“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old...

Leadership-Direction How well are you and your leaders focused on building the new?
...but on building the new.”A hot topic in social media and around the business community, both for-profit and non-profit is the discussion around how to structure the workforce in the new reality. Questions abound around bringing employees back to the office full time, part time, not at all and what are the ramifications of these options on how the business continues to run and how leaders effectively lead. On multiple LinkedIn discussions, we’ve posted that those leaders who can only manage effectively when their team is back in the office as it was pre-pandemic are insecure and need to reflect on why they are only confident leading under those conditions in this new reality. Of course, those comments were mostly met by agreement and a few disagreements, even one challenging our credentials to even make the comment in the first place.Our underlying premise, and the reason for the title quote attributed...
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“Experience is not what happens to you...

Learning What are you doing with your pandemic experience to be a more effective leader?
...it’s what you do with what happens to you”This quote by Aldous Huxley, the English author best known for his book, “Brave New World” speaks volumes about what leaders are asking themselves and their teams as the next phase of post-pandemic business starts to take hold. In previous posts, we’ve talked about the VUCA business environment and how leaders must adapt to the challenges it presents. The foundation for adapting is how leaders and their teams are learning from the events of last year and creating new experiences to support sustainable success.To help leaders better understand adaptability, it is helpful to look at the learning process through the lens of the Four Stages of Competence Model created by Noel Burch of Gordon Training International in the 1970s. He identified four stages of skill development providing leaders with a structure to identify and assess where they and their teams and companies are...
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“All I hear are excuses”

Reason-or-Excuse Is your team giving you reasons or excuses and how do you know?
As we continue to pull out of a year for the ages, effective leaders are closely monitoring the new methodologies and processes put in place to adapt to the new reality. As many are realizing, some on their team are adapting well to the new reality and others on the team not so much. As we work with these leaders across multiple industries, both for-profit and non-profit, we regularly hear them state some version of the title quote of this article. Our response is always the same:What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse?The most common response to this question is an extended silence followed by “I’m not really sure” or “I never really thought about it” or others to that effect. Aside from the fact that every leader must know the meaning of the words they use, in this case treating reasons as excuses or excuses as reasons, both...
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"Trust is Earned...

Trust How does your team trust your leadership?
...When Actions Meet Words”Last month, we explored the leader-follower relationship through the lens of followership. In this edition, we explore another element of this critical business relationship and a topic that many leadership conversations struggle with. Intellectually, every leader, even the poor ones, can agree that trust and trustworthiness is important to effective leadership. Unfortunately, not all leaders, especially the poor ones, know what it takes to be viewed as trustworthy. Moreover, they fail to understand the consequences of not being trusted until the damage to their team is done. As the expression goes, “Losing trust is like crumpling a piece of paper. No matter how much you smooth it out, it is never the same.”One of the simplest ways to break down the key elements of trust and trustworthiness comes via the Trust Equation developed by Trusted Advisor. The equation states Trustworthiness is equal to Credibility plus Reliability plus Intimacy...
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“We Get the Leaders...

Followership How does your team’s followership align with your leadership?
...We Choose to Follow”Earlier this month, I read the title quote in a post by Laurence Barrett from my LinkedIn network. His posts always get me thinking and this particular sentence got me thinking about an important topic that routinely gets little airtime yet is extremely important in the leadership development universe. When we ask leaders if they can truly be a leader if no one follows them, the obvious answer is no. Yet the topic of followership continues to lag in the leadership discussion.In the Leadership and Organizational Behavior class I teach in a local MBA program, we introduce the relationship between the leader, the followers, and the situation. One of the exercises we discuss is the idea of creating a course on followship and the key topics we would need to cover in such a course. After creating an exhaustive list of topics, I change the title from followership...
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“What have we learned?”

Learn-and-lead As a leader, what have you learned?
As we close out the year for the ages, many are using the time to reflect on the recent past in order to set the stage for what is next. Our experience tells us that for most, this is a loosely defined informal process which tends to produce minimal, if any, change in attitudes and behaviors. For this reason, we focus our coaching with clients, as well as the theme of this post, on learning. By definition, learning results in modifying behaviors by experience. We focus on the issue of learning because without the observable modified behavior, we could argue actual learning does not occur.As early as this past summer, we began asking our clients what they had learned about themselves over the previous 3-4 months. The idea is centered on leaders making time to consciously capture their experiences to learn what changes to make in their businesses. In our experience...
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“A goal is planned conflict...

conflict-with-status-quo How will your goal planning process defeat the enemy of your success?
...with the status quo.”It is the time of year when leaders evaluate the results of what has been a very challenging year. The purpose is to presumably create new goals to continue achieving desired results next year. Yet, no matter how many leaders I ask what their goal planning process looks like, the vast majority simply do not have one. The closest processes resemble an organizational to-do list with little or no context behind them. But is that enough? As the title quote from Hyrum W. Smith suggests, those goals must be strong enough to move to a desired future that is likely in conflict with the status quo.The challenge is that merely setting goals is never enough in and by themselves to create the necessary level of planned conflict. We wrote about this idea two years ago on how an effective goal planning process is a great motivator for success! The...
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Who are you...

Who-Am-I-2
...really? It has long been a tenet of effective leadership that it really begins with effective self-leadership. So much so that in our coaching practice, we maintain that if one cannot lead themselves, they do not have the right to lead others. While that may come across rather strong, we’ve seen it play out as advertised, both positively and negatively over the last several decades.Self-awareness is obviously key to effective self-leadership, yet it remains a challenge for far too many leaders. In a January 2018 article in Harvard Business Review titled, “What Self-Awareness Is (and How to Cultivate it)”, Tasha Eurich stated that their four-year research study estimated that only 10% to 15% of their over 5,000 study participants were actually self-aware.In some of our more recent posts, we discussed how the pandemic has been a bit of “truth serum” for leaders across the globe. No one has escaped the need...
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If You’re Not Listening...

listening How is your listening adding value to your leadership?
...Sit Down and Zip It..Because, quite frankly, you’re not adding anything new to the conversation! While I’ve always paid particular attention to leader’s listening skills, it appears that in the last six months we are being inundated with examples of those intent on change by talking over everyone else in the conversation. We’ve written about this idea of effective listening many times over the years and it seems appropriate that we do so again to reinforce the idea that leaders must listen to learn fully what is new about a given situation. If they are only interested in talking, then they are literally adding nothing new to the conversation by only repeating what they already know! What does it take, then, to zip it and listen when the first instinct is to keep talking? Based on our experience, there are three key knowledge elements to effectively listening in order to learn...
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Changing your Habits...

Old-vs-New-Habits What is your process to develop new leadership attitudes and habits?
...of ThoughtIn recent months, largely driven by the massive information assault on our lives due to the pandemic, social unrest and politicizing nearly everything under the sun due to the upcoming election, we’ve focused our writing around critical thinking. We’ve challenged readers to ask themselves why they think the way they do and digging deeper into how they think versus what they think.We know our thinking is a function of our beliefs and values and that our attitudes reflect our habitual thinking. With that in mind, let’s explore the five key questions leaders need to ask themselves as they change the way they think and act to stay relevant as 21st Century Leaders. These questions stem from multiple research sources and are conveniently summarized in “Leadership, Enhancing the Lessons of Experience” by Richard Hughes, Robert Ginnett and Gordy Curphy.How does a leader know what attitudes and behaviors to change? ~ One...
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“Education is not the learning of facts...

Thinker-Auguste-Rodin What is your process to expand your leadership knowledge box?
...but the training of the mind to think.”When Albert Einstein said these words, the internet did not exist. The networks that did exist in the form of telegraph and telephone did not provide access to data and information as we have now. One could almost say we no longer need to learn facts because we have access to them instantly through any number of Google searches. More importantly, the second part of his quote still resonates today. We would suggest it has become harder to train the mind to think than it was even in Einstein’s day.Training the mind to think is what critical thinking is all about, especially for 21st Century Leaders. According to Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, critical thinking is where the thinker improves the quality of their thinking based on how they think and the associated intellectual standards. As human beings, much of our thinking is biased,...
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"Social Continuity...

Social Continuity Who will you reach out to today to strengthen your social contract?
...with Physical Distancing”A term created out the current pandemic we hear every day is “Social Distancing”. While I understand the intent and purpose of the term, I believe it can also lead to unintended emotional isolation during these periods of lockdown and quarantine.A different perspective came to light yesterday during a conversation with my accountability coach. She got me thinking (as she usually does) about what we are really asking people to do is physical distancing while keeping our social contracts intact.Nearly everyone I speak with has made comments relating to the positivity they get from their own social conversations within their networks. It is apparent as well when they are feeling isolated and directionally out of sorts when the social continuity breaks down. If that is you, reach out. If you don't know who to call, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll set up a call to get the conversation...
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“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people...

LV-Logo-v1-1024x386 How is your voice improving your effective leadership?
...but the silence over that by the good people.”I have written in this forum every month since we started RPC Leadership Associates, Inc. twelve years ago. The first post that year related directly to my military career titled, “Everyone looks like an effective leader...until the enemy shows up.” It was an expression used both in the military and in my business career to highlight the importance of effective leadership, of being an example to follow in any situation. As I reflect on more recent events, the words in the title by Martin Luther King resonated as the voices of effective leaders become more and more important in this dynamic business environment.What, then, does it mean for leaders to exercise their voice and how can they become comfortable with the associated risk? Based on my own experience, I believe there are three key foundational elements to finding one’s leadership voice.Integrity ~ effective...
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Are you a Know-It-All...

Learning-Leader
...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 21st 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 thatMe: 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 action we should take.Them: I disagree. I don't...
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Don’t Raise Your Voice…

Persuasion
…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 put a...
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Are We Too Soft…

ED-AK082_bauerl_G_20090827153620
…on Our Soft Skills? Much is said and written these days about soft skills and how important they are to business success. Often, the context of this discussion is the evolving influence of technology in our daily lives. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and any other technology that threatens (real or imagined) to replace humans in the workforce is a driving force behind the need and effectiveness of our soft skills. It’s as if we are less afraid of losing our hard skills and more afraid of our lack of soft skills and ability to think critically! Another context for this conversation is in the discussion of “skills gaps”. The November 2018 LinkedIn Workforce Report found the biggest “skills gap” is in San Francisco/Silicon Valley followed by New York City. The top 3 skill gaps in San Francisco/Silicon Valley are Oral Communication, Business Management and Leadership in that order. In...
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“A mind that knows how to think is more empowered...

brain How do you think?
...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 21st 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 Academy at West Point, then...
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"Don't tell me...

Integrity1 What narrative are your words and actions telling your followers?
...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 that...
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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 excuse...
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Start Steady…

…Finish Strong!This has been a mantra I’ve lived by since the days of running marathons in the early 90s, to helping get my kids ready for Army and Navy boot camps.  As each was getting mentally and physically ready to attend their respective basic training, I would repeat the phrase over and over especially on our training runs.  Now it holds a place on my triathlon jersey as a constant motivator to keep improving as a triathlete.  It is in this context the mantra was recently put to the test and got me thinking about its relevance in a broader leadership setting. Start Steady ~ In the local sprint triathlon earlier this month, I was even more committed to a steady start in the swim as I have ever been. It was not about talent, rather finding a pace that was in keeping with this being a sprint, but not burn...
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