Show Me Your Friends and I Will Show You Your Future

Recently I heard a speaker say, "Show me your friends and I will show you your future. Show me the five people who are closest to you and I will show you who you will be in five years."
Studies show that you are an average of the five people who are closest to you. Not happy with your life? Perhaps its time to surround yourself with some different people.
The next five years are going to pass. What will you become? That's up to you.
But rest assured your destination will depend on your relationships.
Leadership Begins at Home,
What is the most important quality you look for in a friendship?
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Would Others Rather See You Coming or Going?

Irish author and poet, Oscar Wilde was famous for saying, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
Which category best describes you? Would others rather see you coming or going?
[Tweet "If you want to maximize your influence, you must continually work on your people skills."]
Let me suggest two places for you to start. They are both found in the Bible.
The first is referred to as “the Golden Rule.” It was a statement given by Jesus in Luke 6:31. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
If you want to win the hearts of those around you, start leading others in the way you would want to be led.
The second principle that will elevate your people skills is found in Philippians 2:3. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Forget about yourself and start valuing others, and I promise you others will be begging you to stick around and be on your team.
If YOU want to “Win Friends and Influence People” you need to look no further than these two commands from the greatest leadership Book ever written.
I bet even Dale Carnegie would agree.
Leadership Begins at Home,
What other principles would you suggest for improving people skills?
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Are You Making Dreams Come True?

Are you making dreams come true? 

This may seem like a crazy question – making dreams come true is not what most organizations do. Even those who attempt to do this for customers would rarely say seek to do this for their own employees.

While researching High Performance Organizations, our team was influenced by what we observed and also by outside thought leaders who pointed us in directions we might not have turned without their encouragement. One of those was Matthew Kelly. He wrote a book about today’s best practice entitled, Dream Manager. His insight combined with our real world observations led us to include Fostering Dreams in our summary of Best Practices for creating a High Performance Organization.

The number of organizations who do this well are few and so are High Performance Organizations. However, to Win the Heart, Fostering Dreams is a counterintuitive and brilliant approach. When organizations embrace this approach, everyone wins!

In the Chess Not Checkers Field Guide, Mark Miller and I wrote about this idea. The following is an excerpt from the chapter on Fostering Dreams.

Fostering Dreams

A dream can change the world… at least the world of the dreamer. Aspirations are a powerful motivator, and every day men and women walk the halls of your organization carrying amazing hopes and dreams with them.

When you think about your people, do you know what they dream to accomplish? Have you had conversations about their hopes? Perhaps, there is no greater way to win their hearts than to help them reach their goals. Think about those who helped you along the way. Were there people who believed in you and gave you opportunities, even when you were underserving? Have you paid it forward by believing in someone else?

Dreams come in all shapes and sizes. Some dream of adopting a baby. Others hope to purchase a home or achieve a fitness goal. For some, the plan is to complete a degree, while others want to travel the world. Great organizations foster dreams through conversations, encouragement, connection and belief.

This idea may seem bizarre, or at least counterintuitive. After all, organizations normally look to extract value from their employees. Fostering dreams is a different way to think. It gives an organization the opportunity to add value to its team members, and when that happens, performance improves.

However, a word of caution… if your only motivation in helping others reach their dreams is the hope of raising their level of productivity, you will never Win the Heart. Only genuine caring leads to caring.

[Tweet "What would happen if your organization became the place where dreams come true?"]

Make the commitment to Foster Dreams and watch what happens. Someone’s world will be changed and it might be yours. 

Leadership Begins at Home,


What do you dream about outside of work? 

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Will You Be Remembered for Your Courage?

For the past couple of days I have written about how fear can cripple a leader.

Today, may I remind you that one of the most important traits you can possess is courage. In fact, let me be direct ... the greatest leaders are willing to courageously die for their cause and their team.

Before you think I am nuts, I do not mean they are literally willing to die. But they are willing to die to themselves, to make the most sacrifices, and to lead by serving. Such commitments require massive amounts of courage.

My favorite courage words were penned by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. The first two stanzas set the tone for the band of 600, the heroes of the poem.

Tennyson writes . . .

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not tho' the soldiers knew
Someone had blundered:
Theirs was not to make reply,
Theirs was not to reason why,
Theirs was but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

The rest of the poem, which you can read here, is just as powerful. Tennyson’s words challenge me to question my courage. Am I brave enough to sacrifice? To consider the needs of others before I think of myself? To serve rather than be served?

How about you? When was the last time you demonstrated that kind of leadership courage? The last time you charged when others were retreating?

Maybe it is time to turn around and head into the fire - to charge into the valley of death, without hesitation. 600 others made that choice one time and now they are immortalized.

Will you be remembered? I suspect you will improve your odds if you choose to charge.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Can you think of a modern example of a team or a leader who is dying to self and putting others first?

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Are You Willing to Ship?

If you want to make a difference this week, you have to be willing to "ship."

Year's ago, I was challenged with this concept by author Seth Godin. For leaders “shipping” is one of the most important steps in the process of influence. But beware ... shipping is risky business.

Godin writes, “Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you’re exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself. It’s no wonder we’re afraid to ship.”

You have great ability. Unfortunately, if you are like most, you are probably held back by fear. Why not shift your thinking this week and start shipping?

It will look different for everyone, but that is okay. Your art doesn’t have to be a page out of the renaissance, it just needs to be you.

What is the place where YOU need to ship? Is it to write, paint, compose, teach, encourage, speak, create, sculpt, or lead in business?

I suspect you have huge potential to make art in some area of your life. If you will commit to shipping a little every day this week, it will make a difference in someone else’s life.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Why do you think so many leaders are held back by fear?

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Improve to Impress

I'm amazed at how many leaders I meet who are focused on trying to impress their followers.

Do you fall into that category?

If you want to impress I have one word for you… Improve.

[Tweet "The best leaders are focused on improving more than impressing."]

Leadership Begins at Home,


What habits do you have built into your life to improve your leadership skills?

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Performance Goes up When Praise is Present

My favorite leaders are positive leaders.  They understand the value of affirmation.

“Negative” and “critical” words are rarely associated with respected leaders.

If you want to be a great leader, work on being a great encourager.

[Tweet "It is amazing how performance goes up when praise is present."]

Why not make it your goal today to say at least one positive comment in every conversation you have?

Leadership Begins at Home,


When is the last time you saw performance affected by encouragement?

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High Performance Organizations Build the Bench

The Chess Not Checkers project set out to discover the “secrets” of High Performance Organizations (HPO).

Mark Miller and his team spent years to determine what separates the best from all the rest. In the end, they identified four primary “moves” all HPOs make… They Bet on Leadership, Act as One, Win the Heart and Excel at Execution. But, this was not enough; they wanted to know HOW they do these things so well. The answers were found in their “Best Practices.”

After the book, Chess Not Checkers was completed, Mark knew leaders would want the more tactical, application ideas embedded in the best practices. So, his response was to create the Chess Not Checkers Field Guide.  Mark asked me to be the co-author on this effort. Below is an excerpt from the Field Guide section on how HPOs Build the Bench!

Build the Bench

One of the most underrated best practices you can pursue if you are attempting to Bet on Leadership is to remember to Build the Bench. Sports teams are mindful of this; recognizing at any moment, at every position, someone needs to be ready to move from the role of backup to starter. Whether through turnover or injury, a next-man-up mentality is vital for a program’s success. Business should be no different.

If an organization intends to grow, a key focus of the leadership team must be to Build the Bench. Strong leaders do not have a scarcity mindset, fearing for their jobs if they help their direct reports grow. Actually, the opposite is true. Anytime you find leaders who can replace themselves, they are the last people you want to leave.

[Tweet "The ability to develop talent is one of the most important skills a person can possess."]

Like successful coaches, High Performance Organization leaders not only recruit great talent, they also enhance it. By identifying a clear picture of what they are trying to develop, they are able to create a clear path and close skill gaps that block the way. Organizations who focus on building the bench are also locked in on finding emerging leaders. They are always looking to fill a spot with a talented backup. These teams have development plans for those on the rise, and they systematically challenge everyone in the organization to grow to the next level.

If you truly want to create a leadership culture, don’t forget to build your bench. At some point you will need it,  especially  if  you  expect  to  achieve  championship  results.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What are doing to develop your leadership bench?

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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.

[Tweet "Trying the leadership thing by yourself is bordering on stupid."]

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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Leaders Set the Pace

The Chess Not Checkers approach to building a High Performance Organization is built on the four primary moves I have shared over the past few weeks. If you missed them, check out Bet on Leadership, Act as One, Win the Heart and Excel at Execution.

Each of the four moves is enabled by specific leadership practices. For the next twelve Monday's I will share with you one of these best practices. Today, best practice number one ... Leaders in High Performance Organizations always Set the Pace.


The following excerpt was first published in the
Chess Not Checkers Field Guide, co-authored with Mark Miller.

Barriers are broken and results are realized when leaders Set the Pace and show the way. In the early 1950s, no human had ever run a mile in under four minutes, and many believed it to be beyond human limits. That changed in 1954 when Great Britain’s Roger Bannister broke the barrier by less than a second. Two months later, Bannister and Australia’s John Landy both went under four minutes in the same race. Within years, the sub four-minute mile was a regular occurrence among elite runners. All they needed was someone to show them it could be done.

There is an old saying, “The speed of the leader determines the speed of the team.”tweet_bird The same can be said for organizations. Leaders must Set the Pace, understanding that others will do what they see the leader do. A leader’s walk must mirror his or her talk. Emerging high performers in business are no different than those in athletics. They need someone to show them the way to greatness.

Leaders who choose to Set the Pace for others start by being teachable themselves. They have a “white belt” mentality. Kano Jigoro, the father of modern Judo, once told his students, “When I die, bury me in my white belt.” His wish was to be remembered as a student, not as a black belt master. Great leaders see themselves as lifelong learners. They are never satisfied or found thinking they have achieved mastery. The best of the best continually pursue personal growth and skill development. They are deeply committed to modeling it for others. If you intend to build a High Performance Organization, the prerequisite is a growing leader who sets the pace.

Leadership Begins at Home,


How well are the leaders in your organization setting the pace for the rest of the team?

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