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Leaders Are Reader

With such a packed schedule of speaking engagements, book signings, family functions, and coaching sessions, it can be hard to find time to sit down and get lost in a good book. But every time I intentionally set time aside to read, I find myself feeling more creative, inspired, and motivated. Some of our favorite self-improvement books are:

  1. Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson
  2. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  3. The Power of Now by Eckhart Toole

Of course, if you’re looking for a dynamic book about leadership, mentorship, and next-level success, I know a good one.

Sweat It Out

This month, Antionette and I are celebrating all of the hard things our bodies can do. Instead of looking at fitness as something we have to do, we look at it as something we get to do. We both feel better when we put time in our day for exercise and encourage each other to say no to the sugary snacks and late-night munchies. We know that when we work out consistently, we feel better, we look better, and we are better equipped to serve other people. Having her hold me accountable is what gets me up out of bed and into the gym each morning. We remind each other that healthy and active lifestyles are just one good decision at a time. 

Facing Fears

At the beginning of the month, Antionette and I both wrote down a fear and posted it on the bathroom mirror. We have to look at it every morning and be reminded that we have some obstacles to overcome. Facing our fears is one of the most significant ways to improve our confidence and self-esteem. It stretches us and challenges us, and requires us to be vulnerable. The first step is saying, “this is what I’m afraid of, and this is what I’m going to do about it.” There is power in this vulnerability and is foundational in being the best version of you. 

Every week in September, we’ll discuss a few more ways we are working towards self-improvement and offer practical ideas for you to do the same.

My challenges for you this week:

  1. Start reading a self-improvement book (take a suggestion from our reading list) 
  2. Write down a fear that you currently have and stick it to your bathroom mirror. 
  3. Work on DOING IT NOW!

When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails. H. Jackson Brown Jr

Every day, we have the opportunity to enter into the workday with an attitude of gratitude and positivity or indifference and negativity. And all day, we can shift our attitude in a way that will bring more patience, productivity, and success into our day. But it’s a choice. If you’re an adult and you’re still walking into each day not fully aware of the gift that it is, and unwilling to master the techniques and strategies to shift your mindset and reset your attitude, you’re not next level bound.

People who are getting to the next level understand the significance of their attitude. They no longer adhere to the idea that they are a victim of their circumstances. They no longer give fear and laziness the power to keep them from their destiny. They adopt an attitude of “I can. I will. I must.” They don’t let the actions and opinions of others control their attitude or their mindset. Attitude is everything. It is the foundation for your success, and you get to decide whether that foundation is rock solid and indestructible, or if it’s weak and prone to crumbling.

Positive self-talk and positive affirmations not only build confidence and get you in a powerful mental state to reach the next level, but it’s been proven to reduce stress, decrease depression rates, and even strengthen your immune system. Living a healthy lifestyle starts with your attitude and how you talk to and about yourself.

Your attitude, whether positive or negative, is contagious. When people are around you this week, will they feel capable, uplifted, encouraged, and inspired? Or will they feel defeated, stressed, unable, unwilling and unmotivated? And be careful about surrounding yourself with people who refuse to adopt a positive attitude. Their negativity will weigh you down. Find the good in difficult situations and refuse to be the person who constantly complains, points the finger or plays the victim. Step up and decide that your attitude is your responsibility.

This week, find opportunities to implement these four attitudes of success:

  • Possibility. Find a way when there is no way. Do the things others think cannot be done, more importantly, do the things you think can not be done
  • Self-Reliance. This week, take control of your success by figuring out what you can do to get yourself to the next level. What action steps can you make that don’t require input or response from anyone else? Do those.
  • Don’t Quit. You’re fully aware of what happens when you quit on something, so what if this week you adopted the attitude of commitment? Decide this week to push forward when you normally quit and watch what happens.
  • Improvement. An attitude shift doesn’t mean everything will go as you want it to, or that you’ll suddenly see drastic growth and improvements across the board. Apply the attitude of improvement to your life this week and look for the tiny victories. Celebrate the growth and development in yourself and others.

The reality is that sometimes we just aren’t in the mood to be productive, goal-oriented, or hard working. But your mood and your attitude are not the same things. Your mood is a fluctuation in your emotions based on your circumstances. Your attitude is your outlook on the world and the way you choose to see the possibilities in front of you. You’re allowed to have an off day, don’t beat yourself up for that. What you’re not allowed to do is dwell in a negative or victim mentality and let it rob you of your dreams.

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Give yourself the gift of an attitude adjustment this week and watch how it changes things in your marriage, your relationships with your kids, your workplace and your social circle.

-Walter

“Same old, same old.” I hate that statement, don’t you? You hear it when you go home and reconnect with old friends, local restaurants, and take that walk down memory lane.

That statement is depressing for me to hear concerning businesses, organizations and loved ones. What’s up with the new neighborhood? “Same old, same old.” What’s new with aunt (insert any female name you choose). “Same old, same old.”

How is local business? If I asked you about your business approach, direction and trajectory, is that your answer, too?

I would hate for you to say to me, “Same old, same old, we are exactly who we were last year, and I am exactly who I was last year.”

They were who we thought they were

Dennis Green, the former Phoenix Cardinals NFL coach, coined a phrase after his team lost a game to the undefeated Chicago Bears in 2006. “The Bears were who we thought they were.”

He made this statement after a tough loss to a vaunted team when a win would have turned his season around. This now famous statement will go down in history as one of the greatest sound bites/rants ever.

He scouted them and knew who they were, and nothing about them surprised him. They were easy to defeat, but we just blew it. Lesson learned: When you are predictable and never improve you are vulnerable.

The Bears were undefeated, but made zero improvements, adjustments or changes to what they did, so their success had limitations. This lowly Cardinal team, led by their spirited leader, almost took them out.

Same old, same old will get you beaten

Is your company doing fine now, but you’re vulnerable because you’re addicted to the same old, same old?

The irony is that the Bears, as good as they were, came up short in the Super Bowl that same season. Why? Maybe because they were who we thought they were. Is that why the Indianapolis Colts led by Peyton Manning took them out?

How much fun is that? Same old…same old! Even if you are good, same old…same old will get you beaten eventually.

Ever heard of Maytag? I thought we would never stop viewing that Maytag commercial with that Maytag repair guy who was so bored. Same old…same old doomed Maytag, as they were bought out by Whirlpool years ago.

To be perfectly honest, how much improvement or change do you really see in your industry? I am depressed even typing the statement. “Same old, same old.”

I am a sports guy at heart who has slowly figured out the business world. In sports, whenever the season ends for your favorite sports teams, you expect, no, you demand they get better next season. The leadership door in sports is always revolving because of the high expectations of the fan base and ownership. And there is not a sports executive in the world who can get away with the statement that I dare not repeat and keep their job. If you aren’t getting better, you are actually getting worse.

Fans and customers demand improvement

Most fans around the country demand improvement and change, and it is an acceptable business practice. Your belief in your favorite team’s improvement is what triggers you to re-up your season tickets or to get excited in the first place.

Same old, same old is a huge turnoff that doesn’t excite anyone. The reason why sports is such a metaphor for life is because we observe and expect our favorite teams to get better each season. Even that one team that does win it all, they need to get better to repeat, because now they are the team to beat.

In sports, if your team doesn’t show significant improvements, some serious consequences and repercussions will go down.

Here’s the good news. Whether fans demanded it or not, any sportsman worth his salt is bred to get bigger, stronger and faster each and every season. In sports, the world I come from, desiring to improve is bred in you from a young age. Nobody stays the same, or you become vulnerable.

Peak performers want to get better

Let me drive this home to you and make it plain and simple. Peak performers desire to improve. Regardless of past successes or failures, getting better needs to be at the core of your business career.

I hope it’s a part of your company’s culture, or you are a bad leader. I mean, I hate to be blunt, but you business leaders shouldn’t get off the hook so easily. Your company is just not good enough right now. You need to get better, or someone in leadership needs to get fired! Denny Green got fired, and so did Lovie Smith, eventually, for the Bears.

Here is what I need to hear you say: “Peak performers desire to improve.” It must become who you are. “I won’t stop until my company is the best” is the mentality of a peak performer.

The business leaders I am looking for would say, you’re right. We do need to get better. Why? Because great leaders in sports or in business desire to improve, whether last season ended the way they expected or not. Peak performers desire to improve and will never say, “Same old…same old.”

Great CEOs understand that investing in human capital is paramount to growing their companies. The concept is employee engagement diagram hand drawing on chalkboardsimple: Helping your employees perform at an optimal level will help your profits perform, too.

Every organization has its high-performers — if you buy into the “80-20 rule,” they typically make up 20 percent of your workforce — who consistently produce at a high level. You love them. You wish you could clone an army of them. They’re the star quarterbacks on your bowl-bound team.

But not everyone can be an MVP. The majority of your professionals, the other 80 percent, fall into the “average” category. They aren’t good enough to call “high performers,” but not bad enough to get rid of, either. They are just average.

What if you could get the 80 percent to perform more like the 20 percent? Here’s how I’ve helped companies strengthen average employees through personal accountability.

1. Know how your employees will react

As we’ve established, not all employees are created equal. This is especially evident in their reaction to criticism.

High-performers are accountable by nature, constantly thinking of ways they can improve themselves with or without your well-thought-out performance review. They probably think more about performance improvement than you do.

Average performers, on the other hand, spend less time reflecting on their work and might wrestle with your feedback. They aren’t as accountable as your high-performers, so your well-meaning performance review creates hardship, negative emotions, and contempt. Knowing this changes how we approach the 80 percent.

2. Help employees own their work

If you want to inspire the average segment to get moving, try some type of accountability training prior to your performance reviews. This will condition your employees to own what they do and want more out of it as a result.

If you can convince even half of your average employees to focus on improvement, the entire workforce benefits tremendously. You may even get some of your poor performers to become average.

3. Focus on how “we” can improve

Make sure you communicate that you appreciate each employee’s efforts, but always articulate how can “we” do more. Never focus on “you,” because average performers can become defensive if they feel like it’s a personal attack.

Emphasizing the “we” in your conversation will make improvement feel like more of a team effort.

4. Maintain a coaching culture

Create an atmosphere where coaching is a part of the job when you onboard new employees. By introducing them to the company culture early on — specifically to your high-performers — employees can keep each other accountable.

5. Set ambitious goals

Set high benchmarks that will push your average producers without discouraging them. This will create scenarios and expectations for more production. Always dangle the carrot!

6. Celebrate great performance

Always celebrate your top performers publicly as a motivator for them to keep producing. This will motivate some of your average performers to produce more. Rewards could be things like choice seats at your awards banquet or an invitation-only high-performer’s breakfast with a guest speaker.

7. Nourish potential

There are many great ways to motivate your best average performers to continue climbing. For example, try spending one-on-one time with your average performers who have the most potential to elevate their performance.

You could also budget professional coaching for your up-and-comers, or facilitate team brainstorming sessions. Employees work harder when they feel that their ideas are being heard.

Please share in the comments which of these 7 you will apply in your business and why.