Maturity and Leadership is Ownership

In the pursuit of ‘Maturity’ for 2017, one of the first places to start is maturing the thought processes – maturing the mind, the beliefs.

Why is this important?

Beliefs Drive Behaviors

When companies bring us in to start the culture shift, our conversation turns to:

“Build them:

  • from What?”
  • into What?”

Often, the conversation turns to the need to have leaders at every level that embrace the ownership mindset (as opposed to the passive or victim mindset).

There are many reasons for an organization to have a passive, victim mindset but we will save that blog for another day!

As we start to initiate change, here’s my secret sauce: We start having development sessions and discussions that lead to permission and application. HOWEVER, I have a disclaimer:

The workforce uses what we teach as a lens to judge the quality of leaders within the organization.

The process can expose poor leadership by teaching excellence. If titled leaders at the various levels aren’t willing and ready to lead in the way we teach, please don’t bring us in – we will only educate your people to hate you!

From an organizational standpoint, what will you let your people own? How are they taught to think? Are they developed, equipped, then empowered? Dumbed down to a mindless drone? Or just tossed in and expected to figure it out as they sink or swim?

Beliefs are built within an environment. Conversations and experiences shape individual beliefs. The individual’s beliefs combine to become the collective, which becomes the culture.

{The podcast for this week is geared to the individual, if you’d like to have a conversation about shifting the organizational mindset, please reach out for a discussion.}

Owning the mindset

Let’s look at the difference between an immature and mature mindset:


Blames others

Victim mindset


Passes the buck (abdicate)

Success is external (outside my control)

It can’t, I can’t, never be, always been, why try?


Admits their contributing actions

Ownership mindset


The buck stops here (responsible)

Success is internal (beliefs, actions, outcomes)

I can, we can, let’s do it! Let’s get started.

If we were studying the game film of our lives, we would start to see our tendencies. A mature mindset, an ownership mindset, asks:

  • What were my actions?
  • What are my tendencies? (Beliefs? Behaviors?)

Rather than externalize control – let’s work to internalize control. There is always something you can do, some action you can take, to improve the outcome.

If you feel your voice isn’t being heard: Work on increasing your influence.

If you are working for a bad boss: Learn how to lead up and negotiate operating space.

If you are under resourced: Find a way (pool resources, offer an internship, do something!)

There may be that voice in your mind right now that is telling you that I don’t understand your situation and that you can’t and here’s the list of 25 reasons why….

Which side of the list above does that fall under?

Can I encourage you to consider the mature, ownership mindset?

Your present is just the starting point. Plug in your desired destination and work with others to map out the moves – the GPS routing – that can find a way to get you where you want to go. It may not happen overnight but the next move can!

You will re-route, there will be twists and turns along the way. It’s OK; It’s all part of the journey

How about a few 1-liners to get you going? I like 1-liners because it helps my mind hold on and they are easy to repeat to counteract unproductive thinking

Nothing is perfect the first time.

Everything worthwhile takes effort and struggle.

If it were easy, everyone would do it!

The struggle is Victory being birthed!

Adversity reveals character.

We make the journey AND The journey makes us.

Mature the mind, OWN your destiny.

Own the Mission, own the mindset, own the methods, make the moves!

For more on this topic, click the mic to check out the full podcast. Have a great week!

Leadership Truths



As we close down 2015 and move into 2016, I sat back and reflected on some of my journey and the privilege I have to help others become stronger leaders. I’ve shared below a compilation of some of my favorite Leadership Truths. Take a look and choose your top 5 where you believe that by living that truth you can raise your own bar in the new year.  Commit to a little self-reflection and resolve to make 2016 a year to focus on cultivating your own personal leadership legacy and ensuring the influence you have on your team is always positive.

1.      Maturity is a choice not an age. 2.      As a leader, be contagious, not infectious.
3.      Leading a team is a different skill set than    accomplishing great individual feats. 4.      Create an organization that makes more leaders than it breaks.
5.      Lead where you’re strong. Team where you’re weak. 6.      Business and life are marathons. We have to strategically pace ourselves in order to finish.
7.      Great leaders are concerned about their positive influence, their legacy. 8.      Strategic placement of team members produces the best results.
9.      Self-awareness helps in building the right team for you. 10.   It’s your team.  You cannot complain about what you permit.
11.   When you need a little more pull from your team, try letting them chase a team just a little faster or better than themselves. 12.   Amateurs practice until they get it right.  Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.
13.   Great leaders take time to get to know their team, really know them. 14.   Consider the strengths of the team as a component of strategy.
15.   Communicate in their language, not yours. 16.   Unleash the power of the team.
17.   You don’t have to flood your team with words to get them to action.  Be clear.  Be concise.  Be direct. 18.   Start ugly.  If you’re not willing to start ugly, you’re never going to start.  Learn.  Grow.  Make it pretty next time.
19.   Mentors know to put us in charge of teams that match our abilities. 20.   I can’t lead the team I want.  I have to lead the team I have.
21.   Frustration is a function of expectation. 22.   Lead people; manage things.
23.   If you’re a leader and not learning every day, you’re likely not a leader for long. 24.   Don’t ask for more sweat equity than you give.
25.   People join companies; people quit people. Be someone people want to stay with. 26.   Sometimes you have to drop or reassign a team member if it’s hurting the rest of the team.
27.   Experience it; don’t just witness it. 28.   Trust is the currency of leadership.
29.   Leading a team to victory is often the result of conquering or leading one’s self first. 30.   The mirror is rarely pleasant, but it’s almost always honest.
31.   Problems rarely work themselves out. 32.   As a leader, what you allow you endorse.
33.   The trail we carve as leaders profoundly affects the next generation. 34.   Nobody wants to be managed; people want to be inspired.
35.   Every leader gets the team they deserve, eventually. The team you inherited is not your fault. The team you have a year from now is. 36.   How you treat those on the inside is an indicator of how they will treat those who come from the outside.
37.   Don’t transfer emotional baggage to your team.  If you need to unload, talk to another leader 38.   For that extra motivation, learn your team individually and incentivize accordingly.
39.   Hire for values; train for skills. 40.   Find awesome, and copy it.


Essentials: Being the Real Deal

The Real Deal, Authenticity, setting the standard – whatever the phrase you chose to use – the team will never run beyond your example (unless they are running away!)

As leaders, if we could hear our team – they would say, “Be the real deal”. There are so many in this world that are more pretense than present tense… In other words they just aren’t real.

I believe with all that is in me that the leader should be the one that set the example – the one that pays more than others pay and gives more than others give – after all – isn’t that ‘leading the way’?

I LOVE the fact that at times the mushers in the race will jump off the sled and run beside it with the team – to me it speaks about commitment – Leaders must set the example when it comes to commitment and paying the price..

What do we do when it’s cold and rainy and we don’t want to train? We get up, get out, and train anyway! When we don’t ‘feel’ like paying the price? We pay it anyway!

I just don’t know that I could take knowing that my team had a greater commitment level to the cause and a greater work ethic than myself.

My heart is that leadership sets the standard to the point where it goes beyond the status quo – to the point of actually “inspiring” the team to deepen their commitment, deepen their resolve, and creates that incredible culture of ‘fanatics’.

‘Enthusiasm breeds Enthusiasm’ is one of my favorite ‘isms’. It breathes the ‘fire’ and then continuously ‘fans the flames’ – not in any sense of unfounded ‘hype’ – but in the uncompromising belief in the cause. A love for the race, and the commitment to pay the price – each and every day – that makes attaining the ‘Burled Arch’ a reality – and in doing so creates a tremendous sense of pride and purpose within the team. Call me an idealist if you will…. But if we are not bought in and ‘sold out’ to our cause or mission or race – how would we ever expect anything of greatness out of our team?

Seeing the commitment, tenacity, and determination of a Lance Mackey, Lance Armstrong, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Mother Theresa –serves to inspire the rest of us – to challenge the rest of us to shake off the tendencies to accept the mediocre and to reach for greatness. People are people and if they can set the example – then we can set the example – think of the ‘tracks on the trail’ that we will leave for others to follow. This is our ‘Leadership Legacy’ – our Leadership ‘footprint’.

This week – if you feel like slacking up a bit – if it feels like things are crushing in on you – or the storms are hitting your trail – push on! In fact, pick up the pace, just a bit! Throw off the hooks that would seek to drag down or dampen your enthusiasm or resolve.

Leaders are charged with carrying the ingredients for fire on the trail. Where’s your fire, today? This morning, to set the resolve for my team to complete a project, I was up and at it before 4 am. When I consult in the hurricane operation – there are few team members that will keep up with the pace that I set for myself. And for those of you that have worked with me and think the pace runs strong – my brother puts me to shame! His work ethic is always pushing me – inspiring me – stretching me in my mind to reach for another level.

The race is worth it – pour your heart and back into it! Set the example – If we are going to be in the race – let’s always be real and let’s be in it to win it!

Essential Items: Handling Criticism

It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize. It doesn’t take much to sit in your living room or in a control booth and “Armchair Quarterback” the decisions and actions of those in the race.

If I haven’t said it out loud to someone – this is certainly how I’ve felt., ” throw on the parka, build the team, qualify for the race, start running 1100 miles in -50⁰ F and then we’ll talk.”

A leader takes many hits and some of the most difficult to take are when those you are leading start criticizing your actions, your leadership, or your personhood.

In the studies that Goleman has conducted on EQ (Emotional Intelligence) the findings revealed that a leader’s EQ is a greater predictor of their success than IQ. I believe it is a fairly easy result for us to buy into – after all, don’t most of us know people who are incredibly book smart and yet lack the ‘people skills’ necessary to be a success – and I want to unpack that as it relates to handling criticism.

Emotional strength is critical in leadership – in my mind it is one of those essential items – it supports perseverance and is foundational to pulling us through the inevitable ‘rough spots’ on our leadership trail. When it comes to handling criticism – we have two choices – shut down and build the wall or process what’s being said.

So let’s walk through a few steps that may help put criticism in perspective:

  1. It’s going to happen

    It is a fact of leadership that you are going to be criticized. It doesn’t feel fair and it doesn’t seem right – you’re the one giving your guts for the company and the team and someone has the nerve to stand there and criticize! And you want to react and say, “If you can do a better job – be my guest!” Another fact is: if you don’t want or can’t handle criticism, don’t be a leader! As the saying goes, “The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, attempt nothing, and ultimately, be nothing.” Leaders are targets because we’re out front and once we realize that criticism is part of being in this ‘race’ then we can learn to process it and use it for our growth or discard it.

  2. Consider the Critic

    Some people criticize out of pure motives and others have an agenda. There are a number of quotes that have served me well – “Hurting people, hurt people.”, “Crabs will pull others down that try to get out of the basket”, “You can tell a person by the words they speak”. People will criticize because they aren’t happy in life and don’t want others to be either, because of jealousy, insecurity, or the desire to keep the status quo. Knowing the source will help you to know which to really consider and use for growth and which to moderate. If they have been in the race, mushed their own team, and have your respect – it’s much easier to accept!

  3. Consider the Critique

    Consider that even though the source isn’t credible there still may be some truth in their statements. Take the time to sift through all of the extra ‘stuff’ and get down to the real meat of the criticism. One of my mentors would say, “Eat the meat, spit out the bones!” We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses – if this falls into one of the areas of your weaknesses – then so be it! We all need to learn – we all need to grow – this is just lighting up a spot on the trail that you may not have seen before – or you may be in a place that you’ve never been before and you need this knowledge to be able to qualify for the next race ahead! No one is perfect – life and leadership are growth experiences!

  4. Seek an outside, trusted perspective

    If the criticism came from a trusted advisor, coach, or friend that we knew had our best interests at heart – we would take that in and grow accordingly. Start to find or build a network around you of those that you can present the information to and that will give you appropriate feedback. If they are unwilling or unable to be open, honest, AND supportive – you need to find new counsel. Use that as a guide – find people you can trust that will give you open, honest, and supportive counsel.

  5. Grow where needed (E-valuate and E-volve)

    Some people spend years developing their technical expertise or their educational advantage and somehow they think that ‘Relational Skills’ are a take it or leave it proposal – my team just needs to ‘accept me as I am’. If the criticism centers on your relational connectivity as a leader – realize that you may need to spend as much time on your relational skill set (EQ) as you did on your IQ or TQ (Technical Competence). Where ever the area of growth – hunger for improvement and keep it in perspective – we ALL have areas where we need to grow.

  6. Keep on mushing!

    You’ve come too far to turn back now – don’t allow nay-sayers and discouragers to keep you from your destiny – you started this race and you can finish it! You are on the trail to something great and when you get there – all of the little ‘bumps and bruises’ along the way will seem insignificant.

I believe in you – you can do this – let me leave you with a great quote from Fred Smith: “No one ever erected a statue to a critic.”

Mush on!

Essential items

Competitors in the Iditarod have mandatory items that must accompany them throughout the race – they are to be in the leader’s possession – in their “sled” – for the duration of their “race”.

This led me to think about some of the mandatory competencies that business leaders should possess. As leaders lead across so many different types of businesses – are there some commonalities that we can draw to say – these are the ‘mandatory’ items that can determine or affect a leader’s success?

One of the top, in my mind, has to be perseverance.

Perseverance comes in many shapes, sizes and reasons – but however a leader gets there – it’s crucial to their success.

Dogged determination (pun intended) can come through emotional strength, vision, passion – or just a simplistic hard headed stubbornness that says, “Over my dead body!”

In the midst of a challenging project that was outside of my normal expertise – I was reminded of a quote from Winston Churchill. It came from the unlikeliest of sources – but was right on time! The quote?

Never, never, never, never give up.”

It led me to remember another one of my Churchill favorites:

“The nose of the bulldog is slanted backwards so that it can continue to breathe without letting go!”

I started thinking about perseverance in my life and “paying the price” to succeed. There are so many that I meet that seem to be unwilling to pay the price of leadership or of their dream. Many things can be achieved with the simple will to succeed and the pre-determination to “pay the price.”

So why do some make the choice and others don’t? That’s a mystery to me!

If it is your dream – your ‘Destiny” – than how could you quit?

What motivates you to persevere when you want to quit? A parent or mentor’s training? Belief in a higher purpose? Raw determination to prove nay-sayers wrong? Fear of financial lack or professional failure?

It’s a true statement that necessity is a tremendous motivator. If failure is not an option – than it’s only a matter of time until you succeed! And every setback only serves to push you to learn – to push you to change – to push you to improve.

I’ve said for years that if people think the drive in me that they see is strong or tough – they ought to be on the inside!

The work ethic that I learned from a football analogy is: Keep your head down and your feet moving…

Now – I would change that today to just say, “Keep your head up! And your feet moving…”

When it comes to paying the price, I have heard so many times from my mentor, John Maxwell, “Pay now, Play later” and “If you choose to play now and pay later – the cost will always be greater”.

I, usually, put it into financial terms – the sacrifice and investment on the front end yields much greater rewards or dividends on the back end.

Paying the price means we don’t quit after the first checkpoint, or the 5th, or the 17th – there are 20+ checkpoints – but at the end – our Burled Arch awaits and Success will come to those who simply don’t quit – those who never, never, never, NEVER give up!