How to Grow ~ In Business and Life

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“All growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.” – Tony Robbins

I was 26, anxious and driving far out of my comfort zone. My hands were sweaty, I felt sick and I absolutely did not want to go. After landing my first professional job as a Business Development Manager, I was headed to a seminar and networking event. I had never done anything like it and didn’t know what to expect. I was certain I didn’t know anyone that was going to be attending either. I was driving in my Volkswagen Jetta in my brand new suit, trying to think of excuses to tell my boss as to why I didn’t make it. Before I knew it I was in front of the hotel hosting the event and out of ideas as to how I could avoid going. I mustered up the will power and walked into my first networking event. Since then I have attended hundreds of events like this, met thousands of people and have built a rewarding career in sales and business development. But what would my life have looked like if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone that day?

Recently I watched an episode of Running Wild where the host, Bear Grylis, a trained
survivalist, adventurist and crazy man brought Marshawn Lynch, former Seattle Seahawk running back, into the Corsican Mountains for a two day survival expedition. Marshawn grew up in inner city Oakland, California. He had never hiked, camped or done anything close to what he was in store for. After a two day adventure filled with mountain climbing, catching a wild hog for supper, sleeping under the stars and facing several risky situations the two men reached their destination. They were tired and sore but alive and well. Marshawn joked that he probably should have started his adventure seeking by sleeping in a tent in his back yard but by the end there is no doubt he had grown and become a stronger person.

Reflecting on Marshawn’s journey during the episode Bear said something that rang true with me. He said, “Most people never like to step out of their comfort zone because it makes you look vulnerable, but actually that’s how we grow.” Looking back at my panicked 26 year old self walking into a room full of strangers I now recognize the growth opportunity I was presented with in that moment. If I wouldn’t have mustered up the courage to face my insecurities and step out of my comfort zone I could have missed a great opportunity for myself and career to grow. When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? Whether it’s prospecting new clients, opening up to others or trying something new, make a concerted effort to push yourself to do the things that are uncomfortable for you. It’s in these moments of leaving your comfort zone that you will be pushed towards growth. Only then will you flourish.

Wax on, Wax off ~ Mentor and Coach to Success

My organization is a member of the Canadian Professional Sales Association. We have invested substantial time and money in our sales teams by bringing in CPSA sales trainers. These training sessions focus on 8 steps of Consultative selling. To work hand in hand with this sales approach we have put our leadership team through the CPSA Coaching Training. The idea is that the leaders meet with their sales teams one on one and coach them through their sales journey for that week. It’s an opportunity to mentor our people by coaching them through the wins and losses that every sales professional goes through. It’s been a great experience for me and I believe we are seeing some positive results in our business because of this close working relationship our sales teams and leaders have.

Yesterday I found myself using my coaching and mentoring experience with my oldest son. My son is 10 years old and like most this age, practicing anything is the worst way to spend your time. Even if he was bored out of his mind practicing anything still wouldn’t enter into his mind. He is fortunate to have some very real and natural music ability. Not even a year ago I watched as he, then 9 years old, played “Hey Jude” on the drums with a live band in front of 500 people. He did an incredible job and he felt proud. Now, an evening before his recital, I can hear my son practicing the piece he chose.  He played the Star Wars theme through once and it was barely recognizable. I asked him if he was really trying his best. He answered in typical 10 year old fashion, “I guess.” I then asked him if he really felt like he was prepared for his recital. Again he answered with a noncommittal “I guess.”

The next day I rushed to my son’s music festival after a few meetings went long compounding an already tight schedule. My wife and I showed up at the same time and quickly found a seat in the front row. We believe being present and a part of their lives is key to mentoring them, plus we are just super proud parents. The festival started and eventually we got to our son’s grouping. The first young lady came out and played a nearly flawless song. It wasn’t as technical as the Star Wars theme but it was done with excellence. As she exited the stage, my son walked on, placed his music down and started into his piece. It was sloppy. We waited for the last performance to be over so we could hear the adjudicator grade each performance. Without surprise, the first young lady received first place. My son received second.

He walked off the stage obviously embarrassed and upset. I followed him into the bathroom stall where he hid and cried. I asked him again if he felt like he did his best. He couldn’t answer. He was emotional and I had to get back to work so I hugged him, told him I loved him and that we would talk soon. As his dad I was frustrated with him. He didn’t try very hard and put very little effort into it. All of his embarrassment, shame and tears would have been prevented if he only would have tried harder. I needed to step back a bit as his dad, coach and mentor so I could guide him properly through this tough situation without letting my frustration show.

Wax on Wax off

Wax on Wax off

Traffic was bad on the way home and I had a board meeting to attend early in the evening so I decided to call my son. He came to the phone and I asked him how he was doing. He was still embarrassed, sad and frustrated. I started off by telling him how amazing I believe he is. I explained to him that he is so talented naturally and that he is great with people. I told him several times that if he works hard, listens to his teachers, spends time practicing and learning he can do anything he wants to. I believe this to be true. I told him that I have felt the same as him and that it took me a while to learn that natural ability is only one piece of the success puzzle. My son is a huge NFL fan so I referenced his favourite receiver Julio Jones. I asked him if he thought Julio was one of the best receivers in the NFL by never practicing or working hard. My son understood what I was saying. I told him that if he wants to see different results he needs to have a different approach. I confirmed that he could be a show stopper if he puts effort into learning and practicing his crafts. I ended our conversation by affirming his amazing ability and heart. I told him I loved him and am proud of him and promised that if he worked hard he would be one of the best in whatever arena he chooses to stand in.

Mentoring and coaching is an investment. It’s an investment in time, relationship and trust. If you’re willing to put in the time and build trust and relationships, you’ll find that it’s not only your son or team member that is mentored by the process but yourself also. I was reminded yesterday that as a leader I cannot just rely on my natural ability or charm. Success comes from hard work. When I arrived home my son was practicing his drums. He’s coming up to another performance in front of a packed house. I promised him if he worked hard he would have the crowd saying, “That kid is only 10?”. He took our conversation to heart and immediately implemented a new practice routine. I believe that any success I have had is because mentors and coaches have taken the time to invest into my life. Their belief in me combined with their experience coached, guided and helped me succeed. Are you struggling to be where you think you could be? Find a mentor and coach that can help you get to the next level. Do you have people on your team that aren’t performing to the levels you think they can? Mentor and coach them. The investment in the people you lead will take your team, organization or kids to levels you’ve only dreamed about.

 

Leadership ~ The Heart of the Matter

Heart of the Matter

They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel.

It’s a quote that has over the years been attributed to many people. It’s also very true and one of the reasons I think Christmas is so special. The general mood around this time of year is laid back and caring. Generosity is at its highest all year and most people are able to take some time to relax and be with the ones they love. It’s not the formal greetings we use that make people feel this way, it’s the way we treat one another that does. It’s the most wonderful time of the year because we focus, even if for a bit, on other people. It’s that focus that makes people feel loved, appreciated and happy.

Christmas is much more than its title or greeting. It’s about others. From it’s very core it’s about finding a solution to ensure others experience success. Leadership, when done properly is very much the same. Great leaders care about their people. They care about their staff, their contractors, their customers and their suppliers. Indifference is a characteristic not well suited to leadership. You simply cannot be a leader if you don’t care about those you lead and work with. A real test of any leader is whether or not those they lead are better off for being led by them. The heart of any successful leader is a heart that cares about the whole picture. When you place things above the people you lead you have failed as a leader.

My family and I braved the craziness of the mall to have our sons annual Santa pictures taken. I walked past a Salvation Army volunteer and thought about what motivates them to stand in a crowd for hours on end like they do. What makes them want to stand in one of the busiest environments shaking bells? I suspect if they didn’t believe people’s lives were better off because they stood, jingling bells to raise money they wouldn’t be doing it. Remember, a real test of any leader is whether or not those they lead are better off for being led by them.

Leaders care about people. In my humble opinion Barry Sanders was the best running back of all time. His stats were incredible. If it wasn’t for his early retirement he could have almost assuredly surpassed many of the records he hadn’t already passed. His talent gave him an opportunity to be a leader on his team. It was the care for his teammates that made him one. He was without a doubt at the top of the talent pool yet he cared more about his team than his ability and personal stats. In his High School senior year Barry had the rushing title in his grasp. Incredible really considering he did not become the starting running back until the fourth game of the year. He rushed for 1,417 yards in the final seven games of the season, earning all-state honors. In his final game his coach gave him the option; get the rushing title or give some of the younger players some playing time. Barry without hesitation sat and let the young players get some reps. A similar scenario happened in 1989, his first season in the NFL. Sanders missed the NFL rushing title by 10 yards because he chose not to go back into the game when the Lions already had the game won. He wanted the back up guys to get some playing time. According to his coach Wayne Fontes, when he offered Sanders the chance to gain the yardage and the rushing title, Sanders declined, reportedly saying, “Coach, let’s just win it (the game) and go home.”

Leaders don’t care about their individual success. They care about the success of their group. It’s not about titles, awards or fame. The heart of great leadership is unselfish. It looks to see how it can make someone better off because they are there. A leader succeeds when their people succeed. When their people succeed, their organization does. Christmas is special because it’s really about other people. It’s about the birth of a young leader that came to make the lives of others better. Want to be a great leader? Make peoples lives better. If you care about others success, they will care about yours.

Leading Gratefully ~ The Law of Causation

I was reminded last week of the connection between a cause and an effect. I think the idea of Causation is something leaders should reflect on regularly. Whether it be regarding operations, customers or strategy, a good leader should always look at the possible outcomes of every decision they make. Often the biggest mistakes I have made were a direct result of me not considering the effects of my decision thoroughly enough. Thankfully the situation that caused this reflection last week wasn’t a major decision, but I do believe it had a major result.

My company is a construction manufacturing company. We live and die by deadlines and are often at the mercy of our customer’s needs. This can be a huge stressor on a business that needs organization and scheduling in order to be efficient. No matter how hard we try to stick to a manufacturing and shipping schedule it’s inevitable that a customer will make a last minute change. This change throws a huge kink in our schedule and is forced on us to deal with and resolve. Last week we received a call from a major customer that forced us to adjust our schedule. Of course this change caused a lot of extra effort and work for my team. In particular, it forced one of my drivers to have to stay late to load a truck for shipment and arrive early the next morning to get it to our customer before 7 am. My driver has a young family and it should go without saying but any extra’s like this are a sacrifice for her. Thankfully she stepped up to the plate and ensured our customer got what they needed when they needed it. She did all of this without complaint and earned a bit of overtime pay.

The next morning I arrived early to beat her to work. On the way I stopped at Tim Horton’s to get her a gift card. When I arrived I quickly ran into my office and wrote her a card. In the card I acknowledged her extra effort and great attitude. As a leader I recognize that my success is built on my staff’s efforts. I thanked her for her dedication and effort and told her we are better with her on our team. I ended the note with a simple “enjoy some Tim’s on us.” I ran downstairs to meet her before she went on her first delivery and handed her the card. The next morning she knocked on my door. I said, “come in” and she walked in with a bag. She handed me the bag and said “don’t say I’ve never done anything nice for you.” We smiled at each other and she left the room. In the bag was a stuffed Seattle Seahawk bird. She had gotten it as a Christmas gift in Scotland as a little girl in the 80’s. She knows I am a huge Seahawk fan. They are very rare and I know that it carried some sentimental value to her (I mean she brought it all the way from Scotland when she immigrated!).

You see, as leaders we reap what we sow. Otherwise known as the Law of Causation. In the book of Galatians and 1 Corinthians it says that a man reaps what he sows. If you sow sparingly, you will receive sparingly. When you recognize that your success is really the result of your team you start making different decisions. You start leading with gratitude, not attitude. Richard Branson said “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.” How are you treating your team? Are you grateful for the work they do? Do you serve them well by recognizing their efforts and showing you’re grateful? When you start leading from a position of gratitude you will soon reap the benefits of a team that is willing to go the extra mile for you. Don’t believe me? Try it. I’m confident you’ll be surprised what even the simplest gesture of gratitude can achieve.

Stress ~ Managing your Perception

The best advice I have ever received on managing the expectations leaders face from the people they lead and serve was from my dad. I watched as he spoke to our church for the first time over 14 years ago. He was laying out his vision and managing the expectations the people in the congregation would have of him. He said, “Very few things are an emergency. Your son crashing his car is not an emergency. Your son being critically injured in an accident is.” Luckily (or unluckily if you don’t consider experience a wisdom building tool) for my dad he had a lot of experience with his sons crashing his cars.

Often our stress is contingent on what we classify as an emergency. Whether we are leading our family, managing our personal schedule or people, the things that come up can either be accompanied by stress or calmness by simply prioritizing what an emergency is. What are you letting become emergencies in your life? The book of Matthew in chapter six addresses the idea of stress using the life of birds as an example. The example shows that birds never worry about the future because God has given them everything they need. After painting this picture of provision, Jesus then asks the question, “Are you not much more valuable then they (the birds)?” Take a look at what you are allowing into your schedules. What is causing you undo stress? Does it really need to happen right now? Does it need to happen at all? Not sure? What are the consequences of it not happening as scheduled? Perhaps the things that are taking up extra space aren’t necessary, or at least not needed in the timeframe you’ve prioritized them. Whether it’s a customer, family member, friend, your own wants or needs, even your inability to say no, most things are either not necessary or an emergency.

When you feel in control you won’t feel stressed. Stress comes when you’re focusing on too many things, wanting/needing more than you should and/or not allowing what really matters to be your focus. Family, friends, work, fun, and community are all important. Don’t let other unnecessary things become your priority or you will soon feel stressed, or at worst, futile. Guard your time, desires and schedule so you can focus on the things that matter. When you manage your schedule well, you’ll have time when actual emergencies occur (emergencies will always cause some stress). When you don’t, your schedule will be full of “emergencies” and stress. When that happens you won’t have time for the things that matter most to you and your family.

Family, Business and Leading Well

Last night I was honored to be the guest of a show I host. Odd. No I didn’t book myself, it was the idea of our committee but it was an honor to have been asked. I sat in the On Tapproverbial hot seat and answered questions about past guests, my leadership roles, advice or thoughts I’ve learnt from both and the things that make me happy. The process of being the person that had to answer these questions caused me to reflect on the past 8 years of my career. As I sat in the seat my wife was right there in the front. She came to watch and support me. Her support has been a common thread throughout the past 14 years of marriage, but specifically now as we grew my career.

One of the people interviewing me happened to be the first person I interviewed with when trying to break into the business community in my city. Oddly this interview was 8 years to the day of that interview. The past 8 years have had tremendous ups and downs as one would expect. It’s been filled with many sacrifices as well as rewards. All of which were shared by my wife and family. With degrees that would probably allow me to make less annually than they cost to get and very little experience I had to talk/sell my way into any position I tried for. I remember leaving a construction site in ripped jeans and a gross t-shirt to go to an interview for my first white collar job. While driving I changed into the only suit I had (my wedding tux) and cleaned up as best I could. After doing a business plan (which I had never done before) and doing several interviews I broke my way into the business world. I went from construction site super to a Business Development Manager overnight. That was 8 years ago.

Since then I have spent many of my evenings and weekends at networking events, business gala’s, and meetings in an attempt to build my network. Leaders often lead busy lives. When I first started my journey in the white collar world my wife and I had one son. He was little and fairly easy to manage. It was perfect timing for me to be really busy outside of our house. It was a sacrifice for my family but it worked well and we saw the end goal. As my son grew older, and we had another boy eventually the late night events and early morning board meetings started taking a strain on those I cared for most. I remember thinking that I was doing all of this work to take care of my family, “so why on that same token am I never around to spend time with them?” I decided to step down from some of my commitments to focus on my family. Luckily for me the years I had spent networking had built a strong base of relationships. The experience had also allowed me to plug into enough things/committees/boards to know which ones were worth staying in. Anything that wasn’t was cut from my commitments. Leaders have to make decisions. The best decisions are the ones that have great long term outcomes. Over the past 8 years my wife and I have made decisions that we had hoped would provide for our family. Some days it was very hard and we often found ourselves exhausted.

Looking back over the past 8 years a few things are evident. I would not be where I am today without the support of my wife. Any success I have had personally is in many ways more a reflection of my wife’s love and grace than it is of my leadership ability. The old saying behind every good man is a great woman is very true in my case. The other thing I’m very aware of is the only way to lead well is by serving the needs of the ones you work with, live with and love. The book of Matthew says in chapter ten that “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.” Lead well in all ventures of your life if you want long term success. You can lead a great business and leave your family behind. You can also have a great family life and have your business fall to pieces. Leadership is making the decisions to influence all aspects of your life positively.

Success?

successThe world has approximately 7.3 billion people living in it. On average there are approximately 300,000 births and 151,000 deaths a day. Our world has a lot of people on it, and more are entering it every day. With so many people, cultures, religions, beliefs and perspectives success means many things to many people. So what is success? Is it found at the end of a journey? Is it situational? Is it measured by money? Is it longevity? Is success happiness or is happiness a by-product of success?

With so many people and perspectives success is subjective. Success also has degrees to which it can be applied. Completing your degree is a success, but it doesn’t mean your life will be successful. You can be at the top of your class yet live a life of very little perceived success. Scoring a goal in hockey is a success, but it doesn’t mean you win the game. Though the game might have some successes, the result can be unsuccessful. Equating success to reaching milestones is equivalent to celebrating a victory when your team is ahead after the first of three periods. We can win battles but be unsuccessful in the war. So the question remains, what is success?

I read an article where Fred Smith defined success as something that can “never be measured by money. When people say to me, ‘That man’s worth ten million dollars,’ that tells me he’s wealthy, but it doesn’t prove he’s successful. In some cases, it could mean the opposite. For instance, if Mother Teresa, whom I consider a tremendous success, confessed she was hoarding a million dollars, I’d think she was a hypocrite. Money would prove her a fraud, not a success. The measurement of success is simply the ratio of talents used to talents received. What you are doing with what you’ve got, plus who you are becoming.”

Success does not always have the same look or results but it’s equation is always the same. Success is found in the space where your core values line up with your mission. If your core values are focused on people and relationships yet your mission is weighted towards a bottom line you will not find success. Use what you have and make your mission something you believe in. Feel free to strive for achievements of social status, completing a goal,  or reaching an objective but don’t kid yourself by believing you will feel successful or happy because of it. As a Christian man, I believe success is something that achieves infinite, eternal value in this life and in the life of generations to come. It’s when my core values match my mission and leave a positive impact on this earth and it’s 7.3 billion people. Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” What value will you leave behind? How do people feel when they are around you? How will your legacy look with your family, your job, even your life? That is, or isn’t your success.

So the next question is where does happiness fit into success? Share your thoughts.

A Wild Goose named Work Life Balance

disbalance (high resolution 3D image)Work life balance has become a creed of sorts the last 10 years. It’s a buzz word. This over used phrase is usually nothing more than a wild goose chase. It’s an impossible ideal that usually leaves you feeling guilty when you haven’t achieved it.

As a leader in business, husband, father of two young sons, friend and volunteer I have only recently realized the toll these commitments take. Being active in so many different roles I often find myself exhausted and socially tapped. I sometimes lay in bed (trying to fall asleep) feeling remorse for whatever short comings I had that day as a dad or a boss. I recognize that the roles I have assumed have changed both my lifestyle and my relationships. I don’t have the energy to hang out with friends on evenings I have free. I don’t have many free evenings. Friends that I used to see regularly now resort to annual calendar events. That said, I still consider myself to have a “balanced life”. Sounds like it doesn’t it?

Catch phrases and fresh business motto’s are usually smoke and mirrors. “Work life balance” assumes everything needs to be equally weighted, at all times, in order for you to be successful in all aspects of life. If it’s not the scale tips. Experience has shown this to be impossible for me. Our lives are not perfectly compartmentalized. Every aspect of our life affects the other. If you’re not getting enough sleep your days are affected. If your children are sick your schedule can be affected. If an employee is having a health issue, their work is affected. Balance is a great premise, but often completely impractical and impossible to practice.

Instead of trying to find clever ways to chase an impossible buzz state – a life in which you have control over the amount of time and energy you give to work and the energy and time left for your personal life – why not eliminate this concept entirely? It isn’t balance you desire, it is spending time in roles most important to you. When I first started in business I was in a handful of committees, on 3 boards and attended as many networking events as possible (usually in the evening). We had recently had our first child and made the decision as a couple that I would invest as much time as I could building my network in our city. It wasn’t a balancing act, it was a sacrifice that we hoped would help my career be successful. When our second son was born I found myself pulled in so many directions that I was left feeling exhausted and frustrated. I called my Aunt for some advice. As always she encouraged me and had a lot of great advice. One thing however stuck with me. She said, “Remember Evan, Whenever you say yes to something you are saying no to something else.”

I realized very quickly that the balance I was looking for had less to do with equally weighting my commitments than it did choosing my priorities. As a leader you will have several priorities and like many leadership decisions the hard part is ranking these priorities. As busy leaders our priorities will conflict on occasion but knowing what is the most important to you will help you say yes to the right things at the right times. Remember when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else (needed rest, family time, alone time, personal development etc.). Occasionally you will have to work over the weekend and evenings. Occasionally you’ll want to leave the office to see your child’s school recital, game or attend a doctor’s appointment. It isn’t balance we desire, it is spending time in roles most important to us.

In the book of Matthew in the Bible, Jesus explains how we can’t serve two masters. Balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. It requires more than one thing to balance. It’s very easy to be so devoted to one part of your life that the others get ignored or neglected. And it’s this exact cycle that has us chasing a wild goose named Balance. Choose what’s important to you understanding that when you choose that, you are also choosing what’s not. When you have your priorities set, work hard at maintaining them, and make decisions based on those priorities you will find yourself focused, happier and in control. Or you’ve caught a wild goose named “work life balance.”

Mark Driscoll ~ The Real Shame and Disgrace

There are always two sides to every story. Unfortunately both sides of this one are sad. Leaders screw up. Leaders struggle. I’ve mentioned it before but I believe that successful leaders have something innate inside of them that not only helps them, but makes it impossible for them not to lead. There’s something in them that makes them want to lead. Whether it’s leading people into a philosophical idea, or taking them somewhere, leaders tend to be the people that are leading the charge. The “thing” that enables, almost forces leaders to lead is a very powerful thing. It can be used for great things but only if the leader is mature, accountable and ready to serve the people they are leading.

Mark Driscoll has been all over the news the last few months. I believe what started this issue was the “thing” inside of Mark. He was much younger, and I hope much less mature than he is now. His passion to steer people into what he thought was right was manifested in some internet trolling (and other things). It was bullying and wrong. I believe the very thing that allowed him to lead a large and successful church is also the thing that drove him to internet sites. He is/was deeply passionate about what he believes. Unfortunately he did not share and lead people in his passion properly. He acted immaturely, selfishly and was not serving his people.

Leaders have a platform, and those platforms can often lead to a sense of pride. There are other issues in the Mark Driscoll “Watergate”, but I believe pride is the root of his issues. I’m not saying he’s arrogant. I’m saying he is a passionate leader, and is passionate about what he believes. Passion can slip into pride. For leaders this often results into a sense of “I’m right, you’re wrong.” I believe Mark had this slip. He thought his passion was right and that he was doing the right thing, as a leader, at the time. He wasn’t.

Leaders fail. It’s not just leaders inside the church that do. Leaders outside the church do every day as well. There are pressures, stresses and temptations that are enhanced when you lead. But this blog isn’t about leaders, it’s about us.

People are used to the sad reality of fallen expectations. We are all to familiar with being let down by someone we admire. We are used to watching leaders collapse under the expansive resources and temptations they have at their fingertips. When these situations happen most people usually see it/hear about it and move on. They do this because to them it’s one person they can’t relate to that has failed. The majority of the people that have heard about the leaders failures and transgressions are not affected by them. How many people are still talking about Bernie Madoff? We cope with these failures differently when it doesn’t affect us. I mean really, how many people do you know are actually going to have their lives affected in any way by Mark? We can’t relate to it because there is nothing linking us to it. And this is what scares me.

My sister reminded me that the whole world is watching how WE (Christian’s) treat the one person (and their kids – don’t even get me started) that screwed up.. The world might know that Mark screwed up but to most of them it wasn’t something that really resonated with them. It probably didn’t even make the water cooler conversations at most offices.  No one was murdered. No family’s lost their homes. It’s a moral issue that has not affected most people’s daily lives. These same people do however recognize the things inside of them that aren’t accepted by Christians. They might think about the things we don’t accept regularly but they know what Christians don’t accept or believe is right. And that’s what sad. These people know that we don’t agree with some of their choices or lifestyles. They know that we don’t agree with what Mark did. And while they know this they are watching us, and how we treat our wounded. What they are watching is a shame. One of our own (not that we are to love our own more than others but it’s human nature and people relate to that idea – I.E. my kids are more important than kids I don’t personally know). What they are watching is confirming their hesitation to even try and get to know God or us. If we can treat one of our leaders so hatefully in a time they need love and support the most, why would they expose their shortcomings to us? Why would they ever humble themselves and form a relationship with a group of people that are chomping on the bit to crucify them as soon as they fail. Who would anyone be themselves with us knowing that we are not afraid to throw stones at them and their sins. “ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD.”

We are better when we are humble, leaders and followers alike. Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house. We all live in glass houses, no one’s perfect. Love, support and encourage. That’s how you change the world. #lovewins

Leading with Gratitude ~ Avoid the pitfalls of Unthankfulness

In Canada the month of October brings with it several things. The leaves are changing and by the end of the month usually gone. The weather is turning as we begin the months of cold only crazy people like. However it also brings us Thanksgiving. For most it’s a time to overeat, spend time with the people we love and enjoy some time of thankfulness.

As I reflected a little bit this Thanksgiving weekend I recognized quickly that I had many things to be thankful for; a loving spouse, growing and energetic kids, a career, shelter, faith and good health. Indeed these are worthy things to be thankful for but is merely reflecting once a year really the best way to ensure that I can continue to enjoy the things I’m thankful for today? I looked up synonyms for Thankfulness and one of those synonyms is “indebted”. It doesn’t take long to look at the history of some major business to see where a lack of thankfulness/indebtedness was the beginning of a long a painful journey for them. Some survived after major overhauls (McDonald’s in the 2000’s switching up their products to be more what their customers wanted). Others like Research in Motion are barely holding on.

RIM’s focus was on business customers as they developed a product that serviced the needs of an everyday business person. It wasn’t fancy but it allowed unprecedented connection for their customers. With a Blackberry business people had the “freedom” to do business from anywhere at any time. This simple idea exploded and RIM was the phone for business. It wasn’t long before RIM started taking their customers for granted. They stopped focusing on their customers needs (email and phone calls) and focused on how big RIM could grow. Instead of innovations focused on their customers needs, they began focusing on innovations their competition were using. They started developing phones that were a highbred of iPhones and Blackberry’s. These highbreds were terrible at impersonating both of the products it was trying to. Eventually RIM investors and customers abandoned ship in favor of products that serviced their needs, and actually worked. A strategic mistake that leadership of fast-growing corporations make is taking the customer for granted. Blinded by growth, leadership comes to believe that whatever products corporations produce are unique and indispensable, so their customers will always be there to buy them. After years of exponential growth (at one time out performing Apple) RIM was is now at a crossroads.

Panos Mourdoukoutas says, “While this mind-set (taking the customer for granted) may have worked in the old days when corporations were at the center of the economic universe, it doesn’t apply in today’s world, where customers occupy that position. With a few exceptions, products are neither unique nor indispensable, as competition catches up quickly with fast growing corporations. This means that customers will search elsewhere for value, when corporations fail to meet their expectations or they become greedy.”

It’s great that we can spend a weekend looking at what we have and being Thankful. I would suggest however that if you want to continue to see great things happen in your life, family and business Thankfulness needs to be keystone in your everyday life. When your staff feel appreciated their work will reflect that gratitude. When you pay attention to your customers and their needs you will keep them. When you don’t take relationships for granted they flourish. Be thankful. Your family, customers and friends will feel it. When you’re thankful it’s impossible to take things for granted. When that happens you find success.