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.

 

The Death of Kobe Bryant

The world is dealing this week with the death of Kobe Bryant.

I’ve spent hours this week watching the news and scrolling through social media. I wanted to wake up today and have it all be a dream.

It’s not.

The Death of Kobe Bryant

In a tragic accident, Kobe, his daughter, and seven others are dead after a helicopter crash in southern California. While we wait for details to emerge, we mourn and grieve. For him, his wife, his daughters, the Lakers family, and NBA fans around the world.

I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I’m not a Lakers fan.

I do recognize and understand greatness though, and Kobe was one of the best. His attitude, consistent commitment to excellence, and drive led him to be among the greatest players of all time, in any sport.

I spent time yesterday engaging in conversations around how to handle this tragic death.

Mourn.

Weep.

Cry.

Grieve.

Pray.

Those are all valid answers.

I also have a feeling that Kobe would want us to do more. While I don’t know him personally, his life is well chronicled. He cares about excellence. He demanded it from himself, and from others.

In a celebration of life, here are three things we can do to honor the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant.

1.) Commitment to the Details

Tim Grover recounts the story of training Kobe. In part, he writes:

Each of Kobe’s workouts takes around ninety minutes, and a half hour of that is spent just working on his wrists, fingers, ankles . . . all the details. That’s how the best get better—they sweat the details … It all comes back to this, no matter what you do in life: Are you willing to make the decision to succeed? Are you going to stand by that decision or quit when it gets hard? Will you choose to keep working when everyone else tells you to quit? Pain comes in all sorts of disguises—physical, mental, emotional. Do you need to be pain-free? Or can you push past it and stand by your commitment and decision to go further? It’s your choice. The outcome is on you.”

Later, Grover reflects:

The Death of Kobe Bryant
In memory of Kobe Bryant. Photo Credit: WPMT Fox43

That’s Kobe: everything he does is all about excellence. Everything. Nothing else matters. You hear people say that all the time, “I’ll do whatever it takes!”—but he truly lives it. Every detail of his life, every hour of his day, the lonely time he spends in the gym, the people he seeks out to help him maintain that excellence, everything revolves around being on top and staying there.

Grover, Tim S. Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable . Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Pursuing Excellence

What can we learn from that? Quite a bit.

Make the comparison of a 90-minute workout to your day. What are the details of your job? Do you, as the analogy goes, spend ninety minutes a day exercising your fingers, wrists, and ankles.

How does an accountant practice that? A math teacher? The stay at home parent? A busy executive. Each one has that calling, each one needs to learn to sweat the details.

If we can learn to pay attention to the details in pursuit of greatness, we too can become unstoppable.

2.) He engaged in something beyond himself.

Kobe’s Mamba mentality went beyond the game of basketball. In a GQ interview, he explained how it was his mentality in life.

“I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination,” Kobe says. “We still fight, just like every married couple. But you know, my reputation as an athlete is that I’m extremely determined, and that I will work my ass off. How could I do that in my professional life if I wasn’t like that in my personal life, when it affects my kids? It wouldn’t make any sense.” The logic is weirdly airtight: If we concede that Kobe would kill himself to beat the Celtics, we must assume he’d be equally insane about keeping his family together. And he knows that we know this about him, so he uses that to his advantage.

This was due to his Catholic faith. He was very open about it and cared about it deeply. As a husband and father, he was called to something beyond himself. He threw himself into his projects deeply. Basketball, marriage, parenting, and philanthropy all got the best of him rooted in a transformative faith.

3.) Mindset Is Everything

Kobe’s book The Mamba Mentality is his reflection on the game. His game. The preparation he would make to be the best. It’s what he expected of himself … and what he expects of everyone else. 

The mindset isn’t about seeking a result—it’s more about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life. I do think that it’s important, in all endeavors, to have that mentality.

Bryant, Kobe. The Mamba Mentality. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

He knew what part to play to get the objective done. His reflections on offense, defense, the Olympic teams, and seeking intentional mentoring proves his commitment.

Whatever it takes, all the time.

We should be inspired by this. I often have to remind my kids that we do hard things.

We especially need to do hard things.

In a culture and a society where excuses are praised, commitment to the details, passion and purpose, and a commitment to a positive mindset sets us apart.

It gives us an unprecedented opportunity, for life, growth, transformation, and happiness.

Shift: Book Cover Title

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Shift: 7 Essential Mindset Strategies For Today’s Elite Performers. To keep aware of the release date and other excellent training material, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Shift: 7 Essential Mindset Strategies For Today’s Elite Performers.

Shift is about achieving ultimate performance.

In my work with my high achieving clients, I’ve discovered one thread in common with almost everyone: the biggest obstacle they face to success and transformation is the three pounds of grey matter lodged between their ears.

Our brains play host to all sorts of inherited narratives that influence our everyday lives. Take, for example, your thoughts about money. While I’m sure on some level you like it and know you need it, many of us carry around deep-seated issues towards money.

Is it a tool to be used for our own benefit or for the service of others?

A resource to be hoarded or given away generously?

A worry that consumes our thoughts or a blessing of enormous magnitude?

Chances are, whatever you think, you inherited those thoughts from your parents, your peer group, and other close relationships.

If you grew up in a house without a lot of money, it’s probably a constant stress or worry, even if you make enough of it now. It’s even worse if you don’t make enough. If you regularly experience more month than money, most of your stress (and spousal arguments) probably revolve around needing more of it.

If you think money is a sign of power and control, it will influence the way you approach all human interaction. Feeling stressed and need to seize control of a situation? Throw money at the problem. Feeling inferior, stressed, or irrelevant? A little retail therapy should help… Want someone to do what you want? Generosity with some strings attached could solve the problem.

Thoughts About Life

Whether you’ve consciously thought about your relationship to money or not, your life is dictated by it. As a business, you can’t survive without it. As a family, you can’t pay your bills without enough of it.

What is true of money is true of other inherited narratives as well.

What do you think about marriage? How do you explain your stance on family dynamics and relationships? How do you decide who’s house to go to for the holidays?

What is your view on loyalty in the workplace? Have you worked in the same place for more than five years? Ten? Twenty-five?

What about your own mindset? Why do you think the way you do? What story do you believe? Is it even true?

Mindset

The reality is that we all have preconceived notions of how the world should work, look, and feel. My son once asked me if I was the boss of mommy. How would you respond in that situation? Shift: Book Cover Title

Shift is about creating a new mindset around the narrative that we tell ourselves. It is about rewriting the script on your own life from two primary perspectives.

First, is about the habits of success. There are fundamental practices that you need to engage in to create success. While I don’t believe that there is a “secret formula” for success, if there was, this would be it. I’m going to peel back the curtain on today’s top performers, elite accomplishers, and world-changing leaders to reveal what they do to be successful. This formula can be boiled down to one overriding principle: working smarter, not harder.

Make no mistake, it will take hard work. But, at the end of the day, hard work will never be enough. If you’re not working on the right projects, at the right time, with the right frame of mind, you’ll never get the right goals accomplished.

My coaching practice is built on this. My focus, quite intentionally, is Empowering leaders to get the RIGHT things done.

Why?

Because I’ve never met a leader who was looking for more things to do. In my five-plus years of experience coaching pastors, entrepreneurs, executives, business owners, and various levels of employees, I’ve never once heard it. Quite the opposite is true. We’re all overworked, overbooked, overstressed, and overcommitted.

Over It.

To be honest, I’m over it.

Instead, I decided to take back control of my life and help others along the way. Don’t just get more things done. Get the right things done.

This is a chance for you to examine your life.

Make changes.

Adapt.

Overcome.

Succeed.

Now it’s time to dive in so you can get the right things done.

Blog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2

I learned the necessity of emotional intelligence like a child learning to walk. There was lots of hand-holding, many more tremendous crashes (often public),  and more than a few bumps and bruises. 

The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is like playing the piano. The greater the range, the greater the player.

As a pianist, my musical accomplishment is limited to chopsticks. On a good day, I might be able to find middle C.

For my wife, after some tinkering, she can learn to play fairly complex songs. She can tune her guitar, sing along as she plays, and is good enough to teach our children.

A world-class pianist can play amazing complex songs. The piano seems to come alive in their hands. Every technique is mastered. Each hammering of the kBlog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2eys is intentional. Everything ringing with a divine sound. 

Emotional Intelligence works the same way. Emotionally immature people have a very limited range of keys to play from. Usually, they are the basic emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. A situation arises, and their keystrokes are limited. Everything triggers them to respond in simplistic ways. 

I knew a man like this once. Though physically mature, the emotional range was limited. Within a split-second, he could go from happiness to anger. Worse than that (as someone who claimed to be a leader), there was little desire to change.

“I’m just this way. I’ve always been this way, I’ll always be this way. “

This limiting belief and limited emotional capacity will limit his leadership capacity.

Expanding The Emotional Range

Expanding emotional range happens with practice. Like each new key on the keyboard that a pianist can play, emotional range equips the leader for more situations.

Think of a strong emotion like anger. Those with limited emotional capacity experience lots of anger. The lack of self-awareness leads to them repeatedly pounding the same key over and over again.

They get cut off in traffic and are angry.

The restaurant takes too long to cook their food and they are angry.

Their child leaves their shoes in the middle of the floor and they are angry.

They are passed over for a promotion and are angry.

Their favorite team loses in the championship game and they are angry.

Bothered by the amount of trash in the local park, they are angry.

Like a new piano player, they keep hitting the same note. Always angry, always looking for a reason to explode, always at the ready to let everyone know how they feel.

In contrast to this, there are ranges of anger: annoyance, frustration, furious, exasperated, and bitter are a few examples. Each is a different key to more adequately express the current emotion.

Do your child’s shoes in the middle of the floor really make you angry or are you annoyed because you tripped over them?

Does the missed promotion make you exasperated because you worked hard and thought you earned it?

The more keys that are available to us as leaders, the better we can navigate the situations around us.

Continual Growth

The thing about leadership is that it is never a finished journey. New experiences and new insights lead to new emotional experiences.

This means new words.

New emotional keys we get to play.

And our viewpoint determines our destination.

Are these obstacles, or opportunities?

Join us next week as we continue our look at the seven areas of leadership health.

 

Looking to grow your Emotional Intelligence? Take the Test.

3 Strategies for Increased Success

Welcome to this week’s episode of the LeaderQuest Podcast. This week, we are talking about 3 strategies for increased success.

We are all going to experience frustration, setback, and a lack of motivation. Those that are able to push through those feelings and pursue their goals and dreams are those that will find success.

Some of it is about mindset. Knowing what you’re pursuing is vitally important.

But another part of the equation is knowing how to work smarter, not harder.

Today’s episode tackles that component.

Here are three things you can do to find success in the daily grind of life, business, family, and dream chasing.

As always, thank you for listening! I really appreciate it.
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