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Don’t skip this! Create Goals that You Can Actually Achieve

Creating goals that have meaning

“It’s just a goal.”

That’s a phrase I’ve heard too many times when a business leader engages in a performance review with an employee or when companies embark on a corporate planning effort.

Do they mean that a goal is more like a road sign, pointing the way without regard for whether you actually arrive?

Is it like the proverbial carrot dangled on the stick in front of us, with some motivational value but with no expectation that we will ever feast upon it?

Keep reading to get the most out of your goals this year


Productivity Tip | 4 Ground Rules to Make Sure You Reach the Summit

Break the impasse. Reach the Summit.

Too often we set these BHAGs (“Big Hairy Audacious Goals”) but don’t create the milestones and timelines that give us a chance of achieving them. Put these 4 Ground Rules into action to make sure you reach the summit. 

Set up Base Camps to Reach your Goal


Today is one of those occasions when I’m not sure what this article is about … so I’m going to let you decide.

“Thankfully, perseverance is a good substitute for talent.” — Steve Martin

Is it about resolve, our ability to persevere, to vigorously pursue an idea, uncover its value to our business and set out to relentlessly apply it?

Or, is it about execution, our ability to follow proven processes to implement sustainable change in our business?

Didn’t Mom teach us to take small steps?

It was probably our moms who first taught us to break down a big task … like cleaning our room … into smaller steps, like “hang up your jacket, put your shoes in the closet,” so that we would ultimately accomplish the bigger goal.

Did we need that coaching because we hadn’t resolved to do it in the first place and mom was on to us?

Or were we so overwhelmed by the enormity of the task that we didn’t know how or where to start? (more…)


Leadership Lessons: Wild & Crazy Guys or Masters of our Domain?

What Does It Take to be a Great Leader?

Nothing in life travels in a neat formation accompanied by bugles and cavalry.

A lot of it shows up filthy and unkempt, prominent in the mess we’ve made around our foxhole.

These lessons are typically the offspring of hubris, naivete and ignorance … or from overlooking the land mines hidden beneath our feet.

We’re sharing valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BECOME a better leader.

First, you must start BEING a better leader  … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders. You might start by building on the communication matrix and making sure you’re defending the castle to get done what only you can do. Make some time so you’re thinking past today.


I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

~ Justice Earl Warren

Get in the game. Enjoy the Ride.

Enthusiastic Leaders

The week just ended is my favorite sports week of the year. Some of you will say, “Nah, you got your calendar mixed up. Baseball season opened the previous week.”

Of course, I could say, “but the home opener for the Giants was that week” and then you’d say, “OK, so you’re a big Giants fan. I get it.”

A few of you may suspect that’s not the reason. Not that I don’t love the World Champion San Francisco Giants and all … but honestly? That didn’t even occur to me as I braced for the greatest sports week of the year.

What’s not to like?

There are a lot of reasons why I love the week that just ended. (more…)


Leadership Insight | Building Consensus does not Build Success

Building Consensus ≠ Building Success

I have been working with a young CEO who recently acceded to her company’s leadership.

She was the successor to a more authoritarian regime and found herself working overtime to establish a more collaborative and less hierarchical environment.

She wanted to bring people to the table, encourage a stronger cultural bond among her employees and build a more inclusive culture that valued the contribution of each individual.

People welcomed those changes with open arms, eager to embrace a culture they much preferred.

Is it healthy if your leadership team agrees with everything you want?

What emerged along with a more engaging and transparent culture, however, was a cadre of executives so eager to please their new leader, and to be a part of her leadership team, that they acquiesced to every idea and plan. (more…)


Leadership Insight | Collaboration Won’t Overcome Poor Communication

“Communication is something so simple and difficult that we can never put it in simple words.

~ T. S. Matthews


Communication = Collaboration ≠ Consensus

One of the most popular words in the business lexicon these days is collaboration.

Everyone seems eager to flatten the organization, get rid of hierarchy, eliminate command-and-control structures and collaborate across broad multifunctional teams.

Wow! That’s quite an objective, isn’t it. But do we really understand collaboration and why it’s become such a ubiquitous battle cry?



Leadership Insight | First rule of a mistake: Admit it

“A lie will easily get you out of a scrape, and yet,

strangely and beautifully, rapture possesses you

when you have taken the scrape and left out the lie.”

~ Charles Edward Montague


Everyone makes mistakes. 

We know this for a fact, don’t we? It’s pretty clear —like crystal.

Why are we are so unwilling to admit our mistakes?

So, why do so many persist in their insistence that they did no wrong?

Despite the lessons that cover the waterfront — from Watergate to the Catholic Church — the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

What appeared to be minor tributaries turned into a rushing river of a failed presidency and international scandal, yet the stream of lies and denial from those who fail to heed these lessons continues unabated in both our public and private lives.

The truth will never come out … will it?

For some reason, we persist in believing that the truth will never come out. (more…)


Leadership | The 7 Attributes of World Class Organizations


What can you accomplish in a flash of time?

It lasts about 300 to 400 milliseconds. It occurs about 10 to 20 times per minute.

Over the course of a day, excluding about 8 hours of sleep, it amounts to about an hour and 20 minutes on average, a fair chunk of time in our waking day.

If you consider that the universe is about 14 billion years old, about 54,000 years would pass by during any given span of those milliseconds. 

Some might argue that we can’t see anything during that period.

Yes, all that happens in the blink of an eye … about 1/3 of a second.

It ain’t much but in those small fractions, a lot can occur.



Leadership Insight | Don’t Gamble with the Storm Clouds

Fly to the Light!

Just after obtaining his pilot’s license, a dear friend from the Midwest found himself surrounded by unexpected thunderstorms. He clambered for every streak of sunshine he could find, ultimately zigzagging his way to a safe landing:

“That principle is a metaphor for my life. It seems that I have always flown to the light. If there was resistance or a combination of obstacles, I just vectored my way between them or around them. That approach is superior to flying blindly into clouds. You never know what’s in the cloud or on the other side of it. There could be another plane or there could be a bolt of lightening. You just never know. Flying in the light allows the pilot to see what’s coming and take evasive action. I commend that approach to you. When given the choice between taking a chance in the dark or flying in the light, choose the light. At least you have a chance if you can see what’s coming and have a chance to avoid it. Fly to the light, live in the light and avoid darkness, whenever possible.”

“There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time we have any power over.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

For every storm cloud, there’s a ray of sunshine. I remembered this message from my friend, who regularly writes to his family and friends, as I was diving deeply into our upcoming video series about the kind of metrics that will serve as our life-saving instruments. In the contrails of my previous column about the risks of flying blind, it seems like the perfect time to share his wisdom.

Since the circulation of his letter is both limited and private, no one would know how much I have plagiarized his words … but I have chosen to use quotation marks so that his voice is clearly heard because his spare prose more eloquently describes his philosophy of “flying to the light” than anything I could muster.

What if there is no light in the sky?

But what if there is no light at all? How do we navigate a dark sky when there is no visible alternative? Allow my friend to offer his observation: 

“That’s not to say that living in the light is always possible. There are times when obstacles must be confronted. Generally, that will be necessary where there is no light to fly to. When that happens, you must stiffen your spine, take a deep breath and engage the obstruction. When there is no other option other than retreat or capitulation, charge. I don’t like to retreat. Retreat leaves me with a dissatisfied feeling about myself. I try to avoid that.”

Are you your own worst enemy?

I know that in the early days of my career, I was much more inclined to charge even when the path of sunshine was radiant for all to see.

Today, I recognize that it was more a function of arrogance and hubris than wisdom or insight. Sometimes I charged because I knew I could and bore little desire to leave much on the table for the other party.

At other times, I vainly sought any ray of light to avoid the inevitable disaster I saw coming. But, I wasn’t very practiced at it, and my hard-charging tendencies inspired the resistance that hastens rather than dispels the storm clouds.

Who’s your copilot? Is someone in the jump seat?

It’s never easy to navigate when the light is barely visible or accessible. Our success requires that we are both relentless and resourceful, with a positive attitude as our copilot and determination in the jump seat. We must grasp that ray of sunshine like an elusive thread drawing us to the Golden Fleece.

Every week, we’re sharing valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BECOME a better leader. Why not get these valuable tips and techniques sent directly to your inbox every week so you don’t miss them?

I wish I had my friend’s wisdom in those days … and today, for that matter. His is a simple but powerful philosophy that is well recommended to all of us. Just like pilots, we must either fly to the light or be dead certain that our instrument panel is an unfaltering guide.

Being dead wrong is just not an option. 


Leadership | Flying blind? Assume Crash Position!

What you can’t see can do the most damage

Weren’t you heartbroken over the death of John F. Kennedy Jr.?

We recently finished a three-day soiree with our long time friends from Boston, who we have visited frequently on Martha’s Vineyard where their family has had a home for more than 100 years.

As usual, the conversation turned to island lore, Fall from Grace, the mystery novel from Richard North Patterson, which takes place on the island (andwhich I highly recommend), … and inevitably to the Kennedy folklore and the tragic death of JFK Jr.

Is it hubris that drives us into the storm clouds?

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” ~ Jonathan Swift

My wife has had a lifelong interest in the family side of the Kennedy dynasty, so she was enthralled by a factoid we hadn’t heard before … (more…)


Leadership Lessons | Does Mom think you should be a snitch?

“God grant that men of principle shall be our principal men.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Does Mom think you should be a snitch?

Some of you may be familiar with the famed but controversial West Point Cadet Honor Code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do.

But didn’t somebody say: “Don’t be a tattletale?”

Few of us would doubt the wisdom of “will not lie, cheat or steal”, the core of many of the values we learned as children.

One of the other things we learned as children, though, was, “don’t be a tattletale.”

Be loyal to your friends, don’t snitch on them, and don’t go running to mommy when you observe a small infraction of the rules. It doesn’t help that we’ve seen countless movies since then where a snitch ends up on the wrong side of the grass.

What about the part, “or tolerate those who do”?

Thus, the controversial phrase, “or tolerate those who do.” (more…)