Do You Have Your Leadership Bumpers Up?

I recently read, “A person becomes the average of the five people closest to him.”

The statement caused me to stop and take inventory with regard to my friendships. Perhaps you should do the same?  Studies show that we spend like our friends spend, weigh what our friends weigh, live in houses like our friends houses, send our kids to the same schools … the list goes on and on.

I know for me personally, the books I read, the places I hang out, where I eat, and even my level of fitness is affected by those closest to me.

When you stop and think about it, the value of friendship is a lot like bowling. Have you been bowling recently? If so, perhaps you noticed that some people choose the option of bowling with bumpers in their gutters. The bumpers are designed to keep the ball on track and make the game more enjoyable for little kids. Occasionally, adults who are bad bowlers will even volunteer to bowl with the tikes just so they too can be protected by the bumpers. I’m not naming any names.

Don’t you wish they offered bumpers on the other areas of your life? Actually, they do. They’re called friends, and they determine the direction of your life. If you are surrounded by friends who have integrity, you are much more likely to stay on track yourself. If you isolate yourself and go it alone, chances are you will find yourself continually in the gutter.

As a leader, you may be tempted to think, “It’s lonely at the top.” But let me remind you that loneliness is a choice. To quote my mom: “If you want to have a friend, be a friend.” I would take it a step further by saying, choose friends who have integrity. Stupidity is a choice too.

You weren’t designed to go it alone. Find yourself some friends to be your bumpers who will keep you on track. Your integrity and influence are on the line!

Leadership Begins at Home,


Why do you think so many leaders isolate themselves relationally?

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Grow Your Leadership Team

When we began researching the best practices of High Performers, we were not surprised to discover the best leaders, when attempting to build great organizations, did not work alone. They built strong leadership teams.

Leaders need capacity; leadership teams not only provide capacity, they increase results. Mark Miller and I wrote about this in the Chess Not Checkers Field Guide. The following is an excerpt on this critical practice.

Grow the Leadership Team

Let’s face it, leaders are busy. The very nature of being in charge of a group of people demands time and energy. It doesn’t take long for a leader to max out his capacity and discover he can’t reach his full potential without the help of others. High Performance Organizations have leaders who understand their limits and make strategic decisions to increase their capacity by building a leadership team.

Mediocre organizations are usually the opposite. They are often led by insecure Lone Ranger types who ignore limits and give into the temptation of being “the expert” on every area of the work. As a result, they bottleneck the business and fatigue sets in throughout the organization.

Secure leaders resist this temptation and approach people with a focus on developing and bringing out the best in others. They invest in the growth of individuals as well as the collective group by establishing consistent systems to evaluate performance. They also focus on one-on-one coaching opportunities, maximizing time with those closest to them. Another important way great leaders grow a leadership team is by leveraging stretch assignments, trusting team members with opportunities to prove themselves at the next level. 

As a leader, I hope you find yourself with a vision bigger than you can accomplish alone. If you do, the temptation will be to rely upon your own talent and experience, believing you can conquer any mountain. Eventually, you will probably climb very high. However, you will go much higher, and certainly find more enjoyment, if you will join a group of fellow travelers and invite them on a journey to the top.

If today finds you busy and you’re having a difficult time juggling your responsibilities, make the decision all great leaders make. Increase your capacity by growing your leadership team.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are you doing to intentionally develop your leadership team?

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Does Your Organization Need Less Policy?

“Do we need a policy for that?” It is a question I hear often. The longer I lead, the less I am a fan of policy. 

PolicyIn his manifesto, Flip, Daniel Pink challenges my thinking with a section on policy. I challenge you to chew on a couple of sections from his work.

Pink refers to former Netflix VP of corporate communication, Steve Swasey. Pink writes . . . When asked about his opinion on policy, Swasey says the following: “Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers. People do their best work when they’re unencumbered. If you’re spending a lot of time accounting for the time you’re spending, that’s time you’re not innovating.”

Pink goes on to write, “In his book, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, New York University scholar Clay Shirky argues that ‘when we design systems that assume bad faith from the participants, and whose main purpose is to defend against that nasty behavior, we often foster the very behavior we’re trying to deter. People will push and push the limits of the formal rules, search for every available loophole, and look for ways to game the system when the defenders aren’t watching. By contrast, a structure of rules that assumes good faith can actually encourage that behavior.’ – So if you think people in your organization are predisposed to rip you off, maybe the solution isn’t to build a tighter, more punitive set of rules. Maybe the answer is to hire new people.”

If we are not careful we can find ourselves looking for reasons to say no to our supporters – Especially if we perceive the request will require more work on our part. Perhaps some of us carry around suspicion toward a team member. Maybe a hidden desire to control behavior in the organization.

I hate to break it to you, but you will never be able to legislate behavior.

If you find yourself uptight over some rule breaker, it might be that you are the one fostering the very behavior you hate. Beginning today, why not flip your thinking and start believing the best in people?

And if you can’t?

It’s time to start looking for some new people.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are your thoughts about policy in an organization?

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