Leadership Thought #286 – You Either Hit Your Goals Or You Don’t

As we finish off the final accounting on 2011 it’s a useful exercise to reflect on the past year and how we actually performed against the goals we set out at the beginning of last year. I believe you start by being honest with yourself about whether hit your goals or you didn’t. There should be no wriggle room or rationalizations. Progress is certainly good, but it is no substitute for achievement. Too often in business and life we accept less than stellar results.

Leadership Thought #491 – How To Avoid Self-Sabotage

It seems like every day we read online or in print media about another famous person or business leader who commits self-sabotage.  It’s as if they can’t help it.  There is something about success that turns certain people against themselves.   You would think getting to the top of the mountain in life would be its […]

Leadership Thought #476 – Five Traits That Separate the Best Leaders From the Pack

What are the traits of high-performing leaders? Because of my line of work, I am fortunate to spend time with many successful people and study and research the topic even more. One theme that runs through of my experience/research is that financial success (while important) is not the primary driver of an individual business leader’s […]

Leadership Thought #459 – 7 Tips You Ensure You Hit Your Resolutions For The New Year

Most of us will start the New Year with a list of goals we would like to achieve over the course of the next year. Making New Years’ Resolutions has become an American pastime. Unfortunately, a majority of us will end up falling far below our initial expectations. For some reason we either lose interest, become distracted by other things, or find the goals end up requiring more than we are willing to give to get there. Over the years I’ve observed a much smaller number of people who actually achieve what they set out to do. From this experience, I’ve developed the following tips to help you become one of these lucky few:

Leadership Thought #487 – Business is Much Harder If You Don’t Have Passion

In business (and life), patience may be a virtue, but passion becomes a prerequisite.  Being a small business owner is demanding work especially for founders and growth-oriented leaders. You truly must believe in what you are doing to overcome the many obstacles that inevitably appear on your path along the way.  Most people wouldn’t even […]

Leadership Thought #477 – Eight Mistakes Leaders Make That Get Them In Trouble

Mistakes are a part of life.  As the saying goes, “sometimes we are our own worst enemy.”  I’ve seen many good leaders travel down a “rat trap” of their own making.  Often this is done with the best of intentions, but the results usually have nothing to do with the original intention behind them. The […]

Leadership Thought #475 – 3 Key Factors That Lead To Employee Success

Most leaders have an uneven record of accomplishment when it comes to ensuring employee success. The wonderful thing about my job is that I can find inspiration everywhere, from all walks of life and fields of practice.  It is often cliché that leadership development professionals lean on sports and military examples (at least my male […]

Leadership Thought #472 – To Those Who Expect Much, Major Effort Is Required

Leadership is about embracing personal responsibility and putting in the effort needed to be successful. Recently I have been having a lot of conversations with my clients about work-life balance and the need for boundaries. I am always sympathetic to their need to live a fuller life. I also try to remind them that they […]

Leadership Thought #470 – Leave The Excuses For Non-Performance to Others

We have become an excuse-making culture. I have been a bit frustrated lately with the quality of service provided by various contractors and service providers.  It seems as if there is a minimal connection between what people promise and what they do. Excuses abound as work doesn’t get done and/or quality issues emerge.  There is […]

Leadership Thought #466 – Do You Have A Plan?

Without a plan your business is a like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. You don’t know where it will end up and the course it takes to get there is subject to the whims of other forces. Unfocused effort only ever leads to frustration, miscommunication, wasted effort, poor financial decision making, unnecessary stress and less than optimal results.

Leadership Thought #464 – Embrace What Makes You Special

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to be what you are not. There are a lot of books out there that tell you that you can be anything you want to be, but this simply is not true. No matter how hard I try, there are certain things I just can’t do or won’t be able to do well. It has saddened me to watch so many people regularly set themselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations about what is possible for them and others. Instead of trying to force yourself into a role/career/opportunity that isn’t right for you, why not embrace who you are and what makes you special and tap into that?

Leadership Thought #462 – The Need To Step Back and Reflect

In our society that rewards constant action, it is often hard to step back and reflect about where you have been, what you have learned, and where you should be going. However, leadership requires thinking and reflection as much as it is supposed to stimulate action. Many people I know are busy at doing the wrong things. They are working hard but not smart. Every day is just one more attempt to push the boulder up the hill and hope that at some point positive sustained momentum will push them over the top. Unfortunately as the slope of their climb increases the weight of their responsibilities also increases and the path they are treading becomes less predictable and stable. You can’t push forward into unchartered territory and not expect to learn some tough lessons along the way. If you are not careful, you may slip or fall and the boulder will roll right back over you.

Leadership Thought #461 – Success Must Be Earned

I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend lately amongst many entrepreneurs. They want to work the hours of a successful person without yet attaining actual business success. I think all this talk of work-life balance has people a bit confused. It you want to run a business that supports a flexible lifestyle, you can certainly choose working for yourself as an option, but financial success usually requires very hard work especially at the beginning. You can’t enjoy the experience of having climbed the mountain without having done the hard work to climb it in the first place. You can’t be all things to all people including yourself; you must make some tough choices about how you spend your time.

Leadership Thought #452 – 4 Things to Get You Through Tough Times

I was talking to my son the other day about his schoolwork and some frustrations he was having. He is a good kid and is in all honors classes. I have noticed though, as the years go on, that school which was once relatively easy and fun for him has become much more of a chore. While not commenting on the varying degrees of teacher quality we have encountered along the way (which is troubling), I believe he is going through something we all go through in life. Rarely is our individual curve always upward sloping and everything comes easy for us. Sure, some people are seemingly blessed in certain aspects of life, but for the most part we all hit periods of frustration, disappointment, and/or low motivation. When you have a passion or care about something it is much easier to marshal the energy required to work through the rough patches. When it is something you have to do rather than want to do, it isn’t always so easy.

During the conversation with my son, we discussed four things that help you get through these difficult periods: Ability, Humility, Effort and Attitude:

Leadership Thought #443 – Leaders Need To Keep Raising The Bar of What’s Possible

There is a fine line between being good at what you do for a period of time and achieving sustained success. If you are not careful short-term success can lead to long-term complacency. Once you scale the mountain, start looking for the next peak/challenge. Don’t spend too long enjoying the view from the top. I see it all the time: leaders who once had really high standards and big dreams start lowering their expectations and/or getting distracted by other things. They start to spend more time enjoying the fruits of their success than planting the next crop to harvest. Of course, you should bask in the glow of your accomplishments and take some time to appreciate what winning feels like. However, never forget what it took to get you there.

Leadership Thought #440 – Avoid Being Put On A Pedestal

Avoid being put on a pedestal by yourself or by others. I’ve seen good people get too full of themselves when they begin to view themselves as extra special and different from everyone else. In happens in all industries and in all sectors. Nonprofit leaders certainly aren’t excluded. It is never good for any of us to be surrounded by people who are too deferential. Success without humility typically leads to ego issues. I’m not saying we shouldn’t value or respect accomplishment, but we shouldn’t put a disproportionate emphasis on the attributes of the person. Superlative outcomes are usually the result of good timing, hard work and specialized focus not generic ability. In addition, doing good work that taps into your unique talents makes a positive difference in the lives of others should be enough of a reward. Don’t get too caught up with celebrating YOU.

Leadership Thought #435 – In Life And Business, There Are Winners and Losers

Winning does matter. Our country is built on the idea of individual freedom, personal initiative, competitive markets and free enterprise. In the Unites States we are constantly keeping score and rewarding those that achieve in all walks of life. You can chose to live a reactive and safe life rather than a proactive and riskier existence, but then you are dependent upon others who create the overall conditions of success from which you earn your living. This doesn’t mean that all successful people do it the right way or have admirable values. There will always be individuals who cheat the system or take advantage of the less fortunate. However, I would contend that this number is smaller than everyone thinks and our legal system (contrary to popular opinion) does a good job of ferreting them out. It certainly is not perfect, but our civic system and the “rule of law” does exist and often works. Regardless, we all learn from an early age that life isn’t fair and all we can control is our actions in response to anything that happens. There are very few true victims in life…

Leadership Thought #431 – FOCUS, Focus, focus

If I had to pick one thing that inhibits success the most amongst small business and nonprofit leaders I would say it is a lack of sustained focus. By the very nature of them being entrepreneurs, they tend to be very opportunistic. It is common for them to see a business opportunity around every corner. Their mindset is that every problem has a solution and the only obstacle to progress is a lack of effort. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. Yes, every problem does have a solution, but the effort needs to be put forth by the right people with the right plan. It is not merely a question of resources, attention and willingness to put forth effort. Great leaders and strong businesses focused on the wrong opportunities/problems typically only achieve mediocrity at best. At worst, this distracts their true potential for greatness by limiting their attention on what they should be doing in the first place and creates business vulnerabilities that should never have existed.

Interview With Sir Richard Branson

I have always been a fan of Sir Richard Branson. He has so much wisdom to share but more importantly his energy and passion for entrepreneurship and individual initiative is infectious. He is very inspiring. I encourage you to take the time to watch this interview and/or read one of his many books: