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.

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.

The Evolution of Culture Within Family Business

“Don’t romance the past and fail to consider the future.”

(A client of mine made this very simple, yet incredibly profound, statement when discussing the cultural shift through transitions within the company.)

The Shift

The majority of my clients are going through a shift - the founding entrepreneurs, owners and senior leadership are preparing for offboarding while the next generation of leaders is stepping into more challenging roles.

Foundational leaders have experience and want to protect and advance what they created and built. The next gens desire more responsibility and want to carve their path. In most cases, both generations recognize the need for innovation and new ideas. How they go about it is likely the key difference.

Keep in mind that company cultures are living and breathing organisms and team members are intuitive and highly aware. They’re smart and sense, know and feel when changes or cultural shifts are about to occur.

If the leaders of organizations are to maximize generational transitions, they’ve got to inspire high levels of accountability, communication and collaboration among foundational and next-gen leaders. This is the opportunity to define a renaissance within their company.

A Business Renaissance

Renaissance. A renewed interest in something. Rather than just transitioning from one generation to the next, family business leaders have a choice about bringing a sense of revival to their leadership teams and to the future of their company. Transitions offer opportunities. Leaders define whether they will use them or lose them to catalyst new ideas, new ways and new approaches.

Preserve, Let Go and Communicate

As leadership transitions from one generation to the next, there are three critical questions to consider.

  1. What do we need to preserve and why?
  2. What do we need to let go of and why?
  3. What are we doing to continually communicate, value candor and define accountability?

Don’t Leave Your People Guessing

Keep this thought in mind: People should not be left to guess about what transition means for the company, its culture and forward direction.  As companies move from one generation to the next, it’s important for leaders in transition to keep the context of decisions, choices, communication and actions in mind. This is about awareness at the highest levels. It stems from the mindset that a generational transition impacts every single person within the company at some level. Rather than constantly discussing “the change” discuss the new opportunities that the transition presents. Allow leaders the opportunity to share their visions and build an environment of enthusiasm.

Always remember that in the absence of clarity and communication people will fill in the blanks for themselves. Don’t let that happen. Value legacy. Embrace the future. Don’t romance either at the expense of the other. Define your renaissance.

Here’s to revival,

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Why Vulnerability Creates Connected Leaders

Dear Evolving Leader,

I begin this letter with the recognition that there’s no such thing as a completely developed leader. Each of us who are seeking to grow, develop and advance needs to be continuously evolving. We are quite literally, a work in progress.

You may be asking yourself why you’re getting this on Thursday rather than Tuesday. The answer is because this is a really challenging topic for me to write about and I’ve re-written this letter several times.

Throughout my career, one of my biggest struggles has been in the relationship between confidence/strength and the ability to be vulnerable. How does the ability to resist and withstand connect with the ability to be open and susceptible? In my mind, this was about the choice of either/or rather than and.

There are areas of our evolution that are easier than others. Some take more time and some less. For me, the balance between strength and vulnerability has been a continual work in progress. These two don’t seem to naturally go together and there are times when I feel like they contradict each other.

All too often, we as leaders find ourselves unnecessarily guarded. Afraid to be real or raw. Hesitant to reveal a personal perspective in order to not compromise the professionalism for which we’re known. Recognizing that there are many times when we have better questions than we have answers.

While there’s a certain protection in not revealing our vulnerabilities, the price that’s paid is potentially becoming unrelatable as a leader. Leadership is about people and it’s about influence. As such, there’s no advantage to being unrelatable to the people we lead.

There’s a very thin line between being relatable and unrelatable. My experience has shown me firsthand that the line is labeled vulnerability.

Vulnerability isn’t based on weakness, it’s based on awareness. Awareness of our strengths, limitations and potential blind spots. Areas where we’re the catalyst for advancement and where we’re the roadblock to progression. Vulnerability is what opens the door to new conversations and new ideas. It’s at the core of innovation and re-invention. On so many occasions, vulnerability means standing in a place that’s necessary even when it’s not comfortable.

So why does vulnerability create connected leaders? Because it’s their source of confidence rather than contradiction. Their ability to withstand is based on their awareness and openness to understand themselves, others and the situations they face. They’re the first to admit their successes and failures. They openly share the experiences that have shaped who they are and they’re willing to say, “I don’t know,” … which is followed quickly by, “but I’ll find out.”

In a world that seems to have no filters, engaging in the conversation creates its own unique vulnerability. I don’t need to be vulnerable because it’s trending or socially driven. For me, my growth in this area is about one thing: Being relatable and valued as a person and a professional to the people with whom I’m connected. 

This is the space of confidence and strength driven by a continual evolution and achieved by a willingness to be open and aware.

In this space, I have come to value what it means to be an evolving leader and I hope that this letter contributes to your progression as well.




What does vulnerability mean to you? Where have you been willing to be vulnerable and built your confidence at the same time? Let me know in the comments.

Why You Should Stop Avoiding Conflict in the Workplace

Why You Should Stop Avoiding Conflict in the Workplace

By Liane Davey

I was recently hired to help a group of doctors work through their issues and get their business back on a growth trajectory. They aren’t talking much. They’re barely making eye contact. After only a few hours, it’s clear to me what’s wrong. I share my diagnosis: “You need more conflict.”

It’s the last thing they expect me to say. They’re already in agony dealing with the smallest decisions. Each meeting is an excruciating cocktail of trepidation, anger, guilt, and frustration. How could they possibly need more conflict?

What they don’t realize is that they’re mired in all those negative emotions because they’re unwilling to work through them. As long as they avoid the topics that are creating anger, guilt, and frustration, they’re stuck with them. There are many topics that they haven’t discussed for years. They’ve tried every way to go around the contentious issues, but now they need to go through them.


The doctors are not the only ones who avoid conflict. Most of us have been raised to think of conflict as a bad thing. Conventional wisdom holds that conflict is bad for productivity and corrosive to trust and engagement. But that view is totally at odds with how an organization works.

Conflict isn’t bad for organizations: it’s fundamental to them. After all, you need to be able to work through opposing sides of an issue and come to a resolution in the best interest of customers, shareholders, and customers–whether you’re on the shop floor or the boardroom. Conflict is part of strategic planning, resource allocation, product design, talent management, and just about everything else that should happen in an organization.

Unfortunately, most humans don’t embrace conflicts. Rather, we avoid, postpone, evade, duck, dodge, and defer them. The result is conflict debt.


Conflict debt is the sum of all the contentious issues that we need to address to move forward, but remain undiscussed and unresolved. It can be as simple as withholding the feedback that would allow your colleague to do a better job, and as profound as continually deferring a strategic decision while getting further and further behind the competition.

The doctors I worked with are in conflict debt. Each time they avoid the discussions, debates, and disagreements that they need to have to get their business growing again, they sink further in. Think of it like financial debt–when you use credit to buy things you otherwise can’t afford. You want something, maybe even need it, but you don’t have the cash at the time, so you use credit. You rationalize to yourself that you will pay it off as soon as you get your next paycheck, but if you’re like 65% of American credit card holders, you carry that balance over from month to month. The debt mounts, and over time, it gets harder and harder to get out just from under it.


As with financial debt, conflict debt starts innocently. An issue comes up that’s a little too hot to handle, so you defer it. You promise yourself that you’ll revisit it when things are less busy, or when cooler heads prevail. You buy yourself time and space. But days pass, and no spontaneous resolution materializes. Instead, the issue becomes more contentious. Suddenly, you’re in conflict debt. You’re feeling anxious, and you find yourself steering clear of your colleagues to avoid having to confront the issue. (Have you ever taken the long way around the office so you don’t run into a disgruntled coworker?) You’re feeling frustrated at the lack of progress, not to mention a little guilty for your role in the stalemate. Conflict debt weighs you down.

Avoiding the issue is only one path to conflict debt. Another is to avoid the opposition. In this case, you broach the topic but exclude people who might disagree or cause tension, surrounding yourself with those who agree with you. You focus on how friendly and productive the discussion is, deluding yourself that your solutions are going to fly with the people who you strategically disinvited. But pretending the opposition isn’t there won’t make it disappear. It will resurface when your opponents kill your plan or, worse, leave it to fail.

There’s a third way to get into conflict debt–avoid the friction. Even if you discuss the difficult subject, there’s still room to get yourself into trouble if you veer safely away from the distressing parts of the discussion. When you make it clear (either intentionally or inadvertently) that nothing antagonistic should taint your conversation, you start to rack up conflict debt. I see this all the time when, just as the discussion gets perilously close to the crux of the matter, someone suggests they “take it offline” to avoid having to deal with the conflict. Everyone smiles and pretends that they’ll actually come back to it at some point–when in reality, they’ve just stifled dissent.

Are you avoiding the conflicts that your organization requires you to work through? If so, you are setting your organization, your team, and yourself up for trouble. When you’re unwilling to work through uncomfortable situations, you stretching your resources thin, stifling innovation, and allowing risks to go unnoticed. On your team, the aversion to prickly conversations forces strong performers to compensate for weak ones and mature people to put up with immature ones. At an individual level, you’re probably burning out from the stress.

When your conflict debt gets too high, it becomes overwhelming. You’re exhausted by the thought of trying to pay it off. You’ve destroyed your credit rating with your boss and your coworkers by letting these issues go unresolved for so long. But don’t give up–there are many things you can do to get out from under your conflict debt. That starts with embracing, and not avoiding, conflict in the first place.

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Meet Liane

For the past 25 years, Liane Davey has researched and advised teams on how to achieve high performance. Known as the “teamwork doctor,” she’s worked with teams from the frontlines to the boardroom, across a variety of industries, and around the globe from Boston to Bangkok. In working with hundreds of teams, including 26 Global Fortune 500 companies (and counting), she has developed a unique perspective on the challenges that teams face – and how to solve them.

Liane’s clients include Amazon, Walmart, TD Bank, RBC, Bayer, KPMG, Aviva, Maple Leaf Foods, and SONY Interactive Entertainment. Liane has experience and expertise across a wide range of industries, but with each client, she customizes her keynotes so that her audience feels like she “gets” them and has been working within the organization for years.

The Good Fight

 In the modern workplace, conflict has become a “dirty word.” After all, conflict is antithetical to teamwork, employee engagement, and a positive company culture. Or, is it?

The truth is that our teams and organizations require conflict to get things done. But, as humans, we avoid conflict and build up conflict debt by deferring and dodging the difficult decisions. Our organizations are paying the price – becoming less productive, less innovative and less competitive. Individuals are paying too – suffering from overwhelming workloads, endless drama, and sleepless nights.

In The Good Fight, Liane Davey shows you how to create the productive conflict your organization needs to get along and get stuff done. Drawing on her 20-year career as an advisor to the C-Suite, Davey shares real-world examples and practical tools you and your team can use to handle even the most contentious conflicts as allies – instead of adversaries. Filled with strategies you’ll use again and again, The Good Fight is an essential field-guide for leaders at all levels.

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Let us know your thoughts on this week's guest blog in the comments.

The Five Generations of Leaders


By 2020 there will be five generations of leaders in the workplace.

The oldest generation in the workplace, the Traditionalists, were born between 1900 and 1945. They were told by their parents that they were to be seen and not heard. They grew up during the Great Depression and World War II and truly understand what it means to persevere during tough times. Traditionalists consider work a privilege, which may lead to why they’re not afraid of long hours and expect the same of others.

The youngest generation in the workplace, Gen Z, was born after 1997. They are extremely technologically advanced, absorbing tons of new information daily. Generation Z does not rely on their parents as much as previous generations as technology has made it possible for them to start working at an earlier age than their parents.

The drastic differences among these generations can create a competitive advantage if we take the time to transform how we connect, lead, develop and manage.

“Innovation comes ultimately from a diversity of perspectives. So when you combine ideas from different industries or different cultures, that’s when you have the best sense of developing groundbreaking ideas.” - Frans Johansson


The Medici Effect

In 2004 Frans Johansson published The Medici Effect, an exploration of why robust innovation happens at the “intersection” where ideas from diverse cultures, disciplines, and industries collide. He highlights that “all new ideas are a combination of existing ideas.”

The intersection of generations in the workplace is exactly where opportunity resides. However, there are some generational assumptions to be avoided and some uncomfortable truths to confront.

Generational Assumptions

  1. Traditionalists are technologically incapable.
  2. Boomers are micro-managers.
  3. Gen X’ers are slackers.
  4. Millennials need constant praise and think everyone deserves a trophy.
  5. Gen Z’ers rather spend time on their phone than experience real life.

Uncomfortable Truths

  1. Everyone is sick of generational assumptions.
  2. Employees from all generations aren’t sure they understand their company’s strategy.
  3. All generations want to improve the customer experience.
  4. All generations understand the need to make technological advancements, but their organizations are slow to implement new technology.
  5. Having multiple generations in the workplace is an asset, not a liability.

So how do you connect, lead, develop and manage five generations? After assuring that they all understand your strategy, a good place to start would be with a defined purpose and common objective. Once the goal is established, focus on what each individual does well and don’t make assumptions about which generations will contribute what to the goal. Look for individuals from different generations who have common interests and pair them together to work towards a solution. Allow them to find the intersection of their ideas.


Where have you experienced the intersection of ideas between multiple generations that created, or will create, a decidedly more impactful outcome for your project or company?

How will you engage the views of multiple generations to eliminate blind spots in your approach and/or decisions?

Be authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. Let me know your answers to today’s Thoughtstarters in the comments.

Start. Stop. Continue.

Designing a strategic plan simply for the sake of the exercise is a waste of time. Along with the plan, action is required. Defining a plan and then failing to act doesn’t equal results.  Understanding and executing around a set of required actions, used as measures of success within your company, may be far more productive.

What Does Action Planning Look Like?

If you or your company are looking for an effective way to advance initiatives, consider three simple words...Start. Stop. Continue. Why wouldn’t you start doing things that will improve your performance or business, stop doing things that are detrimental or unproductive, and continue best practices that are already contributing to success?

If you want to improve a team, department, or your entire business it’s imperative to take the time to reflect on what’s going well, what isn’t going well, and what could be improved. Start, Stop, Continue allows your team to create an action plan for improvement. Here’s how it works...


Hang three large posters on the wall. The posters will need to be labeled:

  • Start
  • Stop
  • Continue

Provide everyone on your team a pad of sticky notes. Tell them they are to keep their sticky notes private; they’ll have the opportunity to share their ideas with the group later. Provide the group 10-15 minutes and allow them to list actions they believe the group should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing, a separate note for each action.

When time is up allow participants to place their sticky notes on the corresponding posters. Then, encourage the group to work together to group the sticky notes by related ideas.

Next, facilitate a discussion to confirm that everyone agrees that the actions have been placed into the correct categories.

Lastly, provide everyone a marker and allow them to put a tally next to what they believe to be the top 2-3 actions to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing. The actions with the most tallies are your priorities.

When you complete the exercise, you will have an action plan that was determined and directed by the team. You’ve used a simple process that allows the individuals participating to assess themselves and the team while defining next directed steps that are immediately actionable at all three levels.

The next time, you feel a bit frustrated by strategy, consider three simple questions to get your thinking and action moving in a positive direction.

  1. What do we need to start doing?
  2. What do we need to stop doing?
  3. What do we need to continue doing to advance performance/results?

Be Authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. What did you discover by utilizing this exercise? Let me know in the comments.

Remember, There Are People at the Other End of Your Decision

Your decisions matter and the impact of your decisions almost always extends beyond you.

Click on the following link to understand in 15 seconds exactly what I mean.

The Impact of Your Decisions

Why This Matters

Someone I respect once said, “Brent, always remember at the other end of your decision there’s a human being. Every single time a decision is made, SOMEONE is impacted.”

His inference was clear, concise and directed and here’s my interpretation:
Don’t let your decisions get so far beyond the people you lead that you forget about the impact to the people you lead.

This is one of those “nuggets of wisdom” that you want to keep top of mind. It’s so powerful that it should cause us to constantly evaluate our decisions and not just from the view of our own lens.

Consider the Context

A decision made in isolation is a decision destined to create some dynamic of disruption and I don’t mean a positive disruption.

Every decision has context. Each decision has reach. Decisions are connected to impacts and outcomes. When decisions are made in isolation, it’s often because we fail to consider the context, reach or impact on others.

This is why, on so many occasions, leaders are left wondering how one decision could have such a devastating impact on so many people.

The answer… a failure to consider the context.

The Benefit of Context

We’re all guilty of failing to consider context at some point or in some situation or around a specific decision.

Typically, 90% of my day is invested in listening to leaders and asking the questions that reveal context. The benefit of context is the ability to assess our decisions more completely before we make them and yet, purposefully understanding context is a work in progress.

Before there was experience, there was inexperience. Before there was understanding, there was a lack of understanding. Before there was wisdom, there was less insight. Before there was listening, there was talking. Before there was attention, there was distraction. Before there was awareness, there was a lack of awareness. This is the progression of my growth related to context. Can you relate?

Early in my career as an advisor I was introduced to a really bright business owner. As a person eager to make his mark, Jared had his company on the grow and had decided that it was time to take his company to the next level. He asked for my guidance and input on the addition of sales staff. The conversation was fast-paced and driven. Jared was intent on building the base of his business by building a sales team. What Jared needed was the consideration and questions that would lead him to context. What Jared got was the support of his idea because I believed he was on the right track and our conversation revealed that he had thought it through well. With the exception of one critical question related to how he was structuring the two divisions of his company.

After a lot of time and work had been invested on both our parts, I asked Jared a question about how he planned to handle the separation of the divisions. His comment was telling. “Why didn’t you ask me that question before now? That question would have been really useful before we got to this point.”

Lesson learned - Always work to consider the context!

The impact of your decisions almost always extends beyond you. As an advisor to leaders of businesses, experience has shown me that when context is considered deliberately, the development of people and results achieved are both exponentially impacted in a positive way. This awareness leads me to this question. “How is your leadership expanding the context and understanding of the leaders you’re developing?”


As you go through your week, invest the time to consider your awareness around the context of your decisions. Consider the impact of your decisions so that they are fully understood. Ask yourself this question:

What’s the impact that extends beyond you?

Be Authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Family Business and The Core Belief in Cash

There’s a saying that goes something like this… “Show me a person’s checkbook and calendar and I will show you what that person values.” Today, we’d need to adjust that saying for the era of electronic banking. Or… we would simply need to recognize the simplest of truths. How you spend your money and time reflect what you value most.

The value systems in a family business run deep. So deeply that they’re often referred to as core beliefs and they serve as the foundation of decisions and choices both individually and organizationally among owners and leaders.

The Commonality of Core Beliefs

Among the core beliefs that make-up the value system within a family business, there is one in particular that stands out for me as being essential to long-term success. Like many sayings offering timeless wisdom this core belief is simple, can be applied by everyone and is mastered by a few. This is the core value of dry powder and debt.

Dry Powder and Debt

In business, the term dry powder refers to cash and is the fuel for growth. Debt is a ratio to be managed correctly in relationship to that cash. Translated as a core belief of family business, the premise is simple. Don’t let a bank dictate your decisions. Manage your cash (dry powder) so that you can fund your future growth and opportunity. The leadership, relationship and ratio between the two is about one simple concept...CHOICE.

Owner’s Choice

When faced with the decision, the owners of family business prefer to control what they can control. This is what we refer to as the owner’s choice. This is the specific reason that keeping cash reserves high and debt low in relationship is a core belief of so many owners of family businesses. They recognize the long view requirement of smart financial decisions and their impact on advancing or restricting the opportunity for growth within their business.

Imagine the opportunity to grow the business exponentially based on a strategic choice. Now imagine the frustration of a business owner that is so leveraged with debt that they’re unable to pursue the very opportunity that would have accelerated their business to the next level. Conversely, imagine the options for the owner who has lived by the core belief of maintaining high levels of dry powder and low levels of debt.

In a word, it’s all about CHOICE.

The Value of Simplicity

On a personal level, I’m grateful that my parents instilled the simple, yet profound, core belief of financial competence in my life at a very early age. There are three things that my parents said over and over again to bring practicality to financial knowledge. These are the same things they tell their grandchildren today to instill a core belief across generations. The great part about something that’s simple is that it often times requires no more explanation. Such is the case with the timeless and simple wisdom of a school teacher/administrator and business owner.

  1. Spend less than you make
  2. Don’t live beyond your means
  3. Save and invest something from every paycheck and you’ll be the one signing the paychecks

Thoughtstarter: Control What You Can Control

If you’re interested in increasing your financial knowledge let me encourage you to check out a couple of resources that you may find useful, starting with a guy by the name of Dave Ramsey.

If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, you may want to invest the time to learn about him. 30 years ago, Ramsey filed for bankruptcy. Today, he’s considered “America’s trusted voice on money.”  He’s the owner of Ramsey Solutions, the voice of The Dave Ramsey Show, a New York Times Best Selling Author… and he has an estimated net worth of about $55 million.

One of my favorite quotes from Dave, of which there are many, is “You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.” Think about that as it relates to your core beliefs, choice and the value of simplicity.

Two books that are required reading for people I care about and who care about being able to make their own financial choices and define their financial future are:

  1. The Millionaire Next Door
  2. Everyday Millionaires

Here’s to the core beliefs of family business that are the foundations of decision and choice.

Be authentic. Be purposeful. Make it meaningful.

P.S. I want to hear your thoughts - please share them in the comments.