How Great Do You Want to Be?

Why are some organizations able to achieve AND sustain greatness? The quick answer is they are never satisfied. Regardless of the level of excellence they achieve, they always Raise the Bar.

The leaders in High Performance Organizations understand, it is better to raise the bar yourself vs. waiting on your competition to do it for you.

The following is an excerpt from the Chess Not Checkers Field Guide. Mark Miller and I wrote it as a blueprint for creating your own High Performance Organization.

Raise the Bar

Do you know what you would find if you visited your chief competitor? There would be a group of people huddled in a room, focused on one thing … how to eat your lunch! One of the best practices of High Performance Organizations is they are constantly attempting to Raise the Bar and distance themselves from the competition.

May I remind you, “Records are made to be broken.” Those six words have pushed individuals, teams, and yes, even organizations to the rare air of record performance. Occasionally, we see a glimpse of a group who can sustain such excellence over long periods of time, and we label them as a “dynasty.” Do you have dynasty potential? I’m guessing you do.  

As you assess your organization, do your current results lean toward ordinary or extraordinary? Would your competition describe you as average or awesome? When is the last time your people set their sights on something great and pursued it together? Not just your leaders, but everyone in the organization. Amazing things can be accomplished when leaders Raise the Bar and call out the best in the people around them.

High Performance Organizations refuse to settle for good. Instead, they lock in on being great and maintain focus. No team drifts to greatness, and yours is no exception. You will never hope your way into high performance.

If today finds you at a place where your business is merely blending in with the competition, it is time to Raise the Bar.

There’s an old Latin word that is a great reminder to leaders. Quantuvis means, “as great as you choose.” The reality is, your organization can be as great as you choose for it to be. Make the decision to Raise the Bar, and you’ll be amazed. And you might even give your competition a reason to worry.

The rare air of high performance is waiting on you!

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is one way you need to raise the bar in your organization?

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Yes, But …

I had an interesting conversation with a leader last week about decision-making.

During our discussion, he shared two powerful questions with me that he uses to lead his team to greater clarity. They both begin with, “Yes, But.” The most interesting thing is they ask each of the questions a minimum of four times to drill down to focus.

Question One: Yes, But How? We need to cut expenses … Yes, but how? Once you answer the question, put your answer under the Yes, but how? question again. Go four layers deep and I guarantee your answer will lean more toward great than good.

We need to eliminate a product … Yes, but how? Yes, but how? Yes, but how? Yes, but how?

We need to increase our market share … Yes, but how? Yes, but how? Yes, but how? Yes, but how?

Pick your problem and start drilling down with, Yes, but how?

Question Two: Yes, But Who? Someone needs to lead this project. Yes, but who? A team from marketing … Yes, but who? You get the point.

If you want to make better decisions, I encourage you to ask, Yes, But How? and Yes, But Who?

 Leadership Begins at Home,


 What questions do you use for decision-making?

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5 Ways to Overcome Leadership Failure

What happens when you bet on leadership and the leadership fails on you?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day training a group of leaders in Houston on the topic of building high performance organizations.

During one of the sessions I challenged them to make one of the moves all high performance organizations make … to Bet on Leadership. You may remember, I wrote about this topic in an earlier post. 

Bet on LeadershipAt one point in the day I gave the participants an opportunity to ask questions which led to the following … “What happens when you bet on leadership and the leadership fails on you?”

Great question!

Let’s face it. Leaders are human, and the last time I checked humans are notorious for failure. However, when someone fails to lead well it doesn’t mean we should altogether abandon the idea of leadership. I believe he opposite should be true. We should bet on leadership even more and do everything we can to strengthen the leadership culture.

If you are attempting to build a leadership culture consider the following 5 ideas to help overcome and lessen the leadership failures around you. 

  • Expect Excellence – Often times leaders fail because no one on the team holds them to a high standard. If you have leaders around you who are not living up to the expected standards, my question is, “Have you made the expectations clear?” If not, perhaps it is on you as one of the leaders to call out the excellence you desire. When you have summoned the best and those you have trusted to fill leadership roles still don’t seem to care, it is likely they need to be invited off the leadership team. If you find yourself in a reporting role to such a leader, you owe it to yourself to find a new leader to follow. Yes, I’m saying that if you don’t trust your leader you should plan your exit strategy – sooner than later.
  • Endure Mistakes – There is a difference in a mistake and a failure. Great leaders are able to discern that difference and allow an occasional bad day. Sometimes sticking with someone when they are struggling can be a catalyst for their improvement. 

  • Extend Grace – When things move from the mistake level to failure, great leaders find a way to extend grace. They aren’t quick to judge or blame. They keep things in the proper perspective, refusing to make it personal. Even when it becomes necessary to sever the working relationship, the best leaders still find ways to extend grace without burning bridges. They recognize someday they will need grace themselves. 
  • Encourage Growth – Assuming the work relationship survives failure, the one who fails still needs to be challenged to improve. If you want to proactively foster a culture of leadership development, then encourage growth in everyone, whether they have failed or not – but especially if they have. A fresh challenge can serve as a wake up call for a lazy or lagging leader. Rather than complaining to others about someone’s skill gaps, why not go to the person you are struggling with and challenge them to get better.
  • Evaluate Yourself – It may not be what we want to hear, but when failure is present, before we start throwing stones perhaps we would be wise to first look in the mirror. Am I living up to the standards? Do I have blind spots? Am I the one enabling dysfunctional behavior? … All questions a leader should wrestle with before judging others. There is a verse from the Bible that reminds us of this principle. Matthew 7:3 reads, “Why do you look at the speck in someone else’s eye when you have a log in your own?” Many times we look for failure in others because discovering it helps us cope with our own inadequacies. 

I’m confident if you will filter failure through the above ideas you will not only be able to survive, you will also be positioned to Bet on Leadership in a renewed way.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What other ways can leaders stay the course when the people they are counting on let them down?

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Four Steps to Help You Quit Your Job

I’m often asked how I made the switch from leading in an organization to starting my own leadership company.

I’m not sure there is an easy answer. Truthfully, the whole process felt squishy.

Yesterday morning I ran across an interview Anderson Cooper recently did with Fast Company Magazine. Cooper’s answer to one of the questions helped give language to my idea of squishy.

When faced with taking his own career risk Cooper said, I knew rationally that my fear of taking a step didn’t make sense. I had talked to enough successful people to know that the path to success is often meandering. It can appear to be a series of random events and only in retrospect can one look back and connect the dots.”

Looking back, my journey was not squishy. While there were times I was meandering, there were also concrete things I did to ultimately help me make the break. I can now even connect many of the dots.

If today finds you feeling unhappy and hopeless in your work, I believe the four things I did during my transition can help you with yours.

Four Steps to Help You Quit Your Job … 

1. Define. The first thing I had to do was define what it was I wanted to do. This was a process. A process that started with paying attention to who I am. “Defining Questions” like … Where is the energy? … Where is the effectiveness? … What is the need I can meet? … and Where is the affirmation? all helped me identify a preferred future.

FYW imageI wrestled with this for so long I literally was able to write a book with my friend Dan Webster to help others work through this process. If you need clarity on sorting out what YOU are born to do (or know someone who is drifting in their work), I highly suggest reading FINDING YOUR WAY: Discovering the Truth About You.

2. Align. The next thing I did was line my life up with what I had defined. I set my sights on building a company focused on encouraging, coaching, and speaking to leaders, teams, and organizations. I spent most of my time outside of my real job looking for opportunities to do those three things – it is the direction I pointed toward. I say it all the time, “Your direction always determines your destination.” It was certainly true for me. Every time I took a baby step I found myself closer to where I wanted to be.

Like me, you must align with your target. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes to walk toward your dream, you likely have a lack of passion and subsequently the wrong target. I knew I had discovered my dream because my Defining Questions were answered. I was effective, energized, able to meet a need, and people kept encouraging (and even paying) me.

3. Refine. Step three was to keep refining. This included narrowing my focus and more importantly, working on myself. When I evaluated my definition I continually wondered, Is this really what I want to do with my life and is it the right fit for who I am and my skills?

compass-bw2As the process unfolded, I kept making adjustments. The challenge was that it required massive amounts of time, energy, thinking, questioning, and failing.

Believing I was planted instead of buried, helped me stay the course when others doubted me. Having a clear definition of what I wanted, served as my compass and helped me stay the course when I doubted myself.

Another part of the refining process was to listen to trusted counsel. More than once I asked those closest to me, Am I nuts or could you see me actually making a living at this?

Additionally, I refined by working on my skills and expanding my network. Every day I asked, How can I improve so people would be willing to pay me to do what I love? And, Who can I add value to today?

4. Resign. The last step was the hardest. I’m not sure why, but actually resigning was brutal. I think it was because I was so comfortable. I kept telling myself things like, “No one quits their job with three kids in college.” … “You’ll loose your health benefits.” … “What if you fail?”

All questions to be considered, but for me, indicators that I was a consumed with comfort. Ultimately, chasing comfort was killing me!

As a Bible-reading person of faith, I kept looking for a verse encouraging me to be comfortable (don’t waste your time, you won’t find it … at least it wasn’t in my Bible). And yet, over and over I discovered verses where God commands His children to be courageous. Ouch! … the opposite of comfortable.

As I played my life forward in my mind, I knew if I didn’t courageously go after my dream I would be disappointed in myself and ultimately end my life with uncomfortable regret. On the other hand, if I decided to go for it and failed, while I would be disappointed I wasn’t good enough, I would have no regret. 

The command to be courageous became my crisis point. Would I play it safe and grasp at security, or would I get-my-Cortez-on and burn my boats?

I struck a match and chose to resign.

Warning 1: Do not recklessly resign! Knowing I had thoroughly defined, aligned, and refined increased my courage and helped me surrender to what I needed to do.

Warning 2: Do not wait too long to resign! Go ahead and put your last day on the calendar and watch your urgency level increase – if you wait too long the moment will pass you by.

It has been over a year since I made the break, and I have never been happier in my work. But the fact is, it took me almost three decades to find my dream job.

I’m confident if you will define, align, refine, and resign you can land in your sweet spot much sooner.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are the effects of choosing comfort over courage?

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