On Monday I spoke at my Grandpa Jerry’s funeral and on Tuesday I turned 35. It’s been an impactful few days, with a unique mix of memories from the past and hopes for the future. I was born in the small town of Troy, Montana, with a total population under 1,000. My Grandparents owned a fancy (Montana fancy, that is) restaurant and bar in the neighboring big city of Libby, Montana. Visiting Grandma and Grandpa carried with it many fond memories: sitting on Grandma’s lap playing Keno, drinking Shirley Temples, and petting their many horses. As we discussed these memories over the last few days with friends and family, I kept thinking of the amazing potential of one single life to influence so many.

The impact of a single life.

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Who are you talking to and what do they want to hear?

I’ve been doing this blog thing for the last four months and these are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself. I’ve written and published 54 blog posts; some I’ve loved and others not so much. It’s a lot of work and on the days I haven’t felt like staying up late to finish, I’ve wondered what’s the point. The one thing that’s kept me going is remembering I started out with a clear purpose to challenge, encourage and maximize leaders. Without this rudder I would have been tempted to give up already.

So, I’ve made up my mind to keep after it, but how can I be sure I’m reaching my audience?

Get to know them.

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Criticism. No one loves getting criticism. We often look for feedback from those in authority over us, usually chasing positive affirmation. When the feedback comes and it’s critical, we can find ourselves wondering what we were looking for. Criticism is generally a commentary about how we can do something better. Some people appreciate it, but the implication is still that they must have somehow failed.

We all need criticism.

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Are You Ready For Change?

April 21, 2013

This post is adapted from my forthcoming book Change, the third in a series of practical books about life and leadership. The other two, Money and Authority are available for $2.99. 

Whether it be your personal life or the life of your organization, everything changes. What’s your response to change? Does it inject adrenaline into your system, or cause you to panic?

Change isn’t always easy.

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I enjoy learning and writing about leadership—mobilizing people and resources to seize opportunities and solve problems. Nothing makes me more giddy than seeing progress and growth. I love it when things get done. 

In leadership conversations, everyone talks about the importance of delegation in order to get more accomplished. Delegation, at it’s finest, empowers an individual or team to do more than they could ever do alone. Delegation, at it’s worst, is passing the buck on a to-do list you just don’t care about, but probably should

Delegation is a matter of healthy growth, and sometimes survival. However, there are two things that you should never delegate. They are important, but not always urgent… until it’s too late.

There is a war on our time and priorities.

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I have a friend, his name is Bill, but we call him Yoda because he comes out of nowhere with amazing bits of wisdom. One particular nugget has stayed with me for years. In response to talking about young leaders, he said, “The problem with many young leaders is they don’t think there is enough success available in the world for everyone.” Meaning, we’re prone towards jealousy, excited to celebrate our own growth but hesitant to celebrate the accomplishments of others because they might steal our success.

Earlier this week, I wrote about 7 Ways We Stunt Our Growth, I need to add Bill’s insight to the list and make it eight. Envy paralyzes you and will always thwart our personal growth.

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Is your growth, or the growth of your organization, stunted? Do you feel like your mission is paralyzed? Does everything feel static and uninspired?

Maybe your growth hit a rocky patch, causing you to feel withered or choked out. Maybe you just feel stuck in one of these areas of your life: spiritually, emotionally, financially, organizationally or relationally. You woke up one morning and realized nothing is changing for the better, and nothing has changed for a while.

There are some clear warning signals we send out when we’re stuck. I’ve seen these in my own life and leadership and offer them in the hope they may help you get unstuck. See if any of the seven following pitfalls are true of your current situation.

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Martin Luther famously stated “Sin is the self bending in on the self.” A fruitless cycle we find ourselves in, much like a dog chasing its own tail. When “self” is the motivation and goal, we run and run and only ever end up with something less than what we’re after. 

This is exactly the problem. We chase so many things for our own personal gain, and if/when we finally get them, it doesn’t actually fulfill us. Even if we think we’ve arrived and reached that long pursued goal, it doesn’t last long as something newer and shinier lies along the horizon.

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Vision. It’s a tricky thing.

Extremely important, yet sometimes elusive and hard to pin down.

Without it, an organization is lost. But with competing visions, an organization is doomed to frustration. One person says to go left and another says to go right, and it doesn’t take long for everyone to be confused. Vision and clarity have to be driven by the senior leaders of the organization. Those with the authority and responsibility need to set the course and direction for everyone to follow.

BUT, vision also needs to be fostered from the bottom up. A healthy organization draws the best out of its people and creates an environment for them to dream and add momentum to the vision.

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“I don’t care.”

One of the most dangerous comments people – and especially leaders – can make. 

We’ve all had those situations where we’re juggling a million things, and someone comes up and asks yet another question, or has yet another idea, and the knee-jerk response is “I don’t care, figure it out.”

The real truth is: leaders do care.

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