Blog Cover Photo: Rise To The Occasion

This is part of a blog series from a business development talk I gave. To get caught up, see: Committed to Mastery and then Transformative Teamwork.


Today, we’re covering part three of the speech: Rise To The Occasion.

The contrast of several Northern leaders needs our attention. The North, at the outset of the Civil War, was lacking in high ranking military men. Most of them had gone south at the start of the war. The few that remained, like George McClellan rose quickly. Others, like Generals Custer and Grant, would rise to the occasion.

Setting The Stage

McClellan was a brilliant tactician. His study of worldwide fighting styles, military strategies, and historical aspects of war made him highly desirable. He graduated second in his class from West Point. Dubbed the Young Napoleon, McClellan’s future was bright. Everyone expected great things from McClellan. He cared deeply for his soldiers and they loved him for it. From their perspective, they were well fed, well trained, and rarely fought. It was a pretty good arrangement.

However, between McClellan and President Lincoln, things were rarely ever smooth. McClellan became famous for requesting more supplies and exaggerating enemy numbers. One account tells of a breakdown in Confederate lines and supplies after a battlefield loss. Research seems to indicate that had McClellan pursued them and chased them down, the war would have been over in less than two years. Richmond would have been captured. Top generals would have been defeated. The North would’ve won without further bloodshed. George McClellan

Instead, McClellan estimated enemy numbers exaggerated by 20% and blamed the possibility of bad weather as reasons for a delayed attack. As a result, he called off the chase. Within two days, the South regrouped, shuffled their troops, and counterattacked. They drove the north back. For more than two additional years the Civil War would be fought because of this one failure in his leadership.

Rise to the Occasion

Contrast the brilliance, genius, and ultimate ineptitude of someone like George McClellan with someone like Grant. Grant rose to the occasion given to him. Grant’s war policy was to attack consistently and ferociously. He was adept and editing commands on the fly. He was both well prepared and adaptable. Because he knew the ultimate goal, he could change his methods as the battlefield dictated.

George Armstrong Custer, from outward appearances, had nothing going for him. He barely graduated from West Point coming in dead last in his class. Custer gained an unfavorable reputation because so few trusted him. He was often pulling pranks, spending time in detention, getting into trouble, and had an overly brash demeanor.

However, throughout the Civil War, he distinguished himself as a man of courageous action. By the end of the Civil War, he had been promoted to Major General and was in command of the entire cavalry. In an age where leaders worked from the rear and made orders for other men, he gained admiration by fighting from the front. It’s been noted that he was often the first to go flying into combat with his men trailing behind him. At the conclusion of the war, his unit was responsible for capturing more POWs and infantry flags than any other unit. He was even respected enough that he received the table that unconditional surrender terms were drafted.

Where We Find Ourselves

Three men at the same point in history take dramatically different paths in life. One, seemingly given every advantage, squanders it all. He leaves frustrated, disgraced, disillusioned, and desperate. The other two inspire, engage, and rise to the occasion. McClellan, from the top of his class, witnesses everything crumble before him. Grant and Custer rise from the bottom. Custer, quite literally from the bottom of his class to one of the highest positions available and becomes the stuff of lore and legend.

There is something inside of our DNA that loves these transformational stories. Zeroes to heroes inspire us. We long for stories of David defeating Goliath. Worst to first and victory in the midst of defeat give us hope. Blog Cover Photo: Rise To The Occasion

Undoubtedly, there are many parallels in our businesses. Perhaps you even know of a time or two in your own life or that of your company (or even an employee) where you can see now how things could have and should have worked out differently.

Individuals or companies with all the advantages that still somehow managed to fail. Mega tech companies caught with bad numbers and crumble an empire. Someone identified as a high performer busted for ethical violations or a failure to perform. An industry darling in one year is an outcast in another.

But there’s also the flip side.

A surprise hire going on to transform a business or industry.

A perpetual under-achiever finds a fire in their soul and rises to extraordinary levels of leadership.

And while nothing in life is a guarantee, what I have found throughout my years in coaching, is that there are certain tendencies and ways to “hedge our bets.”

The Power of Coaching

Coaching advances the high performers at an astounding rate, helping them to avoid burnout. It also has the capacity to equip the last place hire to deeper levels of transformation. Coaching gives a place for both the first-place all-star and the last place “skin of your teeth, you just barely made it” performer.

My start in coaching looked much the same. I began working with clients who self-identified as someone who knew they were capable of great things but couldn’t get out of their own way (much like we might have said early on about Custer).

The ICF first defined coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

When we equip our ourselves and our staff to reach their full potential we inspire them to rise to the occasion.

 

3 Tips for Transformational Teamwork

Transformational Teamwork

As we emerge from quarantine and are reopening, our customers are facing problems. There are some new ones we can anticipate, some old ones that we can continue to meet, and there will be new ones we never see coming.

The victors will be those that adapt and overcome. Ulysses Grant, who hated the war life, once gave the philosophy that made him successful, despite his disdain for his occupation: “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and keep moving on.” 

For our businesses, it might read something like: “Find the problem your customers have. Create a solution as quickly as possible. Implement your answer as best as you know how. Adapt. Repeat. Overcome.”  Ulysses S. Grant

Together, Lincoln and Grant practice what I have come to call transformational teamwork. They built the vision and strategy, shared it with their team, and the tirelessly executed the plan. Transformational teams practice three key characteristics in all they do.

Clear Goals and Directions

The first requirement for transformational teams is to have clear goals and directions. Lincoln and Grant made their vision abundantly clear. For Lincoln, it was freedom for slaves and preservation of the Union. Grant implemented this through the term “unconditional surrender.” In fact, Grant would be known by this phrase so much that for a time people that U.S. Grant’s initials stood for “Unconditional Surrender.” The goal was clear: until the south abolishes slavery and lays down its arms without thought of picking them up again, the war has not been won.

We know the goals and directions we have for our businesses. As entrepreneurs, owners, or key stakeholders, we know why we get up every morning. We know what we’re chasing and the dream we are trying to accomplish. What about your employees or others around you? Can they articulate it clearly? Do they know, like Grant know how to implement the plan to achieve the goal?

Effective Communication

The second piece required for transformational teams is effective communication. It is not enough to know the goals and directions we must communicate that information with our team. During seasons of stress, conflict, or failure, communication is often the first thing to go. Legacy Leaders know how important clear, concise, and effective communication is.

Effective communicate is done regularly. It seeks two-way feedback and establishes rules and norms. Clear Communication talks about not just what and how, but also why. It honors others, builds bridges, minimizes conflict, and restores relationships.

In times of stress or setback, good communication is often the first thing to go. People resort to perspective and bias. To preconceived notions about the way the world works. To overcome this, clear communication is a must. Anytime there is poor communication, issue an apology, and own your mistake. 3 Tips for Transformational Teamwork

As tension mounts, humility and the ability to ask for forgiveness keeps the team united and focused on what really matters. Create a culture of open dialogue, feedback, humility, and reconciliation and watch your transformational team thrive.

360-Coaching

The final component of Transformative Teamwork is what I call 360-Coaching. More than normal feedback and assessment performance reviews, it is focused on real-time, growth-oriented feedback. Instead of backward reflection, instill future-focused development opportunities.

The official definition of coaching from the International Coaching Federation is this: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

360-Coaching takes the whole person and seeks to develop them. Employers who care about both their employee’s productivity and their outside life, inspire confidence, instill loyalty, and extend grace. This is important because as much as we may pretend that our outside life doesn’t affect our work, that just isn’t the case.

Offering real-time feedback circumvents a chance for negative experiences or poor performance while opening up communication lines.

When high-performing leaders set clear goals, keep an open communication, and coach the whole person, a transformative team is born. A transformative team can conquer an obstacle and overcome any hardship.

 

This is an excerpt and adaptation of a business development seminar. To read additional excerpts, you can find part one here and part two here. To watch the presentation, go here.

Gettysburg Address

There are tales of a young Lincoln staying awake at night, sitting in his parent’s parlor, listening to adult’s converse. He would stay up past his bedtime listening intently to every word. At the end of the evening, he would go to his bedroom and replay the conversation in his head. Through his own admission, he would pace back and forth until he understood every word and perspective that was shared. Only then was he able to relax enough to go to sleep.

Dedicated To Mastery

This commitment to mastery shaped the success that Lincoln would experience throughout life. It gave him his great oratory skills. During the Gettysburg address, he captivated the crowd and it is largely regarded as one of the greatest speeches of all time.

Edward Everett, after the Gettysburg battle, remarked,

“I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Everett’s assessment is no exaggeration. He was a fellow speaker that day. He spoke right before Lincoln, for two hours, and yet I’m guessing you’ve never heard his speech. Instead, it was Lincoln’s two-minute address that became famous. His commitment to mastery gave him the oratory skills needed when the occasion arose. Abraham Lincoln Statue

Similarly, at the beginning of the war, Lincoln had zero understanding of military strategy and his chief officers let him know it. Lincoln, always dedicated to mastery, however, stayed up late studying every night. Reading books, pouring over history, evolving his own understanding, it wasn’t long before he had developed a plan and wanted to implement it. General McClellan laughed at it and dismissed it. Eventually, McClellan was replaced by Grant and put into effect. It was in fact, the strategy that won the war for the north. By the end of the war, Lincoln was widely regarded as a genius military strategist. His commitment to the mastery of any given subject or problem distinguished him from his peers.

Our Own Commitment

What does our own commitment look like? Can we say that we are dedicated to mastery? Not proficiency. Avoid average. Not “slightly better” than the competition. Mastery. Excellence. The desire to be the best. Are we unwaveringly committed to that? Do we pace our bedrooms and night, committed to mastering the problems and opportunities before us?

In business?

In our marriages?

With friendships?

Towards our customers?

Pick any area of life and become committed to mastery. Then pick a new area. Repeat. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself successful.

 

This is an excerpt from a recent talk I gave to business leaders and has been adapted for the blog. For any coaching inquiries related to developing your leadership capacity, please email me.

 

The Gettysburg Address:

Gettysburg Address

Becoming a Legacy Leader

Introduction

Between 1861 and 1865, America engaged in the bloodiest wartime moment in its history. The American Civil War, primarily about the state’s rights and the federal government’s role in daily life, dramatically shaped American belief, political life, economic positioning, and future trajectory.

I have found myself increasingly fascinated by this time and the people involved. There are the often-recognized men involved. None is more famous Abraham Lincoln. Widely recognized as one of the greatest presidents in American history, he radically shaped America’s future. He lived as a man committed to a vision of what it meant for people to be free. Abraham Lincoln

Other names play an important role during this time. Ulysses S. Grant became a close friend of Lincoln. After a series of failed generals, he became a man Lincoln could trust to accomplish the mission given to him. Other names like William Tecumseh Sherman and his famous march to the sea that divided the Confederacy gave much-needed victories and morale boosts to the North. Then there’s George Custer, who long before his last stand was a widely respected cavalry hero of the Civil War.

Finally, there are the less famous, but no less significant names that appear. People like George McClellan dubbed the Young Napoleon, who despite his great military genius and insight, was almost solely responsible for the North’s struggles early on. He struggled with taking action when it was demanded. Accounts suggest that had he advanced after an early northern victory the war would have lasted less than two years. Timely action would have saved many of the lives lost during the Civil War. Perpetually struggling with doubt and fear, he inflated enemy numbers as a way to avoid taking action and it cost the North dearly. George McClellan

Becoming a Legacy Leader

My study of these men has not only shaped much of my worldview but fueled the burning desire in me to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a legacy leader?” We remember Lincoln for many outstanding qualities. However, an even more important question is why? He’s not the only one with the qualities we praise in him, he’s not even the only president with those qualities. We could identify many presidents as competent leaders, effective communicators, and strong visionaries. So, what has set him apart? What made him a legacy leader? Well, that’s part of what we want to examine today.

As we emerge from the isolation of COVID and we hope to return to normal, we need legacy leaders now more than ever. So, my goal in this series is to help you understand the world of the Civil War a bit better, what we can learn from these men, and how we can apply it to our businesses today to meet the real needs of our employees, customers, and communities to shape a strong and compelling future.

When we examine questions like, “What made Lincoln the right man for the job?” we discover the qualities and characteristics that we can apply to ourselves that will grow us and our companies. When we understand how Grant seized the opportunity to go from a washed-up drunken, failure of a realtor to commanding general and future president, we discover that these same techniques apply to our world and the opportunity before us. Ulysses S. Grant

Similarly, understanding McClellan and his unmatched genius are necessary for us. Great wisdom and insight alone won’t bring victory. We must act. That is where McClellan failed and where we must prevail.

A Nation Divided

What we see emerge in the time leading up to the Civil War is in many ways a divided America.

Urban vs rural.

North vs south.

Free vs slave.

Industrial vs agricultural.

Prior to the Civil War, the concept of “American” was somewhat loose. States weren’t united and there was a greater degree of autonomy. That will change after the Civil War, and those four years will prove to be extremely transformative for the men involved and for the country.

We also see that today. America is divided and in need of legacy leaders who can unite it, transform it, and create a compelling future for it. Your presence here today tells me you care about that as well. You want to lead well. You, your staff, your business, your clients, your community. They are all counting on you to rise to the occasion and be a legacy leader and I hope, at least in part, to inspire and equip you on that journey in our time together.

 

Additional Notes:

This is an excerpt from a recent talk I gave to business leaders and has been adapted for the blog. For any coaching inquiries related to developing your leadership capacity, please email me.

 

The free Building With Purpose Conference is only available for a little while longer. To enroll, go here.

Carpenter staring into camera with title imposed text

There is one big difference maker to extraordinary business growth. As shops open back up, our favorite eateries allow for a dine-in option, and mom and pop shops across the country emerge from COVID, there is no doubt that the world has changed.

We’re all asking questions like, “Who’s left?” And, “Who can I trust?” In a world that has gone crazy quickly, much of 2020 feels like a blur.

High-Achievers and performers know how to adapt and overcome. Small business owners looking to pivot need to capture one vital truth: things will never be the same. So what are we all to do?

There is one big difference maker that will propel us to greater growth.

I made this video to help you understand the concept.

One Big Difference Maker

 

I titled the video How To Grow Your Business In Any Economy and it’s a truthful video. But the truth applies to more than just business growth.

Lead your family.

Give back to your community.

Engage in your own development.

Volunteer at your place of worship.

It doesn’t matter where you invest your time, this truth still applies: developing people is the greatest thing you can do with your time.

Developing others shows concern for those being invested in. However, it also enhances the customer experience and gives the developer a feeling of joy. When we invest in others, everyone wins.

Giving Back

Zig Ziglar once said, “The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave is not to train them and have them stay.” And despite how much people may complain about more training or education at work, studies reveal that they actually enjoy it.

Because we all know that given the choice between staying the same (and losing our joy) or growing (and finding life) we will all choose growth. We all desire to know, do, be, and become more. Carpenter staring into camera with title imposed text

In all my years and experience of coaching and consulting, I’ve never once known a person who regretted getting better. We make a commitment. Then we see growth. Finally we see progress.

Never knock progress.

Making Time

One way I’ve changed my vocabulary is how I see time. I’ve given up on the phrase, “I don’t have time.” Why? Because I’ve noticed that if it’s really important to me, it seems to happen. Instead, I ask a question like, “Am I willing to make the time to fit this into my calendar?” If it is, I schedule it. However, if I’m unwilling, then I just admit it. “I can’t do that at this time, I’m unwilling to make the time commitment needed.” I’ve found it’s actually very freeing and people are generally understanding.

If we wait for employee development, engaged parenting, committed volunteering, or any other format of self and other development to happen “until we have time,” it will never happen.

Instead, choose to make time. Give back. Love generously. Develop consistently. It’s the greatest thing you can do with your time and the one skill you need for continued success.