Rather it is about the individual stories that each musician brings to the musical piece. All of the training, rehearsal, and effort the musician puts into mastering their instrument becomes their personal story.

The conductor brings out all of the stories into a merged production of glorious music that the audience can enjoy. Weaving the individual stories, skills, and passion into one master story for the audience to experience is the craft of the conductor.

So too it is with business owners and senior executives. As the ability to lead grows stronger so too will be the ability to better recognize and bring out the strengths of their team. Great leaders inspire their team members and encourage the best parts of their story, skills, and passion to be heard.

Watch the Message

Based on his illustrious 10-year career as an orchestra conductor in Israel, Itay Talgam gives a TED talk about the correlation between conducting a group of musicians with instruments and leading a group of people with ideas. A musical leader conducts his orchestra without words and yet is able to evoke harmony and emotion. Talgam reflects on 6 successful conductors and the strategies they used to make their performances great.

Enjoy the clip.

Homeward Bound – Making the Shift from Work to Home

Homeward bound

Busy professionals face many similar challenges. Finding the elusive work-life balance is likely one of the biggest problems.

Homeward bound

You spend your days leading teams, making decisions, solving problems, and guiding the big work effort, but how do you make the transition going home? I’m talking about the change that happens as you leave the office or facility and walk through the door at home.

At home, you face a spouse, children, the pets and many other combinations of personal living arrangements. They may not care what kind of day YOU had. They had their own issues.

How do you avoid the kick-the-dog entry or worse yet, the lashing out to your life partner or kids? How can that be avoided?

I’m the guy who loves simple, but elegant solutions. Remember I speak a lot about finding common sense ideas to improve your leadership effectiveness.

Are you ready? Here is the most basic, yet powerful set of tools I can recommend to solve this homeward bound transition. This is how you get ready to walk in the door at home and be a better YOU.

The Answer

I’m going to give you 4 simple questions to ask yourself during the commute. Print them out, put them on a reminder note. Stick it on the visor of your car or on the flap of your briefcase or backpack.

Every day as you begin the trip home, ask yourself these 4 questions:

1.What did I learn today that’s going to be valuable?

2. What did I do well today?

3. What are the 3 greatest blessings in my life?

4. How can I be the best _________ (Mom, Dad, Spouse or friend) I’ve ever been, right here, tonight?

Make the Shift

To find and keep your sense of balance between work and life, you must allow yourself a shift. Few of us can make the change with a snap of our fingers.

While I coach on a whole-person basis, the reality is few of us live one perfectly harmonized existence between home and work. Somewhere there is a change we make. Sadly for some, the change may not be effective, so problems get created with the family.

They don’t deserve the tension and pressure you may be feeling. As a leader, you have to figure out your own way to decompress from the day.

Centering your attention on these 4 simple questions just might make a big difference that can save a marriage, or endear a family member.

I like to ask the question “do those you lead endure you or are you endearing?” Endure or endear? Wow. Think about that.

What Are You Waiting For?


There comes a time in life when you’ve done all the thinking, study, analysis, and planning you can do. You reach a decision point. Then it happens. You freeze. You cannot go forward. You’re stuck.


The question is then, what are you waiting for? What is it that holds you back, makes you balk? How can you make the call?

Leadership is about being able to avoid the waiting. Making decisions is the big “so what” about being a leader. As the leader, your team is waiting for you to decide. Which way are we going, if at all? When? How?

While your ability to decide can make the difference, the timing of the decision is just as important.

First a story

I’ve often told the story of my banking experience during the implementation of ATM machines. The machines were new, unproven technology. Analysts agreed this was the next big thing. My bank had not yet entered the fight. The competition was running fast to adopt the technology.

We held a big executive summit with our senior leadership team. Case studies were prepared and presented. Our chairman and CEO, Ben Love, absorbed all of the information as only he could do. Then in the blink of an eye, he said “No, we’re going to wait this out. Let’s let the other guys get the arrows in their back.”

His analogy of course meant that pioneers were the ones who suffered the most when exploring new territory. We waited for a period, something like 18–24 months. Then we entered the market.

Not only did we avoid the high cost of early adoption failures (and there were many), but we dominated the space. We helped form the Pulse network which was the early version of the utility service that allowed all the machines to talk to each other and exchange transaction data. There was a cost to be on the network, a fee we profited from for quite some time.

In this case, Ben’s waiting was prudent, wise, and ultimately very profitable. However, too often the wait is a fail all its own.

The flip side

In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team. The idea was that Netflix would run Blockbuster’s brand online and Antioco’s firm would promote Netflix in its stores. Hastings got laughed out of the room.

We all know what happened next. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and Netflix is now a $28 billion dollar company, about ten times what Blockbuster was worth. Today, Hastings is widely hailed as a genius and Antioco is considered a fool. Yet that is far too unfair an explanation.

Antioco was, in fact, a very competent executive — many considered him a retail genius — with a long history of success. Yet for all his operational acumen, he failed to see that market forces were moving in a new direction.

Let’s make it personal


Yes, there are hundreds if not thousands of business case studies where CEOs failed to make the right call. But this issue is more personal.

Each of us with any leadership duty at all, whether at work, at home, or in the community, face the challenge to make decisions on behalf of our tribe.

When we freeze in place, we jeopardize everything we may have been working on. Here are three main reasons we wait before making the decision. And a little something to do about each one.


Fear is the obvious and easy answer to why we wait. When faced with an unknown about the future we have fear. As the reality settles in that our decision may have big consequences, fear rises up.

Fear can be overcome by determination. When I sense fear about making a decision, I look first at those who rely on me. I ask the question, will they be better off moving forward or staying stuck where we are.

If the consequences of my decision will not directly harm my tribe, I can move ahead with more determination.


Confidence, or lack thereof, is a distant relative of fear. Building confidence as a leader is one of the most common expressions of concern I hear from my coaching clients. Lack of confidence causes us to wait.

There is not a good executive out there who hasn’t felt a little doubt from time to time, tugging at their confidence. Prior success only goes so far in helping to make new decisions with confidence. Yet building momentum as a leader can do more for confidence than anything else I know.

High achievers seldom celebrate wins in the day. Beating a deadline, making a delivery, executing a difficult task, are all examples of wins you can and should be celebrating in your own way. I’m not talking about becoming arrogant. Rather I am talking about realizing the momentum that might be building on your team.

Celebrate that. Let it help build your confidence as a leader.


Yes, just old-fashioned procrastination can cause us to wait. Ironically, people with tendencies toward perfectionism are the biggest procrastinators I know.

The logic goes like this. I need this to be perfect, so I’ll wait for the right time, resources, or events to align so that the outcome will be perfect.

Perfect is the enemy of good. ~Voltaire

You don’t have to be perfect to be a winner. Success comes from action. Feel the urge to wait because of trying to be perfect? Decide first what good can look like. Then do it.

Question: What are you waiting for?

Are You Managing Your World or is Your World Managing You?

managing world

We all suffer the daily grind. Some days are better than others. For anyone in management or leadership, you need to take a pause to make some critical assessments. I like to call it recalibration. This is a key leadership quality. Let’s face it, the demands on your time and your life can get overwhelming. In today’s tumultuous market, we really never know from day to day what next may come.

You may need to ask yourself this big question:

Are you managing your world or is your world managing you?

managing world

In my consulting days, I was project manager of a very large engagement with over 400 consultants working for me. It was a coast to coast assignment with teams scattered across 7 job sites. I had nine different work streams running concurrently, with cross-over dependencies between teams.

The hours were long and the travel compounded the pressure. The client was a large national banking institution and the mission was to help the bank respond to a critical regulatory mandate. To say the least, the stakes were great. It could have been easy to get overwhelmed with the scope of the situation. I confess, at times I did feel consumed.

Fortunately, my many years of prior training, both military and civilian, had prepared me for just such a mission. I was a long time practitioner of the principle I am about to share

If you let these pressures mount without routinely asking yourselves some essential questions, you run the risk of spinning off into some other orbit that you never intended.

The Frog

There is an old story of the frog in the pot. The story says that if you drop a frog in boiling water he immediately jumps out. But if you set him in cool water and slowly add the heat, he’ll boil to death. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be like the frog.


You have to gauge the temperature on a regular basis. Are you getting comfortable with the heat rising?

You have to pay attention to the circumstances around you. There needs to be the routine recalibration of your own role in the middle of the work demands going on around you.

React or Respond?

If a doctor prescribes medication and I have a reaction to it, that is NOT GOOD. Yet if I respond to it, I am going to get healthier.

Just like with the medicine, being reactive to the things in our world really will not help the situation. Of course, there are things that may happen that are totally unexpected. We have to deal with that.

At the core of this idea is the difference between being proactive or reactive. We should not let everything that happens become a topic of reaction. As a leader, you must be able to do some things to be proactive with what may come. Proactive people are better positioned to respond to the situation and manage their world. However, being reactive allows the events of the day to manage YOU.

So where do you stand? Are you more inclined to be in control of the things happening around you or have you started just reacting?

People Can Mess Things Up

people mess things up

You may think you have developed the best plan in the world to attack the next chapter of your life (ok, maybe just the next few hours). Then, what do you know? The very first person who walks into the office seems to blow the whole plan out of the water. What do you do?

Don’t react! Force yourself to pause and process the matter according to your plan. This is how you manage things rather than let things manage you.

Is it easy? Of course not! That’s why we so often feel overwhelmed at the end of the day.

Even if you are successful at maintaining the focus on your plan, it likely will take lots of energy and effort. But people who have been able to adopt a discipline for doing this find it becomes easier to do. If your outward aura is true to this inner control, the people around you will start to get the picture. Their demands will become less intrusive, plus they will learn they cannot get “the reaction” out you they used to be able to do.


Managers getting it right
Managers getting it right

Maybe the self-help books are not as popular as they once were. The truth is, this journey we call life is full of self-help moments. Rather than waiting on others to pitch in or hoping that circumstances may change, you need to take control of your own destiny.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Personal and professional growth only happens when you choose to make it happen.[/shareable]

At each and every step of the way, keep asking yourself if you are managing your world or does your world manage you? Take the time to recalibrate. Get back on plan.

[reminder]When was the last time you were able to stand back and realize your world was managing you? How did you regain control?[/reminder]


Management is Not for Everyone


What’s the big deal with becoming a Manager? Why do some try to do that? And why do companies promote people who end up being terrible managers and lousy bosses? More importantly, if you are one of the people being put into management, what can you do to make it a success?


Being in management is associated with a position, title, and certain responsibilities and compensation. People naturally strive to make those career advancements, but it’s not for everyone. Sadly, few consider becoming a real leader in the role. You can truly manage something without ever becoming a good leader.

You can press the buttons, push the paper, and make people do their work (fear, power, and oppression/intimidation) but that doesn’t inspire productivity and loyalty. When a work team is run this way, there is low morale and high turnover. Plus you get tagged “bad boss”.

Leaders inspire their team. They create trust and loyalty. They naturally motivate people, turnover is low.

I don’t advocate anything about management practice alone. I feel (and experience has proven) that someone who focuses only on management won’t be around long.

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Leaders make the difference

When you take on a management role, you should begin thinking about what it takes to become a leader. If you’ve never studied leadership, here are five ways you can get a jump start on rising above the crowd.

Read –  Yes, read about successful leaders. Ask around to get references for some great books. John Maxwell is a world renown expert on leadership theory, practice, and teaching. He’s written some 25 books, sold 16 million copies, and presented leadership conferences in over 30 countries. He’d be a good start.

Find a Model –  A role model that is. Identify someone at your work or in your community who stands out as a role model for good leadership. Just ask them if they will be willing to spend some time sharing ideas and helping you build some leadership muscle.

Preferably you find a mentor who will agree to a longer term relationship; someone with whom you can explore leadership ideas.

Hire a Coach –  OK, yes, I am a coach, so I think hiring one is smart. Forget me for a minute. Think about where coaching is used elsewhere. Coaches have been around for a long time in all things sports. Why? Players need help developing their “better self” to get stronger, more flexible, more agile, and better informed about the sport.

We think of sports coaches as a natural fit. So why not career coaches or executive coaches to help build leadership muscle. More and more, professionals in all walks are turning to coaching to help build better leadership skills.

Join a Mastermind –  Iron sharpens iron. Find or create a group of like-minded managers who also want to grow. Share ideas and experiences in a highly confidential and trustworthy way. Help each other grow.

Practice –  Back to the sports connection. You won’t get better without practice. Take the information you receive and put it into practice. See what works and what doesn’t work. By using the principles you learn, you exercise that leadership muscle, helping it grow.

With practice, you will find more confidence in your ability to lead the team. Your decisions will come easier and be more reliable.

Don’t get stuck or left behind

Moving into management can be a great opportunity. Just don’t get bogged down in the weeds. Get the job going, but then focus on developing as a leader. Take the simple but important steps to move forward each day. Find ways to grow your awareness of the big difference between just being a manager or becoming a leader.

The world needs leaders everywhere; at work, at home, and in the community. By growing your own capacity to lead, you can make a difference in this world, right where you are.

[reminder]If you are a manager, what are you doing to make a better difference?[/reminder]