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.

 

Man with muscular shadow and superimposed text: Capacity to change the world

All of us have a superpower that when unleashed have the capacity to change the world. Think Marvel, but much more incredibly powerful (and totally real!).

Here are some of the amazing things that your superpower can do:

  • Increase Optimism.
  • Raise self-confidence.
  • Create greater levels of connection with others.
  • It provides the largest effect on trust. This is especially when it is tangible, personal, and public.
  • Activates your medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that experiences pleasure in things like drugs and alcohol. Meaning using this superpower gets you high like a drug. That’s right YOU feel better when using your superpower.
  • Using your superpower makes others more innovative, creative, collaborative, results, and productivity.
  • It increases longevity in the workforce. People stay longer where this superpower is used.

Any clue what it is? Man with muscular shadow and superimposed text: Capacity to change the world

Gratitude

Gratitude is your key superpower and it gives you the capacity to change the world. Expressing gratitude has been shown to not only bring value and service to others but to you as well. You get a chemical high, it blesses your employees and coworkers, increases your self-confidence, builds trust, and generates positivity.

Not bad, eh?

Expressing gratitude is a small thing that makes a big difference. Here are a few ways for you to express gratitude today:

  • Publicly praise a coworker or employee with words of affirmation and a job well done.
  • Write a note of thanks to a customer.
  • Create a social media post on your company page that honors an extraordinary effort or job well done by someone in your company.
  • Write a positive review of a business, server, or other public servant giving them praise and honor for their commitment.

Your Capacity To Change the World

There are thousands of ways to express gratitude. The important thing is to express it. Being thankful without expressing it is like not being thankful at all.

In our current world, this is important now more than ever. The world is longing for superheroes. You have the ability to be one. Your capacity to change the world lies in activating your superpower: gratitude.

Building With Purpose Online Conference

By avoiding difficult conversations, we hurt both the relationship and the potential for long-term leadership. That’s how I felt after my interview with Leah Zimmerman for the Building With Purpose Conference.

Worse than that, there were several “Difficult Conversations” that came to mind. Times I failed, disappointed, and let others down. I’ve learned from them, but it’s been a long and painful road. I want to commit to having those difficult conversations when they need to happen.

 

Building With Purpose

This excerpt is a part of the FREE online conference I’m hosting called Building With Purpose. This course will help you pivot during this time of social distancing and working from home.

For many of us, it’s a new experience. These experts will help you gain clarity and momentum and experience success.

To sign up for the conference, go here.

Registration is completely free and is currently open.

Building With Purpose Online ConferenceIn this conference, we hear from leading experts in:

  • Coaching
  • Business Consulting
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • Digital Marketing
  • And more

If you’re interested in starting or growing a business or even just wondering how to maximize your time and what to do next, enroll in the free conference.

To follow up, I’m offering all attendees a complimentary session.

To redeem your session, go here.

Difficult Conversations

Leaders model the expected standard (good or bad). Parents do this, and our kids are aware of values based on how we interact and respond to the world around us. This happens in the workplace as well through employee relationships. Church, civic engagements, volunteer work. Each of these places bears the fruit of the relationship.

Unfortunately, relationships also require work. Conflict will happen. Along the way, what we model becomes vital to healthy interaction. As leaders, we need to be willing to have those difficult conversations in healthy ways. Here are three things to help you:

1.) Start From A Place Of “Best Intentions.”

This is probably the hardest for me. In conflict, it’s easy for me to make some assumptions. Mostly, I assume that I’m right. Unfortunately, this is limits the progress we can make. When I think poorly about the other person or their intentions, I am biasing the conversation and protecting myself. If I think that they automatically have it in for me, we will never be able to mend the relationship.

2.) Practice Active Listening.

This builds from the previous point. Just because I may want to think about the best intentions, doesn’t mean I actually listen to what is being shared. This challenges me to stay engaged in the process. Listen, then repeat back what is heard. Sit up straight, lean forward, and focus on the words, emphasis, and tone behind them. How are they trying to communicate what is in my best interest? Doing this gives me more information and builds rapport.

3.) Don’t Let Fear Win.

You know what almost never works out the I imagine it in my head? Life. See also: relationships, change, and 5-year plans. However, I refuse to let that dictate the direction of my life. Those conversations we have in our head also fit here. We have two options: we can let fear dictate what we do. We can shrink back, play it safe, and limit our progress. Or, we can embrace the challenge, rise to the occasion, and push through. Difficult conversations will happen. Those who get what they want (and need) out of those will be those who push through the fear and engage with the other person.

Push Through Excuses and realize you can do it.

 

The measure of our success will always be determined by our ability to push through excuses.

A List of Popular Excuses

Tell me if you’ve heard (or used) any of these following excuses:

  • I’m Tired
  • The kids wouldn’t cooperate.
  • My boss was mean.
  • A bad economy.
  • No one listens to me.
  • My spouse doesn’t support me.
  • A team member (or business partner) didn’t work as hard as me.
  • I don’t have the time.

The list could keep going, couldn’t it? We’ve all been there. Longing for a vision of what could’ve been or should’ve been had things worked out differently.

They can work out differently. Things can always improve. We can always do better. Under no circumstances should we ever forego chasing our dreams.

Our success is limited only by our ability to overcome our circumstances.

Push Through Excuses

Early on in my coaching career, I had a not-so-good client. (That’s putting in nicely). I didn’t enjoy working with this person. They had a long list of dreams and desires and an even longer list of reasons why they couldn’t accomplish those dreams.

During one coaching call, he explained that he couldn’t send any resumes out because his ex-girlfriend wouldn’t have liked his resume format. Push Through Excuses and realize you can do it.

He didn’t apply for a job, because a former girlfriend wouldn’t have liked the formatting. Everyone else was getting to dictate the direction and circumstance except for him.

We worked on these issues for weeks. Stuck in a dead-end job, he wanted out badly (or so he said). Finally, after a month of inaction, I leveled with him. “Fix it this week or I’m sending your money back. I’m done working with you if you don’t want to change.”

After a few seconds of silence, he responded, “Yeah, I’m not gonna fix it this week. Thanks though.” Within thirty seconds of that sentence, we wrapped up our last call, I canceled his paperwork, and I never looked back.

I’m not sure what happened to him, but I learned a lot from him. I learned about my ideal client, staying motivated, having discipline, and the need to push through excuses.

Our ability to reach our dreams is directly related to our ability to push through excuses.

Determined At All Costs

High-achievers and success-oriented people have learned to push through excuses. Nelson Mandela remarked, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Leaders are determined at all costs to push through excuses. They choose to exercise courage instead of fear. Practicing commitment to their goals is paramount. They know how much is riding on it.

Here are three tips to give us courage as we pursue our goals and push through excuses:

1.) Create Clear Goals

Clarity breeds confidence. When we know exactly what we’re aiming for, and why it matters, we can muster up the strength to continue.

2.) Recall Your Track record

If no one has told you this yet: Good job. So far, you’ve made it through 100% of everything life has thrown you. Your strength, capabilities, and commitment have gotten you this far. You have no reason to think you can’t make it through the next obstacle, however daunting it may seem.

3.) Journey Together

Life is hard. It’s even harder to do it alone. Find a friend, mentor, peer, trusted advisor, or coach. Establish a relationship with the right people who are in your corner and push you towards greatness. The right people help you tell your story better. They are absolutely critical to your journey.

We’ve all been hurt. Everyone has been lied to. We all know the pain of fear, regret, pain, and failure. Successful people have learned to tell a different story. To rewrite their old history and chart a new path.

The journey to success is not a straight line, but it is one that must be made intentionally. Lean into those goals. Pursue them with passion. Give it your all. Don’t stop. In order to reach your full potential, you must push through excuses.

Start today.

 

Picture of Lincoln Statue memorial with superimposed text, "Unquestionable Commitment"

Even as a young child, Abraham Lincoln was a person of unquestionable commitment.

As the story goes, he would sit in his parent’s parlor late at night listening to the conversation the adults were having. At the conclusion of the evening, he would go upstairs to his room. Instead of getting going to bed, he would instead pace his bedroom replaying the conversation. It bothered him that there were parts of the conversation he didn’t understand.

So he would replay it in his head. Over and over. Analyzing every detail until it made sense. Finally content, he could go to bed.

That was a skill that would serve him his entire life.

He became a lawyer because he understood the facts of the case better than anyone else, analyzing the details meticulously.

Widely regarded as one of the great orators of all time, he acquired that skill through his commitment to understand and effectively use words.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was no tactician. His peers included highly regarded West Point graduates and brilliant generals of considerable experience. Yet by the end of the Civil War, he was on par with any them when it came to military strategy. In fact, it was his policy that eventually won the war when adopted by Ulysses Grant.

In all matters of importance, Lincoln dedicated himself to study, master, and unquestionable commitment.

Our Own Leadership

Much could be said about this level of commitment to our own leadership. At least one report acknowledges that upwards of 49% of employees are disengaged, while another eighteen percent are “actively disengaged.”

Our people, those we have been called to lead, are showing up work in larger and larger numbers disengaged from the work they have been given.

The trend is troubling.

It needs to change.

Change starts with us.

What does our own leadership journey look like? Are we actively engaged in personal our own growth? Do we display the same level of unquestionable commitment that Lincoln did? Picture of Lincoln Statue memorial with superimposed text, "Unquestionable Commitment"

Lincoln spent time preparing. Whatever the circumstance or situation, he gave it his full attention. He committed himself to personal mastery and improving the outcome.

Change, personally and organizationally, starts in the mind of the leader. Our mindset, the way we approach not just our day but our every task will determine our ultimate outcome in life.

Those that watch us: family, friends, co-workers, direct reports, all will observe our actions and level of engagement and respond accordingly.

When our words and our actions don’t line up, they will always follow our actions.

Part of what we work on in the coaching relationship is showing up fully present. All areas of our lives must be accounted for. This means we pay attention to the following areas of health: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, relational, and financial. When we show up, fully present, fully engaged, and unquestionably committed, we see great things happen.

Three Tips For Leaders

When you’re ready to bring an unquestionable commitment to all aspects of life, it can feel like a daunting task. To help you on that journey, here are things to do today that can start you on that journey.

1.) Eliminate Distraction

One of the greatest wastes of time and energy is mental distraction. Emails. Phone calls. Text message. Phone notifications. We live in a world that prides itself on distraction. Eliminate them. Close your email application. Silence your phone. Turn off notifications. Better yet, put your phone in another room for a full sixty minutes. Give the task at hand 100 percent of your focus. High-achievers always operate by this principle and it’s what allows them to get so much done in so little time.

2.) Focus On Strength.

When interacting with fellow employees or direct reports, focus on their strengths. As Don Clifton revealed in his StrengthsFinder book, the chances of being ‘actively disengaged’ in work drops to 1% when we focus on our strengths. Eliminate distraction. Then, focus on strengths. This is true for your own, and those of your employees. Improve performance and by focusing on strengths.

3.) Expect Mastery

Expecting mastery is different than expecting perfection. We don’t expect perfection. We do expect progress. From ourselves, our employees, and from those we lead. Create a plan for intentional growth. Make it clear and compelling. Then make it inspiring and motivating. Expect to master a subject. In short, you gain unquestionable commitment by practicing unquestionable commitment.