Category Archives: Leadership Development

Great Leaders Learn From Anywhere


As people we need a myriad of things in which to live and grow:

  • Air
  • Food
  • Oxygen
  • Sunlight
  • Proper Temperature

And within these items we have multiple needs within them. Take foods for example, we need a balance of food to get the correct nutrients in our bodies to facilitate growth and health.

In our quest to grow as leaders, we often look to grow from a variety of sources: books, podcasts, networking, seminars … the list goes on.

Now think of the things you use to grow as a leader. How many of those resources that you consume are made from the things that you like?

Now consider the things that you don’t like, and ask yourself this:

Can you, or will you, seek them to learn from those you don’t think you can teach you anything?

Take for instance the teen that doesn’t like broccoli or avocado or fish. They are missing some vital nutrients that are still beneficial. Even if they don’t like it, they can still benefit from it.

So if we apply this to our leadership development, we can virtually always benefit on those things we don’t like, or don’t think are good for us. We just need to be willing to try, willing to see, willing to hear.

The story goes of how Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart and his team toured some of their competitor’s stores. These stores were poor in their merchandising, assortment, and their execution. The team tried to get Walton to leave, saying that there was nothing they could learn from. Walton then spotted something and stopped to point it out to his colleagues. Excited, he exclaimed “Hey, why aren’t we doing that?!” and just then, what looked like a waste of time became a key component of the burgeoning company’s retail execution.

I often read books from people whose philosophy on leadership (and life) are not in line with my core values. Sometimes I’ll plug into a podcast from someone who is prideful and coarse but know that I’m going to receive a gem of wisdom from them.

My most profound leadership lesson learned was from a teenager whom was shortly fired for theft when I was a young manager. While his job performance would normally lend one to believe that one could never learn anything from him, his profound statement by his father has stayed with me for many years, still to this day.

Learn from whatever sources you can but keep this vital thought in mind at all times:

Don’t discount the information just because the sources is not what you agree or are comfortable with.

That goes not only for the author, speaker, or presenter, but also the format, the background, and the belief system or core values that generates those ideas.

With an open mind to be able to listen and learn something positive from anyone – even those in direct opposition or viewpoint to you – you can gain an advantage of learning and growing that you otherwise might have shut out due to our preconceived notions.

Keep your eyes, ears, mind and heart open and keep learning and growing.

(image: pixaby)



Opportunity – Which Flag Are You Flying?


Living 13 miles away from Loudon, New Hampshire, places me next door to New England’s largest sporting venue, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

A large mile-long track attracts numerous events throughout the racing season.

But twice a year, over 100,000 racing fans come to camp out all week and see the NASCAR circuit races throughout a major event-filled weekend.

Not particularly a racing fan myself, but a sporting fan overall, I enjoy watching the rules and strategies come into play, particularly how the drivers adjust to the various changes of the race, as designated by the color flags being flown.

Depending on the track conditions or the behavior of a driver, these flags reveal to everyone certain conditions that must be heeded. When flown, these flags give the drivers an indication of what is about to happen or what needs to be responded to.

Flags are given in organizations as well, but in a more subtle sense.

When it comes to employee engagement and opportunities to shine within the company, what flags are you flying?

Consider what you are communicating out there as it correlates to the NASCAR flags:

  • Green Flag – This flag indicates that the race is on. Is the race – the opportunity to develop, promote, and build your people – a green flag? Are positions posted and everyone given a fair chance to show their talents and skills? Do you create opportunities, projects, and positions for all of your people to grow professionally and in turn grow your company?
  • Yellow Flag – A yellow flag shows caution ahead, and indicates that drivers may need to slow down. What are the signs of caution that get communicated to your staff, that prevent them from charging forward, being fully engaged, or even trusting you? Do they have a chance to freely voice their concerns and effect change? Do they feel that the road ahead is littered with debris and speed bumps that will derail their goals or confidence in the organization, or both? Are you cleaning up the track so the green flag can be unfurled again?
  • Red Flag – A red flag means to stop the race immediately. Do your people see the red flags that go up in your organization? The person who gets promoted without the job being posted. The downsizing and workforce reductions due to mismanagement or cost avoidance. The questions that don’t get straight or honest answers, thus eroding all trust. The actions, contradictions in culture, or broken promises that tell your people to get off the track and find another race. Do you see what your own people see? Remember, it takes more energy, fuel and momentum to get a car back up to speed after it has been stopped. Stop the red flags before they come out.
  • Black flag – A black flag is the consultation flag, signifying a driver needs to address an individual issue quickly. Are you flying a black flag to a person when their otherwise stellar performance starts to lag? Or when their agenda shows their values are not congruent to the organization’s and will dilute the team’s vision? Do you hesitate to address issues out of fear, indifference, or a willingness to just get rid of the individual? Think of how the impact slows down the other people (drivers) and gets in the way or them doing their work and succeeding. Flying the black flag quickly and effectively coaching the person back on the track will salvage their career; failure to do so may prevent others from trusting your leadership and cause them to put the brakes on their performance by navigating around the debris left in its wake.
  • Blue Flag With Yellow Stripe – This is the passing flag, letting other drivers know that faster cars are coming up. This flag can have opposite meanings. Your message to your people can show favoritism to those who you set up to succeed, or obstacles that prevent the others from having a turn in the driver’s seat. Or it can be taking your people aside to encourage them to pursue projects and goals that will enable them to zoom ahead in their career and not feel like they are being left in the dust. The decision regarding how you fly this flag is yours, so choose wisely.
  • White Flag – A white flag means the lead driver is entering into the final lap. I call this the cheer-leading flag. When your people get close to attaining their goals, do you cheer them on and invite others to do so as well? Are you showing people that opportunity exists for them also, perhaps not during this race but perhaps the next? By highlighting the people who make the most of their opportunities, you not only encourage everyone else on the team to jump in the next time, but also to partake in team efforts to help others succeed in their goals as well.
  • Checkered Flag – When the checkered flag waves, the race has a winner. In racing, there is only one winner. That doesn’t have to be so in your organization. This doesn’t just mean the company as well, but consider how entire teams, departments, and even cross-disciplines can mutually win. A race car driver does not win all by himself or herself. He or she has a dedicated crew and support cast that shares in the victory. A leader who creates true opportunity will allow as many people as possible to win and have a chance to show their skills and worth to the organization. They buy milk and flower wreaths for the team and hoist the cup with them as partners in the overall accomplishments of their mutual victory.

What flags are you flying for your team? Are you truly creating opportunity over multiple races for people to take the pole position on a project, run the lead lap, and go to victory lane? What flags do your people see you flying?

Make sure everyone gets in the race, and help them to run it well.

(image: flagsexpress)

Lead By Thoughts, Not Feelings


One of the most tremendous truths about being human is how our thoughts, feelings, and desires interconnect.

Through our internal connectedness of mind, body, and soul, we can harness greatness within ourselves and develop each aspect to become stronger and more in tune with the other aspects.

Yet our humanness comes with a flaw, in that we can get our feelings out of proportion to rational thinking. When that occurs, we are governed by only one part of us which, if not checked and balanced with the rest of our being, can lead us and others astray.

Feelings are great for motivation, inspiration, and drive. But many people that live solely off of motivational seminars find themselves flat when they try to be in touch with their feelings much to the exclusion of their thoughts.

This can also be true of those who spend time in fear or worry and let those emotions override their actions. Too many times leaders are led by their feelings, and not their minds.

That is where leaders need to consciously and consistently track their thoughts, and not just their feelings.


  • A senior executive afraid of unfounded circumstances that calls meetings to solve problems that don’t exist
  • A new department manager who is agitated that things are done a differing way than what they’ve done in other companies
  • A shift supervisor who is worried that certain company actions mean they will be laid off
  • An employee who doubts the sincerity of leadership even though there is open and clear communication

In each of the scenarios, the following feeling-statements took over rational thinking…

  • “I feel…”
  • “We’re afraid…”
  • “We suspect…”
  • “I can’t believe…”
  • “You don’t see…”

These feelings, without being run through the proper process of thought and facts, can cause wrong actions, disengagement, and toxic culture to manifest. What is needed to happen with each feeling is to manage the feeling-statements through thinking-statements such as the following…

  • “This shows…”
  • “We know that…”
  • “The studies reveal…”
  • “Our culture supports…”
  • “The reality is…”
  • “I have found…”

When you or a colleague start to descend into making decisions driven by irrational feelings, it’s best to practice this two-prong approach as a standard action:



By stopping how we feel long enough to think through our emotions and process the facts at hand, one can find a balance between gut feelings, emotions, sound process, and being rational. We can bring our feelings into their proper place, and then use the right feelings to propel our plan of action.

As leaders, we should be in touch with our feelings – and those of our people –  but be governed by sound thinking on what we always know to be right. When our emotions take us away from what we know to be true and correct, we fail to utilize our entire selves in our influence.

Fear has its place when it spurs us away from complacency. Excitement is right when it opens the doors to goals and innovation. Our feelings have their place when they intertwine with right thinking to create a stronger rope which we can give our teams to help us pull together.

Be led by right thinking. Infuse people with the right feelings. Help you and your teams stop and think throughout their day.


(this post originally appeared in Lead Change Group)


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