The Right Culture

My brother Aaron was a Peace Corps volunteer living in a Bulgarian village so remote that one of the main forms of transportation were horse-drawn wagons. He tells a great story about how when he first arrived, most of the villagers had never met an American and were convinced he was a spy. In fact, it took him his entire first year to gain their trust to see he was not a spy, but rather someone who was volunteering to assist their community. Was he there during the height of the Cold War? Nope … [Read more...]

The Report Card Syndrome

Take a moment and reflect: List your three biggest weaknesses. What are you doing to fix them? As you read this, how do you feel about those weaknesses? Chances are, you may have spent a good deal of your life frustrated by trying to overcome something that just wasn’t natural. What if I told you the best leaders don’t bother trying to fix their biggest weaknesses. Unfortunately most of us have been trained to focus on our weaknesses from a very early age. Consider if your son or daughter … [Read more...]

Who is your Morgan Freeman?

Jennifer is a high-level executive at a large company who tried unsuccessfully for much of her adult life to quit smoking, blaming her failures on a lack of self-discipline. Smoking took an obvious toll on her health and productivity at work, resulting in decreased endurance and more sick days than her peers. A few years ago when Jennifer became pregnant, she was able to quit immediately and didn’t touch a cigarette until the day her child was born, when she began smoking again. The same cycle … [Read more...]

Picture Your Gold Medal

In keeping with the Olympic spirit of the upcoming winter games in Sochi, we’ll start with a story: Six months before the summer Olympics in Sydney, say Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their Harvard Business Review article, "The Making of a Corporate Athlete," diver Laura Wilkinson broke three toes on her right foot while training. Unable to go into the water because of her cast, she instead spent hours a day on the diving platform visualizing each of her dives. With only a few weeks to actually … [Read more...]

Becoming a Clutch Leader

Your basketball team is down by 1 with 5 seconds to go. Are you the player that demands the ball and calmly sinks the game winning shot? Or are you the player that wilts under pressure and fumbles the ball out of bounds? In sports, the analogy is easy, and athletes spend countless hours working on it. But as Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz point out in their Harvard Business Review article, "The Making of a Corporate Athlete," very few leaders develop the skills necessary to star under the most … [Read more...]

Do your employees “have to” or “want to?”

Pretend you are in a railroad tunnel and you see a train entering the opposite end and heading your way. You run as fast as you can to exit the tunnel, yet once you are out and off the track, you stop. Why? As Doug Wick astutely writes in his Positioning Systems blog, it is the difference between “having to” and “wanting to.” Unless you are on some sort of death-defying training run for a marathon, there is no benefit to continue running once you are out of the tunnel. Now take a moment to … [Read more...]

Rally Time

It’s showtime. School’s back in session, meaning visits are being scheduled, trunks are getting filled, and your counselors have a sense of excitement and anxiety (newbies) or ambivalence and possibly worse (veterans). Most leaders do the basic blocking and tackling – territories are assigned, fairs are chosen, and priorities are set – but are missing one key thing. They forget to make it fun. The start of a new school year is where the top admission offices really separate … [Read more...]

Delegate and Elevate

I recently wrote about the important leadership skill of decision making and focused on the “how.” And equally important, for the sake of living up to my moniker and saving you time, is the helping with the “what.” As leaders, we play Whac-a-mole every day. Tons of info and requests bombard us from all corners forcing us to try to quickly synthesize and prioritize. What needs to be addressed right now? What can wait? And then those lists change as quickly as something else hits our … [Read more...]

A Bad Decision is Better than no Decision

The dog days of summer are upon us, which means orientations, vacations (hopefully) and strategic planning meetings for the upcoming school year. This is our rare opportunity to elevate to 10,000 feet, think more broadly about goals, processes, people, etc., before the frenzy of the new recruitment cycle starts in fall. And as a leader, it’s also time to make some decisions to shape the upcoming year. Fascinatingly, one of the most crucial aspects of leadership that is rarely, if ever, taught is … [Read more...]

Paying Attention to the Long-term Impact of our Decisions

In my community, we have a weekly lecture series run by the Chamber of Commerce. It’s called People You Should Know and influential people are invited to talk about a topic of interest. As a new person to the community, I have found this to be a great way to meet community leaders quickly. Recently, one of the speakers referred to “seventh generation sustainability” from the Constitution of the Iroquois Nations. He was speaking on the topic of a community renaissance and the importance of laying … [Read more...]