How do you know when dreams are just a dream?

I received the following message yesterday from an old friend and thought it would be great to share this conversation with you, as well.

So I’ve read your posts, looked at your website, and watched your sample videos. If you had to pick a starting point for someone who has a dream, but has spent most of their life being “against” themselves, what would you tell them? How do you know if it really IS just a dream?

L – thanks for the message – great to hear from you.  You inspired today’s post.

I use the term Dream -AND it hit me after seeing your message that I don’t like how unattainable it sounds… will it just be a figment of my imagination?


So – I’m changing my phrasing to: Dream big! and then set it up as a “Burled Arch Destiny”!


For those that have read my ‘Iditarod Leadership’ book or followed the Iditarod – you know the term ‘Burled Arch’ – as it is the finish line and the term ‘Destiny’ that comes from the same word as Destination.  Destiny is not ‘Fate’ (whatever happens to me – that’s my Destiny) – no – Destiny is a decided beforehand Destination that I am determined to reach!

With ‘Burled Arch Destiny” – all we need is the map, the skill and the will to get there!

Maps are creatable – Skill is grow-able…. only one question left – do you have the WILL?

So what I would tell people is this: “Dream Big!  AND then learn the steps that it is going to take to get you there.”

  Where are you now along this trail?
  Why do you want this Destiny?
  What will you need to Learn?
  What skills will you need to develop?
  What role will others play in helping you reach this Burled Arch?
  What are measurable steps along the way?
  What is the NEXT step?

If you can understand and take the next step and continue that process (WILL) – nothing can stop you from reaching your “Burled Arch Destiny”!

It’s not going to be perfect – anything worth doing – is worth doing UGLY!   Ugly is how we start and it leads us to continuous improvement!

(remember how bad we all were when we first started learning to play sports as little kids?  Eventually – if the WILL persists, the skill improves and you make JV and then on to Varsity! It takes talent – but as my mentor John Maxwell says, “Talent is NEVER enough!”)

Finally, what do we do with all of the self-defeating voices in our head?

  Fight them with everything you have!
  What the roots drink – the fruits think!
  Celebrate small victories and progress ‘Checkpoints’ like crazy!

Saturate yourself in “Can do – positivity!”  Find a voice – someone that lifts you up – and listen to their positive beliefs.  I listen (almost daily) to speakers that are highly positive and motivational – why?  because I need it too!

Read, listen, watch – anything you can to make sure your tank stays full of the belief in possibilities!

Next – Celebrate any progress – ANY progress toward your Burled Arch Destiny – you learn a new skill, take a new class, spend 30 minutes in dreaming and mapping! – whatever it is mark down and celebrate the wins!  This is the fuel needed to keep it up!  Why keep running if you think you’re not going anywhere?  Mark your progress – celebrate the smallest progress!

Lastly – find an encouraging friend, accountability partner or coach…  when you start to doubt (which we all do!), when you want to quit – you’ll need them to cheer you on!

Keep Dreaming – Keep moving – Keep growing – Keep doing!  The Burled Arch Destiny is attainable!

How the best develop their people for results…

As an Organizational Effectiveness consultant, I look to add PROVEN value to customers every day.  My value proposition – or where I add the most value –  is in developing the people in organizations with a purposeful intent to increase their performance and bottom-line results.

As for the bottom-line, here it is:

Being the best takes a concerted effort from an intentional team.  An effort that embeds and involves L&D (Learning and  Development)  deep into the organizations CULTURE.

According to ASTD (American Society for Training & Development), the BEST are bench-marked by:

L&D has an enterprise-wide role.

L&D professionals are not just Lackeys holding NEO (New Employee Orientation) classes.  They are savvy business partners that are involved in the executive team, they understand and create solutions to business issues and are vital in setting organizational strategy.

• Learning has value in the organization’s CULTURE

Again, the Culture (Language, Beliefs, and Behaviors) embraces learning opportunities for employees and Leadership, alike.  These organizations don;t just talk the culture – they walk the culture – they back up their language with BEHAVIORS because of their belief that L&D can and will make a difference.  It exists, purposefully, for
the growth of the organization, and helps drive innovation.

The commitment extends to the heights of C-level involvement.  Learning is not something that is done at the lower levels.  As many of you have heard me say, “They are Growing Leaders, Growing Leaders!”

L&D is directly linked to individual and organizational performance

The BEST realize that in order for the organization to achieve the desired level of sustained performance, L&D must be aligned with the business performance goals  and the measurement of the effectiveness of learning it that it must help drive personal/organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

Investment is made in learning and performance initiatives

Again, Culture is not about language only – it’s not all talk!  You can tell the BEST because they put their money where their mouth is – they fund L&D – they make a strategic investment!

Investment, by it’s nature expects a return.  L&D professional cannot expect an endless stream of funding without some level of increase in individual/organizational performance.  On the other hand, Leaders need to understand that behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight.  As with most strategic initiatives, the return will take some time to play out.

In a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania (1995 Richard Zemsky).  It was discovered that a 10% investment in PPE (Property, Plant, & Equipment) companies realized a 3.8% increase in productivity whereas that same 10% invested into People Development yielded an 8.6% increase in productivity.

On average, the BEST according to ASTD re-invest

• About 0.7% of Revenue, or
• Approx. 10.88% of Profit, or
• Roughly 2.15% of Payroll, or
• $1081 per employee

How about your organization?

Is it’s mantra, “Growing Leaders, Growing Leaders…”?

Is the Learning tied to performance enhancement?

How does it’s investment bench-mark against the BEST?

Creating Intentional Organizational Culture

In the last Blog, I talked more about discovering your present culture and although there are a number of formal ways (Organizational Surveys, Discovery Initiatives, hiring great consultants like me) we talked about the informal (survey of eyes and ears).  

Today, I would like to take a few minutes and discuss next steps..  How do you tweak, shift, shape, remake, or even re-engineer the present culture into a desired culture.


As with most things in business (or life) we need to define our Burled Arch.  Without consideration to our present location – our first step is to dream – to envision where we want to go and what we want the team to feel like – again, broken into the three components of – Language, Beliefs, and Behaviors.

From a blank canvas, start to get a picture of desired daily life in your organization… 

What mindset do you want your organization approaching their day with?  What about HOW they approach their interactions with each other?  Or our clients?  Their mindset toward problems or adversity? 

What if you think (or feel) that you are not fully ready to carve a brand new, fresh trail of desired Culture?

 – Get others in the organization involved

 – Search for companies with great cultures and find one that feels right for you

 – Use others as a template

I am a firm believer that there is very little ‘new under the sun.’  Modeling your desired culture after another is a great way to start, while adding your unique perspective to it.

Finally, on the creation of vision, make sure that the new vision is a good fit for the organization or that it is a vision that can be (somewhat) easily adopted and implemented.  If the vision is too much of a radical shift – there may need to be some smaller vision shifts created to work the organization up to it.


R.A.C.E. is my powerful and effective model  for Change Management.  The implementation phase of Culture shift must be broken into the components of making sure everyone is:

R – Ready to change (Line out with great clarity what the shift means in people and process, in Language, Beliefs and Behaviors)

A – Action is developing the internal marketing campaign FIRST!  We must take the action steps necessary to get our team on board! Use a phased-in approach while leveraging the Lead  and Swing Dogs for Team adoption.

C – Use Checkpoints to monitor progress and make mid-course corrections.

E – Evolve the Vision AND the process.

Cultural awareness is critical to having an Organization that operates with intentionality.  Cultural change, like most change, is not an easy undertaking.  However, with some strategy and a great process, you CAN shift your culture to something fantastic!

E-valuate and E-volve

“Experience is not the greatest teacher – evaluated experience is the greatest teacher. “

This simple saying has echoed in my mind since I heard it from my mentor, John Maxwell. I have broadcast it to many audiences around the planet and, yet, I am still passionate about the concept. We have to get better. We have to improve performance, daily, where possible.

Finally, for the R.A.C.E. model, the E stands for Evolve. If we fail to evolve, if we fail to change, if we fail to adapt, we will die. It happens in creation, it happens in careers, and it happens on the trail.

“No strategic plan survives the battlefield.”

The goal of the race should be to finish the race – to reach your ‘Burled Arch’- in the best place possible NOT to have finished the race with your plan intact. There is a balance between – stick to the plan at all costs AND the plan is just a piece of paper (a guide or suggestion). The plan has to be solid and everyone on your team needs to know that this is the plan, “This is the way that we are going to run AND where the plan is not succeeding we will evaluate and see if it is right to ‘E-volve’ the plan.” As the leader, you get to make that call – what needs to evolve now and what do we believe will yield results if we continue on the same process (or trail) for a little longer. This is where your ‘Evaluated Experience’ from the past comes in. The leaders with the most ‘evaluated experience’ are going to know what to change and what to stick to. Rookie mushers: you and your team are going to pay the dues for your ‘on-the-trail’ leadership education (we all do! – and my heart in consulting, writing the book, and in this blog is to help – just because you have to learn the lessons doesn’t mean they have to be YOUR mistakes – learn from others!)

OK – so HOW do we E-valuate and E-volve?

At the Checkpoints (Have a meeting just for lessons learned)

Evaluate the plan…

What went right? What went wrong? Why did it go right / wrong? Where did the plan fall short? Where were circumstances different on the trail than we thought? What misconceptions did we have about our competition? Or what did we see others do that could be a ‘better practice’?

Evaluate the team…

Where did WE fail to implement the plan? Did I team the right dogs together? What did individual performances look like and why? Is everyone on the team still engaged? Do I have Buy-In or a Buy-in problem? (Team Culture suggestion: have this as an open discussion with the team and allow a peer / team review – Safe peer review – no biting LOL)

Lessons learned (for now or later?)…

What do we do different for the next stretch of trail? What do we record to change for next year’s race through the same section we just went through? What are we going to do differently that will yield a BETTER result? (not just a different result)


The value in the Evolve stage is where you look at the information you learned at the Checkpoints, you evaluate your experiences AND you implement them – you, immediately, put it to use in your daily running. If nothing changes – we just had a nice mental exercise. To help with change – get the teams commitment to holding each other positively accountable for the behavior and performance changes and add that to the list of evaluations at the next checkpoint.

Wrap up for the week:

R- Ready

A- Action

C- Checkpoints

E- Evolve

RACE to win AND enjoy the journey!

Checkpoints: Keys to Achieving the Dream

There’s no good way to sell a team or yourself on running 1100 miles. On the other end of the spectrum – if you’re just going to the corner market – you don’t need a tremendous team OR strategic planning.

“The C in R.A.C.E. stands for Checkpoints.”

Being able to break down an incredible vision, mission or even a project into goals, steps, and processes is a key competence for a leader that gets things done. Benchmarks and checkpoints along the way allow us to measure our progress and make needed corrections early enough to ‘stay on course’. Again, you may or may not know, there are 20+ checkpoints in the Iditarod and all serve a purpose on the way to achieving the dream. For each segment, the terrain is different and that piece of the journey can stand on its own. String enough of them together and you’ve done it!

For those that recall the HAB 22 model vision execution model, the B 22 stands for Break the vision down – break it into 22 pieces, if you have to. So, it helps when we break up our vision or dream into 20+ segments (training runs). The reason I like calling it training runs is that it needs to be broken down into its’ simplest form – simple enough for your team to run with it. There is a reason relay races are run with a baton and not a shopping cart! Simplicity increases speed and at each handoff – you can evaluate your progress.

Practical thoughts in creating checkpoints:

  1. Constantly be thinking next logical step (see yesterday’s post)
  2. Consider time as an element (we could run the race over 3 months – but everyone will have gone home!)
  3. Consider your resources (Resources are not finite and we need to know what we need to do in order to get more – so that we can continue the race)
  4. Employ ‘A before Q’ thinking (when thinking in steps consider which comes before what and work to make sure we keep dogs before sleds – or A before Q)
  5. When will you and the team rest / recreate? (At some point we need rest in order to complete the marathon. It is not practical nor healthy to build your plan around all members of the team running until they burn out. Giving the team time to rest and regenerate will produce the best results in the long run.)
  6. What will you eat for nourishment along the way? (feeding the team physically, mentally, and emotionally are critical)
  7. What will you be judged on? (In order to finish you need to stay in the race – if your boss, board of directors, bankers, or family have criteria that need to be met along the way – meet those! This is Iditarod Leadership – doing life and business for the long haul!)
  8. Keep Score (tying in with #7 – in order for us to know where we are, what progress we’ve made, where we are in our race, where we stand in relation to our competition, being able to evaluate present performance against prior and desired performance)

At each Checkpoint, or at the end of each segment, so that you can run the race next time better, you have to take the Checkpoint to evaluate your experience over that terrain, and Evolve. Evolve is the last component in Race and that is tomorrow’s topic.