Win the Heart

In his upcoming book, Chess Not Checkers, my friend Mark Miller writes about the most misunderstood and overlooked facet of creating a High Performance Organization: Win the Heart.

Leaders mistakenly believe the “soft stuff” will derail their efforts to achieve the organization’s goals – nothing could be further from the truth!

It is only a fully engaged workforce that allows an organization to begin to approach their full potential. The path to superior sustained performance always goes through the heart of every employee (or volunteer, if you are leading a non-profit).

After writing Chess Not Checkers, Mark wanted to help organizations around the world turn the principles into practice. He asked me to partner with him to create the Chess Not Checkers Field Guide. The following is our introduction to the third move all High Performance Organizations make… they Win the Heart.


In High Performance Organizations, leaders consistently capture the hearts of team members, leading to greater engagement and deeper fulfillment. In such an environment, outstanding results become much easier to achieve.

One of the best ways to Win the Heart is to encourage people to be themselves. Every person in your organization has unique strengths, talents, interests, capabilities, personalities, and experiences. The more those differences are leveraged, the greater the impact your organization can make.

Betting on leadership and acting as one is not enough. No, unless you can Win the Hearts of your people, there will eventually be a lack of engagement, and in the end, you will never reach your potential. We have all witnessed scores of talented groups who never accomplished anything great.

In his book, Crossing the Unknown Sea, corporate poet David Whyte tells of a conversation he had while seeking guidance from a counselor, who made the following statement, “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.” Whyte inquired, “What is it then?” The counselor replied, “The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”tweet_bird He went on to explain how one grows weary because he or she fails to be fully engaged in life.

As you think about your organization, would you describe your employees as fully engaged, or are they halfheartedly going through the motions? Do you sense there is fatigue coupled with a malaise about the mission? If so, the answer is to Win their Hearts.

In addition to encouraging people to be themselves, great leaders seek to win hearts as they Build Community. They recognize people want to be a part of a group who genuinely cares for one another. Secondly, they Share Ownership, understanding people desire real responsibility and an opportunity to contribute. Finally, these leaders Foster Dreams. They know people have aspirations both inside and outside of work and are genuinely interested in helping make those dreams come true.

Never underestimate the power of a group of united hearts. Throughout history, they have won championships, built companies, and even conquered nations. Is it possible greater things could happen in your world? Why not go after the hearts of your people and find out.

Leadership Begins at Home,


How important do you think it is for a leader to win the hearts of his team members?

Comment Below ...

Service with a Smile

Last night was perfect. After nearly two weeks in Africa working with Kenyan high school students, our baby girl came home.

The smile on her face was a great reminder that leaders are better when they serve.


First Lady, Betty Ford, once remarked, “I don’t think there's anything as wonderful in life as being able to help someone else.”

Is your emotional tank full? Is there a smile on your face because you have been consistently adding value to others?

The great thing about being a servant leader is you don't have to go around the world to find your smile. Usually, all it takes is a walk down the hall at the office. Or maybe even a word of encouragement across the kitchen at home.

As I have written before, great leaders Think Others First

Open your eyes today and find someone to serve. But if you do, be prepared to smile. Remember, there's nothing as wonderful in life as being able to help someone else. 

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is one way a leader can add value to those around him?

Comment Below ...

You're Only Fooling Yourself

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

Those words, attributed to Abraham Lincoln whose birthday would have been yesterday, will hopefully serve as a reminder today that your greatest asset is your integrity.

Who have you been trying to fool lately?

I find that when I try to fool others I end up deceiving myself.

Examine your integrity today and make a fresh commitment to live a life that positions you to influence others in a positive way.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What do you think about Lincoln's quote?

Comment Below ...

Happy Birthday Abe

Today would have been the birthday of one of history's finest leaders, Abraham Lincoln.

Abe was an innovator, ahead of his time. I love his words from his annual address to congress in 1862 ...

"Still the question recurs, 'Can we do better?' The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew."

As a leader, Lincoln understood the importance of innovative thinking. He was not only willing to change with the times, he encouraged those around him to embrace change as well.

When was the last time you tried something new in your leadership environment?

Too often leaders become complacent with the status quo and thus stop taking territory. Taking territory, by nature, requires change. Change involves risk, and risk feels dangerous. But I would argue it is more risky to resist change than it is to embrace it.

A friend of mine is notorious for trying new things. He has told me before that he wants, "At least he tried," on his tombstone.  I like this guy. He challenges me to stretch, think, and pursue.

I hope you have a dangerous streak in you. All leaders need one.

Lincoln's words still ring true."The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion."

So rise. Think. Try. Believe. And rally those around you.

Like me, you 'can do better,' but only if you are willing to "think and act anew."

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is your favorite thing about Lincoln?

Comment Below ...

Do You Think Others First?

A while back I picked up my copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

When it comes to working on my people skills, Carnegie’s classic is still one of my favorites.

One of the best reminders in the book is where Carnegie writes, “The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.”  He goes on, referring to what Emerson once said: “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”

I love those words so much because they keep me focused on the importance of other people. Great leaders think others first.

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to think me first. More than I care to admit, I default to my-self, my agenda, my success, and my dreams.

Carnegie’s reminder is not original to him. This idea was first written about a couple thousand years ago when Paul penned in his letter to the Philippian church, “In humility value others above yourselves.”

If you want to win friends and influence people, perhaps you should start by changing your focus.

Everyone you meet today will have tremendous value. The question is, will you exercise the humility to recognize it?

Leadership Begins at Home,


Who has added value to your life during the past month?

Comment Below ...

How’s Your Heart?

For leaders it is easy to become enamored with the skills of leadership and neglect matters of the heart.

In business, heart stuff feels soft. But make no mistake ... people are more important than products, and people have hearts. Without people and their hearts, there are no productsor profits.

HeartYesterday, my friend and co-author of FINDING YOUR WAY, Dan Webster sent me a quote from author and educator, Parker Palmer. Dan was challenging me (as he so often does) to pay attention to my heart.

Parker’s quote has me thinking. Truthfully, it has messed me up a bit, so I thought I would pass it along to youyou’re welcome!

Within us is the courage to hold life’s tensions consciously, faithfully, and well, until they break us open. The broken-open heart is a source of power as well as compassion—the power to bring down whatever diminishes us and raise up whatever serves us well. We can access and deploy that power by putting time, skill, and energy into the education and mobilization of the powers of the heart. – Parker J. Palmer

There are times when I try to escape life’s tensions. Honestly, I don’t always want to be broken open. I want to be comfortable, not courageous.

Oh, I say I want to be courageous, but when it comes time to look inside myself and muster up servanthood and compassion, comfort somehow seems to win the argument.

When you think about your leadership, how’s your heart? How much time and energy do you spend mobilizing the powers that are buried inside of you? Is it time to take your heart to school for some education?

Perhaps your issue is a lack of patience. If so, heart training might include making yourself stand in a line today or to drive in the slow lane during an entire commute.

Is anger your nemesis? Maybe a pad and pen with a list of twenty-five reasons you have to be grateful.

Are you greedy? If yes, it’s time to give something away. Something that will cause you to sacrifice.

While it may feel squishy, may I remind you that true leadership is not just about a person’s skills. My friend, Mark Miller, always says, “If your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills.”

If you genuinely want to move from impressing people to influencing them, I encourage you to start with your heart.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What practices or habits do you have in place to cultivate your heart?

Comment Below ...

Remember, Your Business is Your Stage

One of my favorite things about my work is the interesting people I am able to meet.

Yesterday, my friend Billy Boughey and I were spending time brainstorming business models when we happened to run into James Gilmore, the author of The Experience Economy. Being an idea expert himself, Billy who leads Elevate, was like a kid on Christmas morning when he met the guru.

Jim Gilmore

(Commercial ... If you ever need to take an event to a world class level, Billy and his Elevate Team are the ticket)

The subtitle of Gilmore’s book, Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage, is a great challenge to anyone who leads an organization.

Hopefully, like the best thespians, you understand that theater is about the audience, not the actors.

As you think about your business, do you see the audience as the hero? If not, you are missing the point ... people are looking for an experience, not a commodity.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Gilmore and Joe Pine wrote the following words:

“Ensuring the integrity of the customer experience requires more than the layering on of positive cues. Experience stagers also must eliminate anything that diminishes, contradicts, or distracts from the theme, Most constructed spaces - malls, offices, buildings, or airplanes - are littered with meaningless or trivial messages.”

If you want to elevate your game, I encourage you to evaluate your messages. Are they meaningless? Trivial? More about you than the audience? If so, it’s time to clear the clutter and create an experience.

Remember, your business is your stage. If you hope to get your message across, focus on what matters most ... Your customers.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is the best customer experience you have had during the past month?

Comment Below ...

Have You Ever Said Something Because You Really Didn’t Know What Else to Say?

There are times when you should just keep your mouth shut. Don’t believe me? Just ask a guy named Peter from the Bible.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Peter, his story that proves the point is found in the book of Mark, Chapter 9.

Jesus had just taken three guys up to the mountains for some down time. Peter was one of the guys.

During the getaway there was definitely a “mountaintop” moment and the appearance of Jesus was “transformed,” according to the Scriptures.

Upon seeing this happen, Peter ‘exclaimed’ ... (Fancy way of saying he got a little too excited) ... “It is wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make 3 shelters as memorials – one for you (Jesus), one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

We are told, “He said this because he really didn’t know what else to say . . .”

Have you ever said something because you “really didn’t know what else to say?” I know, I have.

Good leaders know when to speak and when to stay silent. They understand the importance of listening and watching.

Your job as a leader is not to solve every problem. Your job is to discover solutions.

Chances are, there is a solution waiting to be discovered by listening to a teammate ... By seeking to collaborate ... By brainstorming instead of bulldozing.

The Bible also says, “Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”

Heed those words and you might find that others are more interested in what YOU have to say.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Do you think it is more natural to be a talker or a listener?  What are the keys to being a good listener?

Comment Below ...

Don’t Settle for Good Today, Be Great!

I am challenged by the words of Jon Gordon who describes the difference between good and great leaders as follows:

“Good leaders get people to believe in them. Great leaders inspire people to believe in themselves.”

“Good leaders say, ‘Watch what I can do.’ Great leaders say, ‘Let me show you what you can do.’”

As you lead today, let me challenge you to be great by applying these two simple steps.

First, identify someone and tell them how grateful you are to have them on your team. Remind them that you believe in them.

Second, raise the bar for someone in an area where you know they can succeed and then simply watch and encourage.

Your team needs great leadership today. Don’t settle for good!

Leadership Begins at Home,


What do you think makes a great leader?

Comment Below ...

Stop Telling and Start Inspiring 

Yesterday I read an interview conducted by Sky Magazine with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.

During the Q&A, Weiner discussed the difference between leaders and managers. In his own words, "Leadership, to me, is the ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives. The important word there is inspire. The key difference between managers and leaders is that managers tell people what to do, while leaders inspire them to do it. Inspiration comes  from three things: clarity of one's vision, courage of one's conviction, and the ability to effectively communicate both of those things."

Weiner's words bring up two important questions for those who call themselves leaders. 

1 - Do you tell people what to do or inspire them to do what's right? Many bosses flex the power of their position, coercing subordinates to fall in line. They mistakenly believe this qualifies them to be called a leader. It doesn't. Leaders model the way, inspiring others to work alongside while demonstrating a genuine care and concern for the team. 

2 - Do you possess clarity of vision and courage rooted in conviction? Better yet, have you defined it for those you lead? Without being crystal clear on what you believe and why you believe it you will never inspire (nor lead) anyone. 

If you want to be "linked in" with someone, I encourage you to focus on those you lead. Start with clarity and courage. If you will, I suspect you won't need to tell people what to do. 

You'll inspire them. 

Leadership Begins at Home,


Why do you think so many bosses fall into the trap of 'telling' others what to do?

Comment Below ...


Copyright © 2023 INTEGREAT Leadership
All rights reserved.