Measuring the Milestones of Life


Have you ever stopped to think what the milestones in your life are telling you? Or do you even keep track of those moments? We all have decisions, outcomes, and experiences that shape and mold the person we become. Some call these defining moments.

Taking a look at the list of the key moments can be very helpful when trying to make new decisions about who we are and where we’re going.


I confess, this week one of those milestone moments happens for me. It’s my birthday and it’s a big one. I won’t bore you with the details. And, no, this is not a weak plug for attention, but instead an opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

Birthdays can be examples of some classic milestone moments; turning 16 to get a drivers license or 21 to be “legal” for drinking can be big deals. But then we start counting birthdays in fives; 25, 30, 35, etc.

A friend once shuddered at his 35th  birthday. In his mind, thirty-five was a serious pivot point in his life. Somehow everything was going to be downhill. Ironically, my father-in-law always said “no one pays attention to you until you turn 40”, but that’s another story.

There are many other examples of life-changing moments we experience that become milestones for us. Graduating from school, getting married, having children, getting a divorce, being transferred, making a big move, changing jobs, changing careers… all of these serve to set markers in our life from which we can see a picture start to form. There are many more.

Decisions are critical influencers of when, where and how some of these markers get created. Bad decisions send us down paths that either make us learn something, or keep us from learning. Better decisions build experience and wisdom. The older you get, the more you will see a picture unfolding. You see a shape and a pattern come to life.

The Challenge

If you are reading this and feeling stuck where you are, take a moment to recount the milestones in your own life. You might even take a notepad and draw the timeline of your life, placing markers at the various key moments. It doesn’t matter whether they are positive or negative, just draw the map.

From this drawing see what picture you find. Are there common themes that jump out? Is there a hobby or skill that keeps coming up? Is there a body of work that inspires you more than the others?

If you’ve never done an exercise like this, you might just find a new you in there somewhere.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs 

[reminder]What are your milestones telling you?[/reminder]

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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10 Things You May Not Know About Procrastination


Yes, PROCRASTINATION. We all deal with it at some time or another. Have you noticed that the degree of procrastination often is directly proportional to the size of the task? Well, it is for me.


So there I was, inside of 12 hours before press deadline. Normally, I am well ahead of these articles by now. (You see, I really do feel an obligation to deliver something of value in return for your time reading my posts.)

On the way home from church, I mentioned to my wife that I was behind the deadline. She said, “I have an idea for a topic.”

To this, I responded, “Great, let me hear it.”

Procrastination!” was her reply.

Ouch, really? “Is that what you think I have done here?” was my manly retort (said in a tender, loving way of course).

She smartly said, “No, but it’s a good topic you don’t write enough about.”

OK, deal! I agree. Inspiration!

Here’s the Truth

Psychology Today reports:

“Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort.”

In an article written by Hara Estroff Marano [first published in August 23003, later reviewed November 20, 2015]  she writes:

“There are many ways to avoid success in life, but the most sure-fire just might be procrastination. Procrastinators sabotage themselves. They put obstacles in their own path. They actually choose paths that hurt their performance.

Why would people do that? I talked to two of the world’s leading experts on procrastination: Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Neither one is a procrastinator, and both answered my many questions immediately. [Here are the answers]”

  1. Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. For them procrastination is a lifestyle, albeit a maladaptive one. And it cuts across all domains of their life. They don’t pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don’t cash gift certificates or checks. They file income tax returns late. They leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.18496652_s
  2. It’s not trivial, although as a culture we don’t take it seriously as a problem. It represents a profound problem of self-regulation. And there may be more of it in the U.S. than in other countries because we are so nice; we don’t call people on their excuses (“my grandmother died last week”) even when we don’t believe them.
  3. Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari.
  4. Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned in the family milieu, but not directly. It is one response to an authoritarian parenting style. Having a harsh, controlling father keeps children from developing the ability to regulate themselves, from internalizing their own intentions and then learning to act on them. Procrastination can even be a form of rebellion, one of the few forms available under such circumstances. What’s more, under those household conditions, procrastinators turn more to friends than to parents for support, and their friends may reinforce procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of their excuses.
  5. Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink. Procrastinators drink more than they intend to—a manifestation of generalized problems in self-regulation. That is over and above the effect of avoidant coping styles that underlie procrastination and lead to disengagement via substance abuse.
  6. Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.” But in fact, they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying “this isn’t important.” Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately, they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  7. Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.
  8. There’s more than one flavor of procrastination. People procrastinate for different reasons. Dr. Ferrari identifies three basic types of procrastinators:
    • arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait until the last minute for the euphoric rush.
    • avoiders, who may be avoiding the fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
    • decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
  9. There are big costs to procrastination. Health is one. Just over the course of a single academic term, procrastinating college students had such evidence of compromised immune systems as more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems. And they had insomnia. In addition, procrastination has a high cost to others as well as oneself; it shifts the burden of responsibilities onto others, who become resentful. Procrastination destroys teamwork in the workplace and private relationships.
  10. Procrastinators can change their behavior—but doing so consumes a lot of psychic energy. And it doesn’t necessarily mean one feels transformed internally. It can be done with highly structured cognitive behavioral therapy.


Here’s the Fix

For many of us dealing with the occasional bout of procrastination, we just need to turn up the self-discipline. For me, I need to do these things:

1. Eliminate distractions; refocus. I need to remind myself of the significance of the task at hand.

2. Reduce the rationalization that happens when I make excuses for letting something slip. The better answer is ‘NO, there is no excuse. Get busy!’ As for this article, my rationalization sounded something like ‘Gee, it’s the holidays, there are bowl games and family…’. Nope, all bad excuses.

3. Ask for accountability. I did this today by sharing with my wife that I was off schedule. Getting her input got me jump started toward the goal.

For anyone who has committed to a new plan for 2016, procrastination may be the very first obstacle you face. Take these ideas to heart. Be ready to battle this enemy right from the start.

Think about these quotes:

[shareable cite=”Victor Kiam”]Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin. [/shareable]

[shareable cite=”Denzel Washington”]I’d be frightened by not using whatever abilities I’d been given. I’d be more frightened by procrastination and laziness. [/shareable]

[shareable cite=”Don Marquis”]Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday. [/shareable]

[reminder]What do you do to fight procrastination?[/reminder]

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Is your time getting away from you? What would it look like if you only worked the hours you want to, but got everything done? Can you effectively delegate?


One of the surest ways to break through the ceiling and get to where you want to go is to delegate and elevate yourself to your God-given unique abilities.

If you’re like most business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, you’re probably feeling a little stuck, with way too much on your plate. There are just not enough hours in the day. You may be feeling like you could and should be accomplishing a heck of a lot more than you are. If so, these five steps will take you to the next level:

Step 1: Define your 100% – Your 100% is your maximum number of hours per week you want to work and still remain balanced. For me, it’s around 60 hours a week, but this is different for everyone. You can’t move to the next step without answering this question. All progress begins here. The answer to this question represents your 100%.

Step 2: Determine if you’re over capacity – How much time will it take to do everything you need to do well? While this calculation is not entirely easy, it is vital. If your answer exceeds your 100%, it’s time to delegate and elevate. Therefore, move to step 3.

Step 3: List everything you do every day – It may seem daunting, but it’s worth 30 minutes and will save you hundreds of hours every year going forward. Literally list each and every activity, big and small, and then move on to step 4.

Step 4: Create your two columns – Take everything from the previous list in step 3 and put them in one of two columns. Column one is where you list everything you love and/or like to do and are great and/or good at. Column two is where you list everything remaining from the step 3 list. Once everything from step 3 is in one of the two columns, move to step 5.

Step 5: Delegate and elevate – Either stop doing or delegate the excess capacity items in the second column to the people around you until you’re comfortably within your 100%. You should also consider outsourcing the tasks that don’t fit on your perfect list. Get a virtual assistant, or find solutions where new partners can handle the workload on a contract basis. Don’t work below your pay grade.

Find the Sweet Spot

As a leader in your organization, you must operate in your sweet spot. By spending most of your time on “column 1” activities, you will. You owe it to yourself and your company. This makes you more valuable, gives you more energy, and makes you happier, which then leads to you being a much better leader for your people.

This piece was contributed by a good friend and colleague, Jeff Bain of Team Traction. Jeff is an EOS Implementer. If you want to know more about the EOS principles for growing and managing your business, contact Jeff at his website.

Do Your Problems Seem Bigger Than Actual Size?

Big Problems

Do you sometimes make things bigger than they really are? When you face a challenge, can you see it in proper perspective? Or do you have a tendency to make things bigger than they really are?

The great social activist Chicken Little was quoted as saying “The sky is falling” when he had merely been struck in the head by a falling acorn.

Big Problems

Blowing things out of proportion can be a problem if you are the one in charge. Yes, that would be a challenge if you do it on a regular basis. Leaders must keep things in proper perspective.

One of my clients introduced me to a new term “catastrophizing”. This means making a situation far greater than it really is. The way we entered this discussion was talking about limiting thoughts. I had asked the client to give me some examples of limiting thoughts they suffer. While a few of the answers were the usual, this one surprised me.


As an executive, you are confronted with problems almost daily. Things happen; often not as planned. You have to field questions, hear the news, and make decisions.

What if everything you were given was turned into something far more tragic? What if something someone on your team failed to do was declared a disaster when it is really just a setback or a simple honest mistake?

Think about the energy both emotional and physical you would spend dealing with such catastrophes.

Through my client’s own vulnerability, I was able to add a great word to my coaching. If you act like Chicken Little you will get yourself worked into a panic. You will be running around in a frenzy, stirring up others to join your panic party. Doing this is catastrophizing. Even if you leave others out of it, your own waste of energy and emotional effort can cause conflict and confuse the situation.

[shareable cite=”Mark Twain”]There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened.[/shareable]

Why do people do this?

I don’t practice psychology, so I cannot even venture a technical argument as to why some are prone to act this way. However, I can share an observation from years of leadership experience on the job.

People who catastrophize often do so for several reasons.

  1. A Sense of Dread –  They are convinced life has been mean to them. The proverbial cup is half empty all the time. Therefore, any new event that arises must be bad. They are blinded to any possibility of a favorable outcome.

  2. Lack of Trust –  People who lose trust in mankind look at problems as people problems, all the time. Their way of thinking says the other person is the reason these things are bad.

  3. No Hope –  Theirs is a world of doom and gloom. They are convinced things are hopeless. In their minds, blue skies are really just a funny shade of gray.

Sadly, I have run into these kinds of co-workers and professionals most of my career. Thank goodness they are not everywhere, nor are they in leadership very often. But when they are, look out.

The biggest problem I see with catastrophizing is the waste of energy and resources. Whether the energy is emotional or physical, the expenditure of energy trying to avoid the catastrophe is great.

The Solution

One of the wisest words I ever heard was the phrase “The problem is not the problem.” Think about that. Whenever you are confronted with what seems like a problem, check first see if what you are being told is a problem is really the problem. Here’s an example.

Missed deadlines are usually a problem anywhere. Unless that deadline is a life or death situation, most missed deadlines are bad, but not the end of the world. Having a missed deadline, though it seems big and real, may not be the problem at all. Rather, the real problem may be with the process, procedure, or people. Are the deadlines even reasonable considering the mix of the above elements? Or has someone failed at their task?

Being able to properly discern the root cause of an issue is preferable to simply catastrophizing and running around like Chicken Little.

The sky is not falling. It’s just an acorn.

[reminder]How do you prevent yourself from catastrophizing your circumstance?[/reminder]

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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Leaders: What is the Right Answer?

getting it right

It has been said there is one big difference between management and leadership. Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.

getting it right

Have you ever asked yourself this question? What IS the right answer anyway? For people in leadership roles, you are looked upon for the right answer. You better be able to deliver.

However, there are times when the right answer seems so hard to find. Here are some things to consider so that you, as a leader, can do more to find the “right” answer.

Situational Approach

Situational problem solving seems to be popular. In one case, the right answer might be green, but in a different situation, the answer is red. Both pose what seems like the same sets of facts and circumstances which should lead to the same answer, but you will see decision makers opting to let the outcome be different because of the audience that is involved. If the stakeholders are different, the answer gets shifted despite the facts and details bearing on the matter.

The idea of situational problem solving is often referred to in morality debates. There are those who get very excited about certain social issues, making claims for absolute answers involving right from wrong (think gun control, abortion, legalized marihuana, etc.). Yet when it is their family in jeopardy, they choose to go another route.

I contend the truly right answer needs to fit all situations. Circumstance shouldn’t change what was decided as to right or wrong.

The Leaders Curse

Anyone who is deemed a leader, whether at work, at home, or in the community, is expected to come up with answers. Those who are following the leader expect the answers to be “right”.

For the person who sits in the leadership chair, the pressure can be intense. If you are genuinely committed to quality leadership, the power of the position will not be enough. Power alone can literally dictate decisions. However, leaders who embrace the higher calling of duty and seek to make right decisions will suffer the burden of the process to get there.

Perhaps your style is to seek counsel from those around you. I am a big fan of hiring smart people, then getting out of their way. Yet when the final decision is needed, it rests on the leader’s shoulders to make the call.

Once all the input has been reviewed and processed, the right answer is yours to make. What you decide is right is the way things will go.

Oh my, but what is RIGHT?

I never thought about being right in this exact context before. I participate in an organization of highly regarded business leaders. They each have their own resume of incredible accomplishments. Internal meetings with this group are lively and interesting, to say the least.

When I see discussions in the group unfold, there is, on one hand, amazing thought that goes into the answers. So many different angles get presented and explored.

On the other hand, there is the occasional hard stand that insists their individual answer is best (and the only answer). When this happens, the group often tables discussion for a further review. One could argue that lack of consensus is a natural outcome when a group of A++ personalities joust it out, debating the right answer for a question.

The bottom line is this; right is totally a function of the view from the first chair. The type A++ who has been accustomed to making final decisions may not be able to play nicely in a group of similar personalities when the authority is spread across the group and not centered in one seat.

My point is simply this…. the “right” answer may surprise you.

Leaders: How Do You Find Right?

When the responsibility of leadership falls on you, likely you will seek to pull together all your experience, knowledge, wisdom, and technical ability to make good decisions; the right ones. The process is different for everyone.

Think about your own decision-making process. Do you make lists of pros and cons? Do you draw a grid? Do you immediately turn to advisors? Or friends? Where and how do you decide “right?”

How often do you rely on your gut? I hear that a lot. Truthfully, it works. The greater your experience in leadership roles, the greater may be the accuracy of your gut. I see this being true more often than not in the leaders who fully appreciate the role of leader. The key factor though is whether your gut is objective, not subjective. Unfair biases can misguide the gut reaction to finding right.

Managers who are first starting out lack the benefit of seasoned experience. Their gut reaction may be founded on emotion not reality. The experience becomes a teacher, but not by itself.

Experience is not a good teacher. Evaluated experience is. ~John Maxwell

As you gain experience by exercising your leadership decisions making, your sense of right and wrong decisions will get fine-tuned. If you are just now starting out in leadership, keep notes for yourself. You will revisit facts and circumstances from time to time. You will be able to gain strength of conviction through repeated use of your choices.

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Calling All Remote Workers

Work at Home

Since 2000 there has been a growing trend to let workers do their duties remotely; telecommuting it was once called. With the availability of so much good technology, it seemed extra generous of employers to allow workers to avoid the hassles of doing a daily commute. The company saved on facilities expense. While the trend grew steadily for a number of years, there is now a reversal happening.

Work at Home

Between 2012 and 2016, the share of employees who spend 80% or more of their time working remotely grew from 24% to 31%, according to a survey from Gallup. Some 59% of business executives said that more than half of their companies’ full-time workforce would be remote by 2020, per the results of a 2014 survey at London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit.

But not all business leaders are in favor of this trend. In May, IBM told thousands of its remote employees that they needed to return to a regional office or leave the company, Fox Business reported. Last year, insurance giant Aetna began to cut back on its work-from-home program due to concerns regarding collaboration. And in 2013, Yahoo ended its telecommuting program shortly after the beginning of former CEO Marissa Mayer’s tenure with the company.

Smaller businesses who jumped on the bandwagon are now getting off. I received a question from one of my readers who said:

…  love to see something on how to move people “ back to the office”. Many companies are doing that now since [much of their] collaborative energy has been lost as more and more people work remote from home. Is their a best practice on how to [make this recall] to limit impact on morale? 

I didn’t want to jump on this grenade by myself, so I consulted a few of my colleagues who also have successful executive coaching practices. Here are some of the issues to consider (in no particular order).

Mastering the Commute

The original reason many employers ventured down this rabbit hole was to assist workers by lessening commute times. In large metropolitan areas, daily commutes can consume 2 to 5 hours for workers. That doesn’t leave room for any family life. By eliminating the grind of a daunting commute, workers can spend time with family in a.m., get a good breakfast and be “at work” by whatever start time you declare.

The Commute

On the flip side, shutting down in the p.m. involves a simple flip of a switch and a short walk to the kitchen to say hello to kids and spouses.

By reversing the policy and asking workers to return to central facilities, you invoke the dreaded commute. As an employer, even though it’s not your fault where your people choose to live, if they’ve gotten used to no commute, the shift back may be more egregious than you think.

It Gets More Complicated

There are numerous pros and cons of telecommuting. Ultimately the primary factors that determine whether an employees experience with working remotely is successful or not involves that person’s natural personality and needs for feedback.

We have plenty of workers who want the camaraderie of working inside a team. They feed off the energy and vibe of the team around them. Team chemistry can become a perk for many employees.

If a good esprit de corps is established within the workgroup when everyone is together, you get a bonus incentive for the workers who want and need such feedback.

On the other side of that coin is the worker who likes going solo. A personality that is a little more introverted may appreciate the solitude of being able to do their work without disruptive chatter and buzz around them.

It’s not easy to accurately determine which camp all employees fall into. It has been reported that even some workers who seemed like they would be OK working alone are reporting a problem with the solitude after an extended absence from the team setting. This can be explained by the new thinking about ambivert personalities. An ambivert is someone who, depending on the situation, switches between being an extrovert and introvert.

Management’s Trust Factor

All too often I hear managers expressing concerns about whether their people are “really” working. For a boss who is prone to go there first, you may have some trust issues, my friend. If you and your company do not have accountability and productivity measures figured out, then yes, I get it. Remote workers would be a problem for you. However, if you are missing those indicators, you likely don’t know any more information about the people sitting outside your door either.

Any owner or executive who agrees to let workers stay at home must decide on what they will do to create and maintain visibility for consistent delivery of company mission/vision and value propositions.

The person in charge needs to check their motives for wanting everyone back in the office after remote commuting has been the policy. Unwinding that arrangement must be done for the best of reasons. A manager, partner, owner or principal should never ask people to give up the freedom of the remote work for bad ideas like ego, and their own control issues. Hiding behind thinly veiled ideas won’t work. Here are the excuses I know about:

  • We work better together
  • We need the chemistry
  • We need the energy of being able to collaborate

Perhaps remote delegation should have never been allowed in the first place.

What About the Office Culture?

Even if you get everyone to come back together, you as the boss may not be creating the optimum operating environment. I’ve seen too many smaller businesses with a so-called entrepreneurial spirit that are just nut houses (pardon me). The principals lead the pack with a wired and frenzied climate where meetings run too long too often, minds get changed too much, and direction is scattered at best.

Good employees will never suffer that environment for long. If a good and talented worker likes the mission and the work but hates the way the boss treats everyone, working from home is a sanctuary. It will be next to impossible to unwind that scenario.

After all, it’s been said

[shareable]“People don’t quit companies, they quit bosses.”[/shareable]

In the End

It’s all about setting clear expectations. Not all managers know enough about leadership to be able to do this. The leader must be able to articulate clear, concise expectations about work demands. Then you need to stick with them.

If you do end up deciding that you generally want people limiting their working from home to one day a week, I’d say this:

I want to talk to you about our work from home policy. In general, I prefer people to work from home no more than _____ days a week, because of (give your reasons). On rare occasions, I’m willing to approve more than that, but I’d like the default to be no more than ____ a week. I realize I didn’t clarify this earlier, and you haven’t done anything wrong by doing it more often, but going forward, please stick to this guideline.

Also, say this now rather than just rejecting their next work from home request and explaining it then. This is a big-picture conversation to have since they’re now used to doing it a different way, not something to spring on them the next time it comes up.

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”.

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Managing in the Maze

Have you found yourself bogged down in the weeds? Does your life’s progress seem like a wash, rinse, repeat cycle?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, you are living life and managing your efforts in a maze. Here’s what maze managing means.

Living in the Maze
Living in the Maze

Imagine a big, even giant maze. You know, like the ones you saw in the grade school coloring books, where you tried to draw your way from start to finish. You followed a few paths only to learn that they were dead ends. You went back to the start and try new direction, but bump into another dead end.

You work countless combinations of turns and angles, possibly covering all corners of the maze, yet you never get to the finish. The bigger the maze, the harder it was to find the solution. If the lines were very small, it was even harder.

Life and business can be that way. When a new chapter of life starts or a new job is begun, you don’t see the end. You have to turn and twist your way, day by day, trying to achieve some level of success.

Hard work and dedicated effort can feel like you are making progress, but then as you make the next turn, you realize you’ve reached a dead end. Sadly, the result may come after years of work.

Managers and executives often find themselves giving in to life in the maze. All of the facts and forces around you say “walk the maze”. You start thinking that is the only way to get through to your goal.

The best leaders I have known acknowledge the maze, but find ways to rise above the grind of living in the maze. This is where and how having leadership vision becomes important. Leaders can see the way forward despite clear obstacles in the way. They don’t merely overpower the obstacle, but they design a plan to go over, around, or through the maze.

I like to think of this as leading out loud. When others around you give in to maze thinking, you have to get their attention. As a leader, you can provide inspiration about coming out of the maze and reaching the other side. You can steer the discussions, shape ideas, and be the guide, showing them the way out of the maze.

Here’s the Catch

You too can be subject to maze thinking; getting stuck in the maze. The repetition of working through things can wear you down. You can lose sight of your own vision. Clarity can turn to fog.

Leaders have to develop their own mechanism for fighting this kind of battle fatigue. Here are three ways I have found to be effective.

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I love this word “re-calibration”. In a finely crafted mechanism, there are gears that can get out of sync from time to time. The constant turn of the wheels causes settings to loosen, alignment to shift, and sprockets to rattle. The whole system needs to get re-calibrated to reset the alignments, tighten the settings, and perhaps lubricate the gears.

Those of us in leadership need that too. We get rattled and thrown off our game. You have to allow yourself some time to re-calibrate. You may need to do this several times a year. I make it a daily habit to find a little quiet time to pause, reset, and refocus.

Re-calibration includes connecting with core values, reflection on who you intend to be, and honest analysis of your progress toward goals and priorities.


Ideas and methods can fade. The testing of time can cause an old idea to become irrelevant. You have to renew your thinking. Renewal also serves to keep us from getting stuck in a bull headed mindset.

If your trusted advisors have repeatedly encouraged you to change course, then maybe you need to change course. But you cannot do that objectively without your own period of renewal. Renewing your mind and heart can keep things fresh.


Enduring stress and pressure for extended periods of time requires recovery. Just like intense workouts at the gym require your body to recover, your mental and emotional faculties need recovery too. You have to afford yourself some time to recover from the pressure of being in leadership.

The science of recovery in our bodies gives us good examples of what can happen. See my prior post. Just like perpetual sessions at the gym actually become counter productive without rest, our leadership performance suffers too from the lack of recovery.

Get Above the Maze

Rather than struggling to live your life in a maze, leaders find ways to overcome the maze mentality. The first step is recognizing you have gotten stuck in the maze. As you go about performing your leadership duties, be mindful of the three disciplines I recommend for maximizing your resilience and effectiveness.












Attraction: A Leadership Yardstick

Leadership attraction

If you think of yourself as a leader, the first test is who are you attracting? Leaders attract followers.

A real leader has a following. People are wired to follow something or someone. It is natural to want to pay attention to someone whom we respect and admire. I’m not talking about celebrity status (although we get hung up following them too, but for different reasons). Gaining insight, growth, and upward mobility comes from following a great leader.

Leadership attraction
Leadership attraction

Following strong, inspiring leaders is what we do. I once met a younger man who had left a very impressive executive role in a large, global company. His progress within that company had been stellar. There was a steady stream of growth opportunity with progressively increasing influence in the company. Yet one day he woke up and said “I don’t think there is anyone above me anymore who I can respect and want to emulate.”

On one hand, you might be thinking that is pretty pompous. Yet when you get to know this man, you realize he has high end leadership written all over him. He was born with some natural leadership talent. In addition, he has sought ways to improve his gift of leadership.

John Maxwell describes leadership talent on a scale of 1 to 10. If you are a 6, you might grow a few steps to become an 8 or 9. Those with scores of 9 or 10 attract the 6s, 7s, and 8s. The man in my story had grown to become a 7 or an 8. He was hungry to find some 9s and 10s to follow. He didn’t see any of those in the ladder above him.

Talking about the fail of the company to identify and hire 9s and 10s is another story. But for our hero, he made a decision to leave and seek other career advancement, finding mentors, coaches, and leaders who could show him how to become the 9 or 10 he knows he can be.

By the way, there was proof of his leadership influence. After he left the company, dozens of his former employees and direct reports reached out to seek his personal guidance for career change and growth for themselves. Everyone expressed their appreciation for the way had had led them and how much he had inspired their path. Now that is attraction!

Think back on former bosses or leaders around you. If you counted yourself as a follower, take a look at why you followed them. Was it for intelligence; the topical knowledge of the industry? Or was it their wisdom; great experience from the past? Was it the way they engaged with the team? Could you trust them? Were you inspired whenever they spoke about the vision for the business? The list goes on.

You too can be that kind of leader. I like the Maxwell way of explaining it. 10s attract 9s, 9s attract 8s, and so on and so on. You grow in leadership by finding someone who demonstrates just a little more capacity for leadership than you have right now.

Last week we lost General Norman Schwarzkopf. He was quoted saying

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”

Schwarzkopf has a legacy of leadership, building, growing and developing great leaders below him. He did that at all levels of his career. As a battalion commander in Vietnam, he inherited one of the worst organizations deployed there. Every measure of military proficiency was poor for this outfit. The worst number was the death rate among the men of the battalion. Schwarzkopf quickly went into action, using the tools and wisdom he had (even though he was still young in his career). The morale of the unit began to change, People started paying attention to training exercises. Proficiency increased. More importantly the death toll dropped radically because the unit was now operating with a proper, high level of military proficiency.

Leadership can make the difference. You can grow as a leader, but you have to find those who are a little more advanced to follow.

Back to the point. If you consider yourself a leader, who is following you? Are you investing in their growth and development? Do you inspire such a following?

If not, and you want to be a leader, perhaps you need to learn more about leadership. Step out and find the ones you can follow. In my early days of leadership training, we had a mantra.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]You have to learn to be a follower before you can be a leader.[/shareable]

As the years have gone by, that phrase took on new meaning for me. I realized following a better leader makes you become better yourself. Leaders have to position themselves in ways to grow and nurture their following while seeking the means to grow themselves. You’re never too big to find someone with just a little more wisdom, knowledge, and skill than you have.

If I told you to raise your arm and reach up, you would go just so far. But If I then said now try a little further, you could do it. We all can reach a little further than we first thought.

Have a great 2017! Make your reach as far as you can!

[callout]If you are looking for coaching and leadership development to take your influence to a new level, contact us at HeadwayExec.[/callout]



Two Easy Ways to Improve 2017 – Plan Ahead

2017 Goals

At this time of year much is written about setting plans and goals for the new year. There are hundreds of programs and tools to help you do more to build a better YOU.

That is all fine and well. Successful people set goals, make plans, and know how to execute. After all, the key word of being an executive is execute. Right?

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