The Best Teacher…

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…is Your Last Mistake What is your attitude towards failure? We ask this question, or a variation of it, many times when coaching leaders at all levels of an organization. Interestingly enough, we get more absolute answers from front line managers and supervisors and more broadly defined answers from senior management. Said differently, our experience tells us we see less leeway for failure on the front lines to the point of wanting to be stressfully perfect to a different attitude towards failure where it is a means to learn and grow. I am not suggesting these experiences are scientifically representative, merely what our experiences are with the topic. The question is, why the difference at all? It’s amazing how frequently we hear about the lessons we learned from our mistakes along the pathway of life. Learning how to walk, riding a bike, driving a car and all the other things that...
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Are you a Know-It-All...

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...or a Learn-It-All? Earlier this year, we introduced what has turned into an ongoing discussion of one of the key skills of effective 21 st Century Leaders. Critical Thinking, or the lack thereof, seems to routinely creep into the conversation because we constantly run into evidence it still needs to be reinforced in the leadership development conversation. While we’ve given examples in previous posts, one that continues to pop up goes something like: Me: What are you trying to achieve? Them: I don't want to do this and/or I don't like to do that Me: OK, so what do you want to do? Them: I don't know. Of course, the real conversation goes much longer than the example above, but you get the idea. More thought on what they don;t want that what they do. Another different, but related, conversation goes something like: Me: I think this is the course of...
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“Without ambition, one starts nothing...

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...Without work, one finishes nothing.” In today’s dynamic business environment, it seems far too many leaders are struggling with getting started in a direction for their business, completing a strategic objective for their business or some combination of the two. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote in the title then ends with, “The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” In the context of today’s business environment, how ambitious is the team you lead to move in a specific direction as a team? How hard is your team willing to work as a team to finish what they start and achieve the team’s desired results? Let’s explore both questions through the lens of leadership required to answer them effectively. However, before we get to ambition and work ethic, let’s first level-set on the use of the term “Team”. Unfortunately, team and teamwork are often used improperly to describe...
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Don’t Raise Your Voice…

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…Improve Your Argument! Much is written about conflict and how society continues to struggle with managing it in an open forum. I see this struggle first-hand with my own clients who continue to work on their effective communications skills, especially with those who disagree with them. One of the key skills of leadership is the ability to influence and persuade their teams to go where they have not yet gone before, knowing they have to change but cannot do it on the strength of their own motivations. The Leader’s ability to persuade, and manage through the potential resistance, is directly proportional to their ability to build an argument supporting why their followers should behave differently than they are currently. With the advent of technology infused communications tools, the ability to persuade should be easier. The ability to reach more people efficiently theoretically makes the process itself more efficient. However, if you...
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“I can explain it to you…

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…but I can't comprehend it for you.” As we continue to explore the value of soft skills critical to being effective 21 st Century Leaders, our discussion turns to one of the most sought after, yet least available soft skills: Critical Thinking. While many definitions exist for critical thinking, they all rally around the concept of objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. In this world of short attention spans and social media driven opinions and assumptions, a leader’s ability to objectively analyze and evaluate the myriad of situations and decisions they face daily makes the title quote by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch all the more relevant! When we dig deeper into the construct of critical thinking, we find several key attitudes and skills necessary for 21 st Century Leaders to make the right decisions for the sustainable success of their organizations....
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“The Secret to Success without Hard Work…

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…is still a Secret!” At the end of last month’s edition, I mentioned how we would explore the widening gap in our soft skills relative to what 21 st Century Business requires. However, when I began to write my thoughts on the topic, I realized I had skipped a step in the process of enhancing and improving our soft skills. Being effective in any skill requires practice until the skill becomes a habit. It occurred to me I would be remiss by not addressing the biggest obstacle to changing habits first before continuing our thought process on soft skills. In this edition, we will discuss the obstacle most anyone looking to change to more productive habits encounters ~ self-discipline! As the title suggests, there is no secret to success without hard work. Because this journey involves work that does not come easy, it is fair to say our desire to achieve...
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“Prospects are highly informed…

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…but not necessarily accurately informed.” Happy New Year and welcome to our first edition under our updated branding!  We are excited about our new look and feel with the same professionalism and trust our stakeholders have come to expect over the first ten years in business! As the title quote from Leanne Hoagland-Smith suggests, our initial topic for 2019 addresses ability as leaders to make the right decisions based on how informed they are when they make key decisions for their teams/agencies/businesses. With the amount of information leaders have access to doubling at an alarming rate, it is no surprise the difficulty in being accurately informed to make the leadership decisions that keep the team, agency, or business growing. It’s been said people don’t typically disagree on the facts, rather people typically disagree on the interpretation of the facts.  As the pace of change increases, so too does the pressure to...
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We are great at Goal Setting.

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We suck at Goal Achieving! Full disclosure, I am a goals geek! I’ve used goals most of my life beginning at age 12 when I set my first 2 significant goals. The first was to join the Boy Scouts and become an Eagle Scout which I did 2 years later. The second was to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point which I did 10 years later. To this day, goals continue to play a significant role in our ongoing success at RPC Leadership Associates, Inc.  As we reflect on our current goals in the season of Thanksgiving and create new personal and professional goals for the new year, let’s take a deeper look through the research of Edwin Locke and Gary Latham at the five ways goals have high motivational impact. Challenging Goals are more likely to lead to higher performance ~ We never really know what...
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Making Leadership a Way of Life!

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The title of this month’s conversation also happens to be the Vision for RPC Leadership Associates, Inc. As we celebrated our ten-year anniversary in September, it seems only appropriate to reflect on how our Vision has inspired and affirmed everything we achieved and what it has meant to our business these last 10 years.   To set the stage for how it all started, one of the prevailing issues I saw throughout my military and corporate career was just how few leaders there are in business, politics, religion, sports and any other category of work you want to add. Of course, by leadership I mean those who are leaders versus those who carry the title or just “do” leadership. And so, it has been a personal crusade to support those who strive to be leaders to their core, to the point they don't know any other way; it’s now a way...
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“If you want to understand how a lion hunts…

…don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.” This quote by Jim Stengel, former Chief Marketing Office at Proctor & Gamble sets up this month’s conversation on Leading at the Speed of Business as we discuss the fourth of five keys to success. We left off the conversation last month by looking at how Cognitive Diversity helps 21 st Century Leaders adapt quickly by embracing creativity and diverse thinking. This month we explore the importance of how effectively we communicate diverse thinking to adapt and stay relevant. It is my contention that effective communication is the biggest challenge 21 st Century Leaders face today! When we think of all the ramifications and repercussions of poor leadership communications, we can clearly see why this is such a big issue. What can leaders do to effectively communicate at the speed of business? Knowledge Rules ~ Technology gives us unfettered access to vast...
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“Strength lies in differences...

... not in similarities.” This month, we continue our conversation on Leading at the Speed of Business by discussing the third of five keys to success. We began the discussion two months ago with the first key to success: Get Ready to Warp . Last month, we centered the conversation on the second key to success: Servant Leadership . This month, we dive into Cognitive Diversity as the third key to success. Successfully leading at the speed of business is rooted in diverse thinking. People who think different, will ultimately do different and will be more comfortable with change and adapting at the speed of business! What does Cognitive Diversity entail and what do leaders need to know to leverage the strengths that Stephen Covey alludes to in the title to achieve effective and successful leadership? Key in on Psychographics vs. Demographics – Most of us are familiar with demographics that...
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“The Best Way to Find Yourself…

…is to Lose Yourself in the Service of Others” As we continue our discussion of Leading at the Speed of Business , we look this month to expand on last month’s discussion in the Get Ready to Warp post. While last month’s theme was speed, this month we look at the concept highlighted by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote in the title, Servant Leadership. More specifically, we explore the idea that the leader of any organization can only be as effective and successful as the team they lead. The implication here is that no leader can keep up the pace of business solely on their own merits. They need followers who are fully bought in, physically and emotionally to the Vision and Purpose of the organization. In order to stay relevant at the speed of business, followers are the ones who will make it happen because they trust, and willingly follow, their leader!...
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"Are You Playing to Win...

…or playing not to lose?” This is a common question I ask all my clients at one point or another during our time working together. Whether they are a corporate leader over a business unit or division, a non-profit leader of an agency or association, an entrepreneur or small business owner or even a high school student leader, the intent of the question is always the same. Are they embracing risk or are they avoiding failure? Are they focused on the future or are they leaning too heavily on the past? The question usually comes up as the leader is struggling on some level to lead at the speed of business! In my own experience working with leaders at all levels described above, there are five keys to success when leading oneself/a team/an organization in 21 st Century business. Collectively these keys to success support a leadership mindset focused on setting...
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“It’s What You Do, Not What You Say...

…If You’re Not Part of the Future, then Get Out of the Way.” Whenever I see these words to John Cougar Mellencamp’s song, “Peaceful World”, it reminds me that one of the biggest challenges leaders face is painting a clear picture of the intended future of their team, department, business or organization. This is the time of year where many leaders are doing just that, visualizing the intended future produced by strategic plans, budgets and resource allocations now ready to be executed in the upcoming new year. However, these documents aren't enough to dictate success as they are typically created by spreadsheets and analytics. Visions are realized through emotional engagement by members of an organization so having more than logical plans and budgets to achieve success is necessary. What is the story? ~ Before leaders share the picture of the intended future, they have to have a clear idea of the...
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“To Learn you have to Listen...

…To Improve you have to Try.” Earlier this month we proudly launched the third in a series of business alignment books specifically addressing the unique leadership challenges of corporate leaders as they strive to create sustainable value for their stakeholders. In nearly all of my coaching engagements, speeches and workshops, the question of value, which I also use synonymously with relevance, comes up in the discussion. It is an issue all leaders grapple with and is complex in that it means something different to just about everyone! So, what does creating sustainable value entail in order to create desired results? To learn you have to listen ~ Whenever we do sales-related coaching, we spend time early in the discussion with the concept of helping others buy, not selling to them. This requires effective listening to understand what is valuable to the prospect or client. In similar fashion, leaders of teams must...
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“No matter how thin the pancake...

...it always has two sides.” By the end of 2017, I will have given multiple versions of our popular “Generational Diversity in the Workplace” presentation to over a dozen different audiences. While each audience is unique, a common question usually arises along the lines of, “I fit the generational demographics, but I don’t think like my generation.” Each time, this question, and subsequent conversation, brings me back to the wisdom from my Aunt in the title as it frames for me the value of understanding psycho-graphics to be an effective leader in the today’s dynamic business environment. Psycho-graphics are quantitative methodologies based on people’s attitudes and values. Most of us are used to demographics that are the tried and true “labels” to help us organize what is going on around us. If all we focused on was demographics, the best we could hope to gain would be effective management. However, we...
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“A mind that knows how to think is more empowered...

...than a mind that only knows what to think.” Through the course of the summer, I kept bumping into this uneasy feeling as I experienced what was happening around me.  I kept asking myself with each new situation, “What were they thinking?” As it turns out, after coming across Neil deGrasse Tyson’s words in the title of this article, I was asking the wrong question. I should have asked, “How were they thinking?” as I now believe that answer has far greater ramifications in our leadership-challenged world of today! Let’s break down his words further to see what we can learn relative to 21 st Century Leadership. Only knowing what to think ~ If we define thinking as “…concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it . ” as William Deresiewicz does in his October 2009 lecture to the plebe (freshman) class at the United States Military...
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The invention of the ship…

…was also the invention of the shipwreck! Effective Leadership involves among other things a sound decision making process. As it is a process it involves looking at not only the decisions immediate impact but the longer-term effects as well. As this quote from French Philosopher, Urbanist and Cultural Theorist Paul Virilio suggests, there is casualty in every leadership decision. For context, the decisions discussed here are primarily focused on the ones with the broadest impact to the organization and the strategy. Understanding the impact the decisions have in a broader sense is the challenge every leader faces multiple times a day! There are always Pros and Cons – The first thing to understand is that every decision has pros and cons. Seems obvious, yet I routinely see leaders making decisions only based on the upside of their decision and falling victim to their own confirmation biases. A common occurrence is a...
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"Don't tell me...

...show me.” We define Integrity as the alignment of what you think, what we say and what we do such that they all tell the same story.  We are constantly judged on how these three dimensions align as we interact with others.  However, only two of these are visible to others and create the most common input to how others view us.  In personal settings, the misalignment between these elements may create some personal conflict.  As leaders, the misalignment between our words and our actions could ultimately destroy them! It is amazing to me the disconnect between what leaders say they will do and what they ultimately do without realizing the consequences of the disconnect!  For example, comments suggesting a leader is committed to the mission and strategy of the organization while that same leader consistently misses on meeting goals and delivering on the promise.  When it comes time to evaluate...
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So what if none of the candidates are leaders…

As a leadership coach, I have searched high and low to find a definition of leadership that fits what we are seeing on the national election stage.  Since I cannot, I stand by the inference in the title which I am sure some will disagree.  I also reference a recent Gallup Poll rating the candidates lowest in Inspiring, Caring for Individuals and Visionary in that order.  Given these are also traits the nation is looking for in their next leader further supports the assertion.  However, what bugs me more is the narrative around hopelessness and helplessness coming from the candidates’ supporters.  Really!  Is all really lost because of one person? I’ve certainly been in many situations throughout my career where my direct supervisor, whether they be a front-line manager or CEO, who would not win “Boss-of-the-year”.  I can also never remember a time where I used my supervisor’s weaknesses as an...
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