In today’s workplace, honesty is an endangered species. Even when you think you have spotted it, you may reach out to touch it and discover someone’s integrity has disappeared into extinction right before your eyes.

There is really only one reason why people avoid the truth. It is survival. The ‘flight or fight response’ leads the mind to question a person’s own actions and answer their fears. It may be the fear of making a mistake that makes history or the fear of standing for something when others will not. The fear can also be of losing ground and losing face. Suddenly, fear builds into an accumulation of half-truths appearing more viable than the truth. Half-truths rob opportunity of the ability to deliver trust.

Only trust will remove fear and replace doubt with confidence and performance. When we sacrifice honest feedback, we rob others of the opportunity to set new personal goals. Often times, this can be seen when unsatisfactory performance is recognized, but not confronted until someone is suddenly moved or terminated. The blow of an unsuspected and sudden consequence usually leaves the victim with the “deer in the headlights” look. They never realized they should have tried to do something differently. Individuals who fail to confront others with honest feedback are not leaders, but cheaters. They frequently sacrifice commitment to their colleagues to install a quick fix or serve their own personal agendas.

In the end, the choice for anything less than integrity leaves nothing more than face value. Eventually, predators will sense you are no real threat and put you on the endangered species list.

Think of your company as an ecosystem requiring a balance of life forms to ensure survival and growth. One of the greatest threats to an organization’s ecosystem is the absence of trust. Consider the energy you see devoted to spreading criticism and disappointment in others on any given day. Listen and be honest about what you hear. If you replace criticism and disappointment with support and solutions, you will create an environment focused on evolution rather than the threat of its predators.

Build an environment of trust and growth. We can expect people to take chances on learning only if we give them the space to explore their skills. Teach individuals to grant themselves permission to make mistakes. Help others to pursue their dreams and don’t criticize the risk they are willing to take. In areas where others have failed, they may succeed.

If leaders find a colleague facing unmet expectations, they must help them stand up with dignity and move forward. The pressure of disappointment which overachievers place on themselves is always greater than the pressure anyone else can put on them. Choose to broker in honesty rather than disappointment and colleagues will seek your counsel. If failure occurs because a commitment was made but no energy was invested, the leader is responsible for delivering pressure to create focus.

If we are honest with ourselves, failure will never be unknown or sudden. It is everyone’s responsibility to design survival or end-game strategies when others fail. End-game strategies will prepare you to pull out the survivors and execute the alternatives. Teach everyone to think about turning losses into opportunities. If you focus energy on helping each other meet the overall bottom line, you will strengthen your position in the marketplace and your ability to fight competition. Invest in integrity and you will deliver trust in self, each other, and the future.

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Most of us haven’t developed the psychic powers necessary to understand what is expected of us without it being communicated. Given this limitation, the responsibility to communicate and teach falls back on the leader. Many professionals make the mistake of thinking telling qualifies as selling. Often times, they believe colleagues will be instinctively motivated and sold on an idea simply because they are told what needs to be done.

One manager was ineffective at assigning tasks to people and prevented them from having total ownership of projects. Anyone found working contrary to his methods was removed from the project. Others assigned were given explicit details. As a result, the second group was successful, while their colleagues were charged with failure. In the end, the first group was set up to fail and stripped of their motivation to achieve on future projects.

Surprisingly, many still believe we can eliminate managing or motivating colleagues if we have the right personnel. This belief throws all responsibility for performance outcomes back to the individual and allows the leader to discard the role of coach and mentor. We have seen leaders who took this responsibility to the extreme. In one such case, an executive decided to make hiring decisions based on a coin toss, eliminating the need for screening, training, or managing people.

We must always remember that telling is not teaching. People are more inclined to operate effectively when offered valuable input and feedback. Consider the view from their perspective. If our teams don’t understand the methodology, they are more likely to create shortcuts. As leaders, we must step up to the role of coach and mentor to equip each player with a mission.

Every successful product has a vision. People buy it because they are sold on how well it will perform. The product of vision is sold when the buyer can imagine the view.

Take time to review your objectives. Anticipate obstacles and never dwell on the agony of defeat. Focus discussions on the impact decisions will have on the future. Discuss solutions and forecast the benefits of success to everyone involved. Answer why you would step up to the task and be prepared to sell the vision. When you illustrate the vision, others will make the climb and share the view with you.

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There Are No Upsets

Humility prevents the underdog from speaking the truth in victory. When they are asked, “How does it feel to win as the underdog?”, they smile to themselves. They know there is no such thing as an upset. After all, if we seek to find the winner in ourselves, can it ever really be called an upset?

Whether you are an athlete, executive or perennial student, we all carry the same arsenal of weapons to win: courage, determination, preparation, and faith. Courage helps us face defeat before the game even begins. Determination allows us to break through the boundaries placed on us by others. We have the preparation given to us by great parents, coaches, and business leaders. And, we carry faith in our own human spirit. 

We place number rankings on athletes, titles on business professionals, and mental health labels on troubled kids. All of these are stages for upset. We should achieve by courage, not by permission. 

When others see a loss, the underdog only sees a time to reflect. As we return to victory, others see an upset. The signature on the successful business contract or the academic scholarship may appear to spectators as defining moments in the match. But, we the winners, realize that victory came from a lifetime of preparing for the pinnacle of challenge.

We knew on that particular deal or life moment that the student had become the teacher. When we attack life as a player versus a spectator, we will understand there are no upsets. 


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The Hunter

Successful leaders are the modern day hunters. Every goal and aspiration is a planned hunt to capture the elusive prey. The prey I refer to is the animal that lies in all of us. The animal we all call adversity. Adversity can quietly enter our camp and destroy our map to success.

I have witnessed many leaders over the years with exceptional raw talent. They were on the hunt to victory. Then, before they could master their new frontier, adversity attacked their base of operations. They started spending more time discussing how adversity developed than solving the problems adversity created.

We should teach people of all ages to think and plan. Planning is what helps a child deal with the unfamiliar. They will make better decisions for their goals and success. They will learn to avoid dangerous pitfalls in their “wilderness”.

Many of the young people I see starting their careers are not equipped to handle the unfamiliar and unknown. We, the experienced hunters, should mentor them in how to blaze a trail in life. Teach them to embrace adversity as an opportunity to learn. They will learn to move quietly through adversity by seeing the light in the forest of success.

A visionary is a hunter who can see the future, trap adversity,

and track the path to achievement.

As parents, we can teach our children to live with adversity. Then instead of leaving home, they will find their way home. We as mentors need to stop worrying about our survival. We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves because we chose the wrong path and were lost for a while. Do not panic; you will survive. Whether they are nine or ninety, look for that lost child. Be a skilled hunter and show them the way home.

In my life, there have been times when I felt lost and off the path. I never gave up my focus on my goals and dreams. Sure, I have had setbacks, but my energy and desire to achieve served as my compass to navigate the forest of adversity. Today, those of us who have mapped the tough lands and hunted the crafty challenges are guides for the others.

We have a responsibility as guides to prepare those we take on the hunt. They need to be prepared for the rough weather of goal setting. They should understand that the road to success is filled with adversity and self-doubt. On the hunt, they learn to make sacrifices in order to meet the hardship of challenge. Above all, we the guides, remind them that with the end of each hunt, another hunt has just begun.

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Forever a Coach – Forever a Student

Many of the best coaches I know are not always from the world of sports. They are parents, business leaders, and others that coach their children and colleagues to achieve to their potential. The game may change for all of us, but one truth is eternal; we are forever coaches and students. Although we may coach others, as lifelong leaders we are students as well.

Successful coaches have the capacity to elevate the performance of a student to another level. All a coach can hope to achieve is to elevate the student to reach the maximum level of their ability. Trust me, this is not an easy thing to do! A coach must understand their student’s needs, moods, and fears. A priority is to gain the respect of their student. Indeed, this may be the defining characteristic of a coach. A coach goes beyond the boundary often set for an instructor or teacher. A coach develops an understanding of the true personality and other hidden nuances of their student. The history books are filled with talented players that failed because they took to the road of challenge without a coach.

A true coach establishes a bond of trust that is similar to a parent. It is the same with a professional sales manager or other business coaching teams. Parents must seek to understand their children’s needs and personality. If we coach from our needs and not our student, we eventually jeopardize the success of both the coach and student.

The best coaches have the ability to push a student to reach limits. Limits in many cases, the students didn’t know they were capable of achieving. These coaches must recognize the moment when they have extracted all that is available from their student or colleague. Some coaches push beyond this level. Trouble for student and coach is not far behind.

The interaction of coach and student is like a mirror.

A mirror that reflects the strengths and weakness of both.

As a parent, motivator, or coach make a firm commitment to go the distance. Never overlook anything for your protégé. Develop your personal coaching style. A coaching style that represents your beliefs and values. Your coaching style is your brand. A brand that will label your legacy as forever a coach who cared. A coach who cared about their student and their mission.

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Requiem for a Millennial

Imagine a workplace culture without labels. No, not the nameplate labels near our workspaces. I mean the characteristics of a certain group of people. You know those labels – it sounds like; “Millennials” or “kids”. Sound familiar? We should all strive to lead a culture formed from the diversity of thought and the passion of all generations under one mission.

The term “Millennial” has become somewhat of a dirty label in the workplace. Every time you hear one of your colleagues being referred to as a Millennial; know your culture has just hit a speed bump. The label itself often seems to poke fun at generational trends or casts them in a light as naïve, entitled, privileged, and self-centered.

Using a label to apply to an age group limits both the individuals and the organization. The millennial label provides a haven for those who fear change and those who are unwilling to learn from the change others have undergone. Labeling is a verbal wall built between professional age groups to create excuses for not working together instead of embracing our difference of thought to ignite creativity.

When we create a label such as Millennial, we are giving permission to that generation to do the same to the next. We instead need to build personal strategic plans together. These plans are the integration of all generations using their talents to build a platform of growth upon which we can all stand.

The Millennial has helped shaped modern culture in a way that makes them valuable to the future vision of organizations. Millennials have blossomed in a world engulfed by technology and been exposed to an overwhelming amount of information. Like previous generations, they grew up thinking they had all the answers. They used collaboration tactics in the classroom and assembled thousand man marches from hashtags. This familiarity with technology has created a generation that has had a huge role in shaping modern culture.

Millennials are so influential that Webster’s started incorporating “trending” words and phrases into its dictionaries. This is a great example of a cross-cultural contamination of sorts, figuratively intertwining the formal legitimacy of the corporate workplace and the casual transience of the modern Millennial.

The common discussion that pops up often is the sense of entitlement woven into Millennial culture. In fact, the label often diminishes a person’s intellect and skill set by boxing them in and slapping a sticker on them. Where are these criticisms born? Do our egos dictate the labels that we use to define other people who are different? It is never easy to admit when we don’t know something, whether it is as simple as navigating social media or creating pivot tables. Perhaps this vulnerability makes it easier to create an “us versus them” dynamic.

We must ask ourselves, should we be doing more to unearth the intentions and work ethic of people in general rather than vilifying them based on loosely based stereotypes? We must make the conscious effort to stop labeling people so that we aren’t depriving ourselves of the opportunity to get to know them and learn something new.

The list below is framework for how any organization can build a growth driven multi-generational strategy:

  1. Make it part of your culture to stop saying the word Millennial.
  2. Conduct a personal strategic planning process along with performance reviews.
  3. Develop an advisory panel which includes all ages of professionals to meet with senior leadership.
  4. Build goals and objectives focused on utilizing the combined talents of all collegial age groups.
  5. Pay less attention to the age of the colleague and more attention to their energy.
  6. Be a humble listener when all generations speak to you.

Remember to avoid living in the past. The past is overrated compared to what you are about to achieve.

By: Anthony C. Gruppo and Zara Lone

The Roots of Leadership

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Accessories Not Included

Everyone has a professional skill package. When we first received our skill packages, there were no accessories included. The lessons we learned from our mentors formulated our skill package. Although we have accumulated accessories over time, we can’t rely on them to charge our batteries and keep us moving. Many professionals pack models and systems, spending a lifetime collecting accessories. The overachiever evolves by expanding their skill package through constant mentoring.

Every day, mentors are influenced by their desire to acquire new skills and achieve peak performance. The best mentors we know never stop mentoring themselves.

Mentors face challenge knowing their accessories are not included. They assume they know nothing and they go from there. As mentors, we must equip others with survival skills that will not leave them dependent on their accessories.

Mentors are master guides at searching for insight and remembering the lessons learned from past teachers. They are able to see into individual needs and move quickly to meet them. They understand there is more than one path to reach a goal and are always advocates of action. However, mentors realize there are times when action accomplishes nothing and nothing might be the best thing to do. It is action taken, while others pause to gather their accessories, which advances ideas into realities.

Ideals are achieved when individuals are charged with the courage to extend their viewpoints and leave behind any unnecessary baggage. Whether building a new business or shifting leadership roles, uncertainty about the future creates a desire to grab onto something concrete…systems, models, plans, and charts. Transitions cause us to focus on directed activities that establish specific boundaries and bridges. Transitions can become hazardous intersections of change, which cause us to lose sight of the vision.

Periods of transition are frequently a time when we should remember to travel light. Insecurities about their own abilities to cross the intersection can lead mentors to respond more like crossing guards than wilderness guides.

There are some simple guidelines every coach can follow to increase their impact as a mentor. An impact mentor blends creativity with reason. They add emotion and energy to the logic needed to find answers. The mentor searches for the answer with the apprentice without ever taking too much pride in what has been learned. Creative greed only results in failure to achieve the goal. As mentors, we assume the risk of responsibility and pass on the reward. Impact is our reward.

As long as we continue to think through the obstacles with a sense of urgency, we will achieve every goal with an impact advantage. Strength comes in knowing what you want to create and learning about new worlds.

Failure to see what can be learned overlooks the humility in learning. It is humility in teaching that realizes growth.

Movement driven by creative energy adds to the mentoring magic. As long as the momentum continues, the mentor will never have to struggle over when they should let go. If there is humility in the mutual momentum achieved, there is no limit to the growth. Growth can be stifled if we begin to rely on accessories to deliver results instead of our skill package. Consider the professional who believes models and charts contain all the answers. Their structure will limit adaptability, and ultimately, growth. Mentoring models are no exception.

If we continually push others to expand their skill packages, we will improve our own ability to accomplish previously unachievable goals. A piece of our future is in the hands of those we guide.

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