Are You a Confident Leader?

In the months leading up to the year 2020, there was no shortage of social media posts, articles, sermons, and more talking about a “2020 Vision.” For many pastors, it was a dream topic to build a sermon series around – and many did.

A sampling of sermon topics in January 2020 would have shown an intentional look forward into a future of a year or two, or maybe even five years or more.

But when March 2020 rolled around, and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic began to sink in, the lofty visions of 2020 evaporated. Church leaders around the country and the world began to shrink their vision from the lofty goals of just a few months earlier to, “What are we going to do this weekend?”

Fifteen months later, though that immediacy has lessened somewhat, only to be replaced with even more troubling questions like these:

  • How long is this pandemic going to last?
  • Will we be able to return to normal?
  • What if normal never returns?

In just a few weeks, future thoughts became present realties, and many leaders find themselves stuck there today.

Even when treading water in reality, leaders can get mired in a flood of information and answers about what to do next.

The world around us is evolving at dizzying speed. Tomorrow refuses to cooperate with our best-laid plans—the future routinely pulls the rug from underneath us.

Although people yearn for a return to “normal,” or try to predict the “new normal,” there is no such thing as normal. There is only change. Never-ending, constant change. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but constant nonetheless.

Answers to vexing problems are no longer a scarce commodity, and knowledge has never been cheaper. By the time we’ve figured out the facts – by the time Google, Alexa, or Siri can spit out the answer – the world has moved on.

Obviously, answers aren’t irrelevant. You must know some answers before you can begin asking the right questions. But the answers simply serve as a launch pad to discovery. They’re the beginning, not the end.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One by Dan Reiland

You’re a good leader, but leadership is challenging and can rattle your confidence. Setbacks, challenges, and problems can cause you to second-guess yourself, doubt, or pull back. Your confidence may be stretched thin, but there is a way to strengthen it.

In Confident Leader!, Dan Reiland draws from his 39 years of leadership experience to share a practical, workable, and transformational process that results in your ability to become a more self-assured leader and achieve maximum success. Building unshakable confidence will positively impact your personal work performance, your belief in self, your support and approval from others, and your trust and reliance on God.

In this book you will learn how to:

  • Make deep foundational decisions about your core identity
  • Implement practical steps for deliberate character development
  • Incorporate daily, practical disciplines that transform your leadership ability

Together these essentials present a step-by-step plan to greater confidence, increased influence, less uncertainty, and more significant accomplishments. Learn how to become the most confident version of yourself today.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Leadership expert John Maxwell says that, in over fifty years of developing leaders, he has learned that very few leaders are naturally confident, and even less are consistently confident.

Author Dan Reiland believes that every leader struggles with confidence at some level.

On the other side of that struggle is cockiness at the worst, or over-confidence at best. Finding the right balance of confidence on this continuum is tricky, but essential in today’s climate.

The majority of leaders do not maintain a consistent quality of confidence. Their confidence goes up and down too easily, impacted by a wide variety of factors, such as personal performance, size of church, belief in self, support from others, approval from others, mistakes made, and trust and reliance on God.

Dan Reiland

There is a process, a road map, by which you can develop a more consistent and authentic confidence that will serve you as a leader.

Deep Foundational Decisions – There are specific decisions you can make that establish stability and certainty in knowing who you are and how you were designed to lead at your best. These five decisions set the foundation of your confidence.

  • Ownership – Take charge of your leadership confidence
  • Belief – Overcome the great confidence breakers
  • Identity – Value first who you are, then what you can do
  • Attentiveness – Hear and heed God’s voice
  • Soul – Embrace five core qualities of confident leaders

Deliberate Character Development – Your character is at the core of your confidence. Here are the five specific areas of your character that will strengthen your confidence.

  • Consistency – Lead yourself well before leading others
  • Authority – Accept it, develop it, and use it wisely
  • Adaptability – Look for ways to become the best version of you
  • Improvement – Aim for better, not bigger
  • Resilience – Handle pressure well and bounce back

Daily Practice Disciplines – There is a direct connection between competence and confidence. However, you can be competent, yet not confident. And you can be confident, yet not competent. Both are needed together. Here are five essentials that you will need to become and effective leader and increase your confidence.

  • Direction – Know where you are going and lead others
  • Focus – Stick to the game plan
  • Heart – Care genuinely about those you lead
  • Communication – Live and convey and optimistic message
  • Mentoring – Develop other leaders intentionally

Dan Reiland, Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One

A NEXT STEP

Select a single idea from each of the three areas listed above, one that you would like to improve on. In other words, your greatest area of challenge in each of the three areas.

Using a chart tablet, write the idea across the top of the page. 

Viewing this idea as your destination on a journey, imagine you are moving toward it but encounter roadblocks on your journey. These represent the primary obstacles to completing your journey.

Identify at least three roadblocks you are facing on your journey to obtaining the idea at the top of the chart tablet. Use the following questions to help you identify the roadblock:

  1. What do the roadblocks look like?
  2. Who put them there, or keeps them there?
  3. What does the road ahead look like, with the roadblock gone?

Develop a plan to dismantle the obstacles. When you do, you will have cleared the way to complete your journey to achieving the idea.

Repeat this with the other two ideas.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

The Hard Work of NOT Focusing On “What’s Next”

From Seth Godin:

What do you want to be doing 100 days from now?

What change do you seek to be making? With which skills? Surrounded by which people?

For that to happen, day 99 will need to different from today.

And so will day 98.

In fact, so will tomorrow.

If we keep focusing on ‘what’s next’ we might never get around to doing the work we need to do to get us to day 100.


A periodic visit to the 100 Acre Wood. Here’s the backstory.

Yes, Leaders are Readers!


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.


At this stage of my life, I’ve gone way beyond book nerd.

What started as a boyhood practice grew into an adult passion, and is now a deliberate, daily practice.

The turning point came when I entered seminary – a friend who was in his last year of a doctoral program told me I needed to learn how to read.

I thought that I had that one pretty much covered; after all, I had been reading since before first grade.

I was wrong; he was right.

That book recommendation, and for decades now my go-to book on helping someone deepen their love of reading used to be “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer Adler. It’s still a great book – but now I have a new recommendation:

Read to Lead, by Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski.

With this book, Jesse and I have attempted to make the case that reading – specifically book reading – is the simplest and one of the most important habits you can develop, especially if your goal is to expand your audience and boost your career.

Jeff brown

It’s the common habit shared by many successful people throughout history. It’s responsible for unlocking limitless creativity and influence. It’s known to reduce stress, improve decision-making skills, and make you a better leader. What is it? Reading. And it’s the single best thing you can do to improve yourself professionally.

Reading more and better books creates opportunities for you to learn new skills, rise above your competition, and build a successful career. In Read to Lead you’ll learn

– Why you need to read like your career depends on it

– The five science-backed reasons reading will help you build your career

– How to absorb a book into your bloodstream

– A technique that can double (or triple!) your reading speed

– Tips on creating a lifetime reading habit

– And more!

If you want to lead a more satisfied life, have more intelligent conversations, and broaden your mind, you need to read to lead!


Reading the Table of Contents (itself one of the simplest but most overlooked starting place in reading a book) reveals the breadth and depth of advice and encouragement found in Read to Lead:

Introduction: Why Read a Book about Reading Books

Part 1 Why You Need to Read Books

  1. Why You Need to Read a Book Like Your Career Depends On It
  2. Eight Research-Backed Reasons Why Readers Do Better in Their Careers
  3. The Slow Death of Readers: Three Big Reasons Why People Are Reading Less
  4. The Eight Biggest Reading Excuses Holding You Back

Part 2 The Books You Need to Read

  1. Six Ways to Know What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Read
  2. Too Busy Not to Read: Nine Ways to Free Up More Time to Read
  3. How to Build Your Reading Plan

Part 3 The Smarter Way to Read Books

  1. How to Absorb a Book Into Your Bloodstream
  2. Double (or Triple) Your Reading Speed in Minutes
  3. How to “Read” a 220-Page Book in One Hour
  4. How to Create an Unchangeable Reading Habit
  5. The Key to (Nearly) Mastering Anything
  6. Fifteen Tips on How to Read Smarter
  7. Why You Should Join (or Start) a Book Club

Conclusion: Growing as a Reader and Leader

Pick any single chapter and you will increase your reading skill by the end of that chapter.

Read the book through, take its admonitions to heart, and you will change the trajectory of your life.

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. I can think of no better start to deepening your love of reading than with “Read to Lead.

A Successful End (to Whatever You’re Doing) Starts by Beginning with Everything in Its Place

Part of a recurring series on 27gen: Chef Stories. Stories from the past, present, and future in my personal experience in various parts of the culinary world. This particular story is from a few years ago, when my son was entering his senior year at Johnson & Wales University in pursuit of a degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. It’s the second part of a longer post begun last week.


In the last post, we saw “Poetry in Motion” by looking at efficiency. Today, it’s all about a successful end to whatever you’re doingby starting with everything in its place.

In the culinary world, it’s called “mis en place.”

French for “put in place”, this is what allows all the actions described yesterday to take place. It is the hours of work that start before the first meal is fired: washing, cutting, peeling, pre-cooking, weighing, portioning, and positioning of all the ingredients that go into the wonderful final product.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

Taken broadly, it is the slow simmering of the soups for the night; the baking and preparation of individual items that comprise the wonderful complexity of desserts. It even goes to the preparation of the wood fires that will later cook the wonderful meats that anchor the meal.

Mise en place doesn’t get any attention in the final review, but you wouldn’t have anything without it. It’s all those things that aren’t noticed till they’re not there. It’s the sauté chef reaching in the cooler knowing that he has all the right ingredients to prepare the dish just called out. It’s the pastry chef preparing 3 different kinds of ice cream for the desserts on the menu. It’s the fry chef making sure the oil is fresh and hot, ready for use. It’s the salad chef having everything ready to assemble a variety of salads from the same few ingredients, differing in presentation and dressing.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

It’s the dishwasher, knowing if he doesn’t get the dirty pans out and clean ones back, the whole kitchen grinds to a halt.

Mise en place is all about the knowing everything that is required to produce the finished meal, and making sure all the ingredients are ready to use when needed. It’s about thinking through things before they happen, so that when they happen, you’re one step ahead.

It’s all about being prepared.

Our evening at Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen was delightful on so many levels. The front of house staff were gracious in working with me to make sure we could have a front row seat to all the action; the wait staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive; the chefs prepared wonderful food while displaying their skills to an audience.

But it was more than just a meal – it was a demonstration of excellence from top to bottom, one that any organization could learn from.

Whatever your end product is – a worship experience, sermon, leadership class, playtime with kids, etc.

…it all starts with making sure you have everything in its place before beginning.

How to Practice Improv Leadership to Become a Better Leader

It’s easy to talk about enhancing performance, improving efficiency and being a more influential leader. So why don’t we do it more?

Maybe it is because leadership books often feel stale. It’s often a same-idea, different-author experience. Leadership is a set of abilities, and it can be learned and improved on a regular basis. But we have to seek that improvement.

Does boredom keep you from scheduling time on a regular basis to grow your leadership skills?

THE QUICK SUMMARY

Anyone who’s learned the basics of an instrument can follow a chord chart or play from sheet music, but only musicians who have carefully developed their talent can improvise. Instead of being limited to the notes on the page, great improvisers draw on the theory and techniques they’ve learned in the past to create something original in the present.

The same is true of great leaders. Anyone can read a few books and apply the lessons, but only the best leaders can bring out the best in any person, in any situation. These improvisational leaders understand the key principles of connecting, coaching, and communicating and use these ideas to build strong teams.

In Improv Leadership, Stan L. Endicott and David A. Miller share five leadership competencies which allow IMPROV leaders to initiate powerful conversations, create memorable moments, and craft personal coaching strategies that help people grow. Improv Leadership cultivates teams of people who love their work (and each other), who perform at a high level, and who stop the disruptive carousel of staff turnover.

Stan L. Endicott and David A. Miller have worked together to identify the overarching competencies of effective leadership and develop concrete tools to help every reader become a leader who understands how to grow teams one moment and one relationship at a time. The five competencies of IMPROV Leadership are not rigid sequential steps, nor do they apply only to specific industries or fields. Instead, this book will meet the felt need for leadership growth with “evergreen” principles that can be successfully introduced into any situation.

You can’t predict every challenge you’ll face. There’s no playbook that covers every decision. But with practice in Improv Leadership you can lead well in every situation.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

According to authors Stan Endicott and David Miller, improv is not making something up on the spot. Improv is bringing together many basic, well-known elements to form a complex whole that fits with the moment.

Your first thought when you hear “improv” may be in terms of music, but did you ever think that everyone improvises hundreds of times a day? It is called language.

The simplest, most routine sentence we utter rests on thousands of hours of experience learning words, grammar, and syntax. It comes by a little instruction and a lot of trial and error.

As a leader, your words have power with others. We have more responsibility for what happens and does not happen as a result of what we say.

No matter what problem you might encounter in your organization, you have a better chance of navigating it successfully with IMPOV leadership.

Stan Endicott and David Miller

The five leadership competencies of IMPROV leadership are:

Story Mining – Thoughtfully uncovering a person’s story and letting it shape the way you lead them. It is not about making people better. It is about making people known.

Precision Praising – Carefully crafting praise to inspire, motivate and even course-correct your team. It refers to the right words of affirmation given to the right person at the right place and time.

Metaphor Cementing – Using concrete illustrations to “cement” an idea in someone’s mind.

Lobbing Forward – Creatively challenging people to look beyond today to what might be in the future.

Going North – Using indirect influence to redirect a person’s perspective.

Stan Endicott and David Miller, with Cory Hartman, Improv Leadership

A NEXT STEP

Use the following ideas and exercises by the authors to begin practicing the five leadership competencies of IMPROV leadership.

Story Mining

Answer the following for each person who reports to you directly.

  1. What are your team member’s children’s names? Grandchildren’s? (For bonus points, how old are they, or what grade are they in?)
  2. Where and how did your team member meet his/her spouse?
  3. Where did your team member grow up? How often do they go back there?
  4. Where else has your team member lived that had a significant impact on their life story?
  5. What is your team member’s most prized possession?
  6. What (outside of work) does your team member enjoy doing?
  7. What is your team member’s idea of a great vacation?

How did you do?

Precision Praising

Think about a time when someone praised you such that it changed the course of your story. With the help of the tool below, think about what was going on that made that moment of pride impactive, and look for clues of how you can create a similar moment for the people on your team.

  1. What precisely were you praised for? What were the details and specifics of the praise?
  2. How well did the person know you at the time? What was the scope and depth of your relationship with the person who praised you?
  3. Was there something unique about the timing of the praise? If so, what?
  4. Was there something special about the context or location of the praise? If so, what?
  5. Did anyone else hear the praise? If so, how did the presence of others influence the dynamics of the praise?
  6. What was the immediate impact of the praise in your life?
  7. How often have you remembered that moment in your life? What has been the long-term impact?
  8. Do you think the person would be surprised that you are talking about their praise now? Why or why not?

Metaphor Cementing

The greatest communicators use metaphors as a painter uses a brush. If we as leaders want to touch our people with a message that they cannot misunderstand and cannot ignore, we must learn to use the tool too.

As you think through the metaphors you are going to use in your next meeting, presentation, or one-on-one with a team member, use these three guardrails to stay inside of and make the most of those opportunities.

  1. Stand on Common Ground – Use a metaphor that both you and your audience understand.
  2. Line Up Your Shot – Make sure you have your words just right.
  3. Don’t Paint a Picture; Build a Gallery – Use a variety of metaphors over time so as to work the same concept from different angles.

Lobbing Forward

Committing to practice Lobbing Forward initiates a change in the leader before there is a change in the people being led.

  1. Lobbing Forward requires a leader to be humble.
  2. An established pattern of Precision Praising sets up Lobbing Forward well.
  3. You have to know your people well.
  4. Lobbing Forward is more often done in private.
  5. Use tried-and-true word choices.
  6. You can Lob Forward with entire teams as well as individuals.

Going North

Here are five fundamentals for Going North:

  1. Reveal common ground.
  2. Surprise with a gift.
  3. Disrupt the setting.
  4. Teach using story.
  5. Create a shared experience. 

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Poetry in Motion: Efficiency Defined Through a Fine Dining Experience

Part of a recurring series on 27gen: Chef Stories. Stories from the past, present, and future in my personal experience in various parts of the culinary world. This particular story is from a few years ago, when my son was entering his senior year at Johnson & Wales University in pursuit of a degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management.


Recently my wife, youngest son, and I were treated to absolute poetry in motion. A group of trained professionals were executing their craft, each one knowing his specific responsibilities as well as supporting the rest of his team. Years of practice were evident in their graceful moves, focused intensity, and clarity of purpose. We had front row seats, and the show was excellent.

No, we weren’t watching a ballet or dance company, or an athletic event – we were eating dinner, celebrating a special occasion.

This was not just any restaurant, but Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, where the “open kitchen” concept reigns.

Roosters3

courtesy of Rooster’s Kitchen

The kitchen is right in the center of the restaurant, and we had reservations in the prime observation spot – the Chef’s Counter – where all the action was just a few feet away.

The food was excellent: fresh ingredients, prepared in such a way to bring out the natural flavors, served by a warm and friendly wait staff. But this isn’t about the food, as good as it was. It’s about two fundamentals of the restaurant business that can be applied to your organization: efficiency and mise en place. Today let’s look at efficiency; next time, mise en place.

Rooster’s doesn’t have a large kitchen, but it is designed to function with efficiency. The sauté station anchors one half of the center; this is where constant motion is an understatement. Sauté is where the chef is juggling eight or ten pans at a time, making flames, making things jump.

Around the corner at the rear of the kitchen is the namesake of the restaurant: a wood fired grill and oven. The chef here grills all the meat dishes called out, sending them to the front to be paired with side dishes – some from the saute’ station, others from the other half of the kitchen center – the salad, soup, and fry station. To call these dishes “sides” is an injustice – any one of them (we had five among the three of us) could stand alone as a signature dish.

The front area is grand central station: here the expediter calls out the orders as they come in, checks on orders in progress, and makes the final touches as they head to the guest. The final touch is important – it may be the finishing touch of sauce, or a garnish, or a quick wipe of an errant splatter on the plate.

The corners of the kitchen: pastry chef, preparing delicacies to finish out a wonder dinner; meat chef, taking larger cuts prepared on the grill and finishing them to order; and the support staff, taking out dirty pans and bringing in clean ones and bowls, plates, cups and saucers for the chefs to cook and plate food.

A picture doesn’t do this justice – you would have to have a video camera to catch all the movement involved above. But I want to drive home the point:

courtesy of Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy of Rooster’s Kitchen

It’s all about efficiency: no wasted movement.

Everyone in the kitchen knew what was going on, what their job was, and how they can support the rest of the team as needed. The pastry chef would slip around the sauté station, helping the chef plate items as they came off the stove. Once, she literally held out a plate to her back, out of sight, and the chef plated the dish, while she was moving another one with her other hand.

The sauté chef helped out on the grill; the expediter helped out on saute’; the pastry chef started an item on the grill when that chef had to step away for a moment.

That is more than efficiency – it’s the solid work of a team that knows individual and team roles, to the point that they are one.

Can you say the same about the teams in your organization?

Coming Next Week: Part 2, A Successful End Starts with the Beginning

The Courage of Vulnerability

In the months leading up to the year 2020, there was no shortage of social media posts, articles, sermons, and more talking about a “2020 Vision.” For many pastors, it was a dream topic to build a sermon series around – and many did.

A sampling of sermon topics in January 2020 would have shown an intentional look forward into a future of a year or two, or maybe even five years or more.

But when March 2020 rolled around, and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic began to sink in, the lofty visions of 2020 evaporated. Church leaders around the country and the world began to shrink their vision from the lofty goals of just a few months earlier to, “What are we going to do this weekend?”

Fifteen months later, though that immediacy has lessened somewhat, only to be replaced with even more troubling questions like these:

  • How long is this pandemic going to last?
  • Will we be able to return to normal?
  • What if normal never returns?

In just a few weeks, future thoughts became present realties, and many leaders find themselves stuck there today.

Even when treading water in reality, leaders can get mired in a flood of information and answers about what to do next.

The world around us is evolving at dizzying speed. Tomorrow refuses to cooperate with our best-laid plans—the future routinely pulls the rug from underneath us.

Although people yearn for a return to “normal,” or try to predict the “new normal,” there is no such thing as normal. There is only change. Never-ending, constant change. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but constant nonetheless.

Answers to vexing problems are no longer a scarce commodity, and knowledge has never been cheaper. By the time we’ve figured out the facts – by the time Google, Alexa, or Siri can spit out the answer – the world has moved on.

Obviously, answers aren’t irrelevant. You must know some answers before you can begin asking the right questions. But the answers simply serve as a launch pad to discovery. They’re the beginning, not the end.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Brené Brown PhD, LMSW, dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She writes: “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where “never enough” dominates and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena—whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, the creative process, or a difficult family conversation. Daring Greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Leaders find vulnerability often looks and feels like discomfort.

Addressing this topic, Seth Godin writes:

Leadership is scarce because so few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers. It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail. It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

According to author Brené Brown, in a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.

Brené Brown

The Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto

To the CEOs and the teachers. To the principals and the managers. To the politicians, community leaders, and decision makers:

We want to show up, we want tolerant and we want to inspire.

We are hardwired for connection, curiosity, and engagement.

We crave purpose, and we have a deep desire to contribute and create.

We want to take risks, embrace our vulnerabilities, and be courageous.

When learning and working are dehumanized – when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform – we disengage and turn away form the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas, and our passion.

What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us, and learn from us.

Feedback is a function of respect; when you don’t have honest conversations with us about our strengths and our opportunities for growth, we question our contributions and your commitment.

Above all else, we ask that you show up, let yourself be seen, and be courageous. Dare Greatly with us.

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

A NEXT STEP 

To visually summarize and simplify the most important insights about “courage” found in Brené Brown’s “Leadership Manifesto” above, gather your team and conduct the following exercise.

  1. Select the three to five most important insights about courage found in the Manifesto.
  2. Imagine you have to communicate these insights in the form of a billboard.
  3. Define the tagline, the call-to-action, and the image (a photo, illustration, or drawing) that communicate the essence of those insights.
  4. Think about appropriate colors and compositions.
  5. Choose the best technique to execute this (digital tools, drawing by hand, collage, etc.).
  6. Place the billboard where everybody can see it before and during a future idea-generating session.

This single visual recreation of “courage” will help you focus on generating solutions or new ideas.

The above exercise was adapted from 75 Tools for Creative Thinking, Booreiland


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

How to Lead with Gratitude

It’s easy to talk about enhancing performance, improving efficiency and being a more influential leader. So why don’t we do it more?

Maybe it is because leadership books often feel stale. It’s often a same-idea, different-author experience. Leadership is a set of abilities, and it can be learned and improved on a regular basis. But we have to seek that improvement.

Does boredom keep you from scheduling time on a regular basis to grow your leadership skills?

THE QUICK SUMMARYLeading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Workers want and need to know their work is appreciated. New research shows that gratitude boosts employee engagement, reduces turnover, and leads team members to express more gratitude to one another—strengthening team bonds. Studies have also shown that gratitude is beneficial for those expressing it and is one of the most powerful variables in predicting a person’s overall well-being—above money, health, and optimism. 

Despite these benefits, few executives effectively utilize this simple tool. In fact, new research reveals “people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anyplace else.” What accounts for the staggering chasm between awareness of gratitude’s benefits and the failure of so many leaders to do it—or do it well? Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton call this the gratitude gap. In Leading with Gratitude, they identify the widespread and pernicious myths about managing others that cause leaders to withhold thanks.

Gostick and Elton also introduce eight simple ways managers can show employees they are valued. They supplement their insights and advice with stories of how many of today’s most successful leaders successfully incorporated gratitude into their leadership styles.

Showing gratitude isn’t just about being nice, it’s about being smart – really smart – and it’s a skill that everyone can easily learn.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

For leaders wanting to retain great talent and better engage their people, the solution might be right under their noses. Showing gratitude to employees is the easiest, fastest, most inexpensive way to boost performance.

The best leaders positively engage with their teams consistently. But while practicing gratitude is easy, it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied tools of management. That’s a shame, because it is also one of the single most critical skills for managers to master if they want to enhance their team’s performance and develop their leadership credibility.

The impact of gratitude needs to start within you, radiate outward, and lift up everyone on your team.

Leading with gratitude is not only about giving credit where credit is due, it’s actually knowing where it is due.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Seeing: Ways leaders can ensure they’ll spot great work being done.

Solicit and Act on Input – This is not new, but few leaders do it. Even more rare is to see leaders follow through on suggestions. Every day workers will face challenges in their work, and each of these problems can spark ideas for improvements.

Assume Positive Intent – Positive intent coaching steps include: 1) Pick up the phone or go see the person if at all possible; 2) gather all the facts before making decisions; 3) take a forward-looking approach; 4) pay close attention to all communication to avoid passive-aggressive language and set a positive tone.

Walk in Their Shoes – One of the great enablers of authentic gratitude is developing empathy for others. The best way to be truly empathetic is to actually walk in their shoes.

Look for Small Wins – Every small step toward an organization’s goals and values is worthy of acknowledgement. This ongoing, cumulative effect of small outcomes can be significant.

Expressing: Ways leaders voice and show their thanks.

Give It Now, Give It Often, Don’t Be Afraid – By checking in with people and helping them see they’ve made appreciable progress each day, leaders can boost energy levels considerably.

Tailor to the Individual – Smart leaders use the knowledge of individual motivators to tailor expressions of gratitude to each team member.

Reinforce Core Values – Expressions of gratitude, when connected to actions that are in line with the company or team core values, offer powerful opportunities to communicate why these grand ideals are so important.

Make It Peer-to-Peer – When employees are grateful to each other, they affirm positive concepts typically valued in their colleagues, such as trustworthiness, dependability, and talent.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results

A NEXT STEP 

Use the following ideas from authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton in each of the eight areas as a springboard for increasing how you lead your team with gratitude. Review the list below and select three of the axioms to push toward implementation. For each of the three, answer these questions: 

  • What difference could implementing this idea make this week? Conceive it!
  • What is one action or activity currently missing but required for success? Create it! 
  • What will be an indication of success in this effort, as measured by the impact on those around me? Celebrate it!
  • When will I review the results and select another axiom? Calendar it!

Solicit and Act on Input

  • Avoid the over-ask – Asking for ideas out of your team’s purview or asking too many questions at once.
  • Ensure specificity fits – Asking the right question of the right people in the right way.
  • If ideas aren’t viable, openly discuss why.

Assume Positive Intent

  • Creativity requires trust.
  • Use any mistakes as a chance to teach rather than an opportunity to punish.
  • Be aware of factors beyond your team’s control.

Walk in Their Shoes

  • Take time to ask your team about difficulties they may be encountering.
  • Coach yourself to regularly ask your team about how they’re approaching their work and if they could share recent accomplishments.
  • Radical candor has to come with deep empathy and a desire to help others.

Look for Small Wins

  • Notice and express appreciation for small-scale efforts as much as major achievements.
  • Identify top performers and let them know the difference they are making.
  • Encourage team members to give shout-outs to each other.

Give It Now, Give It Often, Don’t Be Afraid

  • Mark important contributions through day-to-day recognition.
  • Positive reinforcement triggers reward signals in the brain, reinforcing the action and making it more likely to be repeated.
  • Frequent gratitude gives team members perspective that any setbacks aren’t the end of the world.

Tailor to the Individual

  • Is the achievement a step toward living your values?
  • Is the achievement a one-time, larger step that reinforces your values?
  • Is the achievement an ongoing, above-and-beyond demonstration of your values in action?

Reinforce Core Values

  • Team members want to know 1) who you profess to be (your brand) and 2) do you live up to what you profess (your culture).
  • Help your team understand common values-driven conflicts and provide ways to deal with them.
  • Help your team understand and respect the values, even if they may not completely agree with them.

Make It Peer-to-Peer

  • In the best teams, employees feel free to speak up, share ideas, and know they can ask others for help.
  • Peer recognition can help build bonds outside of immediate teams, break down silos, and help workers in different locations feel connected to one another.
  • Online systems to facilitate peer-to-peer gratitude.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

August 9 is birthdate of my father, who was born in 1927.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lined the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful my father instilled in me.

Monday 8/9 will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book excerpts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent conversation with a teammate, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about a specific topic that helped him work with a client. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love (and practice) the 4 different levels of reading as espoused by Mortimer Adler in his great book, How to Read a Book, but I really like to latch onto a topic and practice Syntopical Reading. Also known as comparative reading, it is where many books are read, and placed in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve.

For many years, an ongoing topic of syntopical reading has been about Walt Disney and the “kingdom” he founded. My current Disney library is over 430 books – and I’m still actively researching the subject, and discovering new authors and books regularly. Here’s a few of my latest acquisitions:

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In addition to the pure enjoyment of reading on the subject, these books provide a constant reference for illustrations when I’m writing about Guest Experience.

Speaking of books, I have begun an office renovation project that required the removal of over 2,000 books before renovations could began. That’s a future post or two, for sure!

In addition to Disney syntopical reading, I’ve always got small threads of other, diverse, syntopical reading going on, often spurred by a library book or two I’ve checked out. For example, the history and development of the railroads during the mid 1850’s through the turn of the century are a recent, and fascinating thread. Did you know that Los Angles probably owes its existence (or at least prominence) to a long, bitter feud between two railroad tycoons? Or that the transcontinental railroads were the first corporate behemoths? Or that in an effort to capture repeat customers traveling from the outlying towns and villages (soon to be suburbs) to their offices in the city, the full fare was “commuted” or discounted, and the “commuter” in name, at least – was born.

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Sadly, a long-running syntopical project, SUMS Remix, came to a close earlier this year. You can read about it here.

Even with that big change in my reading habit, there’s always a book at hand!

There’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook posts), preparation for Guest Experience and First Place Hospitality development and consultations, other internal Auxano writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading – a nightly occurrence. Currently a few topics I’m reading for pleasure include the story behind the Winnie-the-Pooh books (including exploring the real world forest that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood); several newly-published leadership books; a few volumes on the differing views of patriotism; designing and curating a home library (related to the office renovation noted above); and of course, there’s always some Disney history in the mix!

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station, I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest experiences. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?