Skills aren’t given – they’re earned

February 20, 2017

Tools aren't given (3)

No one can give you a skill.

A hammer in your hand is only a tool.

Skill comes later. It’s earned.

The path from tool to skill is ugly. It involves mistakes, failure, pain, and self-doubt.

As you learn how to swing that hammer…it won’t be pretty.

Julia Cameron said it best in the Artist’s Way, “It’s impossible to get better and look good at the same time.”

Transforming a tool into a skill requires practice, coaching, humility… and time. Lots of time…

It’s worth it.

Finely tuned skills empower us to communicate more persuasively, lead more effectively, and serve more meaningfully.

Getting tools of the trade is easier than acquiring skills of the art.

That’s why tools are abundant and skills are rare.

What tool are you ready to develop into a skill this year?

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Words Matter: Communicate with power

February 13, 2017

Words Matter

Inspire. Influence. Move others to action.

Your words have the power to do it all.

Fail to speak with intention and your communication becomes uninspiring, insignificant and indecisive.

Three phrases that reduce the power of your message are: I Think, I Believe, and I Hope.

These are safety-net phrases. They weaken your point and diminish the confidence listeners have in your message:

  • I think choosing this direction will give us the results we’re after.”
  • I believe this product will allow you to finally reach your target market.”
  • I hope our partnership will provide the support needed to grow your business.”

Hear the difference:

  • “Choosing this direction will give us the results we’re after.”
  • “This product will allow you to finally reach your target market.”
  • “Our partnership will provide the support needed to grow your business.”

The fact that you are saying it implies that you think, believe, or hope it. No need to state the obvious.

People follow those who communicate with conviction.

Make sure your words demonstrate the power you want your listeners to feel.  

Words matter: communicate with power.

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Where are my tomatoes?

February 6, 2017

where are my tomatoes

We’ve all heard it:

  • “I wish my team would do a better job listening to our customers.”
  • “People just aren’t loyal to a company anymore.”
  • “Millennials are so distracted.”

It is a reasonable expectation to have a team that listens, made up of people who are loyal and present.

However, reasonable doesn’t always translate to realistic.

To make that leap, every leader must wrestle with a single question:

How do I demonstrate what I desire?

Wouldn’t it be strange if I complained about not having any tomatoes if I never planted any?

It’s a reasonable expectation for tomatoes to grow in a garden.

It’s only a realistic expectation once the seeds are planted.

So it is in business.

No leader is above the law of sowing and reaping:

  • If it’s listening you seek: Be an effective listener.
  • If it’s loyalty you want: Demonstrate what loyalty looks like.
  • If it’s presence you crave: Live and lead in the moment.

It’s only realistic to expect your team to give what they get.

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Nobody buys what you sell

January 30, 2017

Nobody buys what you sell centerd version

Why do most people talk in terms of what they sell?

Customers hear in terms of what they buy.

What you sell and what people buy are not the same thing. Not even close.

This applies to products, services, and ideas:

  • A retailer sells outdoor equipment and apparel
  • Their customer buys freedom and adventure
  • A consultant sells LinkedIn profile design
  • His client buys a compelling professional brand for networking and career growth
  • An executive sells an idea to serve customers more efficiently
  • Her team buys a balanced and productive workload

Selling is about you.

Buying is about them.

Want people to be intrigued with your products, services, and ideas?

Speak their language.

Sell what they buy.


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Start fast or finish strong

January 23, 2017

Start Fast or finish strong (4)

You’re almost a month into the year.

Did you start chasing your goals at a sprint?

Exhausted yet?

I’ve finally started running my years like I run my races.

Here’s what happens…every time:

  1.  Gun goes off
  2.  Race begins
  3.  Runners pass me by

Immediately, I drop to the back of the pack.

My mind starts taunting… How are you gonna feel coming in last?

I have a choice: stick with my unglamorous pace or rush ahead in a blur of glory.

I stay the course.

As the miles pass by, guess who reappears?

Those same runners who sprinted ahead at the start.

One by one I pass them.

They aren’t having much fun. They’re struggling. Hurting.

Victims of their start.

Finishing strong is a lot better than starting fast.

Pace matters.

So, if in the early dawn of the year you’re already out of breath, have a cramp in your side, and the road ahead seem daunting…

Perhaps you started too fast.

Allow yourself to recalibrate your pace.

You’re less than one-twelfth of the way through…

Slow down. Enjoy the journey. Finish strong.

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Rest works

January 16, 2017

rest works

If corporate America were a pro sports team, most people would be injured.

The best coaches provide their team with ample time for recovery after intense performance. The best leaders should too…

High performance on the field requires the same discipline as high performance in the office:

Balancing work with rest.

When the scales are off for too long, diminishing returns from the mind, body, and spirit are inevitable.

Leaders who apply balance cultivate innovation, creativity, and energy.   

Leaders who push their team to the point of exhaustion end up with people who are stagnant, unimaginative, and burnt out. 

Our culture at large values hyper-activity and scoffs at the idea of rest.

Perhaps that’s why levels of workplace well-being have plummeted over the last decade.

Don’t take the bait. Make it a priority to schedule intentional rest periods for yourself and your team.

That means actually utilizing your personal days or simply taking that lunch hour you have a habit of skipping…

Put yourself on your calendar. Rest works.

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Knowledge isn’t power

January 10, 2017



The default answer to all our problems…

Not for you.

Not this year.

Challenge yourself not to learn another thing in 2017.

Instead, apply what you already know.

Rather than attend another conference, read another book, listen to another podcast—put into action the best of what you’ve already learned.

We’re participating in the most collectively educated culture in history. Everyone has increased access to knowledge. It no longer gives you an edge.

Want to change your world? Stop learning and start doing.

Knowledge isn’t power; application is.


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Enjoy a little faith today

December 27, 2016


Sitting on our deck with vapors rising from our morning coffee, my wife and I enjoyed the colorful leaves dancing among the treetops.

Their choreography was captivating.

Then, as we often do, Sarah and I indulged in unconventional conversation.

“Has anyone ever seen the wind? I mean, if we asked someone, ‘tell me what the wind looks like,’ what would they say?”

Yet we don’t argue about the existence of the wind. Why?

We believe in the wind by seeing its effect on our surroundings. We believe in the wind by feeling its effect on us.

Sarah and I never saw the wind that day. We didn’t need to.

We saw its influence on the trees. We felt it on our skin.

It was a simple lesson in faith: Belief in what is beyond our sight.

Faith has a way of making our lives more beautiful.

What areas in your life and work are in need of some beauty?

Open your eyes to what is just beyond your sight and enjoy a little faith today.

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Guilty of customer disservice?

December 12, 2016


I listened to it replay over and over and over again.

So many times, I could recite it from memory…

Word. For. Word.

All customer service professionals are still assisting other customers.

Please remain on the line for the next available service professional.

You couldn’t help hearing that in a monotone automated voice, could you?

When did this happen?

Surely customers have never demanded the half-dozen keypad options that lead to nowhere.

Elaborate computer generated voices that force us into a game of 20-questions, never has been, or ever will be, a meaningful customer service experience.

Call it what it is: Customer Disservice.

Disservice leads to dissatisfaction, and a dissatisfied customer is on the lookout to purchase what you offer from someone else.

Seize this opportunity to distance yourself from the hollow hype that proclaims, “buy from us, we’re different.”

Instead… be different.

If you don’t like talking to robots, you can bet your customers don’t either.

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Does your phone serve you or do you serve it?

November 28, 2016


“I deleted my work email account from my phone.”

An executive coaching client was filling me in on his recent promotion. Navigating the learning curve involved an overabundance of information. The obligations of his new responsibility threatened to invade every aspect of his life.

I admired Steve’s candor:

“I was constantly drawn to work emails at home. Even though none were an emergency, I ended up distracted from my family and lying awake at night. So… I deleted it.”


Steve did what so many of us should do—exercise control over at-home work distractions.

Life/work balance is not possible without boundaries.

Don’t get me wrong: Technology isn’t the problem. Our misuse of it is.

Phones are amazing tools to connect us with anyone around the world at any time. The question is: Are we utilizing them when we should be connecting with the person right in front of us?

Self check-in:

  • How is your use of technology getting in the way of your life/work balance?
  • What is one healthy boundary you can set this week to prevent your device from becoming divisive?


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