The Most Talked About and Least Understood Skill Among Leaders

In planning Thoughtwave for the start of 2020, I decided that a large share of content would focus on communication among leaders and within companies. There were five key reasons why.

  1. Communication is the cornerstone of people’s progression and your company’s success.
  2. Communication is the most talked about and least understood skill among leaders.
  3. A leader that believes they have mastered communication, individually or within their company, is a leader who favors delusion ahead of discipline.
  4. Communication is complex.
  5. Communication is what separates exceptional leaders from those that are average.

Minds Run Wild

Fact is, that conspiracy theories are alive and well and living within your organization.

According to Merriam-Webster, a conspiracy theory is “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”

Our minds love to fill in the blanks. When minds are left to wander, or wonder, they run wild. Here are some examples.

  • Elvis is still alive.
  • Area 51 is researching and experimenting on aliens.
  • The chamber behind Mount Rushmore holds some big secrets.
  • The Bermuda Triangle is one of the two places on Earth at which a magnetic compass points towards true north.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy was the catapult for modern conspiracy-theory. It was an improbable event that Americans desperately wanted explained, no matter how concerning the truth. There are dozens of theories and documentaries explaining JFK’s passing and they’re only advanced by the fact that an absolute truth is still unknown.

Netflix cashed in on the conspiracy theory surrounding the death of Jimmy Hoffa in their recent hit The Irishman. The movie became the biggest theatrical release both in the United States and internationally.

While conspiracy theories may be profitable for moviemakers, they have no place or purpose in your company.

Communication Requires Commitment

Your people are searching for answers. They want to understand what’s happening around them. If you don’t tell them, they’ll make up their own version of the truth.

On the flip side of understanding, it’s important to note that communication doesn’t mean telling everyone everything. Like shoes, a blouse or pants, communication should be sized to the person or group of people receiving the message.

Questions to Consider

Here are two questions to consider when you favor communication ahead of conspiracy.

  1. What generates curiosity?
  • Unknowns
  • Rumors
  • Misstatements
  • Avoidance of questions
  • Generalizations
  • Silence
  1. What minimizes conspiracies?
  • Shared truths
  • Facts

The Discipline of Communication

The truth can be uncomfortable. It does, however, provide the opportunity to state the facts ahead of letting people randomly fill in the blanks.

Conspiracy theories create chaos. Communication creates the interaction between information and people. The relationship between the two allows leaders to minimize conspiracies, maximize truth and accelerate the speed to communication effectiveness within your company.


On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ideal, where would you rate the effectiveness of communication within your department, area or company?

Why did you rate it that way?

What would it take to improve the effectiveness of your communication?

What’s your action plan to make it happen?

Final Thought

If communication is consistently random, what would lead you to believe it’s directed by the discipline of a strategy?

P.S. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Motivation vs. Clarity

Eric Boles, former NFL player, shared the following anecdote…

He said that when his team was down at the half and came back to win it was not because of a motivational speech provided by the coach in the locker room. When only motivation was provided, the team came back and played the second half the same way they had played the first - only more fired up, and they typically just lost harder. However, when the coach used the half to provide clarity about the strategies used by the other team, his team would return to the field to win.

Boles’ insight is as valuable in business as it is in football.

The people you lead don’t need motivation. Motivation is an internal response to an external influence. What they need is a clarity that drives the flame that fuels their performance. It’s this simple:

A consistent lack of clarity in communication will equal an inability to maximize performance both individually and collectively.

If you think you’re consistently clear in your communication and direction, you should pay particular attention to this post. It’s written specifically for you.

Here are three reasons clarity matters:

  1. Providing clarity in communication to the people you work with is your primary accountability. Fail to do so and you’ll understand first-hand what real frustration looks like and how it negatively impacts performance and results.
  2. Authenticity matters. This means that you’d better be consistently clear in your direction, feedback and interaction. Want to see great people leave your leadership and your company? Take the opposite approach and watch what happens.
  3. Questions connect awareness and action. Establishing clarity begins with being willing to ask questions as readily as you provide direction. Your people know when you’re not knowledgeable on a topic. There’s no negative in admitting this and asking questions to gain the needed understanding and clarity. The problems start when you provide direction with little to no awareness or expertise and you believe your opinion offers the needed/required insight. To this, I simply say... “get over yourself” because you’re creating confusion and chaos ahead of clarity.


It’s astonishing how many leaders believe that they’re knowledgeable about everything.

How often do people you work with feel unmotivated to start a project because they lack clarity on what’s expected?

Final Thought

What results would be achieved if you valued the clarity of understanding, awareness and communication as the leadership connectors to your people? Take a moment to step back and consider the clarity of your intention, interaction and direction. What would your leadership look like if you boldly asked your team members one, two or all three of the following questions?

  1. How often do you feel unmotivated about your work because of my lack of clarity?
  2. How am I an obstacle to you having the clarity needed to think and act more proactively and independently?
  3. When has my lack of clarity caused us to achieve results that were less than what they could have been? Describe how that made you feel and the impact it had on you.

Bring clarity to your leadership by bringing clarity to your team,


P.S. Go ahead... share your thoughts in the comments.

It’s a BIG world out there: Five thoughts about people that will shape the year ahead

Last week I talked about expansion and its direct connection to awareness and learning.

My objective is to help multiply leadership mindsets that focus on fueling excellence and the purposeful development of people in the workplace.

What you learn is the direct result of exposing yourself to more experiences, broader mindsets and perspectives other than your own. This quote from last week sums up my thoughts on limiting awareness by limiting exposure and it’s worth repeating.

“In today’s global marketplace and ever-changing business climate, it’s not enough to repeat the same year of experience 25 times and believe that it represents innovation. It’s also not enough to define the boundaries of your world within a 50-mile radius and believe you possess a global mindset.”

Five Important Ideas

Last week I said I’d share five important ideas that you’ll want to consider as you develop people and shape the remainder of your year. Each of these ideas are the result of Johnny C. Taylor Jr., Executive Director of SHRM, helping me expand my awareness.

    1. Defining a business strategy requires that you first define a people strategy. Simple but clear. The right people will help you define the right strategy and the wrong people will help you define the wrong strategy.
    2. Strategy can be broken down into three elements.
      • Corporate Strategy - What business and in which business should we compete?
      • Business Strategy - How do we compete?
      • People Strategy - What talent do we need to compete?
        It’s so logical, it’s painful. How will your people strategy fuel your corporate and business strategy in 2020?
    3. The success of talent acquisition is about three guiding principles.
      • Recruit for competency and hire for fit. Cultural disaster is the result of doing it the other way around.
      • Be clear about what your company is about.
      • Most importantly - Be crystal clear with candidates about who they will be working for as their boss. This is about one thing and that’s the subculture the person will live in every day. (This single thought was worth my conference fee and my time in attending.)
    4. Achieving diversity in the workplace was hard but it has been achieved overall. Inclusion of people in the workplace is far harder and there’s a long way to go. We must stop vilifying entire groups of people or generations. These types of generalizations are fraught with disaster.
    5. There are currently 5.8 million people looking for jobs. There are 7.1 million jobs available. Birth rates are in decline and the number of college graduates is decreasing as well. Leaders need to recognize that this is a math problem. As such, employers need to recognize that turnover is real and something to be predicted and accepted at some level. The most aware leaders recognize that in today’s employment landscape, something like a job offer has taken on a new purpose. It’s no longer serves as an offer; its primary purpose is an invitation into your company’s culture.

#Thoughtstarter - Quotes to Consider

Rick Bowers, President of TTISI offered the following two quotes as a part of our annual conference on realizing human potential. They immediately grabbed my attention. Something to consider in shaping your year ahead.

“It’s the responsibility of leaders to create an environment in which people can be their best. An environment in which they can thrive and achieve results for themselves and their company.”

“Courage is best defined as knowing someone has your back and you having someone else’s back.”

Make your effort purposeful. Shape your year ahead by increasing your awareness and expanding your mindset. Then go do something with what you learn.


P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

It's a BIG world out there.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2020 Thoughtstarter Challenge. This has become a yearly favorite for me because of how much I learn as I go through the Challenge myself. The most challenging week for me was looking ahead and considering what the future holds. So many options and so many opportunities to grow and evolve. As always, I had to remind myself of two things:

  1. Focus on the things that I do really well.
  2. Know the things I don’t do well and rely on really talented people to accelerate into those spaces.

This is also the time of year when I join consulting and people professionals from around the world to attend the R3 Conference on revealing, releasing and realizing human potential. The purpose is to discover, learn and connect so that we can help our clients consider, explore and implement innovative approaches to the most complex part of their business - people.


Attending conference each year is about my expansion. It’s about increasing my awareness and ultimately the awareness of my clients and you as a part of the Thoughtwave Community.

The discovery of patterns, innovations, relevant information, data and perspectives of other leaders is why this is a “won’t miss” event on my calendar. For 17 plus years, I’ve gained an idea that significantly impacted my thought process, my growth and positively impacted progression and results for my clients.

My objective is to help multiply leadership mindsets that focus on fueling excellence and the purposeful development of people in the workplace.

It’s a BIG World Out There

One of the most valuable parts of the conference for me are the connections and relationships with my colleagues from Australia, Brazil, Holland, Ireland, the UK and Turkey.

It’s a big world out there and people like Trevor, Alex, Jared, Hank, Padrig, Sarah and Hassan all connect to a much larger picture and international ideas related to business and the world-wide dynamics of people. These aren’t just my colleagues, they’re my friends and each year I look forward to seeing and learning from them.

Causing people to think beyond boundaries is a cornerstone of my work and relationships with people. No one person or country has all of the best ideas. Collaboration brings together so much more than the isolation of our thoughts, views and insights.

A Demonstrated Ability

In order to claim a broad awareness and understanding, you must first demonstrate your ability to go beyond the boundaries that you’ve established for yourself.

I applaud the longevity of service among leaders in companies, but not at the expense of ideas generated by a broader view. In today’s global marketplace and ever-changing business climate, it’s not enough to repeat the same year of experience 25 times and believe that it represents innovation. It’s also not enough to define the boundaries of your world within a 50-mile radius and believe you possess a global mindset.

What conference reminds me of each year is that building your brain is a focused and deliberate effort. One worth making because investing in yourself provides the highest rate of return.

Next week I’m going to share 5 important ideas from the R3 Conference that you’ll want to consider as you develop people and shape the remainder of your year.

Final Thought

We’re through the first month of the year and 1/3rd of the first quarter is complete. No time to waste in your relentless pursuit of excellence.

Read books, social feeds, online sources, magazines, newspapers, articles, and whatever else you can get your hands on.
Listen to podcasts, interviews and more.
Watch documentaries, the news, and the people around you.


What are you reading and listening to as a part of building your brain in 2020? How do you need to expand your view? What steps are you taking to make this happen? What is your single favorite source for information about the world around you?

Let me know, along with your thoughts, in the comments.

With awareness,

Challenge Yourself to Look Ahead

Measures of success. They’re quantifiable, tangible, and/or visible methods for identifying that your target is being met or exceeded. They’re how I’m encouraging all of you to identify your own excellence in 2020.

You’ve reflected. Now it’s time to plan using actionable steps. How will you be relentless in your pursuit of excellence?

This final week’s questions are aimed to help you develop action steps to achieving a measurable goal.

Get the workbook here.


Challenge Yourself to Reflect

Purpose. It’s the difference between thinking generally and thinking intentionally. Reflecting on our lives allows us to identify both our strengths and limitations. If we don’t take the time to purposefully reflect, little growth will occur. Reflection is our own opportunity to identify areas for improvement. Dedicated reflection is telling yourself, “My own evolution matters.”

Reflect purposefully.
Reflect deliberately.
Reflect intentionally.

This week’s #thoughtstarters are intended to help you reflect intentionally on 2019 so that you can challenge yourself more deliberately in 2020.

Get the workbook here.


2020 Thoughtstarter Challenge

Challenge Yourself to be Relentless in the Pursuit of Excellence

I've provided the Thoughtstarter Challenge for four years now, and this is by far the most exciting. Why? Because I’ve elevated it. Why? Because my community of readers deserves it. I’m on a mission to relentlessly pursue excellence so that I may provide excellence in 2020. The mission starts now.

This week I’m challenging you to define what it means to relentlessly pursue excellence - to define excellence in all areas of your life.

Get the workbook here.


2020 Thoughtstarter Challenge

Where Have You Been and Where Are You Going?

When we arrive at this time of the year, there’s a feeling of shock that it’s rolled around again so quickly. Since time is consistent, there’s really no difference in the speed from one date to another. We have our perception, a constantly changing landscape and pace of activity to thank for this perceived acceleration. This is no different than when time seems to stand still and we can’t explain why.

There’s no doubt that this time of year also brings about a heightened reflection or consideration about where we find ourselves. It’s a time of year that seems to bring the personal measuring tape out the toolbox.

The measurement of personal awareness is the reason we always need to be asking ourselves three critical questions.

  1. Where have I been?
  2. Where am I at?
  3. Where am I going?

Where We’ve Been

At the end of 2018, I shared a blog in which I said I want 2019 to be filled with wildly crazy success. I encouraged each of you to send me a topic to write about that’s important to you. I asked you to send me the biggest challenges you faced professionally this year, especially within family business. Through your support in this mission, we were able to continue to grow our community of leaders and readers who impact privately-held and family-owned businesses.

At the end of 2018 what personal and professional goals were you setting to achieve in 2019?

Where We Are

2019 was a year of wildly crazy success. With the support of the Thoughtwave community, I was able to address more relevant topics: offboarding, the over-casualization of the office, and forgotten business etiquette to name a few (more on that next week). Through social media, we brought recognition to over 30 family businesses across the United States. I traveled from coast to coast working with clients and helping their businesses grow into future generations. I advised many of my coaching clients as they stepped into executive roles. And here at PDI, we moved into a larger office that will allow us to facilitate new types of engagements.

Did you achieve the goals you set out to accomplish in 2019? Why or why not?

Where We’re Going

With this success, I’m ready and motivated to bring you more. It will all start with the 2020 Thoughtstarter Challenge on January 6th. This is only the beginning.

In 2020 you can look forward to the release of my new book, the acceptance of applications to an elite LinkedIn group for emerging executives, and the release of new resources to move you and your business to the next level.

After reflecting on 2019, what new goals are you setting for 2020? 

My theme for 2020?
The relentless pursuit of excellence. 

So I hope you’re ready. Ready for me to support and challenge you. Ready for me to help you achieve results.

With enthusiasm for the year ahead.


P.S. If you know someone who would be interested in becoming a part of the Thoughtwave Community, please forward this link to them:
We’ll make sure they receive the next issue.

Resolution vs. Evolution

Here we are again. The time of year when many people will begin thinking about their New Year’s Resolution(s). While I’m not a fan of resolutions, you’ll find me fully supporting your evolution(s).

The Road of Intention 

How many of us, myself included, have made a firm decision to do, or not to do, something only to watch it drift away and produce no measurable results? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Growing up, this was an expression used by my parents to call attention to the gap between intention(s) and action(s).

Forget the statistics that show how many people succeed or fail in following through on the resolutions they make. All you need to do is look at the number of people who start something in January and then look at the number of people who have continued or stopped by March and you’ll have first-hand evidence that the road to failure is paved with good intentions.

Intent Doesn’t Define the Process

Resolution is about the intent. Evolution is about the process. Intent alone doesn’t define the process required for achievement and accomplishment. Consider these very simple resolutions:

  • I’m going to meet all of my sales goals and objectives.
  • I’m going to lose weight.
  • I’m going to build better relationships.
  • I’m going to eat differently.

Now ask yourself the ever-important one-word question. How? 

Defining your how is what allows you to immediately increase the odds of having your intent become your new reality… of having your resolution turn into your evolution.

Valuing Self-Initiative

When it comes to your professional goals and objectives, never under-estimate the value of self-initiative. It’s better that you ask and answer the question of how for yourself. After all, if the person you work for or report to has to do this for you, they may ask two equally important questions:

  1. Why do I have to consistently do that person’s thinking for them?
  2. Why do I need them if they won’t or can’t think for themselves?


You Don’t Want to be That Person

It’s easy to spot people who have given more attention to their resolution(s) than their evolution(s). Here are five phrases that you want to avoid being used in the same sentence with your name:

  1. Long on ideas and short on the know-how to get it done.
  2. All fluff no stuff.
  3. All talk no action.
  4. Style over substance.
  5. Understands the what, doesn’t define the how and why.


Defining and Differentiating You 

Separating yourself from the masses in a positive way requires that you define how you will differentiate yourself.

As we approach 2020, my focus is on helping you maximize you. Encouraging your awareness. Challenging you to evolve, advance and develop your thought process. Considering your perspectives and understanding what you’re confronting. Asking tough questions that need to be asked by someone who’s coming alongside you and helping you...requiring you to answer the question of how.

This is at the core of defining you so others don’t. Making sure that you bring all of the pieces together. It’s time to stop focusing on tactics alone when an individual strategy is what’s required to support the complexities that your growth and evolution present.

Your awareness is the starting point for converting your intent to action. The insights you gain are what lead to a more complete understanding of choices, better decisions and outcomes.

You can start this process by asking yourself a few #Thoughtstarters:

  1. What three things do I value most and why?
  2. What drives me every day? Why?
  3. What is one thing that is truly unique about me?
  4. In what area of my life have I shown the greatest amount of growth?
  5. Where have I limited my evolution? Why?

This is about helping you focus relentlessly on you and the distinct competitive advantage that your intentions offer if you commit to the process of how you’ll achieve them.  So stay tuned, there’s more to come.

With purpose,

P.S. Am I the only person who isn’t crazy about resolutions? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

How to inspire commitment through accountability

If you lead people, you’d better be skilled in the ability to inspire commitment.

When you read that statement one or two common assumptions may come to mind.

  1. I do that every day, it’s automatic.
  2. It would be obvious to me if I weren’t, therefore I am.

That would lead to a really important question. If these statements are accepted as certain and without proof, how do you know whether you’re truly achieving your objective?

Answer: You don’t.

Forget the countless words of persuasion or the fake representation of concern. Despite what some believe, inspiring commitment requires leaders to go beyond an unbound enthusiasm, delusional optimism or tireless effort.

Behavioral Blindness

Think about a time when you’ve entered a room that’s completely dark. Your hand in front of your face, can’t see a thing dark. No matter how hard you try or how long you wait for your eyes to adjust, you can’t see.

In that moment and space, you have no sense of proportion or grounding. You can’t gain a reference point. You’re literally blinded by the darkness of the room in which you find yourself.

What if we were to identify that room as leadership? What if the people in that room couldn’t gain awareness or understanding? They know leaders are in the room with them and yet they can’t see or feel the leadership necessary to bring clarity and light to the situation.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a room that’s this dark, think about the fear and uncertainty that start to overtake your thoughts. Think about the hesitation that begins to creep in around decisions. That kind of behavioral blindness is concerning, overwhelming and frustrating to people.

A Purposeful Look

Within companies, among leaders, there’s often too much time being wasted on words of inspiration in the belief that this is what inspires commitment from people. Within organizations where this is the case; people and the performance they deliver would benefit from less words and more accountability.

Inspiring commitment begins when leaders are expected to take a purposeful look inside themselves and measure how they’re bringing energy and influence to people through accountability. Accountability first for themselves, their actions and decisions then for others.

Consider this perspective:

Every time you confront a challenge, the problem can’t be with someone else. The first thing you need to do is explore how you’re contributing to the problem.

Here’s an interesting thought a client recently shared with me. This comment was made to him during a development coaching session he was having with one of his key leaders.

“Accountability feels like an attack when you’re not ready to acknowledge how your behavior impacts others.” 

The starting point for curing behavioral blindness is increasing self-awareness. That has to be followed by a commitment to apply and measure your progression and the progression of those you lead. The leader he was speaking with had awareness in this comment. The next step would be for him to recognize that his behavior does impact others and that means he needs to hold himself more accountable and hold the people that work for him more accountable.

Being aware is only one part of the equation. What inspires commitment in people is the modeling of accountability from yourself and from those you lead. This prevents people from finding themselves in a dark room full of fear and uncertainty where they’re constantly concerned, overwhelmed and frustrated.


Take a purposeful look inside your leadership. How are you inspiring the commitment of the people you lead through accountability?

Be accountable. It matters.


How have you seen accountability inspire performance firsthand? Your thoughts make a difference.