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Improving Effectiveness by Transforming Emotions

While running one morning with my friend Natalie, we came up to a cross street that enters a major road off to our right.  As we approached, we noticed an SUV coming towards the stop sign.  I was a little ahead of Natalie and, aware that many people don’t actually stop at stop signs, I slowed my pace to see if the SUV was going to stop.  Once I noticed that she was going to stop, I proceeded to run through the cross walk.  I noticed that there was a woman driving and a man in the passenger seat.
The woman who was driving the car looked a little perturbed as she came to a stop.  As we cleared the cross walk, I commented laughingly to Natalie, “Wow, she seemed a little bothered by doing what she was supposed to do anyhow.  Pretty funny hey?”  Some moments later, Natalie shared something very wise that I think is definitely worth sharing here.
Natalie said, “When I saw her reaction, I tried to imagine what might be going on for her and the person in the car.  Maybe she wasn’t upset with us, but upset with her companion, or her lack of attentiveness to driving, or just having a bad morning in general.”
Many people would find it very easy to respond with anger or unkindness to someone who does something that we find irrational or offensive.  But Natalie immediately related to the woman with empathy.  She is such a wise soul.
My experience has been that relating to situations in this way is incredibly empowering.  When we respond to a frustrating situation with empathy, we are able to feel kindness and compassion, which give rise to numerous positive effects in the body.   Conversely, when we respond with anger or unkindness, our energy is drained, we add stress to our day, we damage our bodies with stress-related hormones, and we might even do something that we regret later.
The practice of mindfulness helps us to be able to take advantage of all the wonderful benefits of empathy.  The more effort we put into being aware of and kindly accepting our natural reactions, the easier it is to choose to not follow our habitual ways of reacting, and to instead make the conscious choice to do what is much more beneficial for us.
When we catch ourselves reacting to a situation with frustration, anger, or unkindness, the practice below may help.  I used to be very diligent with this practice and found it so empowering.  Thanks to Natalie’s wonderful reminder, I’ll begin employing this with more diligence again.
1)  Simply recognize and accept the fact that we are reacting according to our habits.

2)  Aware of the thoughts and feelings in the body, choose to respond in a more beneficial way by reciting the following verse.  “Breathing in, I’m aware of my reaction.  Breathing out, I will respond in a way that is helpful and kind.”

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

How to Offer Consistently Amazing Customer Service – Shep Hyken

How To Amaze Every Customer Every Time

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE, is a customer service expert, professional speaker, and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations that want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer and the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestsellers, The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution, which was also recognized as a New York Times bestseller.

Shep’s new book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time, is due for release on Septmember 3rd, 2013.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Shep last week and asked him about some of the secrets to delivering consistently amazing service to our customers or members.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

John Spence: The Real Secrets to Success

Some time ago, I had great breakfast meeting at Bagels Unlimited with my friend John Spence.  John is one of the top public speakers and executive coaches in the world.  I feel very fortunate that he lives right here in Gainesville, and that I have been able to form a friendship with him.
During our meeting, John mentioned that he had been receiving an obscene amount of SPAM e-mails offering to teach him the “Secrets to Success” for some fee – “Learn to make a million dollars for only $499″.  Just out of curiosity, he looked up a few of the guys offering to teach him these “Secrets to Success”.  He couldn’t find anything on them via Google search.  Apparently these guys hadn’t accomplished anything.
I found this quite amusing.  These scam artists who haven’t had any real business success are sending e-mails to John Spence, a man who earns an incredible income doing what he loves, who sets his own hours and has total autonomy over his time, and who is a well-recognized expert on success who coaches executive leaders from numerous Fortune 500 companies on how to achieve greater success!  Hilarious!
John didn’t find it so funny.  It actually made him a little upset that these charlatans are preying on people in these tough economic times offering them false hopes.  So what did he do about it?  John made a 30-minute video that he has posted to the internet for free, in which he shares the real secrets to success based on his experience and that of some the most respected authorities on success in the world.
This video is incredible and, if you don’t have time to watch it right now, I highly encourage you to schedule 30-minutes on your calendar right now to watch it.  I am confident that you’ll be very glad you did.
John offers numerous suggestions for self mastery that I think are imperative not only for achieving worldly success, but for aiding us on the path of realizing true happiness, self-mastery, and a deeply meaningful life.

Secret to Success from John Spence on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

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Simple Tools For Creating A Highly Innovative Culture

Simple Tools Applied at HopeLab That Can Help Your Organization to Be More Innovative

Chris Marcell Murchison guides HopeLab’s efforts to create an organizational culture that values learning and innovation. In his 25-year career in the public and private sectors, Chris has focused on staff and organization development. Prior to joining HopeLab, he was with Charles Schwab Corporation in San Francisco, where he was Director of Talent Management and Development after first serving as Senior Manager, Schwab Technology Education, overseeing the development of career development and management development programs.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chris, which you can enjoy as well:

Chris, for those of our readers who have never of heard of HopeLab, could you tell us a little about some of the innovative projects that HopeLab has created?

At HopeLab, we often say we’re harnessing the power and appeal of technology to improve human health and well-being. We use a research-based, customer-focused approach to creating products that are both fun and effective.

Two of our best-known products are Re-Mission and Zamzee. The Re-Mission games are designed to support young cancer patients as they fight their disease. In fact, our research indicates that playing Re-Mission motivates young cancer patients to stick to their medications more consistently, which is a critical part of successful cancer treatment. Our Zamzee product combines an activity meter and a motivational website to inspire tweens to move more. Our research on the Zamzee experience, from a 6-month study, indicated that use of the product can increase physical activity as much as 59%!

A hallmark of HopeLab’s work is the extensive research we do during product development. We engage our end users directly in the development processes and make every effort to ensure that the products we produce will have meaningful impact on health and well-being. HopeLab’s future work will focus on how we can leverage what we’ve learned about motivating healthy behavior to support human resilience. Resilience is actually a great umbrella for all the work we have done to date and I am excited to see what our next big idea will be!

As the VP of staff development and culture, you are responsible for creating a culture that is highly conducive to innovation. Would you share the top three strategies and/or tactics that you employ to make this happen?

Culture is influenced by so many things – values, leadership, relationships, HR policies, etc. We have experimented with all of these and more at HopeLab. Today, I would say that the three most highly leveraged tactics are the following:

  • Build the skills and systems to support high quality conversations in the organization – conversations typified by curiosity, authenticity and integrity
  • Create an environment in which employees believe they are accountable for the whole of the organization and its success, where they take 100% responsibility for their experience in the organization
  • Create work processes and systems that allow individuals and the organization as a whole to experience progress towards meaningful goals

My opinions here are influenced by my experience nurturing culture at HopeLab and my exposure to a wide variety of innovative organizational development and leadership practices. I believe making an intentional investment in building your organization’s culture can enhance your ability to do innovative work and make a positive impact in the world, for your employees and the people your business serves. I continue to learn about the many dimensions of culture every day. As my exposure to other organizations and cultures expands, I am certain my thinking about culture will evolve. I see this as good, because every work community is different and, as a result, there are different levers for catalyzing a thriving culture.

You do a lot to support your people’s well-being. Why do you think it’s so essential for innovation that leaders show their people that they truly care about them, and follow through to ensure that their people actually experience high levels of well-being?

We have a great wellness program at HopeLab. We call it HOGS, which stands for Health and Other Good Stuff, and it is based on the concept of energy management. If we are investing wisely in our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy, we are more likely to be purposeful and energized humans. And if as individuals we are engaged energetically, we can collectively create an engaged workplace that has greater potential to accomplish great things!

Additionally, at the core of well-being is resilience – the ability for individuals and organizations to respond positively in the face of change and adversity. The science informing our R&D work indicates that, as humans, cultivating a sense of purpose, connection and control can help us tap into our innate resilience. I think these are powerful insights that can be directly applied to individuals in the workplace. Adversity can take on many forms at work, large and small. A culture that supports employee’s sense of meaning and purpose, helps them connect meaningfully with colleagues, and creates processes where employees have a sense of control and accountability are likely to support well-being as well as enhancing resilience in the face of challenges. And, again, if your employees are engaged, well and resilient, your workplace will be more likely to thrive and innovate.

Not all organizations have access to the levels of funding to which HopeLab has access. What are some low-cost ideas that a leader could apply to show her people she truly cares about them?Culture work does not have to cost anything at all. Ultimately, building an organizational culture is building a community of people. This means attending to how we interact with one another and the quality of our relationships. Investing time and energy at that level, versus dollars, can have a real impact on productivity and job satisfaction.

What does investing in relationships look like? It means making time to authentically connect with others, having quality conversations (in supervision, performance reviews, team meetings, etc.), inviting and offering feedback, listening well, having fun together, participating in meaningful experiences together, and more. In these interactions, so much can be gained from kindness, appreciation, openness, and support – all actions that don’t have to cost anything but your time and attention. I am struck by impact of a simple “good morning” or an expression of true caring. An organization devoid of these basic virtues is, in my opinion, not sustainable.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

How A Tomato Boosts Productivity

Simple Tools For Increasing Productivity, Including A Skillful Use of A Tomato

Over a year ago, I attended a wonderful workshop at the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED) conducted by Jim Lilkendey of Apogee Coaching.  The topic was being more productive.

Jim drew from his experience as a business coach and from two books, The Power of Full Engagement and Getting Things Done, which are both bestsellers.  Interestingly, both books, and Jim’s discussion, seemed to point much less at simple organizational skills, which one might expect from a course on being more productive, and more towards the deeper, root causes of either being productive or not.
At root of it all is something that may sound obvious, but I think is rarely considered when considering ways to increase productivity – the alignment between what we’re doing and our deepest aspirations.  In the workshop it was suggested that if we’re not doing something that we’re passionate about, our productivity will likely suffer a great deal.
The secondary focus, as I saw it, was on energy management.  Jim mentioned the truth that we actually have no control over time.  Thus, “time management” is a misnomer.  What we can manage, he said, is our energy.
In addition to numerous practical exercises from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, Jim mentioned the Pomodoro Technique.  This program (named after a tomato timer used while cooking) is based on the idea that we humans can only focus our attention for so long before we become easily distracted and increasingly less productive.  Thus, with the Pomodoro Technique, we are encouraged to work in a very focused way for 25 minutes, and then take a 5-minute break.
The effects are very interesting.  When we know that we only have to remain focused for 25 minutes before we have break, it is much easier to stay true to the task at hand.  Further, when we return from the break, we often have fresh insights into projects that we wouldn’t have had if we had continued to sit and struggle through it for hours.
I had been employing the idea of taking mindful breaks for some time.  However, I would typically just practice some mindful breathing while seated at my desk.   After Jim’s Workshop, I changed it up to more closely follow the Pomodoro Technique, and have noticed numerous benefits. I’m getting more done, I have more energy, and I feel significantly more relaxed throughout the day because I find it easier to remain focused for 25 minutes than for hours at a time.
Here’s My System
I use a timer that I set for 25 minutes, and begin working mindfully on my current task or tasks on my “to do” list, aware of my body and state of mind.  I do not allow my attention to stray to incoming phone calls or Facebook or surfing the web.   When the time expires, a nice harp on my phone lets me know that it’s time for a break.
To begin my 5-minute break, I stand up and take one deep breath in and out, practicing the same power breathing technique that we teach to youth in the Kids Kicking Cancer (KKC) program. 
After taking my Breath Brake, I go for a brief walk outside, in mindfulness.  I let go of any thinking and simply open my awareness to walking, what comes through my senses, and the state of the body and mind.  This effort to be mindful and let go of thinking serves as a great recovery period alone.  Seeing the blue sky or some trees further ads to the rest from the computer.  
Also, I think this change of postures is essential.  By walking, I’m increasing blood flow to the head, which energizes me mentally for when it’s time to sit back down to work.

I hope you find this as helpful as I have!

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Improving Social Media Effectiveness With A Human Touch

Customer Service Expert Adrian Swinscoe Helps Us Improve Social Media Efforts With A Human Touch

Adrian Swinscoe is a huge fan of organizations that do great things for their customers. He helps others to achieve their own level of greatness via consulting, writing, speaking, and training. A former teacher, economist, manager of businesses, and leader of teams, Adrian is also a lover of simplicity and advocate of the human touch with a bit of really useful technology thrown in. To learn more or to connect with Adrian, please visit his great blog at
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian. Below are some great thoughts on improving customer service with a combination of social media and more people-centered leadership.

On your blog, you wrote a great post on the connection between generous and empathetic leaders and high levels of customer service. Could you elaborate a bit on why having empathy and generosity is so important for leaders?

Thank you for your kind words. I think empathy and generosity is important for leaders as I think it is a key part of leading by example, making leadership personal and, thus, being able to better connect with and motivate those that you are trying to lead. This could be as simple as sending less emails and doing fewer meetings and speaking directly with people either on the phone or in person. The keys here are that you are, therefore, being more generous with your time and attention. But to make this as effective as possible you have to have, be able to seek, or be willing to build empathy with everyone that you are talking to. Understanding the other person’s perspective/viewpoint (you don’t have to agree with them) or challenges they face will help leaders build the connections, followers, and insights that leadership requires.

What would you recommend organizations do to better measure how their leaders are doing in this regard?

This is an old idea but I would suggest that organisations revisit the idea of Managing By Walking About (MBWA) and they can measure how they are doing, in this respect, by measuring how much time leaders are spending with customers, with front-line, back-office and operational staff, and what the impact is on overall employee morale and engagement.

You often help organizations strengthen their marketing efforts, especially with social media. How important do you think it is that businesses have a social media component to be able to remain competitive?

There is a piece of research (I forget the source) that says that customer shopping and buying behaviour has dramatically changed over the last ten years. Whilst the trend is applicable across industries the research cites the case of the automobile industry where it states that 10 or so years ago a customer wanting to buy a new car would visit, on average, 8 dealerships. Whereas now they will only visit, on average, 1.2 dealerships in their search for a new car. The implication is that customers are now doing most of their ‘shopping’ online and when they arrive at a car dealership, say, they are ready to buy. Therefore, to be successful and competitive in this changing world, firms need to think about how they are helping their customers or clients, existing or prospective, with their ‘shopping’ journey. Therefore, this has implications for a firms presence and activity in social media, in the broadest sense, and poses challenges for traditional ways of doing business.

What’s a simple way to increase the effectiveness of social media efforts based on this idea of being more empathetic?

A [good] question would be to ask something like: What would you like your customers to say about you to their colleagues, friends, and families? Articulating that would be a great first step in helping the business understand their customers better and build that level of empathy that the modern firm and leader requires. After doing that, the firm will be in a better position to understand how and what type of activity, including social media, is required to deliver that sort of sentiment and advocacy.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Better SEO – Self-Effectiveness Optimization

A Different Type of SEO – Self-Effectiveness Optimization:  

How mindfulness training improves our personal effectiveness.

Optimization seems to be one of the most common buzzwords “buzzing” around these days.  I most often hear the word in the context of SEO, which is search engine optimization.
I wonder how many of us have a solid plan for optimizing our most important engines – our minds.  Let’s explore this most important aspect of another type of SEO – “self-effectiveness optimization.”

I feel pretty confident that everyone reading this has a solid understanding of how to optimize ourselves physically.  There is an abundance of information (perhaps too much) on how to eat well, sleep right, and exercise to ensure that we can optimize ourselves, physically.
But what do we do to optimize the most important tool we have – the mind?
Traditional schools of thought posit that we should get as much education as possible.  However, there is a lot of evidence that shows an inverse correlation between higher levels of education and personal effectiveness.  For instance, according the research of the Perth Leadership Institute, there is actually an inverse correlation between higher levels of education and profitable behaviors.  And, thanks to the well-known research of Daniel Goleman and others, we now know that emotional intelligence is twice as important as IQ for high levels of personal and professional performance.
Although knowledge is definitely helpful, it seems that even more important is how well-trained our minds are.  This is why so many top companies like Google, Intel, Raytheon, and General Mills are training their people in the practice of mindfulness.  They know that mindfulness is an incredibly powerful tool for training the mind to be most effective.  This is why I am also an advocate for incorporating mindfulness training into our personal development efforts.
Mindfulness practice can really be boiled down to two main elements: attention training and wisdom development.
The heart of the practice is training ourselves to become less distracted by thinking.  We train our attention to be aware of our own thoughts and emotions (self-awareness), as well as the rest of the present-moment reality.  This helps us remain more attentive to tasks we’re working on and, over time, actually makes the mind more efficient by reducing the amount of useless thinking that serves no purpose other than to sap our mental energy. (Although I’m sure that this doesn’t apply to anyone reading this.  We never get caught up in conversations in our heads that are completely useless right?)
As we develop our ability to remain free from distracting thinking, awareness becomes much more powerful, allowing us to see subtle aspects of our world that we don’t normally pay much attention to – like how everything is constantly changing.  We all know this intellectually, but most of us haven’t had deep personal insight into the universal truth of impermanence.  By developing this wisdom, we find that we are much more effective in life because we deal with change more effectively, things don’t bother us so much, and we become much less attached to our own ego, which makes us much more effective when dealing with other people.
The heightened self-awareness and insight into impermanence that result from mindfulness practice make it a very powerful tool for developing the emotional intelligence skills that, as mentioned above, are more important than IQ for improving our effectiveness.
If you’re already utilizing mindfulness as part of your SEO (self effectiveness optimization) plan, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
If you’re new to mindfulness, please feel free to leave questions in the comment section.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Working For Good as a Leader – An Interview with Jeff Klein

Powerful tools for achieving leadership excellence while making the world a better place.

Jeff Klein is an activator, producer, process facilitator, and the author of Working For Good and It’s Just Good Business.  He is one of the founders of Conscious Capitalism, Inc.(activator), (producer) of Conscious Capitalism events, including an annual Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit, and as a (process facilitator) he designs and leads workshops, meetings, Conscious Culture development programs and Stakeholder Engagement Marketing™ campaigns.

Below is a recent interview I had the pleasure of facilitating with Jeff, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

About thirty years ago, you felt a calling to leverage the power of business for the greater good and in the process to make your work a path to learning, growth, and development.  Ever since, you have been helping people see the connection between making a difference in the world, achieving better business outcomes, and enjoying the ride.  What are the three biggest competitive advantages you see for a leader who successfully aligns the achievement of positive business outcomes with serving the greater good?  
Perhaps the most significant benefit is the personal and collective energy and flow this fosters. When a person (e.g. a business leader) and a group of people (e.g. their team and their entire business stakeholder ecosystem) are focused on a higher purpose and act in alignment with that purpose, there is a tremendous sense of meaning, engagement, and connectedness, which leads to high motivation, an embodied commitment to responsible communications, and exceptional creativity and productivity.
A second, related benefit, is the trust, engagement, loyalty and sustainability in the relationships between the people (individually and as whole stakeholder groups – e.g. customers, employees, vendors, etc.), which lead to great resilience when challenges arise and sustainability over a long time horizon. Business is a social endeavor and relationships are the foundation of a healthy, flourishing social organism/organization.
A third significant competitive advantage is health, well-being, and flourishing – for the leader, her team and her business. At each level, health enhances performance and reduces direct and indirect or opportunity costs.
What would you say are the three most important things a leader can do to become less self-centered, and more focused on how they can serve, sustainably, the people they lead and the community around them?
As with all things, practice is the key to high performance and to cultivating new capacities. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” If you want to be less self-centered and to serve others, then serve others. There’s a great quote on humility that is relevant here, which goes “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but more of others.” So you don’t have to put yourself down, just see and celebrate the talents and humanity in others.
A key to cultivating the capacity to serve is to elicit and really listen to feedback from others. You may have an idea what it means to serve them, but their needs, perceptions and styles may be different from yours. Ask people what they need and how they can best receive it. And you can ask people if they are open to your observations – ask permission to point out areas where you notice they may benefit from your support and guidance. If they give you permission, they will be more open to receiving your support. And ask “how can I support you right now?”
Ironically, the third thing, which might be the first thing, is to take care of yourself. While that might seem self-centered, if you don’t genuinely take care of yourself, which is different from being self-centered, then you won’t have the knowledge, experience or capacity to truly care for others. By taking care of yourself, I mean physically (what you eat, exercise, sleep, recreation, etc.), emotionally, mentally and spiritually, whatever that means to you. 
How important is it to measure progress with this work of becoming a conscious leader?  Could you share some ideas for successfully measuring progress?
As human beings we are always measuring in one way or another. Receiving and processing feedback from our environment, which includes other people, is essential to our survival, learning, and flourishing. With respect to the previous question about service versus self-centeredness, we can measure our progress informally by observing the quality of our relationships and the attitude and engagement of the people we work with. We can do so more formally be measuring these things with one or more of the wide variety of assessment tools. Before and after (or ongoing) assessments can provide us with direct and indirect measures of “how we’re doing.” The net Promoter System tools for assessing Customer and Employee engagement are very good. Tilt365 has a good tool for assessing our relationships within our teams, and for shining light on our blind spots. And good, open, honest, periodic conversations with our key collaborators can provide great insight into how we are doing and where we may need or want to focus our attention on further development. This is truly an ongoing process. There is no end point, but a continual journey of discovery and development.
In the words of the late George Leonard, “We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It’s about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives.”

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Capitalize The “We”

Great Leaders Focus on Capitalizing the We

i can’t believe that i never noticed this before.  Reading the other day, i wondered why the personal pro-noun “i” is always capitalized, but not “We”.  Great leaders focus on capitalizing the We.

Although we might just view this as a convention of language, to me it is quite striking that our language capitalizes the “i” but no other personal pronoun.  It is a reflection of our attachment to the importance of the individual over the importance of the greater good.

Perhaps this can help explain why we tend towards selfishness.  Language is a key element of our worldview.  If our language is set up to value ourselves over others, our minds are more inclined to do so as well.

As i reflected on this, it occurred to me that the more ideal language structure would be to only capitalize the personal pronoun, “We.”

Great leaders know that one of the keys to success is focusing on the We more than the i.

If we’re promoted into a leadership position, it’s probably because we’re really good at what we do.  One of the most difficult challenges most leaders face is to continuously be shifting away from the idea that “i have to do it,” and moving towards, “We do it together.”

As leaders our success is no longer measured by our personal accomplishments. Our success is measured by what our people accomplish as a team.  This requires a whole new skill set.  It requires us to always be thinking in terms of We.

When We think in terms of We more often, We naturally find ways to better serve our people.  When We serve our people, they better serve our customer or members.

This is the secret to success isn’t it.  The organization that best understands and meets the needs of the customer or the member is the one that wins in the long term.

Here’s an interesting experiment.  Try eliminating the word “i” from your vocabulary for a day and replace it with “We”.

What do you notice when you try this out?

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

How to Become A Level 5 Leader

How to Become What Jim Collins Calls A Level 5 Leader: An Interview With Mary Jo Asmus

A former executive in a Fortune 100 company, Mary Jo Asmus, PCC is the founder and president of Aspire Collaborative Services.  She is an executive coach, writer, and consultant who partners with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success.

I recently had the chance to interview her, and ask her to share some of the ways she helps great leaders get even better.  Below is the transcript:

A part of your executive coaching work that I find very interesting is that you actually create action plans for helping leaders become “Level 5 leaders,” which are leaders that Jim Collins found through extensive research to be most effective at taking an organization from “good to great.” Could you share your thoughts on why humility and high achievement drive for the greater good are such important qualities of Level 5 leaders?

First of all, I want to make it clear that I don’t create the action plans; the leaders I work with do, with my guidance, based on feedback they’ve received and behavioral goals they are passionate about working on. In a way, this speaks directly to humility (the feedback addresses their “opportunities for development”) and drive (their desire to work on goals that are important to them to help them become great leaders). So we start out with these characteristics of humility and drive from the very start as foundational to the work we do.

Humility is important because it keeps a leader in a learning mindset. The humble leader understands that they don’t know it all, and that they need to count on others to help them. This is important in our fast moving, competitive business world. If a leader doesn’t continually stay in touch with others in order to learn, the pace of change may get ahead of them, causing them to fall behind and ultimately fail.

Drive is important to achieve goals, pure and simple. Leadership is simple in concept, difficult in practice. Very few are actually “born leaders” in my opinion, and it takes significant effort for most to bust through the barriers to become a Level 5 leader. Although I completely understand Jim Collins’ definition of Level 5 leader who is focused on the “greater good” of the company, many of the barriers experienced by a leader in critical stages of their development are self-imposed, requiring a leader to have the energy and ambition to look at themselves with a critical eye and overcome them. This takes a lot of courage and requires an internal focus before a leader can be fully focused on goals for the organization.

Could you share the top three most important ideas you would offer for helping a leader become a Level 5 leader?

1. Get honest feedback often from your stakeholders in a way that they can’t B.S. you (confidential 360 instruments and interviews conducted by a third party are the best way to get this kind of feedback). Find out what behaviors are working and which ones aren’t, and get to work on yourself.

2. Know yourself well. The better you know how you think and react, the better you know what’s important to you, the better you’ll be in a calamity, and you will have at least one of those in your leadership journey.

3. Take care of yourself. Even though a level 5 leader may want to give away everything for the good of the company, if they give away their mental or physical health, they cannot lead well. This requires as much attention to one’s physical and spiritual energy as to their vision and passion for the organization.

Part of your work includes helping leaders move from “me” to “we.”  Could you elaborate on what you mean by this?

Most leaders can become better at relationships with those around them. This requires effort, because so many of them have been promoted because they are great at getting things done, but may lack some critical people skills. Getting things done as a lone wolf might work for a while, but at a critical juncture, they realize they can’t do it all themselves. Leadership isn’t a one-person show, and the few times that I’ve seen someone believe that is the case, they’ve burned out or just plain failed. The best leaders I know put people first, knowing that when they’ve developed great relationships and a system of support around them, they’ll be stronger and more successful than they would by themselves.

Why do you think this is so important? Are there specific, measurable business outcomes that you’ve found are more easily achieved by a leader who has moved from “me” to “we”? 

Of course! If our organizations were filled with individual contributors who hadn’t grasped the concepts of working with others in order to be stronger, they’d be tripping all over each other. It would be utter chaos, and I could imagine very little getting done. You only need to look at the studies to see that leaders who have worked at the soft skills get hard numbers from their employees.

How can a leader develop a more self-less, we-centered mentality?

Make developing relationships every bit as important as achieving your vision, mission, and strategy. I always thought it was strange that organizations put these huge, complex strategic plans in place but don’t address the soft skills that it takes to achieve them, like everything will get done by magic. You actually have to be as strategic about relationships as you do about everything else you’re doing by asking, “who do I need to reach out to?” and then begin your strategies with relationships first. The “doing” will find its own way after that.

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